Shattered Dreams

I should know better than to get my hopes up.   Reading Ingenious Mechanicks psyched me up to make a minimalist workbench.  Something with a slab top, through tenoned front legs and splayed back legs.  Then I found this lovely chunk of pattern grade 16/4 Honduran Mahogany at my local Downes and Reader lumberyard.

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Pattern grade, indeed.

The slab I found was overall 124″ long, at least 14.5″ wide at every point and a full 4.5″ thick.  It had almost no cupping or bowing along its length, and no through checking.  The ends were even nearly square.  It seemed like the perfect piece of wood for the task, as I could get both the slab top and the legs from the same piece.

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Every bit of this board is usable.

But then I unloaded it from the trailer.  And could lift it by myself.  It turns out that there is more to wood than just its Janka hardness.  Honduran Mahogany exceeds Douglas Fir in hardness (which I confirmed while at the lumber yard), but apparently isn’t that great in the density department.  The bench would have been far too light for any serious planing activities.

At least I got a full refund.  Which I will put toward a Brooklyn Re-Co red oak roubo kit (sans stretchers, though).

My near mistake has made me more cautious.  Before I invest in a slab of soggy, urban red oak, I will laminate a 20″ wide top (as close to 96″ long as I can) from my glut of home center Douglas Fir 4×4’s and figure out the correct angle for the back legs.

And after that is built, I will probably sell my current workbench.

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8 comments

  1. There is a reason that woodworkers interested in cabinetmaking moved to using the superior Scandinavian or European style workbench…. and it occurred long before machines arrived …contra the historical revisionism being propagated by some of the hand tool literati. I fail to understand why woodworkers want to atavistically regress… other than the seeming propensity to succumb to clever Schwarzzzzian marketing.

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    1. In my view, the only thing that’s superior about Scandinavian workbenches is the shoulder vise, and only if you dovetail often (which I do). The flush legs, thick top and overall weight of the French workbench (the so called “Roubo” style) is head and shoulders above the more delicate Scandinavian trestle-table style.

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      1. Only if you are a Joiner. Of course…perhaps that is the point…there seems to be a new emphasis amongst the hand tool elites that we need to abandon the craftsmanship of cabinetmaking and return to the more “ethical” vernacular peasant furniture…embracing tearout, sloppy joinery, nailed joints, finished with a slathering of milk paint or perhaps soap wax.

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      2. Well, I am neither a joiner nor a cabinetmaker (but rather an attorney and hobbyist woodworker). Nor do I embrace tearout or sloppy joinery (but I am rather fond of nails for certain applications). By your tone, you may do quite well to check out my post “The Plank in My Own Eye”, though.

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  2. Ah…I see…a little push-back against the prevailing ethos and one is instantly categorized. Thanks for the interaction.

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