The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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We had an epic thunderstorm roll in this afternoon. I was glad for it because I enjoy thunderstorms and how they let the world know that Mother Nature is still in charge. But the thunderstorm also cooled off the oppressive heat we’ve been experiencing lately. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining about the heat, in particular after the winter we just had, but I don’t enjoy woodworking when the heat becomes stifling. In any event, I wandered into the garage, opened the door to let the cool air enter, and continued to sharpen up some of my co-worker’s (friend?) chisels.

I generally sharpen on my workbench because I don’t have room for a dedicated sharpening station. I don’t recommend using your workbench to sharpen, in particular if you are using water stones, because no matter how carefully you work water and stone sludge will manage to get onto your bench top. Tonight was no exception, and my bench top did get a little damp.

As the sharpening session drew to a close I flattened my water stones, put them back in a fresh bath of water, and removed the tools from my workbench top to clean it off. I’ve been toying around with the idea of making a new workbench, and with the news that I can get a very nice butcher block style slab for a very nice price, the new bench idea has been on my mind a lot lately. Still, I decided to plane the top of the bench down just to level it and clean it up a bit. I used a shop vac to suck up as much of the dust that I could, then I got to planing, first using the jointer plane to flatten and then the smoothing plane to clean it up.

It took just a few minutes, and when I was finished I noticed that the bench still looked pretty good. I placed a two foot spirit-level on the bench just for a moment and noticed that the bench was still perfectly level. I built the bench almost five years ago when I first began to woodwork seriously, and I must admit it has held up pretty nicely. When I built the bench I followed no plans, rather, I took suggestions from a few books and woodworking articles I had read and built what I felt was right. I changed the configuration of the bench top several times, added a tool tray, toyed with several vices, and most recently added a sliding board jack. I can honestly say that this bench, my first bench, has looked and functioned as a real woodworking bench should all along. And to think I was ready to abandon it.

As I placed the tools on the newly planed bench top I noticed how pleasing they looked laying on the workbench in a way that at a glance seemed haphazard, but in reality was nearly perfect. I gazed at the enormous pile of boards that had become the rock my woodworking is based upon. Five years it had taken me to finally understand what that bench represents. What stubbornness, what hubris had led me to nearly exile this wonderful tool? Two iced-tea scented tears trickled from my eyes, but it was alright; everything was alright. The struggle was finished. I loved my workbench.




  1. dzj9 says:

    Yeah, that’s a fine looking bench. If you need some extra height for joinery and such, you can always make a small benchtop bench.

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