Recently (left to right below) Jake; Rob’s shop assistant, Dave; Rob, and Rob’s son-in-law, Chris “Frick” Wetmore built this custom workbench. Frick was more involved on the social media side of things doing site management, videography and editing. According to Rob, the need for a bench arose when he realized most of his online students were working on the end of their table saw or worse yet, a shop mate! Rob said, “I have a friend/customer that had been asking me to make him a super-duper bench so what better time! I use to make and sell benches but the selling price missed the actual cost by a few miles! I really enjoy making benches so I would entertain making another one. I bought back a bench I made 12 years ago and recently upgraded it and re-sold it. Point is, the market may be ready for a few custom benches. The hardware available has been a real downer so the chance to redesign and have a better mouse trap made was a big motivator. I ended up having new hardware made for the two benches in my shop plus the one I recently refurbished and sold, made a huge improvement. I think this latest bench is a bit over the top, I would not want to be the one to make the first “ding” in it!”
(see Rob’s workbench video below)
The bench is made from Mahogany and Hard Maple; all the horizontal Maple surfaces are veneered with ¼” thick Birdseye. The base is actually Spanish Cedar, looks like Mahogany and a lot less expensive. It even has a sharpening station!
The bench dogs have “T”shaped slots cut in them and “T” shaped pieces held in place with two springs from ball point pens. This provides enough tension to hold the dog in place over a greater range of heights. Works very nice.
Rob designed a better knuckle for connecting the threaded rod to the movable vise. It allows some horizontal movement to account for pieces that don’t have parallel sides however there is no vertical slop.
Over the top! Nah! Dovetail corners, Mahogany ramp, a tool tray, stretcher wedge…
Adjustable hinged height block features a 3″ lift. Rob said, “The older you get the harder it is to bend over. Using a plane it is advantageous to lean over the plane and use your body weight, especially when cutting dovetails. It is better done at a higher, more comfortable stance. You want the bench low for hand planing and high for cutting dovetails. Young folks can adapt, older folks don’t want to! For the finish, I applied several coats of thinned Tung oil on the top and sprayed the rest with lacquer. I did not want the excessively slippery surface lacquer leaves on the top, also wanted a surface that was easy to repair/refresh.”
Here is a brand new video, just YouTube posted at the time of this blog posting, by Rob on the build of this fine workbench…
Online Workshop Involves Both Cosmans
In 2011, Rob launched an online hand-tool workshop that was followed the next year by a second hand/power tool workshop, both projects aimed at reducing Rob’s need for travel away from home allowing him to spend more time with his family. Jake has been the cameraman for both workshops, as well as doubling as the featured apprentice, working through the hand skills as the student for his dad, the instructor. “I film five days a week. We try to keep the price really low so people can participate,” Rob said. “I have an online forum. If someone asks a really good question, Jake goes in and films the answer. My son-in-law downloads the videos to the website. We try to make the experience as if the person is standing right there. The audience likes our casual approach, we don’t cut anything and we work through the mistakes.” Here is more about Rob’s online workshop program:
Today Rob sees woodworking as an enjoyable hobby, but a difficult career. He speaks from experience. A college graduate, he launched a 12-year career as a custom furnituremaker trying to support a growing family. “I did all sorts of things to make it work. I sold graduation rings. I insulated basements.” In 1999, it became clear to Rob that he could never charge enough to make the income he needed. “I realized that the only people who would appreciate my work were the people who wanted to learn how to do it.”
From Tool Demos to DVDs to Teaching
In 2000, the opportunity to import a line of tools and sell them in Canada led Rob to produce instructional DVDs. “I recognized as I was selling these tools that many of these people had no experience in how to use them,” Rob said, “I started making DVDs to help them learn how to use the tools. As a result of the DVDs, I began to receive invitations to teach. I now have the perfect scenario.
