Years ago (seven, it seems, according to this post), I bought a little knife in Japan that I decided that I’d try out as a marking knife. I haven’t really said anything about it since.
It turns out that I haven’t even thought about it very much either, even with the couple odd years when I wasn’t doing much in the shop. But since I picked it up, it’s been the marking knife I almost exclusively reach for, and I also use it to sharpen the odd pencil here and there when nothing else is handy.
I also don’t even recall when I last sharpened it. I don’t even know if I ever did sharpen it, come to think of it. That’s never a good sign. But the other day when I was cutting some dovetails in some white pine (as part of a secret new project), I thought, “Huh. This thing could stand to be sharper.” Softer woods tend to elicit that sort of thinking. So I took it over to the stones and did that, unfortunately with a few minor blood sacrifices. (Wear rubber thimbles or something next time, dummy.)
This looks a little wacky because I sharpened it with two bevels: A main one, then a smaller one near the tip to make it easier to touch up. Like many Japanese blades, this is laminated, with white steel making up the cutting edge. And it can be a pain to sharpen that stuff.
Also typical is the hollowed back:
The hollow wasn’t terribly well-done. Using a diamond stone that I also coincidentally got on the same trip to Japan, I got that evened out pretty quickly. Yay for hollow backs.
Well, I should have probably sharpened this thing a long time ago. I do, however, have to be a little careful now when marking stuff, because the length of the blade makes it too easy to brush up against a finger or something when running along the side of a square.
So, that aside, this is not a purpose-made marking knife, but rather, a “craft knife,” according to the package:
(Aside: KRAFT KNIFE… POWERMESSER!) According to the helpful use suggestions on the left side, it’s for “wood carving,” “bamboo (something) work,” and “DIY.” Though I have to admit that the rear of the packaging card is a lot more useful than the stuff you get with a lot of products these days. For example, it has a “how to sharpen” blurb.
I don’t know who made it, other than it is made in Japan. It’s marketed and distributed by the Ito company in Miki (三木市) , which sometimes uses the “Bigman” moniker (search for “bigman HK-60” and you’ll find this knife at several retailers). Sadly, they do not carry a “She-Ra” line.
I don’t even remember where I bought it. Was it a home center? Tokyu Hands? Huh. In any case, I think it cost somewhere around 2000 JPY. That’s not dirt cheap, but it’s not exactly expensive, either.
And this has me thinking–Lee Valley sells a Japanese marking knife that’s a spear-point thing (in addition to one that looks like mine without a handle). Like my knife, it’s laminated white steel with a hollow back, and is currently $21. Maybe I’d also like that? I’m not sure what to think of the traditional form without a handle.
Or maybe I need to stop thinking and just remember to sharpen the knife.
One effect of my cross-country move from the San Francisco bay area to Maryland is that I now have easier access to more types of wood. In particular, I can get southern yellow pine (SYP, also called simply “yellow pine” by actual southerners). Even if the local supplies of it are kind of weird, there are big-box stores carrying it within a 2-hour drive.
Since I finished one substantial laminated-top project (the “auxiliary bench”) with SYP along with a few other utility pieces, I have now used it in addition to a bunch of other woods for workbench construction. I asked some friends back in California if they were interested in my thoughts on SYP now that I’ve had a chance to work on it, and they said, “yeah, why not?”
Here’s what I will survey:
Southern yellow pine
Douglas-fir (several varieties)
Beech (F. sylvatica and F. grandifolia work similarly)
To recap the Chris Schwarz book, you’re not looking for the “perfect” wood when building a bench. You generally want something that’s reasonably heavy, reasonably stiff, and cheap. That last bit is important because you’ll use a lot of wood on a bench, and you’re also probably going to beat the crap out of it as well. Workability also helps, especially if you plan to use a lot of hand tools.
