WORKBENCHES - THEY'RE NOT JUST FOR HAND TOOLS YOU KNOW?

SATURDAY, JULY 30, 2011 AT 5:45PM

There is no doubt that the router is one of the most versatile power tools in the modern shop. Today I was using one to cut floating tenons in a set of legs and aprons for a display table that I'm working on. As far as I'm concerned, chopping out mortises by hand is right up there with thicknessing a board with a jack plane. If you have the power tools to do it why wouldn't you? As my friend Ron has always said "If the Shakers had plywood you would have seen it in the bottom of their boxes". Don't get me wrong, some people enjoy working solely by hand. In some cases like my friend Tom, you have no choice but to only use hand tools because your shop is 12' x 12'. Personally I think you can be much more efficient and accurate if you blend a little from the power side and a little from the hand side.

Every solid-wood project from my shop gets surfaced with a hand plane and the joinery will have been tuned by hand. You will never see me sanding solid wood. Why? Because it doesn't make sense to take the long way with a sander when I can get a superior surface in less time with my trusty bevel-up smoother.

Ooops...went on a bit of rant there....I apologize.

Anyhow...instead of buying an expensive jig or worse yet, making one, I use my bench to hold the work. Check out the photos below to see what I'm talking about.

The router is guided by the fence and the two Bessey clamps are acting as stops
I always reference the same side of the aprons to ensure good alignment
Nothing fancy here - just a piece of Baltic ply hot glued to the router base
I've never been a huge fan of  furniture quality jigs. I tend to prefer making temporary work holders that are held together with hot glue and brads. In this case, the tear down was simple: remove the fence from the router and put the clamps away. It took me about three minutes to set it up and about five minute to cut all the mortises. Perfect. Nothing worse that spending more time setting up for a cut than actually making the cut.

All that's left is to hand plane all the surfaces, apply the oil finish and do the glue-up
I use my machines for the grunt work which adds up to about 60% of the work. The remaining 40% gets done at the bench with hand tools. Even though building furniture is a hobby now, I still don't enjoy wasting time. For me the work is a means to an end...after all, my calling card says 'Furniture Designer/Maker' not 'User of Tools'.

V