Teaching is challenging and fun, and I am getting paid to pursue my hobby, which is building furniture.” Rob also continues to add to his line of premium hand tools. When asked what prompted him to design and make tools, he said: “Guilt! I was demonstrating to the audience with tools I had either modified or made. A lot of what I do is made easier because of these tools. As students recognized this, the demand for my tools became apparent. I could not find anyone willing to build them so I decided I would have to do it myself.”
In conclusion, it is an honor to know and learn from Rob in both woodworking and his views on life in general. Look for Rob at most Woodcraft shows and stores near you! You’ll be glad you did.
Thanks Rob, we appreciate all you do!
What is a plunge cut track saw and guide rail system? This Festool TS 55 REQ high-quality plunge cut track saw and guide rail combine for a system that generates precision cuts anywhere on a panel quickly and safe, cuts that should never be attempted with a traditional circular saw.
The smooth pivoting action, and minimal blade exposure during the cut is ideal for starting a cut in the middle of a panel. This design allows the blade to pivot into the material smoothly and accurately. Precision cuts starting from any point are easily accomplished. The track saw can be used for many common tasks: Ripping sheet goods, creating straight edges on rough stock, jointing boards, cutting to scribe lines on doors and cabinets, cross-cutting, and creating openings in panels, sections of flooring, and cabinets.
Now available at your local Woodcraft store or on-line, the TS REQ is accurate and versatile. It is not your typical circular saw when compared to the most advanced table saws, miter saws or panel saws available. Add in its incredible portability and ease of use, you have a precision-cutting solution like no other, at home in the highest-end cabinet shop as well as an onsite remodel. With the addition of micro-adjustable depth controls and a flat housing for flush-cutting against walls or adjacent surfaces, the TS 55 REQ is Festool’s most advanced plunge cut saw ever. Take the tool to the work and replace large stationary equipment with an incredibly precise, handheld unit. You’ll save your back, while getting more out of your expensive materials.
Electronic variable-speed control automatically maintains a constant blade speed under load, and the soft start and automatic idle cut down on operator fatigue and noise. Surprisingly, the Festool TS 55 REQ uses a 6-1/4″-diameter blade, but still provides a 1-15/16″ cut at 90° and a 1-7/16″ cut at 45°. Festool TS 55 REQ includes a T-LOC Systainer SYS 4 storage box, 48-tooth carbide tipped blade, 55″ guide rail, limit stop, and chip deflector.
Features & Benefits:
When used with Festool guide rails, you can achieve perfectly straight and splinter-free cuts that reduce waste.
Spring-loaded riving knife (splitter) retracts automatically, keeping the cut kerf open so that the material does not pinch the blade, reducing the chance of kickback.
The slip clutch helps to minimize the risk of a kickback and minimizes wear on the blade, gear case, and motor.
Blade changes are easier and safer using the FastFix system which locks the switch and arbor simultaneously for easy arbor bolt removal.
Rotating dust port keeps hose out of the way
3-bearing motor for smoother operation
Here’s a demonstration of the all-new Festool TS 55 REQ including the quick and easy blade change,
To purchase the TS 55 for $585, and find out more information including an additional video, click on this link, Festool TS 55 at Woodcraft.
Now go make some serious sawdust,
Participants may enter in one of three ways – at a Woodcraft store, online at www.Woodcraft.com/gettheedge or by US mail. Entry forms are available at stores and on the Internet. To enter by mail, use a 3″ x 5″ card and in black or blue ink handprint your full name, complete home address including zip code, home telephone number with area code, and email address (if available). Mail the entry card in a first-class stamped envelope to: Get the Edge Sweepstakes, c/o Woodcraft, P.O. Box 1686, Parkersburg, WV 26102-1686. Attention: Lori Milner.
Contest winners will be selected by random drawing on or before June 15 from all eligible entries received by May 30.
The winners’ names will be posted on www.woodcraft.com from June 30, 2013, to December 31, 2013.