Southern Yellow Pine
When Schwarz first started to research workbenches, he was lucky to have a source of cheap wood that he wouldn’t feel bad about consuming and mauling with abandon. Or perhaps we were the lucky ones. Things might be very different for all of us if he had no access to southern yellow pine in his local big-box stores. Even in those retailers, which tend to be overpriced for lumber, this stuff is currently running between 50 and 75 cents per board-foot.
So it’s cheap, it’s stiff, it’s usually pretty heavy, and you can get it in wide, thick sizes. The 2×12 is the go-to size; if the pith runs through it, in clear enough pieces, you can slice that out and have good quartersawn stuff as a result.
Moreover, it’s sold dry (well, mostly dry). This is a requirement: If you don’t kiln-dry yellow pine, the sap/pitch makes for a wretched sticky mess. Even when dried, it’s still possible to run into “pitch pockets” with clumps of goo that hasn’t fully set into resin.
You gotta clear that stuff out. Ick.
So you’re thinking that there’s got to be a catch. There are two principal issues:
It’s not available in many parts of the country. Well, at least if it’s not pressure-treated.
You might need to pay attention to the latewood.
At this point, I should mention that there are several different kinds of “southern” yellow pine. The kind that you’re most likely to get commercially is loblolly pine, and that’s what we’ll concentrate on.
So let’s talk about those growth rings. Many woods have a substantial difference between the so-called earlywood (sometimes called springwood) and latewood (summerwood) in their annular rings, but in SYP (and douglas-fir, which we’ll get to soon), it’s dramatic. Simply put, the earlywood is fairly soft and the latewood is dense and tough.
This varies from tree to tree. There’s a lot of detailed information on the factors in publications like Summary on Growth in Relation to Quality of Southern Yellow Pine by B. Paul and D. Smith, 1956, USDA Forest Service, Forest Product Laboratory Report No. 1751. It’s best if you get a feel for it in practice.
The factor that you’ll feel the most is the latewood, especially when working with hand tools. In some boards, the latewood will be really tough. You’ll also get a wide variety of early- and latewood quantity per annual ring. This view of the side of the new bench should give you the idea:
The pieces with the smaller annual rings (often with the thinnest latewood sections) were the toughest to deal with. Strangely, the third from the left with the very thick sections of latewood was not too bad.
By “tough to deal with,” there are two difficulties, at least that I noticed. One was simply that when planing or chopping or whatever, the tougher ones tell you when you need to sharpen your blade because it just refuses to work. The other problem is that when ripping, your saw can track the latewood grain. Here’s the offcut from a large tenon cheek where this sort of thing can occur:
The earlywood is generally pleasant to work. It’s not as soft as, say, eastern white pine or that radiata stuff, but it’s not a bear, either. It’ll mush and smash up (for example, when chopping) if your tools aren’t particularly sharp, but it’s not a big deal.
Most softwoods have a higher tendency to “spelch,” that is, splinter out of an end when cutting across the grain. SYP varies in this respect, but it’s not terrible. Though it’s very stiff, the fibers deform pretty evenly. Flattening the new bench (going cross-grain with a jointer plane) was the easiest flattening job that I’ve ever done. It might have helped that the bench was pretty flat to begin with, but it was a smooth, even motion, and the shavings were very uniform.
To give you an idea of what you can expect, I took the smoothing plane shown earlier (and later), and just went at some endgrain with its 45-degree blade angle. This is pretty close-up; the piece is about 1/2″ thick:
SYP machines really well. Here’s a sub-1mm offcut that I took with the bandsaw; this is actually two pieces glued together:
This was with a pretty aggressive “Wood Slicer” blade.
There is one thing I wonder about yellow pine. Supposedly, the jeffery pine that you see up in the Sierras is a yellow pine. It gets really big. Could it have properties like this? Not that I have any idea how you’d get any, especially kiln-dried. Maybe someone has an operation up there. Or maybe it would be like (or even sold as) ponderosa pine, as this is also a yellow pine.
