Woodworker James Oliver has built a massive workbench with French lines (tree trunk legs), English-style workholding (a twin-screw face vise) and some modern practicality (a quick-release vise in the end-vise position).
When I first posted photos of Oliver’s bench in January, readers wanted to see more photos , not only of the bench, but of the shop. Chris is a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking Magazine and the publisher at Lost Art Press. I’m curious what that black thing that hangs out under the left end of the bench in the upper photo and is tucked under in the lower photo? Even though any photo of a workbench will stop me in my tracks—THAT is a jaw-dropping workbench. It never even occurred to me to use anything but a couple of shop scraps and 3 square drive screws to make mine from the description in your book. I’m the weirdo who counts the number of steps and hand motions it takes me to brew a cup of coffee.
The only problem with using a block plane as a smoothing plane is you don’t have a cap iron (a handy thing to have when you face nasty grain), and getting the iron curved just right for the tool’s low bed is more difficult than it is on a traditional bench plane.
When I mentioned this experiment to a few friends, they said I was going to hate the tool’s tote – I’d never get my fingers between the tote and the frog.
If you hold the tool like a coffin smoothing plane it feels just like you are holding a wooden coffin smoothing plane. My friend Carl Bilderback showed me a way to alter the tote so I could use it with a traditional grip.
And then Wednesday I’ll show how smoothing planes have been increasing in size since the 17th century, and have perhaps become too bloated. I sure wish L-N made the #2 with a choice of frogs as they offer for their larger bench planes. I sure as heck don’t want to suggest anything that will derail their efforts to get the plow plane into production. Chris, I’m just curious–if you want a plane that feels like a coffin smoother, why not use a coffin smoother? I remember during the Dutch Toolchest build (California) that you only had your block plane and were using it most effectively for all your planing tasks. I am building a work bench, on the model of the Shaker bench in your workbench design book.
I know your smoother has the high angle frog making it harder to push so it’ll be interesting to see if that aspect is noticed in the transition.
Tongue in cheek comment aside, it will be interesting to see if you still prefer this to the block plane after a good couple of months. One of the most rewarding activities we came up with was to invite furniture makers, wood artists, and people who have contributed to woodworking in a profound way, to come over for dinner in our great dining hall, give a talk or a demonstration of their art and answer student questions. One of the most fascinating events we held was a talk by Tom Lie-Nielsen about his work: resurrecting the manufacturing of high quality woodworking hand tools in North America. Yoav teaches woodworking at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, and also frequently guest teaches in craft schools across the country.  Between 2003 and 2011 Yoav  headed the woodworking program at Harvard University's Eliot House.
Yoav has a degree in architecture and later held two competitive residency programs: at The Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts, and the Windgate Foundation Fellowship at Purchase College, New York. Roorkee chairs are great fun to show customers – until they ask me to take it apart and put it back together for them.


For the first year or so, I was pretty slow at putting them together because there are eight buckles to tighten up all while keeping the loose parts from falling down like a Jenga game. After thinking about it and working with the chairs for three years now, I’ve got it down to about two minutes to assemble a chair – tops. You can then snap the back legs onto a stretcher – already threaded through the seat – add the side stretchers and thigh strap and then the back legs.
This looks like some slight changes to the initial design in PW and your book such as more straps and buckles, etc.
Workbench builder Richard Maguire published a tip on his blog this summer that allows you to use one batten, one holdfast and a planing stop for traversing. I’ve been using this method on my French oak Roubo bench, which does not have a tail vise or even a strip of dog holes. If your holdfast doesn’t hold well, the notched batten will give way when you reach the end of the board next to the planing stop.
You might consider putting some sticky-back sandpaper on the underside of the batten to improve the grip. Another detail worth mentioning: The notched batten works best if you have a metal planing stop. Another trick from Richard Maguire (i think it is his first video post) is to dent you holdfast with a nail set.
Derek Olson (Old Wolf Workshop), in his July 26th blog post, points to Roubo’s plate 14, figure 17 as a possible example of this type of batten. Richard does say 45 degrees, but he is referring to the angular orientation of the notch with respect to the angular orientation of the batten, not the fact that the location of the notch is offset towards one side of the batten. From the video, it looks like the amount of offset is such that the line of the end points is at about 25-30 degrees, not 45. Run a board across the witdth of the bench with blocks underneath each end that snug against the front and rear edges of the bench.
Oliver, who works part-time for Coastal Carvings in Coombs, British Columbia, obliged with these two other views of his bench and shop.
Since I use a combination of machine and hand tools, I made these as stationary stands to stack timber on when using a buzzer (planner?), bench saw (table saw), etc. And I’m always looking for ways to shave away a few minutes here and there from my routine activities (for example, brushing my teeth while simultaneously fetching my clothes for the day).
During the last couple years I’ve noticed how much I use my block plane for smoothing large panels.
2 by sharpening the iron and tuning up the cap iron so it could be used for the most difficult woods. I’m curious to know if you considered the 1 vs 2 and if so, why did the No 2 win out.
It would be great if you could give updates every few months to let us know how its working out.
Their website will probably crash under the strain of all the Groupies clambering to purchase a #2. He introduced the art of milk-paint technique and showed several creative ways to apply milk paint on wood. Tom brought over a big collection of Lie-Nielsen's tools, including some eye-catching prototypes of future tools.


Among then Albert LeCoff Director of the Center for Art In Wood in Philadelphia, and sculptor Steff Rocknak from New York. I can take it apart in a little less than that, which is ideal if you are retreating from the enemy. I finished building the chair shown in the video for an upcoming DVD by Popular Woodworking titled “Build a Campaign Chair,” which is due out in January 2015. For the last eight years, I’ve used a setup that requires two holdfasts and a batten between them. I have a vintage French holdfast on my bench that is heavy, flexible and exerts a death grip on the benchtop. The harder you push the handplane, the more the metal stop bites into the end grain of your work. Richard is very specific in his description (and implementation), showing that it’s a 90 degree notch angled at 45 degrees.
The window directly behind the bench is also home to a rack with striking and boring tools.
Almost every year, I come up with some scheme to lay a wooden floor in both shops, but something (usually my love of eating meat once in a while) gets in the way.
Its small sole helps me get into the hollows on tabletops and case sides, shaving off lots of time to get a finished panel.
Tomorrow I’ll post a video that shows how I go about tuning and setting the cap iron – I’ll also show the grip I’m using on the tool right now. And, as you can see in these pictures, you can choose from a huge variety of world foods and recipes. People from all over the campus came to listen to these talks and felt that by organizing these events we contributed to spreading the love for wood and the appreciation for the art and craft of fine woodworking among students and faculty, which otherwise might have not heard about this vast and beautiful world we are so passionate about. His pieces have been featured in several woodworking books, most recently in Robin Wood’s CORES Recycled. I have read your book on campaign furniture, but sometimes it’s easier to understand with a visual.
I think that might affect the strength that the batten applies to the workpiece, perhaps negating the issue of a weak holdfast.
The planing stops are mounted at right angles to each other and keep the board from rotating when planing diagonally. I made provision to add an adjustable roller to each trestle to enable them to be used in tailing-off the machines. I am thrilled with the functionality of mine (they are not a patch on the beauty of Russ Merz’s), I would to consider even loaning these out *-))). 2 has a few things my block plane doesn’t, including a cap iron, a lateral-adjust lever and a blade adjustment wheel that is easier to reach while my hands are pushing the tool.
The length-wise planing stop mounting holes can also be located closer to the end-mounted planing stop.



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