To obtain the name of the winners, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
Get The Edge Sweepstakes, c/o Woodcraft, PO Box 1686, Parkersburg, WV 26102-1686. Attention: Lori Milner.
“This is a great opportunity for woodcarvers – especially beginners – to acquire an ‘instant mini shop,’ complete with workbench, tools and a sharpening system,” Woodcraft Marketing Manager Lori Milner said. “But you can’t win if you don’t enter!
WOODCRAFT PROMISE: The e-mail information we collect is used to notify customers about Woodcraft products and services, and is not shared with other organizations for commercial purposes. Woodcraft’s complete privacy statement is available here. Void where prohibited by law.
A PDF containing the complete rules and regulations is available here.
Entry form must be completely filled out. No purchase necessary.
This sale is so big, we decided to spring into action a little early! Get a head start into WOODCRAFT for the 3-DAY SALES EVENT starting today, February 28th, for all your woodworking needs. JET & POWERMATIC Machines are 15% off (starting March 1 & 2) + Free Shipping – some exclusions apply*.
10% Off Power Tools, Exclusions Apply*
15% Off JET & POWERMATIC Machinery (starting March 1 & 2) & Everything Else (starting Feb 28th), Exclusions Apply*
The 15% off also includes Woodcraft Magazine, Plans, Magazine Downloads, and all educational materials, Exclusions Apply*.
Gift Cards; All Dovetail/FMT Jigs; All Dowelmax, Festool, SawStop, Select JET & Powermatic Machines, Tormek Products & Select Kreg Tools.
Offer Good On All Other Regularly Priced Merchandise.
Not Valid With Any Other Discount Or Coupon Offer.
The new WoodRiver No. 92 Shoulder Plane combines the best of the Edward Preston and Sons’ plane designs with modern WoodRiver® features to create a “new classic” with the look and feel of a shiny antique but the body of shoulder plane equipped for serious shop work, whether cleaning up tenons, rabbets and dadoes or creating joints.
The WoodRiver No. 92 is the result of two years of extensive prototyping and testing to develop a classic look for a plane that works as good as it looks. The classic shoulder plane features were retained – narrow body, slightly proud blade (to clean corners), sides square to the sole, flat bottoms and a necessary robustness—but a major new feature was added, an adjustable toe used to control the throat opening and help to minimize tear-out.
The body of the No. 92 is Cr40 stress-relieved ductile steel, machined square and flat, and the blade is Mn65 tool steel hardened to 60-64 Rc which combines toughness with the ability to take a keen edge.
We asked woodworker and teacher, Jerill Vance to take a look at our shoulder plane and give us an unbiased review based on his woodworking knowledge and experience. We first met Jerill almost 3 years ago at the Pocahontas Woods Fine Woodworking School, where he obtained his woodworking degree. You can find out all about Jerill from our previous blog,Pocahontas Woods Fine Woodworking School, and from his website - www.JerillVanceWoodworks.com.
Jerill stated, “Recently, I obtained a new Wood River #92 Shoulder Plane. It is an elegant, precision instrument of quality craftsmanship at a very modest price. The look, weight and comfort of this tool make it the envy of any woodworker. After spending a brief but enjoyable amount of time fine tuning and sharpening the iron in this plane, it created very fine shavings. With the adjustable mouth and blade it can be set up to easily trim a misaligned shoulder on any tenon joint. However, as I explained to a friend of mine, it is more than just a shoulder plane. The blade can be set flush with one edge and used to pare away excess material on the cheeks of the tenon. While I have the plane in my hand I also use it to chamfer the leading edge of the tenon.”
“So I wonder why is it not called a tenoning plane? To me it seems more logical since I use on every aspect of the tenon and not just the shoulder. How many hand tools excel in versatility but are stigmatized with a name that implies only one use? So if you don’t own a “tenoning” plane I suggest you consider one of these multi-use tools. Those on a fixed woodworking budget will be surprised at the modest price. So check out the Wood River #92 shoulder… I mean tenoning – plane. I am sure will you find a great use of this tool.”