Oh, douglas-fir, what a tangled web we weave.
First off, Pseudotsuga menziesii, you are not a fir, and that is why I put the dash in your name. You should probably be called Douglas Weirdofreak, but I suppose that we’d need approval from Pseudotsuga wilsoniana, or whatever that thing is being classified as these days. OK, I digress.
The wood, being very stiff and strong, has many uses, such as wooden boatbuilding, where it can be used for many purposes, including masts. As far as most people are concerned, most of the douglas-fir available for purchase is for construction and framing. This makes it somewhat inexpensive, but it’s still not as cheap as SYP.
And it’s almost invariably sold green. Quite green. For the benchbuilder, this is obnoxious for several reasons: It’s going to shrink and move a lot when it dries, so after acquisition, you’re going to have to wait for that to happen, at least a little. It hard to gauge how heavy individual pieces are because they can be sopping wet. The earlywood is even mushier than usual.
Here is a piece of real bottom-of-the-barrel construction-grade douglas-fir, from the 2×4 (stud) pile:
You probably don’t want to build a bench with that kind of stuff. The annular rings are huge, they’re always from the worst part of the tree. and there is a lot of earlywood without much latewood. The good news is that, as is the case with SYP, if you make a foray over to the wide pieces like the 2x12s, you find better stuff. You’re going to have to be picky, as usual. Wilbur Pan built a fantastic Roubo out of 4x4s; he took his time collecting the pieces he needed.
If you’re lucky, you can find another grade of douglas-fir. This is sometimes called “old-growth” (and sometimes it is), and at other times it’s just called “clear.” In the photo below, the three pieces on the left were sold as “clear”. I got them at Minton’s in Mountain View, which has unfortunately been out of business for several years:
The two pieces with the holes in them were stretchers on my very first bench before I replaced them with wider stuff. They came dry and extremely well-dimensioned.
The two pieces on the right may look similar, but they are of much different origin. They were reclaimed from an old warehouse in San Francisco, and came to me by way of Bill K., to whom I’m very grateful. I built the Screwbo out of that stuff, and a friend back out in San Francisco recently completed a cousin bench that he calls the Jacques Roubo from the same source.
But wait–there’s more. What if I told you that there was douglas-fir with even tighter annular rings? Well, get a load of this:
That square sitting on top is metric (a.k.a. “sensible”), and each tick is 1mm. I found this board dumpster diving while a neighbor in SF was renovating. When I pulled it out, it was covered in some sort of contact paper and had been originally used as a shelf. (I’ve been working on making it into some kind of box for years now, but clearly not working terribly hard at it.)
OK, it’s stiff and strong, but will dent, especially while green. So far, on paper, this is pretty similar to SYP. But what happens when you take tools to it?
Mostly, it’s not too bad. Douglas-fir saws pretty well, and planing it works fine, too. If you like to pound nails into stuff, doing that when it’s is green is super easy.
However, there are two properties of this wood that drive people nuts. The first is that it spelches horribly. Observe what happened when I did the same thing on endgrain with the smoothing plane that I did earlier:
All of my woodworking buddies out west know what I mean. Douglas-fir doesn’t just blow out at the ends. The fiber bond fails at a substantial distance from the end, and the wood really wants to follow the shake a long ways down (like being riven). The result is an appalling mess of huge splinters and chunks cracking off of the end. It will do this if you so much as look at it funny. I’m not sure why this is; it might have something to do with how strangely “dry” it feels to the touch. Redwood also pulls this stunt to a certain extent, for whatever that’s worth.
This effect is worst in green wood and gets marginally better as it dries and ages, but it’s still awful. The piece above is 100+ years old. It’s so bad that you have to be extremely cautious even when sawing boards to length–especially with a hand saw. If you don’t take the protective measure of rotating and sawing in from all corners before completing a cut, it’ll snap off badly, invariably in the most ugly way possible.
