Feeling Nostalgic

When I returned from my sabbatical in 2014 and set up my apartment workshop (and started this blog, natch), I was working almost exclusively on a Milkman’s Workbench that you can see in the banner above. This was actually the third I had made, having practiced and experimented on different thicknesses and depths. But I returned to my initial woodworking roots from a couple years earlier, using the full thickness 2×4 hard maple I had left over from one of my very first woodworking projects.

So finding some downtime a weekend or two ago, I decided to finally finish a new version of the Milkman’s Workbench (made of riftsawn ash, natch) that I had been working on for a while. It’s the same length (give or take a half an inch), but there are some important differences.

Can you spot the differences?

This new bench uses the Red Rose Reproductions Milkman’s Workbench screw kit. In my original, I had made screws with the Beall Tools Big Threader kit (and a router) and added “hubs” with shaker knobs glued into the ends of the screws. It worked fine (in fact, the knobs gave a great grip). But the Red Rose Reproductions screws are very precise and I love the octagon handles. Not to mention the garnet groove that they put into the long screw for the wagon vise.

Ignore the epoxy; I didn’t have the Red Rose Reproduction screws when I first made the vise block.

This new bench is a bit narrower than the original. This, unfortunately, makes it slightly tippy before it’s clamped down (unlike my original bench, which would sit nice and stable on the bench while I got the clamps in place). But it’s more faithful to the original Christopher Schwarz plans.

It was nice to make another one of these workbenches and relive a formative part of my woodworking life. And to do it in my favorite wood (ash), while that wood is still available as it slowly goes extinct because of a parasite, made it even better.

This new Milkman’s Workbench lives in my truck and, quite honestly, has never been used for actual woodworking.

Natch.

JPG

7 comments

  1. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to read about a Milkmans bench in use.
    My dad had the one that Chris Schwarz bought and since my dad had it from when they cleared out the milkmans basement – that’s how it got the milkmans name.

    Your new bench looks fantastic!

    Brgds
    Jonas

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I say with no exaggeration that it is thanks to your father that I am a hand tool woodworker. Had it not been for the milkman’s workbench I would probably still be power tool only or probably not woodworking at all because there would have been no way to keep woodworking in my apartment.

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  2. To your credit, at least you started woodworking in your apartment. In 2002, a friend let me be his “shop assistant” while he built a desk for me. I was hooked and even started to remodel the garage. Work was sporadic in the Seattle WA area so I ended up moving back to the SF Bay Area in 2004. Paid twice as much for a condo that was literally as big as my 3 car garage had been in SF if you don’t count the bathroom. It wasn’t until I moved back into a house a decade later that I finally started woodworking. I didn’t think it was possible to woodwork in a condo so I didn’t even try. I feel like I lost a decade.

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  3. This is a very timely post for me. I’ll be downsizing from a house (with garage) to an apartment (with no balcony) in the near future. This milkman workbench is perfect for me to continue working wood in some capacity. I only wish I had found your blog before I moved into the house because I probably would have started in my apartment!

    I’m going to have to perform a similar tool reduction as you did when you first started this blog. I’m curious — has your basic kit recommendation changed at all? I am considering going very minimal with the tool set.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So I feel pretty comfortable with the core tool list in my new years 2022 post. If you have more room, certainly add a dovetail saw or a carcass saw (some kind of backsaw that crosscuts). And no need for a no 3. A no 4 works just fine. It just happens that the no 3 fits that particular chest.

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