Jerill also took the time to visit us at our Woodcraft Magazine Shop where we recorded this interview…
Scroll Saws are what General International started the business all off with 30 years ago. In celebration of that mark in time, General International is offering this Anniversary Special Excalibur 21″ Scroll Saw. What is different about this saw compared to it’s predecessor is that a dust collection feature has been added. To aid in the dust collection besides the collection port are several holes around the cut area on the table’s surface around the blade opening. Additional guarding has been added for increased safety, and a blade tube storage system is built-in, in close proximity for easy use and quick blade change out.
Another addition to all the fine products at General International is a new 3HP Cabinet Saw. This industrial level consumer saw features a cast iron miter gauge, a quick change from blade guard to riving knife, a 50″ fence, a dual read 12″ left of blade and 50″ right of blade cutting capability, a cast iron base for solid floor stability, and a redesigned dust control system that allows for sawdust intake around the blade and in the cabinet, both through the 2-1/2″ diameter hose to the 4″ diameter single dust port.
Two new Air Systems have also been added to the General International lineup. One entry level machine and one industrial explosion proof system.
Check out all of the details with the guys from General International in this video at IWF 2012.
Legislation that would have required table-saw manufacturers to install flesh-detecting technology in table saws with blades under 12 inches has not passed in the California State Senate. The Table Saw Safety Act, AB 2218, was introduced in February, sponsored by Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara), would have required all new table saws manufactured for sale in California after January 1, 2015, to be equipped with a safety device that substantially reduces injury when human skin comes in contact with the blade. The bill passed the State Assembly by a 64-4 margin and moved ahead in the State Senate on July 3 on a 3-2 vote from the Senate Judiciary Committee. But in August when the bill was brought to the Senate, Robert Dutton Republican Rancho Cucamonga Senator asked that it be rejected just before the session adjourned for the year. Heavy opposition to the bill was brought by Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears, The California Chamber of Commerce, The California Manufacturers & Technology Association, The California Business Properties Association, The California Retailers Association plus many other smaller retailers that would be price affected by having a lower cost tablesaw could raise the tablesaw costs in the marketplace if a bill like this would pass. As an alternative, those who oppose the bill want stricter, more aggressive safety education/training and better saw blade guards as the solution. The Power Tool Institute (PTI) is for letting woodworkers purchase whatever they want, but Gass insists that this is not about product choice, this is about safety no matter what or whose product you choose.
[quote_box]Protect people how you want, but protect them…Steve Gass[/quote_box]
Stephen Gass who invented the SawStop tablesaw safety device was quoted as saying, “I think that this is very unfortunate for woodworkers in California and the entire woodworking nation. Making the woodworker safer in the hobby or work they love is what SawStop is all about. Injuries produced by tablesaws without member saving technologies cost the consumer ten times the purchase price based on the total retail market.” Gass lobbied heavily on behalf of the bill, including making political contributions of $46,400 to 21 key legislators, including $2,500 to Williams. Many remarked with allegations of “monopoly” commentary, but Gass insists that, “Other technologies can be invented to make the tablesaw industry safer for the consumer without infringing on his patents. If others cannot come up with their own safety technology, then and only then would they be required to license SawStop’s inventions.”
I spoke with Mr. Gass, and he passionately stated, “There are currently 70 other patents in the cue by non-SawStop companies for other member saving technologies. There have been previous technologies created before SawStop existed. I welcome all of these because the bottom line is healthy woodworking, safety in the shop at all times. Protect people how you want, but protect them. We want to be the best at doing this, but if someone comes along with other technologies, so be it.”
Steve also commented, “They will not give up.” This is just a small battle lost, but the war on safety is the ultimate goal. Making tablesaws safer reduces the consumers medical costs as well. The most recent study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicated that 66,900 people receive emergency room treatment each year for table saw and bench-top related injuries at a cost of $2.3 billion. The annual injury total includes about 3,500 amputations.