Still, with this awareness, you can prevent bad splintering, at least until some assclown mover decides to bang the underside edge of your benchtop onto the concrete.
The other thing that I dislike about working douglas-fir is how it has a tendency to wear your tools. Green stuff is OK, but the old stuff is especially cruel to your edges. You just seem to sharpen constantly. I ran into this when using my scrub plane to dimension the pieces of my bench, and that’s not a tool that usually needs a lot of sharpening. Just take a look at what it did to the sole of that plane:
Think twice about taking a woodie to douglas-fir.
It machines OK, just be careful about what kinds of blades (or whatever) you use. I imagine that the carbide-tipped stuff does a lot better against the old stuff.
Overall, this is an extremely versatile wood and should not be discounted when building a bench or in any kind of utility work. It’s very stable when dry, not moving much under different humidity conditions. I wouldn’t think twice about using it for a workbench base even if I were dead-set on a hardwood top. Speaking of which…
Now I’m going to talk briefly about two other woods that I’ve used in benches. The first is beech, which is pretty traditional for Europeans. It’s moderately hard, fairly heavy, and stiff. As with the softwoods we’ve just talked about, the fiber structure is quite fine, so you’re not likely to get crud caught up in places.
Beech is a go-to utility wood in Europe. It’s been well-managed there for a long time, and they do all sorts of stuff, like coppicing and so on. So it’s readily available and inexpensive there, and there’s pretty much no reason not to use it for benchmaking, at least if you’ve got it. The species that grows over here in North America is similar, but it’s rarely harvested, perhaps because we have trees such as the soft maples that are easier to manage. Still, you might find a sawmill that’s sawn one up.
For some unknown reason, beech happens to be one of my favorite woods, and I’m always interested in picking some up. There’s something about the grain that I like, but I can’t really put my finger on it.
That’s not to say, though, that beech is my favorite wood to work. It’s not too bad, but it will put up more of a fight when planing and chiseling than something like cherry or walnut. I also don’t like it when the grain reverses (sometimes old knots telegraph through in weird ways), but that’s at least rare.
I personally wouldn’t use it for a bench unless I had ready access to a lot of it, at least not entirely. I did use an 8/4 chunk for the very front piece of my benchtop, and that’s been great. The dog holes mostly went in that piece.
It’s really easy to machine.
The last wood that I’m going to talk about for benchmaking is not an obvious one. When people think of a maple bench, they think of hard maple, because, you know… it’s really hard. When I think of hard maple, I think of a wood that’s a royal pain in the butt because it’s so freakin’ hard. It also isn’t cheap.
Soft maple, on the other hand, can be a joy to work as long as the grain doesn’t be a big ol’ jerk and reverse. It’s usually not as hard as something like beech, but it’s no pushover. And it’s also relatively inexpensive for a hardwood–we can’t compare it to something like SYP in that regard. You’re also more likely to find big cuts of at a sawmill than beech.
When I was looking for a hardwood to line the front and rear of my auxiliary bench (just like I used beech on the front of the Screwbo), a board of soft maple immediately caught my attention. I’d picked it up at the lumberyard for odd jobs.
A few final steps after glue-up remained to move the new bench to this state:
Those steps were:
Trimming the ends. I used a long-ish panel saw because it had the finest tooth pitch, in theory. Then I sanded coarse-medium-fine to get a smooth finish on the endgrain.
Flattening the top. This was the easiest thing I’ve ever done a flattening job on. Wish it were always like that.
Applying a quick finish, a varnish and tung oil blend. Yes, the tung oil is real tung oil, and yes, it takes forever to cure. I didn’t have any boiled linseed oil, and I didn’t care.
The two pieces of soft maple that I chose for the sides of the top are curly. I didn’t anticipate that, but I guess it looks fine. In this case, I only really cared if the grain reversed or not. On the front, it did not. On the rear, it did a little, but it doesn’t seem to be of much consequence.
