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Saving All of [my] Time and Space

My main set of tools has been overflowing from my 26″ Craftsman top chest and middle chest for a while now.  It’s very clear I needed a single storage solution and my first and  natural thought was “build it myself”.  But after making a few medium and small tool chests by hand, as much as I would love to build a custom, proper woodworking tool chest, there just isn’t the time.  Unless I went the plywood route, I’d never finish it on a timeline I’d be happy with.  And then, Sears had a sale and my dilemma went away.


But now I need to build a new rolling cart.

When I first saw this top chest, it instantly reminded me of a hybrid English and Dutch tool chest.  Like a Dutch tool chest, the top well is deep and my planes can stand on their soles.  It’s clearly meant to hold rechargeable power tools (hence the power strip on the inside right), so there is plenty of room to also attach a panel saw rack to the underside of the lid (with rare earth magnets).

Overall dimensions of the top chest are 41″, 24″ x 16″, which is pretty close (albeit slimmer) to a full-size English floor chest.  The drawer space is expansive, but not so much that I could be cavalier about tools I rarely use.  Those will stay in my old tool cabinet, tucked away for rainy days.


Outside the leather roll, it feels like too many chisels.

The rolling cart on which this new tool chest sits will be (once the casters are attached) 48″ x 24″ x 24″, with two shelves to house the balance of my everyday woodworking accoutrements.  Things like my sharpening stones, machinist granite slab and small clamps.  There may even be plans for a drawer or two in a future retrofit.  And that will bring everything up to a comfortable height.

And with the 60 shop hours or so I saved myself by not building an equivalent English floor chest, I can get back to actual projects.  Like a wall rack for fasteners or a crochet for my workbench.


A Proper Foundation for Dining

Many moons ago, when I first moved into my old apartment, the first order of business was getting my sturdy dining table ready for clamp on workbenches.  Two years later, I’ve moved, and now that I have the space for an actual workbench, it was time to get my sturdy dining table ready for use as an actual dining table.  That meant stripping the finish and reflattening the tabletop.


And also replacing the plywood shelf with ash.

Ash is quite porous, and the tabletop had soaked in quite a bit of steel slurry and rust particles over its life as a quasi-workbench.  Plus, the Danish Oil finish had fully cured.  As a result, there was nothing to do but have diamond plates on hand for frequent sharpening.  Two hours, half a garbage can of shavings and about ten resharpenings later, the tabletop was tried and true.


Fun fact: this rug was supposed to be under the table in my old apartment.

It had been a long time since my No. 4 1/2 got a decent workout.  I ordinarily use it only for panel smoothing.  All that resharpening allowed me to work on the blade geometry a bit, getting it mostly straight with a slight camber at the edges (as opposed to a full camber across the entire edge).  When it was time for final smoothing, though, I re-instituted a continuous camber.


This was sharpening #11.

Ash being a fickle mistress, there is significant tearout at one corner (far right, above), but I’m not so concerned. It’s meant to be a rustic piece. Before I refinish the tabletop, however, I will give it a once over with a tool I haven’t used in ages: the random-orbit sander.  Half an hour at 150 grit should clean up any remaining traversing marks that didn’t come out from smoothing.  I also dressed the long grain edges of the tabletop, just because.


The top is actually glued down, long grain to long grain.  No splits yet.

I can’t wait to show everyone the new workshop (spoiler alert: it’s larger than a dining nook).  I’ve been making new kitchen cabinet shelves for the new place (the old ones were warped and gross), so it’s high time for a real furniture project.  But everything in due time.


RIP old shop.


New Year’s Resolutions

There are (literally) big things in store for 2016 at The Apartment Woodworker.  I have only one New Year’s Resolution this year.


And it rhymes with “Killed a Teal Smirk Wench”.

I always meant to build a frame for the original planing slab.  But after standing in the corner for so long, it needs so much reflattening it would be less than 2.25″ thick.  Not nearly enough for a stout benchtop.   Plus it’s only 13″ deep and 70″ wide.  I see it being reclaimed to make a dedicated sharpening station or something like that.

The lumber above is enough Douglas Fir to make four post legs (each approx. 4.5″ x 4.5″) and four rails (each approx 7″ x 3″), with much left over for appliances and such.  Only the bottom 6 boards are actually new; the rest are just for weight while the new boards acclimate.

More details to come, but for now, it’s a month or two of refining the design while waiting for dry wood.  When the time comes, I will hit up the home center again for Douglas Fir 2×4’s to laminate an approximately 84″ x 21″ slab top.

Happy New Year’s, everyone.