This is definitely a hot topic as woodworkers who have lost their digits are more in favor of this type of bill and wished they would have had a SawStop Tablesaw before the injuries occured. Those who have maintained their allegiance to other tablesaw manufacturer’s claim safety is in the hands of the user.
What’s your position? Is there a middle ground? Besides big brother getting in the mix of it, what else do you think should or could be done? One thing is for sure in my opinion. Woodworkers that I have met have always been open to help one another. Given that premise, how can we help one another prevent these serious injuries? Share your input with us.
And while your pondering these ideas, consider that Woodcraft now has a SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw waiting for you online, click on the ad below for more information.
Be sure to stay safe in the shop. Take your time and don’t rush. Woodworking is suppose to be fun, but most of all it’s suppose to be safe!…Frank
If my kitchen were to be radiocarbon dated, it would fall somewhere between the fall of Rome and the discovery of electricity. My house, built in 1920, originally didn’t have much in the way of kitchen cabinets. One tall cabinet, secured opposite where the original stove would have been, was all the home’s Roaring 20′s inhabitants required. Sometime between the birth of rock-n-roll and the summer of free love, the home’s occupants decided they were going to need some place to store their Correlle and Tupperware. A decision was made to renovate the kitchen.
I’m not entirely sure just when this renovation started or ended. Left behind scribbled notes on plaster seem to indicate that a “major” renovation (that word is in quotes for irony purposes) began sometime in the early 60′s. What came out of the renovations stood nearly unchanged until my wife and I decided that, if the kitchen were ever to be avenged, it would fall to us.
So what does a 60′s kitchen look like? Well, the original stove, which would have sported a stovepipe, was tossed in favor of a gas-fueled model. The original kitchen chimney still proudly butts out into the kitchen adding character and frustration to anyone who has ever tried to design a cabinet layout. A compromise must have been made with the chimney at some point, because a small dishware cabinet now hangs just below it. We decided to leave this cabinet, as it appears any new cabinets in that area might break the treaty that the kitchen has with the old chimney. In addition to the tiny “compromise cabinet”, a large L-shaped slab of cabinets were firmly anchored to the kitchen; along with a more modern sink.
“Why not just REPLACE all of the cabinets in your kitchen?” you might ask. “Put in some nice solid-surface counters.” It’s a valid argument, and one that we contemplated . . . right up until the estimate came back. Anyone got a spare $10,000?
The countertops born from this renovation are true 60′s kitsch. Made from some sort of man-made board, laminated with what looks like floor tile from a junior high school lunch room, and trimmed with a stainless steel band. Hard, durable and horrible. I can only imagine that the same people who developed this countertop were the same men who spearheaded the Apollo moon landings.
Sometime in the 70′s it appears that there wasn’t enough room for the home’s growing collection of fondue pots, so another cabinet was added. This cabinet, which upon installation of my D.I.Y. Countertops, was discovered to be held together with nothing but Elmers Glue and prayers. It also appeared to be entirely constructed of single-ply toilet paper. I ended up having to repair this cabinet during installation. It can be seen at the end of this blog in its new life as a coffee bar.
“Why not just REPLACE all of the cabinets in your kitchen?” you might ask. “Put in some nice solid-surface counters.” It’s a valid argument, and one that we contemplated . . . right up until the estimate came back. Anyone got a spare $10,000? Well, we didn’t. So the decision was made to sand all of the cabinets, swap out the ugly black hardware and only spend the “big money” on new countertops. We estimated the countertops would run somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500 -$2,000 for a solid-surface material. Had we chosen a more expensive solid-surface or granite material the counters could have run as much a $4,000. Nuh uh. Not gonna happen.
Then came the idea: Laminated Maple Bench Tops. At Woodcraft, we sell these terrific maple bench tops. They’re inexpensive, and on sale many times throughout the year. They also have a beautifully finished top. At 1-3/4″ thick they’re heavy, durable, and we thought perfect for our ancient kitchen. The best part? It all cost less than $700 (now your kitchen might be smaller or larger than ours, so you’ll have to do the math for your kitchen or bar).
