A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Workshop ver 2.0 complete.

This entry is about a shop reorg, but before I start I wanted to share a story.
It’s a story about a man whom I have never met, I have only spoken to him on the phone. First I should step back to the beginning. I was reading Konrad Sauer’s blog about finding some special walnut from a Kijiji search, so I decided to do a search of my own. Sure enough, a search for lumber turned up an ad for a bunch of hardwood for sale not far from my home. I was thinking of building a couple of benches and was looking for some good wood at a modest cost. The price was modest, at $2/bf for ash, oak and maple this was what I was after. I sent in an email and got a response from a woman who was helping her brother out by clearing out his home and shop, and the wood was part of the inventory. She said her brother was pretty sick and might be able to meet me at the house to help me sort through it. I borrowed a buddy’s truck and drove to the address, a nice old home on the corner of two quiet streets, in a small town like many others I have come to know in this part of the world.
The sister and a family friend led me down through a little door into a basement workshop, (the owner was too sick to come) maybe 500 sq. feet (the entire basement) filled with lumber and very little workspace to do actual woodworking – but they had wood! I was having trouble finding what I was after so the sister called the brother on the mobile and he pointed me at the good stuff. There was a bit of teak, and some walnut, which I bought all of, I was after some ash to build some benches and he had a pile of it, both 1 and 2 inches thick. I thanked him for his help and sorted through the pile to get as much as I could fit in the truck for the drive home. On my way home I could not help but think about this family selling all the tools and material from a lifetime of woodworking and felt a connection to this man through our common craft. I had the wood he bought many years ago, no doubt with plans in mind and I was continuing that vision as one woodworking generation to another. When I got the wood home and stacked, I could not help but think about its previous owner and throughout the project feel the connection through the wood to another woodworking generation: while this wood cannot tell his story, he is as much part of its legacy as I am.
I ended up with about 160’ of ash, mostly 2”, planed it up to see what I had and proceeded to mill it up to make some benchtops. Since the wood was air-dried it had quite a bit of checking, so I worked around it to minimize the waste, using the shorter bits for legs and stretchers and had the material laid out for my projects. After all was said and done, there were a couple of boxes of kindling for my buddy and not much else.
Smoothing the legs til they look like glass, that Sauer A1 is amazing!
I was not building a proper workbench, more like work tables to go against the wall to replace a couple of salvage laminated work surfaces I had been using for 12-15 years. The tops would be 2” thick and 24”x72” in size, built to the work height of 34 inches these were to become the location for most of my project layout and assembly. I did not need another workbench as I have the dream bench I built over 20 years ago I cannot do without, these would be just tables.
After lots of gluing and hernia-inducing lumber moves the tops were done, and the base built using traditional trestle bench design giving a solid foundation for many years of woodworking. Of course any shop reno is not straight-forward, not only did I need to unload the benches and find a temporary place for the riggings, I needed to paint the floor underneath (left over from workshop ver. 1.5 reno) and paint the wall behind which was necessary since I would likely not have access to them again for many years. I have been doing some work on these benches since they were finished and they are exactly what I was after; but I still cannot look at them without thinking of the wood’s previous owner, and that someday another woodworking generation will likely come to cherish the previous generations’ contributions as much as I do. Thanks Harry!

The finished work benches line the shop wall.

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