About overthewireless

One time historian turned construction lawyer, musician, martial artist, photographer, distance runner, builder of musical instruments. Hand tool user all the time, every time.

Roubo Is Coming… Part 14


North Bros brace and auger bits

It has taken a few weeks since my return from Kentucky to get back into the workshop in earnest, but I am now back at the bench. After being spoiled by a week working at the Lost Art Press store front (which has the most amazing natural light, and an embarrassment of workbenches) my own workshop feels very modest indeed. But it is good to be home.


Chopping the mortises in the vise chop for the hardware

I decided to kick-off my return to the Roubo bench build by fitting the hardware – this was a nice discreet step in the process before I start cutting the joinery in the slab top. I’ve had the Benchcrafted Glide C vise and Crisscross Retro since the slab arrived in August 2018, and I also added a Benchcrafted swing away seat and pair of Crucible holdfasts to complete fitting out the bench. Having used the Crucible holdfasts at the LAP storefront, I can confirm that they do indeed hold like the dickens.


Boring holdfast holes in the front right-hand leg

I bored three holes in the front right-hand leg of the workbench partially as a place to store the holdfasts, and also to facilitate using the holdfasts to slamp long boards in place while edge jointing. These holes were bored with a 1″ diameter, 18″ long WoodOwl ship’s auger bit driven by my early 1920’s North Bros brace. the extra length of the ship’s auger assists in keeping the hole perfectly perpendicular to the surface of the workpiece, which is essential if the holdfast is to work correctly. The swingout seat is attached to the same leg, and positioned so that the top of the seat will be 19″ from the floor. To attach the seat mechanism to the bench I ordered some (frankly gorgeous) square headed 1/2″ diameter bolts from blacksmithbolt.com.


Quality hardware is a must on major projects, and these bolts are gorgeous

Most of the work with this stage of the build came with fitting the vise hardware. Benchcrafted have produced some incredibly detailed and clear instructions for installing their hardware, so there is nothing to be gained from recounting the steps necessary. A few people have asked which iteration of the Crisscross mechanism I selected, and I went with the Retro (rather than the “Solo”) because I figured that the stepped mortises would be more straight forward than drilling the pin holes (which must be dead nuts accurate) through over 6″ thick oak. Chopping the mortises in the left-hand leg and vise chop did involve a fair amount of chisel work, but was not that difficult, even if I did use some particularly gnarly oak for the vise chop. To make like easier I hogged out most of the waste with a forstner bit and then cleaned up with a chisel.


Tapping threads in wood using a battery powered drill is an entirely new experience for me

Fitting the hardware is quite involved, but an enjoyable process. There are definitely some new skills to be learned from this process, including tapping threads in timber to allow for the use of machine screws – this was entirely new to me, but thanks to the very clear instructions it went smoothly. After completing the installation I couldn’t help but do a test spin of the vise, and was pleased to find that it moves just as sweetly as advertised, and grips tightly. Once the bench is assembled I will trim the top of the chop level with the bench top and finish shaping it.

Nailing It in print

Issue 289 of the new-look Furniture & Cabinetmaking is now in stores, and includes the next instalment of my Roubo bench series. This instalment introduces using cut nails and “Roman” nails in furniture making, along with tongue and groove joinery and beading planes (the gateway drug to moulding planes!).

A Grand Kentucky Adventure… Part 4

I’m back in the ‘shop and work has resumed on the Roubo workbench. But before I get back to an update on the bench build, here’s a collection of photos from my trip with Megan, Mark and Jeff to Pleasant Hill Shaker community in Kentucky.




Hewing marks still on the beams


Everyone loves Shaker pegs



Half blind dovetails.


Separate staircases for men and women.


I love the patina and wear on this door catch


Hanging a chair on pegs


Hanging wall cabinet


Saturday table


A Grand Kentucky Adventure… part 3

And with that, the Anarchist’s Tool Chest class is done. On one hand it is hard not to feel very proud of the students and all that they have accomplished – all six tool chests were finished by 3pm on the Friday (which i believe is a class record!). On the other, when such an immersive experience ends, it is hard for there not to be a touch of melancholy, and I am reminded of the final day of my own ATC class five years ago.