My first thought upon having this idea was, “Will they even work as kitchen countertops?” So I sought out the help of George Snyder. George is Woodcraft’s Product Development Guru for all things wood. It turns out that George has already tackled this exact same project. So, great minds and the like, he offered to help out! What follows is a summary of the process it takes to go from the “off-the-shelf” Laminated Maple Bench tops we sell at Woodcraft, to beautiful “butcher block look” countertops. Let me also preface this by saying – when you install wood countertops of any kind, do not use them as a cutting board. It’s a really bad idea, really bad, stomach-wrenching bad. Luckily I had a bit of bench top left over, and I promptly sanded it, finished it with butcher block oil, and used it to create a matching cutting board.
1. In the Before Time
Getting the Kitchen Ready to Be Awesome
I’ll spare you most of the details here as much of the prep had little to do with the actual countertop project.
The original kitchen had some wear. Walls and trim needed touch-ups and the old hardware was ugly – so it had to go. This meant that the cabinets had to be sanded and repainted. In the photo above, the end result of sanding, filling, painting, and new hardware can already be seen. The kitchen already looks better. Now we’re ready for some countertops right? Well, no. First we’ve got to measure.
2. Measure & Choose Your Bench Tops
The most important thing I can stress at this point is measure, measure again, and then just when you think you’ve got it, measure again. You don’t want to make a mistake here because it will cost you money. Oh, and these bench tops are heavy – you don’t want to have to move them around anymore than is absolutely necessary. So get your measurements down pat, and the create a little drawing of exactly what you need. Being able to visualize where your cuts are going to be made can help you determine how many bench tops you need and whether or not you want to tackle this project with this product.
For my purposes I needed only two pieces to make this project work. I don’t have a lot of counter space so two of the 7′ x 24″ bench tops would serve my purposes. As it turns out I ended up getting one 7′ x 24″ and two of the 5′ x 30″ bencthops instead. Truth is, I lucked into a return at our local Woodcraft store in Parkersburg, WV.
3. Examine Your Material & Rip the Bench Tops
With your drawing and measurements in hand, survey your recently purchased Laminated Maple Bench Tops and start to build a list of how you plan to make your cuts. Inspect the bench tops. With this particular product, the manufacturer has worked hard to create a bench top that has a beautifully finished top and sides – the bottoms and interior pieces however may have voids. Make sure you examine and plan your cuts to showcase the best parts of the wood. This might seem straightforward at first, but really think about what you’re doing. The final look of your bar or kitchen countertop is on the line.
For my project, because my existing cabinets were made by early stone-age Americans, I needed to rip each of the bench tops down to 23″ wide. Standard countertops aren’t 23″, so make sure you double-check your cabinets. If possible, a 1″ overhang is preferred on the front of the cabinet. Using the 84″ bench top might not be an option for some cabinet bases because it is only available at 24″ wide. Many cabinet bases require a 25-1/2″ countertop.
Making a long rip cut on stock that weighs as much as these maple bench tops can be difficult – the length doesn’t help either. Make sure you have help. The 84″ x 24″ bench top weighs in excess of 90 pounds; it’s not easy to maneuver. Fortunately I had George to help make these cuts. We used a SawStop 10″ Professional Cabinet Saw loaded with a 40T Forrest Woodworker II blade to make the cuts. This gave us a fine cut with very little dust and almost zero burning – something that can happen easily when cutting large laminated materials. The added safety of the SawStop was comforting too because I had to keep my hand pretty close to the blade to help guide the oversized bench top as we made the cut.
Once we completed ripping the bench tops down to size we needed to cut them to length. Doing so on the cabinet saw wasn’t a practical option.
4. Cutting to Size
Since we are talking about countertops that are in some cases 7′ in length, doing the crosscuts on the SawStop didn’t make sense. So in comes the Festool Plunge Cut Saw to save the day.