Merry Christmas and Whatnot

In these United States of America, whether or not you actually celebrate Christmas, you likely have it off from work.  My family does celebrate, and my office is closed, so I will spend most of the day driving around my tiny slice of the cosmos.  First having lunch with my parents and my one extent grandparent at my aunt and uncle’s house, and second going to dinner and presents at my brother and sister-in-law’s house.  With woefully little time in the shop.

We have a rule in my family: if you don’t ask for it, you don’t get it.  My Christmas wish list was pretty much just woodworking hand tools.  I’ll post the tool-pron later once I’m back in the shop (read: home).

Happy Holidays to everyone.


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from  As the holiday season ramps up, I am (as always) grateful for my readers and followers and, most of all, the support of my family and friends who humor my woodworking hobby (obsession?).

Here’s wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday. Travel safe and, if you can, get some time in the workshop!  Even if it’s just to flatten your saw bench.


Sometimes, even shop furniture needs some maintenance.


Happy Birthday to!

Exactly one year ago today, I entered the “writing-about-woodworking-on-the-internet” scene.  Though (not?) much has changed since then, the goal here at remains the same: show that meaningful woodworking can be done in a small space with a few simple hand tools and some basic know-how.

I am grateful to all of my readers for making this first year so enjoyable and successful.  I have much to say (and would be shouting it at the void regardless) and knowing that what I write can help people enjoy the craft is a significant reward.  Thank you all for reading.  I am glad to have you as part of the Apartment Woodworker family.

There is still much to do and say.  Here is to the next year!


Mine’s Bigger

I had a modicum of free time last week, so I took the opportunity to laminate the main benchtop of my new clamp-on workbench.  At 48 inches long, the workbench is essentially the same length as the dining table to which it will clamp.

For a size comparison, that's my current clamp-on workbench in the bottom of the frame.

For a size comparison, that’s my current 31″ clamp-on workbench in the bottom of the frame.

In many ways, this new workbench is the spiritual successor to the planing slab that I unsuccessfully made out of home center douglas fir last year, although not nearly as long or heavy.  I’m hoping that with the inset vise (rather than a proper wagon vise), I’ll have about 44 inches between the dogs.  Compare this to 24 1/4 inches on the Milkman’s Workbench pictured above.

In addition to being much longer, the main benchtop is significantly deeper.  My Milkman’s Workbench has a main benchtop of 6 1/2 inches, and an overall depth of 9 3/8 inches including the face vise.  Compare the new workbench, which will have a main benchtop of 8 13/16 inches deep (I lost just 3/16 inches of nominal depth to jointing).  Add to that about 1 1/2 inches of inner front vise chop and another 5 1/2 inches of fully-extended front vise outer chop and I will be able to support almost 16 inches of work over the length of the front vise.  I plan to make a peg-held support for the right side of the bench so I have full support over the full 48 inches.


Grainy work dungeon photo!

All of this is now dependent on how well I hang the front vise.  I plan to cut dadoes in the underside of the main bench to accept the screws.  Then it’s just a question of drilling holes perfectly straight through the outer chop (without a drill press) and figuring out how to seat the collets into the inner chop perfectly in line with the outer chop holes.

Simple, right?


The Journey to a New Workbench…

…begins with a single cut.  In this case, some 8/4 hard maple. The main bench should be about 9″ deep (not including front vise chops) and 48″ long.  For comparison, my current workbench, a Milkman’s Workbench, has a main bench 6.5″ deep and 30″ long.

48 inches of 8/4 hard maple will form the main part of the bench.

The Nobex Champion 180 miter saw makes rather quick work of it.

While it will clamp onto my dining table with angle iron just like the Milkman’s Workbench, instead of wooden screws the new bench will have a beefy moxon-style front vise using two veneer press screws that have been kicking around the workshop for a while.  I’ll also re-purpose the Veritas inset vise from the planing slab to avoid having to make a carriage vise.

The action on these is surprisingly smooth

The action on these screws  is surprisingly smooth.

One other serious deviation from the Milkman’s Workbench is that no part of the new bench besides the front vice chops will overhang the table.  This should increase the chopping surface significantly.  A major flaw of the Milkman’s Workbench is the unsupported area under the dog holes (which can be springy) and I intend to fix that flaw this time around.

I intend the front vise to have at least 24″ between the screws, and I think it makes sense to run two sets of dog holes down the length of the workbench so I can use a Veritas planing stop (in both tail vise and front vise configurations).

There isn’t much twist in the boards (less than 1/8″ over the 48″), so I’m hopeful the final thickness will be at least 1.5″ (and most likely 1 5/8″) when planed to final thickness.  Time to sharpen up!