This is the first somewhat large thing that I’ve made with southern yellow pine. I might post my thoughts on that later.
The size is a departure for me. I knew that it wasn’t going to be very long, but I also made it 33″ tall, which is a bit tall for someone my size. Well, at least for planing, but I don’t plan to plane much on this thing (I think it would work fine for small pieces, though).
Another note on the frame is that I made the side stretchers offset from the long ones on the front and rear. This allowed me to use longer tenons because they don’t meet in the middle of a leg, which I like. Wearing illustrates this in “The Solution At Hand,” though he uses through tenons.
I slapped on a temporary shelf and immediately loaded it up:
I hated this situation under my main bench, because the shavings and sawdust were always getting into the nooks and crannies of the planes. I’ll have less of that going on over here, so it should be a little better. I don’t expect the shelf to be there forever, though. I’d like to put a box of drawers in there, albeit one that doesn’t go anywhere near all the way to the top.
But I still don’t like it. I’m doing it now because these things were getting in the freakin’ way all of the time, but my thoughts are turning to the tool chest idea. It seems there’s a lot of merit in that, but I don’t have the time right now.
I probably won’t be working on much of anything wood-related for at least a week or so. There are some other things to take care of, but after that, I do have some plans to use this bench on a few diverse tasks.
The mortises in the new bench/whatever-it’s-called are pretty big, and I can’t do them like my usual ones, because I don’t have a mortise chisel that large. So I’m using the old “bore holes to get rid of most of the waste and chop down all sides” method.
This got me thinking that there are a few extra things I do for these that might be useful to someone. So let’s go through them. First, when marking out the mortise, I scribe a line along the center of the mortise:
This is useful for the next step, boring out most of the waste with brace, because I know exactly where to put the lead screw of the auger bit:
Notice that I’m using a square to help keep the bit parallel to the long sides of the mortise direction, and a piece of painter’s tape on the bit to mark the depth. I liked these particular mortises a lot more than the ones in the top, because there was plenty of room to spare when boring down. Going a bit beyond your tenon depth with the brace makes it a lot easier to get out the required amount of waste. (And through mortises are cheating.)
Another note on the holes is that I’m staying a bit away from the ends by, say, 5mm or something. This makes it easier to chop the ends later on.
Next it’s time to get most of the waste off the sides. I’m using an old W. Butcher, uhhh, I guess it’s a firmer chisel, for the sole reason that it’s beefy:
You don’t want to go all the way to the side yet, and while you’re doing this, pay attention to the grain on your initial cuts. Because the wall of the mortise is longer than the chisel, the wood will split in the grain direction past the end of the chisel. If it splits in the wrong direction, you could split it out past your marks for the wall of the mortise.
Now that you’ve figured out the grain direction, mark the “low corners” of the mortise. What I mean by this is that the corners where, if you start splitting the grain at that point, the split will extend into the waste part of the mortise.
And of course, here I am, marking an incorrect corner:
In this board, the correct ones are the top left and bottom right. You’ll see this mark “move” later on in this post after I figured out what was going on.
If it’s just a normal, single piece of wood that you’re mortising, these “low” spots should be at opposite corners. Your grain could reverse or do some other horrible thing, though. And the piece above has the mortise spanning two laminated boards, so it’s possible that it wouldn’t follow that rule, either.
In any case, once you’ve got this done and enough of the walls wasted away, you’re ready to work into those “low” corners. Start with cross-grain chopping on the ends, but don’t go quite all the way to the side, and keep some wood left on the ends (remember that I’m ignoring that first erroneous mark here):
Then, when you’re close, chop down the side with a narrow chisel:
Notice how the waste is splintering out to the waste side of the mortise wall. You might need to do a little back-and-forth to get to your line on the side, but it shouldn’t be too bad with a narrow, sharp chisel.