Of course, there was a lot of work since my last blog post to get the tool chests finished. On Wednesday afternoon we got the lower skirts fitted and glued on. Thursday was then spent cleaning up the exterior of the casework, and fitting the base boards and upper skirts. Which meant that the students got to work with cut nails, tongue and groove boards, and cut more dovetails – plenty of learning opportunities! I found that for glue-ups it worked well to have teams of three do each glue up. So I would work with a pair of students to glue their casework, and those students would then talk the next student through the process while I assisted, and they would in turn help the next student. Three man teams works nicely for casework of this size, and helping their class mates consolidates the learning process for the students (it also helps to prevent the more advanced students from getting too far ahead).

Friday was spent assembling the lids, cutting and fitting the dust seal, and then gluing the lids up. Every person’s dovetails improved over the curse of the week, which was proved by the quality of the dust seals, which are joined with a single tail (much harder than a set of multiple tails). We even managed to find time to bead the upper skirts, and to talk about hardware choices, before everyone loaded their tool chests into their cars and started the long journey home.

I am also headed home, and about to commence the 22 hour trip back to Birmingham. It has been a real privilege to teach at the Lost Art Press store front, and to spend five days working with such a great bunch of students. A final work of thanks to Chris and Megan for not only the invitation to teach, but all of their work preparing stock for the class, and their assistance this week. I will be sad to leave Kentucky (Covington is, as far as I’m concerned, the promised land), but I am looking forward to seeing Dr Moss and the Apprentice after 9 nights away.

A Grand Kentucky Adventure… part 2

We are now at the midpoint of the Anarchist’s Tool Chest class. Everyone is working hard, and everyone’s dovetails are improving. Monday was spent boiling dovetail techniques down to fundamentals, looking at body mechanics and the key processes at a really detailed and granular level, while cutting the tail boards. Tuesday consolidated those lessons while cutting the pin boards and gluing up the caress. We started today with a talk on cambering plane irons and demonstration on how to hone a camber. Everyone has now smoothed the exterior of their tool chests and are now onto dovetailing the lower skirts.

Although it is a completely different experience teaching the class, it has brought back vivid memories of the Anarchist’s Tool Chest class I took with Chris five years ago. That was a life changing event for me, and I am grateful for the opportunity to pass on knowledge to students now, and for the friendship and mentor I gained five years ago.

If you want to really learn about a subject, try teaching it. Explaining how you approach a technique, and answering questions (which are always insightful and intelligent, but never what you expect) really prompts you to drill down into both the how and the why. And so far it is going well – some of the students have had that lightbulb moment when a technique suddenly clicks, and they all seem enthused by their progress. Which is all I can ask for (apart from maybe more fried chicken, something that just isn’t done well in England). Knocking together a corner of my demonstration tool chest while the class watched was a little nerve wracking, but it went together just fine. That kind of fear keeps you honest.

The Lost Art Press store front is a dream workshop, with plenty of natural light, space, and fantastic bench provision (as you’d expect). I’ve been stationed at Chris‘ slab top Roubo bench, and working at that bench has me eagerly looking forward to completing my own Roubo bench over the autumn.

This afternoon we will complete the bottom skirt and get the baseboards nail in place.

A Grand Kentucky Adventure… part 1

After 22 hours of travelling I reached Kentucky on Friday evening, and have spent the past couple of days catching up with good friends and seeing some of what Kentucky has to offer. There may have also been plenty of bourbon. Covington is a wonderful place full of gorgeous historic architecture, great places to eat, and within easy striking distance of other great attractions. I’ve sent approximately 27 messages home in the past 48 hours suggesting we move here, so I’m confident that Dr Moss will agree shortly (maybe?).

Shaker chair at a Pleasant Hill

Saturday was day two of the Lie Nielsen hand tool event, hosted by Lost Art Press, so I spent the day at the storefront catching up with Chris, Megan, Jeff, Mark, my buddies Jason and Brett, and the folk from Lie-Nielsen.

In the attic, at a Pleasant Hill

Today we took a trip to the Pleasant Hill shaker community, which was my first chance to see Shaker furniture and architecture in person. Special thanks goes to a Megan, who has a deep personal history with Pleasant Hill, and is an excellent tour guide. I’m still sorting through my photographs from the visit, and will post more from Pleasant Hill soon.

With Jeff, Mark and Megan at Pleasant Hill

Tomorrow, my Anarchist’s Tool Chest class starts, which I am looking forward to a great deal. The timber is out on benches, the workshop is reset after the L-N event, and we’re all set up. The next five days should be really good (and lots of hard work).

The Lost Art Press storefront.