birchwoodguy

Robert Little, Murillo, ON, CA
member


An Engineer by training, I have enjoyed woodworking since my father first "let me cut my first board" in his basement shop when I was only 7 years old. After gaining some confidence and basic instruction in middle school, I began my long self-taught apprenticeship. Now nearly 40 years later living on 30 acres of woodland I have all the tools, space, equipment lumber and skills I could ever want, just wish I had more TIME to enjoy it all before I am old(er). I have dabbled in running a woodworking business, but have found it better as a hobby and not a job. My job feeds the family and my hobby feeds my soul. I am grateful for the experience and the way woodworking makes me feel about myself and my surroundings; to see objects of utility and beauty I have envisioned in my mind and made with my hands around me gives me a connection to my environment and my love of natural wood.
Robert.

Gender: Male



Recent comments


Re: CPSC Drafting New Tablesaw Regulations

I would be interested in a group of options to add safety to my existing General 350. Mostly I think of the kids -not myself when I say this. I can see a saw-stop or similar technology being a good investment for a school or commercial business, as it should pay for itself in Reduced Insurance costs. I did say "should", but Will the insurance industry acknowledge the reduced risk of the technology? If not, why not?

I have seen that the saw stop can be operator disabled; this may defeat the whole point of a government dictated safety feature. In any event most of us already have "older" saws and will continue to use them, evading any new rules. So why not focus on available options for new equipment and retro-fit style safety features for existing ones and let the market decide. If cost savings result from insurance markets for those using the new safety features it will become widely adopted, if not, then likely not.
Robert.

Re: Walnut Table

Very nice Sheraton table Frank.

I love the proportions.

Robert.

Re: My Workbench

Very nicely done Edward,
I too put a large under top shelf to keep my top clean and neat as possible I see you have the Veritas twin screw vise as well as the Veritas "Tucker" vise, wow. Very nice bench.

Robert.

Re: Tool Chest

You know Tom, everytime I see your work it makes me want to run to the shop, un-plug everything (but the lights) and get to work on something really unique. The interesting thing about your tool-tote (if I can call it that since it is really a mini work-station/tool-box and we don't have a word for that yet)is that it is carefully thought out for your needs and is both complex and small/simple at the same time. How often have we seen huge tool chests and wall mounted tool cabinets (impressive to be sure), but your minimalist approach and honest joinery is awesome and I can't stop wondering how I can borrow some of that perspective and incorporate it into my own work.

Keep up the postings, every one of them is inspiratioinal!
Robert.

Re: lingerie Cabinet

Nice Job Todd,

I drew up plans for a Lingerie chest of drawers with seven drawers for my wife two years ago but still waiting for the time to build it! I like the choice of Cherry - warm colour and nice grain pattern. Thanks for the posting, reminded me to set some time aside to start the one I have planed...wonder if I could still get this done by Christmas. Hum...

Robert.

Re: Help us design a workbench for power-tool lovers

I would like to add a list of features from my current bench (built after 30 years of wood-working and many-many "make-do" benches. Here's my list:
1. Location: As recommended by others as well- locate bench out in the open where you can get all around the bench when you need to. I have my 38" x 84" bench set out in the shop with only one end at a wall. This gives me access to any work I am doing and the wall provides a place for my power bar, and task-light switch, as well as a small cabinet for handsaws and hand planes.

2. Secondary Storage: One long side of the bench is only 4-feet from another wall where I have wall mounted storage and a small work surface (only 16-inches wide) for tool sharpening items (bench grinder, water stones, narrow belt sander) under the small sharpening area bench I store other frequently used items so they are near-by to the bench. I have found that by having this secondary place to put things, I don't put them on the work bench where they will be in the way. (and I am not tempted to put them on the table saw either)

3. Bench storage: I have found a "tool well" to be a major pain and ends up being a dust collection trough and a place for a table leg to drop just as I am clamping up. That said, you really do need a place to put down a tool while you do something else for a few minutes and then quickly retrieve the tool again, so I built my current bench with a 5-1/2" space directly under the top. The space is close at hand from both sides of the bench, stays clean since the bench top shelters it, and keeps most items out of the way while the bench top is free to hold the work. With some practice you will learn to place and retrieve tools from under the bench top without looking, your hand knows where it put the plane a minute ago (just as my fingers remember the QWERTY keyboard) but it will take some getting used to at first and disapline to force yourself to stop putting tools on top of the bench.

The space below the bench storage area is all divided into drawers. I put six drawers arranged into two stacks of three, with the top drawers only 3-inches deep (for chisels, layout tools and small items) and the four lower drawers about 7-inches deep for larger tools and frequently used items like clamps, bench jigs and power tools. I used all super heavy duty full-extension metal drawer glides, and as one other member noted, I had to go with the drawers opening to one side of the bench as I was not able to find a glide that would open to both sides in the size and weight range I needed. Having used the bench for a few years now, I am happy with the drawers opening only one side, It is easier to remember where the tools are and the front of a drawer is always the front this way.

