Thursday, June 16, 2011

John's Apprentice Bench Slideshow

John's bench was officially done about two months ago. Last night we finally got a few moments to make up this slideshow.

John's been woodworking since he was about 8 years old, when he built his first workbench, completely on his own, with scrap wood and an old clamp-on Stanley vise. His first project was a box to hold a cross, complete with a french-fitted cutout made from cardboard.

John, age 8, using my Lie-Nielsen 164 on my bench (he's standing on a stepstool).

John's first bench.

Making the French-fitted box insert with a chip-carving knife.

So last fall, after WIA, when John told me he wanted to make something "serious" and suggested a workbench with our vises, I was thrilled.

As John's teacher, I was extremely satisfied with the outcome of his bench. Some of you may be wondering how much he actually did on his own (he'll be 17 next week). The answer is, a lot.

Instead of giving him a crash course in woodworking, I walked him through each step of making the bench as if I were making it. Need to cross cut wood to length? I'd grab a handsaw and do the first cut. Now you imitate. I would make corrections and explain the "why's" along the way, with some safety lessons mixed in. John jointed and planed (with both hand work and machines) all the lumber for  the bench, with me sometimes doing outfeed duties, feeding him the piece for another pass. This way he got a lesson and practical experience for every part of the build. In the end, I did almost nothing during the build other than show him what to do, and perform the first cut or operation.

I did cut the large dovetail that joins the front laminate to the end cap. I needed to illustrate the technique for an article I wrote for the August 2011  issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. It's a great technique I discovered by chance last year while installing a Benchcrafted Tail Vise. It makes cutting huge dovetails easy and fun, and it's crazy precise.

On the last day of the build I was working in a another building when John stepped in holding the pin for his parallel guide, with a nicely turned ebony handle attached. It had been about three years since I helped him do a couple turnings on the lathe. Then out of the blue, this. It was a great ending to the project, a moment I'll remember for a long time.


  1. John,

    Nice work, whether you realize it or not you have a tremendous head start on most of us. Good job.

    George Walker

  2. I´d really enjoyed to follow the proccess, you are very generous sharing this

  3. What kind of paint? Milk paint? What color? I LOVE it!


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