After once again verifying that we were making the cut on the proper end of the bench top we measured out the length. Here’s a tip: Apply blue painter’s tape in the general area of your cut. Measure your cut and make your pencil markings on the blue tape. This actually does a few things for you. It means you don’t have to sand or erase your pencil marks – handy on these pre-finished bench tops, it also adds a little bit of slip protection for a cutting guide, and it can also help prevent tear out.
Once we clamped our cutting guide in place and had our work piece sufficiently secured, we made the crosscut. This was repeated for each piece. The Festool Plunge Cut Saw was terrific for these cuts. I have to say I was very impressed with the quality of the cut. No sanding was ever required.
5. Routing the Edges
These bench tops come with already rounded-over edges on their long sides. These edges are pre-finished and will work for many applications. For the purposes of my countertops, however, not so much. To give just the profile I want, a simple roundover, we turned to our trusty Porter-Cable Router and a Freud 1/2″ roundover bit. The pieces were secured to the workbench with a non-slip mat and we made our first cuts, not all of the cuts though. . .
Before we could make all of the cuts, a problem needed to be solved. Like just about every countertop in every kitchen, my countertops formed an L-shape. This meant that we couldn’t just rout around the countertops at will. There was going to be a butt-joint between two of the counters. That meant that we needed to figure out just how far we should put our profile on the joining pieces. The two countertops were going to have to be mocked-up so we could plan our cut. That meant putting the two heavy and long pieces together. Who has a workbench that large? No one. Not Woodcraft, not even Norm. Then the voice of reason hit. Why not use the floor?
Here’s another good tip: Keep your shop free of dust and debris. It’s not only safer and more efficient to have a clean shop, but you never know when you might need to use the floor as a work surface!
After manhandling the pieces to the floor with the help of Woodcraft blogger Frank Byers, we were able to determine where our routing needed to stop and hand sanding needed to take over. We routed the two front edges of the countertops almost to the point where they met. Here I turned to a small file, a Soft Sander sanding block and a little oldschool patience. After a few minutes or sanding and tweaking and second-guessing, the joint was finished.
Here’s our day in the Woodcraft Shop cutting the Maple Bench Tops to size,
6. Installing the Countertops
The actual installation of countertops is going to vary here. If you’ve got newer cabinets installing countertops is pretty easy. The corners of each cabinet typically have a brace where you can quickly drive a screw into the underside of your countertops. The toughest part is getting the counters in place and choosing a fastener that won’t go all the way through your counter.
My cabinets, though, were built by the founding fathers and thus had no such brace. But what my cabinets did have was an existing countertop that had been developed by the Space Administration – out of plywood. This meant, with properly pre-drilled pilot holes (not too deep – use a stop collar or at least a piece of tape on your drill bit), I could quickly attach my countertops right over top of the existing ones. Why do this? Well, the existing counter actually seemed kind of low. I guess people were shorter during the paleolithic period. By putting my new maple countertops on the old ones, I had raised my counters to the height of “modern” people.
Like most houses built in the 20′s, not everything in my house is totally square and level. So leveling the countertops was accomplished with regular old wooden shims. The real trick was getting both counters as close to level as possible, but still keeping the butt-joint as tight and consistent as possible. It took a little elbow grease and fretting, but this was actually pretty easy to accomplish.
I added a little bit of Titebond Waterproof Wood Glue to the joint for good measure, but once the counters were secured to the cabinets, no glue or joinery was required at the butt-joint. If you are making a longer counter and need to join multiple bench tops, using dowels is a good way to go.
7. Sinking the Bismark
Okay, so far it’s been pretty easy. Heavy, but easy. The cuts are all perfect, the butt- joint looks stellar and I’m starting to get pretty excited about these countertops. Now it’s time to install the sink. This shouldn’t be too difficult, right? Well, if it’s a project that I’m involved in, one can pretty much assume that something won’t go according to plan.