4. Bench Top: This is a whole topic on its own. I have read and experimented with a number of tops. I even thought about casting a concrete top up-side-down over a surface of Baltic Birch plywood to create a rigid and heavy bench top. In the end I built my top out of four layers of plywood (3 @ 3/4" and 1 @ 1/2") all fully bonded together and edged with 2-inch solid beech cut to match the 2-3/4" top thickness. The tops' 2-3/4" thickness matches the requirement of my main vise (A "Tucker Vise" from Lee Valley Tools) this thickness is plenty solid supported by two treasle legs spaced about 50-inches apart. The 2/3/4" thickness is also enough to hold bench dogs securely in place. I opted for the 3/4" diameter round dogs as it was easy to drill these after installing the bench vise (so the dog holes line up exactly with those in the vise) and I can add more in the future if needs be. Finally, the plywood top does not move with seasonal changes in humidity so stays flat and stable at all times with no need to adjust it ever. One issue is the surface is only Baltic birch plywood, so some care is needed to prevent gouging out the surface during use. After two years of use, so far so good, just remember to use a scrap block under any work you are chiseling or saw with a bench hook. I am happy with the top but still plan to someday build a replacement top of the same thickness using solid hardwood - someday.

5. Vises and clamping: I built my top to match the requirements of my main vise, a pattern-makers style vise by Lee Valley Tools called the "Tucker Vise" after its inventor, (also the vise was a very special gift from my wife after she saw me drolling over one on display a number of years ago).
I set the main vise at the left hand end of my bench on the same side as the drawers. I am right handed and I find it more suitable for the vise to be on the left side (where my left hand is available to support a cut-off as my right hand does the sawing. I designed the bench-top overhang to match the required width of the vise so there was as much support as possible from the leg, without the leg interfering with the operation of the vise. I then set two rows of dog-holes through the top of the bench in line with those in the vise. Since the holes are not over my tool shelf (under the bench between the legs only) any saw dust or chips that fall through the dog holes falls to the floor. (Nice). On the opposite corner from the bench vise I have a tail vise. This is mostly used for holding parts for hand plane work, and again a row of dog holes are drilled through the top in line with the hole in the vise, this row is parallel to the long back edge of the vise. For edge planing work, I have a birds-mouth that locks onto the bench-top at the end of the tail-vise row of dog holes (with 3/4" dowels) and two sets of supports line the bench rear legs (more 3/4" holes) so that the board edge can be supported for hand planing. I thought about a sliding "dead-man" but didn't see any need for one, if the board is short, I just put a narrow (1x2) on top of the leg supports and that supports the edge of the board during planing. That way my tool shelf is not blocked by the dead-man.

6. Bench weight: A lot of comments have been posted about the need for bench to be heavy and solid. I have a heavy bench for sure, and the tools stored in the drawers under the bench certainly add to that, but I have a better method for adding weight to the bench: the floor under it. After I set my bench into position in the shop I put my very best 4-foot level on the top and spent some time carefully setting the top perfectly level by cutting hardwood shims for under the tressel legs. I didn't use wedges, I used full surface support shims and took the time to carefully cut each one the the required thickness to leave the bench exactly level and flat. Then I drilled 1/2" quick-bolts trough holes in the bottom of the legs into the concrete floor below and torqued up the bolts tight to hold my bench with the mass of about 30-odd tons of concrete floor. The bench is so solid nothing can budge it. If concrete floors and quick bolts were around I do not doubt Mr Roubo would have done this as well.

7. Lighting: A lot of good info on this topic has been posted before so I will just say: good natural non-direct lighting is best and some over head task lighting so there are no shadows formed by your body when you lean forward is the way to go for your bench.

8. Floors: Here is a topic most seem to overlook, what you stand on will affect how comfortable you are and how well you work. After a lot of years standing on bare concrete floors I finally did two things about it: One, I bought some comfortable work shoes just for work in the shop. Two, I bought some anti-fatigue mats and stuck them to the floor in the areas i stand for long periods. (ie in front of the Bench, table saw, sander) this has had a dramatic affect on how my back feels and how I feel after working in the shop. I like the insulated and plywood floor in Matts shop, looks like a good idea; warm, easy on the back and less damage to a tool dropped on it!

ok that is my advise on the issue from my experiences.

Robert.

Re: Dave's Basement Shop

Interesting shop, can you tell us a few things about it: Are those lights under the workbench cabinets? What kind of flooring do you have - wondering if it eases the strain from the concrete floor. Any comments on how to get materials/sheet goods into the shop?
Nice posting, always good to see where a typical member actually works on their art, not everyone has a Finewoodworking dream shop!

Robert.

