Thursday, October 3, 2013

Raising the children's workbench

While I am waiting for the stain to start dripping into the lower bucket, there are lots of other projects that need my attention.

I am trying to finish the interior frames around the Velux windows that were changed when we got the new roof on. Regrettably the local lumberyard forgot to place the order for some pine table tops that I was going to use as window sill, so this project is on idle until they arrive.

Last time the Gustav and Asger worked at their workbench, it dawned on me, that they had grown quite a lot since I installed their bench 7 or 8 years ago.
When I installed it, I made a custom base for it, so it could fit the then 4 years old Gustav. The custom base was 10.75" lower than the original.
I didn't throw out the original base though, so it was just a matter of climbing over 300 bales of hay (without falling down) to retrieve the base and climb back over the same 300 bales of hay and bring it into the workshop.
After installing the original base, I figured that I had to move the bench, because there is a wall mounted cabinet that would interfere with the now higher bench, limiting its use.
So the small project expanded into moving my lathe and mounting the workbench in a new position. Some other day, I'll have to shift the tool board so it will be behind the bench again, but for now it is OK.

Regarding the tool chest for the sea, I finished the sharpening of the plane irons, and I tested the plane, and it was better than I had hoped for. I can still be fascinated by the capabilities of a real sharp plane iron.

I decided to try a trick that I was told by a friend regarding wooden hand planes. According to him it was customary practice once, to fill up a new plane with oil, and clamp it to a flat surface. Then the oil would seep into the wood and fill the pores from the inside. That way the friction of the sole of the plane could be reduced. I placed the plane without iron on a piece of glass, filled some oil into the mouth and clamped it down. Some of the oil has already seeped into the end grain, so I think it is working OK. I was informed that traditionally oil was added until it seeped out from around the button on the back of the plane.

The raised workbench in the new position.
The old custom base is in the foreground.

The plane filled with oil and clamped to a piece of glass.


  1. What is the purpose of clamping the plane to the bench? Or what I should say is how does the clamping of the plane help in the absorbing of the oil?
    Also, interesting drawing above the bench. I can make out Stalin, Lenin, and Marx but not the other. Engles perhaps? As Engles and Marx usually are spoken of together that is why it's my guess. I have read Das Kapital, at least parts of it, and agree with some of Marx's beliefs concerning the instability of capitalism, and especially with the exploitation of the worker. I probably don't need to tell you that as you have read many times on my blog my little history lessons on the 'real' woodworkers of the golden age of woodworking; men who worked tirelessly for little pay and in many instances could not afford to own even a single piece of the beautiful furniture they produced. Yet that is conveniently glossed over by several woodworking writers claiming to be historians, when they know very little about the real truth of the earliest days of production woodworking. They speak of them as though they woodworked purely for the joy of what they did, when in reality if they did not produce they would lose their jobs without hesitation. With all that being said, I am not a fan of the labor theory of value, not in practice at least.
    So sorry to rant, but the portrait got me to thinking on a subject that I find interesting. Thanks.

  2. Hi Bill.

    You are correct that it is Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin on the picture.
    My older brother gave it to me once, I think he got of from one of his friends who had it from somewhere else. As far as I know it is probably from before the 60'ies. Stalin died in 1956 as far as I remember, and during the Kruzthov period the Soviet Union was de-stalinised, so he was more or less taken down from his saint like pedestal.
    I like the picture though, because in theory it is a nice thought, but as history has proven, somewhat difficult to carry out in practice. I suppose the same thing can be said about many of my woodworking ideas..

    The purpose of clamping the plane is to prevent the oil from leaking out below sole of the plane. It should penetrate via the end grain in the mouth. At first I tried just to let it sit, but the oil slowly crept under the sole and subsequently "lifted" the plane a little, so more oil started to seep out. I had flattened the sole prior to the oiling, so I guessed that it would be flat enough to seal on its own. (A nice idea, but difficult to carry out in practice).

    It is interesting that there is such a wide spread idea about the cabinetmakers of yesteryear, working for the pure joy. You rarely hear the same ideas concerning e.g. blacksmiths or farmers. Maybe it is because those jobs have not been transformed into hobbies the same way that woodworking has.
    Have a nice weekend

  3. I had considered setting the wood jointer plane I made in a bucket of linseed oil to let it soak when I first completed it as I had heard that it was a common practice at one time. But I was worried that it may have set the sole out of true, and as it had taken me quite a long time to get it flat, so I didn't go through with it. Your method, to my mind, seems a little less scary than immersing the whole plane, so I may have to give it a try.

    I agree with you that Socialism is a nice thought, but in many ways is not feasible. The problem with it, along with Capitalism, is that no matter what the intentions, things like laziness and greed can not be regulated. America has some social programs that should work beautifully, such as Social Security and welfare, yet they end up being abused by the lazy and the greedy, welfare in particular. At the same time, pure Capitalism, while in theory a sound idea, is also beset by the greed of corporations, who seem to forget that in the end their employees, and customers, are real people and not numbers on a spread sheet. Yet, whenever the idea of regulating the stock trade or banking systems is brought to the foreground, they all cry "communism" and threaten to move or close their businesses.

    As far as the woodworkers of yesteryear are concerned, I agree with you completely. There are those today who assume that because the furniture of the 18th century was so beautiful, those who made it were completely happy and content and lived wonderful working lives as furniture makers. When the famous "If they had a table saw" post was written it really upset me because those assumptions were so off base. My point, one completely overlooked by the author, was that if the shop master of the 18th century purchased a machine for use in the shop, he would have expected his employees to use it and there would have been no further discussion of the matter. The author incorrectly assumed that those working in the shop would have had a choice in the matter, when history has clearly shown that they did not. Just because WE have a choice in what tools we use it does not mean that those working in a shop do as well, and that can easily be said for the modern production woodworker as well. Those men, just like many shops today, were given a list of tools that they MUST have. So why would there have been any compromise had the shop offered machinery? If it did, the workers would have been expected and required to use it fully.
    Things like that are what really bother me about woodworking writers. Sure, they are probably much more versed in the written history of the 17th and 18th century woodworker. But those histories were written by the shop owners of the day, not the everyday worker. It seems that todays writers know little about the real journeyman of the day, who lived a very rough life, much more so that we can imagine.
    Again, sorry to rant on and on using your blog. I should keep this stuff to my own page!
    Have a good weekend as well. Don't work too hard!