This is probably a good time to point out that these countertops probably aren’t well-suited for under-the-counter mounted sinks. I chose a drop in. I imagine that a curtain sink would probably work well and look really nice as well.
When installing a sink, which is generally pretty easy, you start by inverting the sink on your countertop. Trace the outline of your sink. Remove your sink and then, depending on the manufacturer, you’ll need to make another line 1/4″ or so in from your original traced line. For my sink from Kohler, it was 1/4″. Once your lines are in place, start by cutting pilot holes around the perimeter of your line. Don’t be stingy here. These things are heavy and having more pilot holes makes the process easier. I also secured a couple of large screws to the middle of my cutout area to make grabbing and removing the piece a little easier. You then use a quality jigsaw with a good strong woodcutting blade and follow your cutout line. That was the plan anyway. . .
In reality, because I left the existing countertop in, and my new sink cutout didn’t exactly match the old sink cutout already in the existing counter, I had to do a lot of pilot hole drilling and went through probably 8 jig saw blades before successfully cutting out my new sink hole. If I had to do it over, I would have removed more of the existing counter around the sink. Oh well, live and learn. The final result, however, was a hole perfect for my new sink. No harm, no foul.
8. Trimming & Backsplash
Because I had to level and install on top of my existing countertops, I needed to trim out under the front of my new countertops to hide any gaps and the edge of the old counters. I chose some maple trim and applied a water-based gloss poly. Once they were dry I simply use a Porter-Cable Finish Nailer to attach the trim. The result is a smart, custom look. To complete the back of the countertops I used some more trim, finished with the same poly and installed some very cool stainless steel tiles.
Remember that roundover profile we put on the counters? Using the same water-based poly and a small sponge brush, I applied a thin coat to all unfinished cut our routed edges.
The Finished Product
Below are some photos of the finished project. The combination of the stainless and the maple has created a much warmer and timeless look than the old and stark-white outdated countertops. We added some under cabinet lighting that also adds some warmth and usable light. The final verdict was a happy wife and a happy bank account. Two things that make for a happy guy.
Very soon I’ll have a follow-up blog about how I used “scraps” from this project to create the drink rail and cutting board seen in the photos above and below.
Working with your hands in creating fine furniture is not a thing of the past. The old adage of “what you put into your work, is what you get out of it”, still holds true today. Rob Cosman is the epitome of this statement. Teaching handcut joinery is a small yet essential part of woodworking when using dovetail construction. Experience is the other piece that comes in time. When you are first starting out, you sometimes need an expert to help you along. Rob Cosman, Your Hand Tool Coach has been inspiring new and experienced woodworkers with fine woodworking techniques for many years. His insight, wisdom and patience goes beyond perfection. If you have attended any of his classes, shows, or workshops, you know what I am talking about. He captures the audience right from the start as he really gets into what he does best… sharing and teaching. He gets it right all the time every time and shares his knowledge to everyone. You can learn from Rob online at www.robcosman.com and on his Hand & Power Tool Workshop website at www.robsworkshop.com. In addition you will find video instruction on Rob’s YouTube Channel and our Woodcraft YouTube Channel.
In this video, Rob sacrifices his own well built, high quality, high-end dovetail saws by showing you how to get started in dovetail cutting very inexpensively, and then graduating to the best dovetail saw on the market which are handmade by Rob in his shop. Everything you require to get started is shown in this video and if you need any help you can always email Rob at Rob@RobCosman.com. Watch this video so you can get started inexpensively in making fine hand-cut dovetail joinery today…
To get started today, pick up one of the saws below, follow Rob’s video instruction and graduate yourself to one of Rob’s Dovetail Hand Saws.
For added dovetail instruction, pick up a copy of Rob’s DVD and book offerings at Woodcraft.com or at your local Woodcraft store. Click on the photos for more information.
Thanks Rob for all you do for woodworking and Woodcraft!