Re: Help us design a workbench for power-tool lovers

ok for starters, stop thinking of wood workers as Either hand tool OR power tool junkies. I expect the vast majority of us are BOTH. Ok so now think of a bench for Both uses:
Adjustable bench height
Vise and vacuum-work-holder
dog holes and bench top T-tracks
over head task lighting (in addition to regular lights)
over head power bar & retractable power cord.
over head compressed air retractable coil.
Double top work surface over and tool shelf under
two top shallow drawers for layout and hand tools
four deep lower drawers for power tools and accessories
Make the bencetop a combination torsion box and dust collection system by using the spaces down-draft style.
wall mount cabinet for hand planes, chargers, drill bits,saw.
anti-fatigue matts all around bench (on conc. floor).
wall mount ipod station (behind plexiglass) and radio headphone hearing protection.
wall mount phone with light indicator
top at least 36"x84"
bolt-down legs. (why do people need a 400lb bench, bolt it to the concrete floor, now it is 20 tons)
shopvac and compressor located remote to bench (noise control) but control by swiches at the bench. One dedicated plug-in for router that activates the shopvac, over-ride switch to turn on the shopvac for other uses.
flip-up bench edges that support bar clamps.
fitted compartments in drawers to hold: bench pups, hold-downs, driver bits, calculator and pencils, note-pads, small layout tools, chisels, mallet, etc.

Re: Poll: What hand tools are on your holiday wish list?

Well I built a solid work bench in 2009 but I used four layers of plywood edged with solid wood for the top work surface (2-3/4" thick top to match requirements of my veritas Tucker-vise) and I think this year I will change out that top for a solid 2-3/4" hardwood one. After the nice work I saw done on the sharpening bench here on Fine woodworking, I feel I should replace my bench top! now if I could just get my hands on the 80 board feet of hardwood I will need for this bench top...

Hope everyone had a great holiday season this year, I sure did, got to spend time in the workshop!

Robert.

Re: Are CNC machines ready for Fine Woodworking?

What is there to say, to make furniture FOR A LIVING in North America you are at a disadvantage from "cheap" imports and low wage earners abroad, if you can compete using CNC technology I say go for it. After all how is this any different than using Sketch-up or even a Table saw? As others have said already, the customer is only interested in the end result, not so much in how we get there. Now with that said, for those who are NOT making furniture for a living but in fact just do it for the love of the process as much as the final result, we know the answer here too.
Robert.

Re: A Dedicated Sharpening Bench - part 7 - The Glue-up

Thanks Tom, I had not realized the back tray was free-floating, hope this provides enough movement for the oak as it would be a shame to have any splits develope in such an outstanding piece. I am building a new shop and will want a dedicated sharpening area myself and am thinking of your design but with Walnut for the legs and Beech for the top. I figure it will give a nice contrast like you have in your work, but the Walnut will be easier to work (but may need to be a bit more beefy in dimensions) and the Beech for the top will give me a more closed grain surface to prevent water from getting through the finish and to ease clean-up. Let you know how it turns out! (I have to say I sure admire all your hand-work and your collection of Veritas tools! Wow!!)

Re: A Dedicated Sharpening Bench - part 7 - The Glue-up

Wow, really nice work Tom. And very good naritive with the photos. I read the whole seven postings like a good book, couldn't stop until I read the ending. I have been reading something else related, Bruce Hoadley's "Understanding Wood" the new revised edition. I believe that Rhysling has a good point about potential wood movement. Not to take away from your outstanding skill and beautiful design, I would suggest readers consider the cross-grain movements that will take place in the top (around the oak) and what appears to be a restriction where the breadboard ends (that are "free to move") but are then held solid by the front apron dovetail joint. I have had my own trouble with this type of set up in setting in tiles on a table top and have found the best solution for my region is oak faced plywood instead of the solid 1-inch stock. The bread-board then covers the plywood edge grain and the front apron can be safely dovetailled (and glued) to the bread-board. Hope this helps, I highly recommend Bruce's book, also well written.

Robert.

Re: Poll: What accessories, jigs, and shop gear are on your holiday wish list?

Hey one item I would like not on the list above: the new professional grade mortise and frame jig from Leigh Industries. Saw a demo of it and wow... what a tool. Honey ...maybe if my birthday and christmas gifts were combined together... I can hope right!?

Re: Poll: What accessories, jigs, and shop gear are on your holiday wish list?

To give J_Free some advice, I would suggest that (although you have heard this before) the way to go with a small shop and small(ish) budget is to stay with as many hand tools as possible. A top quality set of hand planes, saws and chisels will cost far less than just the table saw you have no room for, and the room needed for hand tool use and storage is tiny compared to what the machines need. I recommend you start with one or two top of the line hand planes from veritas (Lee Valley) or Lie Neilson and add to your collection as you can (christmas is coming!) A solid work bench should be your first project. I can honestly say that after 40 years of woodworking the only tools I have regreted buying were the "bargins" that didn't last or hold up to real world use. Put another way, I have a Veritas hand plane that I paid $200.00 for that will long outlast me and likely another generation. In the end it will likely cost only $2.00 per year of service.



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