You also might need to be a little cautious if your wood is uneven. This is (southern) yellow pine, and the darker latewood in this stuff can really shove your tools around. Douglas-fir can do that, as well.
When you’re all the way to the bottom of that corner, grab a wider chisel and chop the wall right next to the corner:
Work your way to the other side in this direction. The wood will continue splitting into the waste, as you can see above. When you reach the end, you can square it off like the “low” corner; when chopping the wall over there, it should not split because you can overlap the stuff that you’ve already done; the chisel will slice instead of tearing out at the border of where you already worked if you keep it flush to the wall.
Then you can go all the way to the ends. I don’t have any photos or anything of this; just use the standard practice of working your way back to the ends until you have enough left that you can cleanly chop it without bruising the wood. Though it’s not so relevant here, it really matters on a through mortise.
You’ll probably need to tune the walls a little due to the way that chisels tend to cut. One nice thing about these big mortises is that it’s really easy to stick a square down there to check to see if it’s complete:
Notice how the “low spot” mark on the near wall has migrated from the left to the right in this picture. Sigh.
So maybe this is helpful. I don’t know. Mortising can be time-consuming. I really understand the reason that hollow-chisel mortising machines exist. And I have to admit that they are kind of tempting.
In any case, the joint that I made in this post was the last one for the new auxiliary bench:
Now I don’t know if it will be 12 joints or 16. Do twin tenons count as two joints? Something tells me no.
Of course, both of the joints on the front just happened to land on the two areas near the shallow knots on the only board of the top that contains a little bit of resin. Yuck, but I guess the one upside is that most of parts that are a little tacky will be covered by the leg.
Here’s what we’re looking at now:
In the end, the legs will not be this long, but I’ll trim them to length just before glue-up.
Now for the stretchers. 8 joints. For sure this time; I’m not doing any more twin tenons, and if I do double tenons, those probably only count as one.
When I built my workbench, I did not include a sliding deadman because I was tired, lazy, etc. I said to myself that I’d add one when I needed it (or I actually felt like doing it), and just put some grooves inside the front frame of the bench.
I’d been tempted to make it several times over the past few months, but last week, as I was working on the stretchers for the new auxiliary bench, I found myself trying to square off the top of some medium-sized stretchers and not having a very good time of it. I thought to myself that I’d try the old “prop up the other end of the work with something” trick, and that was not at all pleasant.
So it was time. As I mentioned, I’d been thinking about this and had read the description in the Chris Schwarz book, and that had me worried. See, I had only plowed a measly little 1/4″ groove on both the stretcher and the underside of the workbench:
But the benches described everywhere have a triangular-profile rail (or “track”) on the bottom, and Schwarz says to plow a big, deep 1/2″ or so groove in the underside of the top so that you can clear that thing. He also integrates the track into the stretcher at times. I was worried, because I thought that maybe this was going to be a lot of work, or I otherwise screwed up in some massive way–it wouldn’t be the first time. The triangular-profile rail is a really good idea because it keeps shavings, dust, and small children out of a groove.
So in a fit of nervous twitching, I looked for a way around this. I made a rail in a triangular profile, and put a tongue on the bottom so that it would fit into the groove on the stretcher. Here’s a photo of how that looks (along with the deadman, showing the mating profile on the underside of that):
The theory here is that when you install the deadman, you do it in a unit with the rail. This way, only the tongue on the bottom of the rail needs to clear the stretcher when installing. Because this is significantly shallower than the really deep thing on the deadman, it would require far less of a groove in underside of the top.
Much to my surprise, this actually worked. Cutting that tongue on the bottom of the rail was a pain that I’d rather not recount (note to self: just tack the offcuts from the other side to my sticking board next time.).
I should mention that though I made the tongue with hand tools, I cheerfully turned to my bandsaw to do the profile on the top of the rail, as well as the channel on the bottom of the deadman. I guess I did all of the holes with a brace and auger bit (despite actually owning a drill press now):
With all of this done, it was time to see if it actually works in practice, and in that respect, it’s certainly an improvement:
There is a lingering question I have, though. In the first Schwarz book, when describing the deadman of the French bench, he says to cut a curve on each side so that you can get a hand between the deadman and a leg when up against a leg. I don’t get this; why would you need to put your hand there? It’s not to facilitate moving the deadman; you can just grab it from the other side and pull it over with zero effort.
In later work (the LVL bench), Schwarz says that a straight board will work but that a straight board is boring. I will admit that the curve makes it look cooler. But I’ve never been very cool. So I’ll leave it as-is until I have a real reason to change it.
It’s been nothing but milling and glue-ups here. I’ve got the front and rear stretchers laminated, waiting for final dimensions, and the side stretchers are also nearly complete. I tackled the big task of jointing the two halves of the top and gluing them up today:
Huh, this is not looking too much different than my past post.
As was the case with my main workbench, this was a bit more painstaking than gluing up a bunch of narrow pieces because you can’t really count on any flex from the two halves. So there was a bit of back-and-forth of checking to see if the surfaces were mating, plus the annoyance of the jointer plane’s blade being not quite wide enough to swipe the whole edge at once. Oh yeah, and I don’t think my “straightedge” is as straight as it once was. Maybe I ought to do something about that.
I still have to slap on two pieces of maple on either side. I’ll probably leave this top in its current place while I do that. That should be a lot easier, as the maple is a lot thinner and more flexible.
In any case, we’re almost ready to do some legs and essentially get this project done. How long can 12 little ol’ mortise-and-tenon joints take, anyway?
Though I’ve done a couple of shop-oriented things, most of the work I’ve been doing in the last couple of weeks has been milling and laminating stock for the new bench/table/thing/whatever it’s supposed to be. I’ve only done a little bit at a time, but at this point, I have all four legs milled to size, and the top mostly together. The top is currently in two halves, and I glued up the second half today:
The clamp situation still stinks, but I think I’ll be able to manage getting the two halves together with what I’ve got by using single clamps midway through the thickness rather than the doubling up that I’ve been doing up until now.
There’s still a bit more to go on all of this laminating, though–I haven’t started on the stretchers yet. I’ve also nearly emptied another bottle of glue, but that comes with the territory.
This project is finally done and in its intended location:
Here’s the obligatory drawer-open, from-the-side photo:
For those who haven’t been following this project, the dark wood is black walnut, the lighter wood is ash. Drawer bottoms are western redcedar, and a few other parts here and there that you can’t see are tuliptree (“yellow-poplar”). Finish is the usual varnish, and this time, I waxed the top, anticipating heavier wear than usual.
The photos here show how the panels and drawers are arranged so that each side looks like it has a continuous piece of ash, framed in. This wasn’t too bad to execute, even though the drawer fronts are a lot thicker than the panels on the sides. You just have to mark stuff out and remember where everything is. It also helps to remember what your plans were in the first place, which can admittedly be a problem when a project takes as long as this one.
I’ve had a crazy, yet admittedly modest dream for many years: That we would start using napkins instead of paper towels (as napkins, that is), and that I would make a napkin holder for the napkins. Last week, SHMBO made the decree that napkins would now be used in our household.
I was excited. See, I had grand plans for the napkin holder, involving delicate mortise-and-tenon joints and all sorts of other nonsense. These dreams pretty much evaporated the moment I took the 1/8″ mortise chisel into the ash and realized that for what I wanted to do, it would tend to split badly.
So I sat on the sawbench for about 20 minutes and fooled around with the wood that I had milled to size, and realized that I could probably make something halfway decent relatively quickly if I just sandwiched stuff together. I ended up with this:
I was careful to make the protruding napkin width equal on the two sides and the top, for whatever that’s worth. But the thing that I’m most happy about with this project is that it happened very quickly. That’s a true rarity in these parts.