Unlearning habits is hard. I spent a lot of time learning how to use power tools to fix up our old house. But as "home improvement" gave way to greater ambitions, I found I was drawn more and more to hand tool woodworking. This led to an interest in work holding for hand tool operations, which led to Chris Schwarz's workbench book.
As often happens when you're part of a family raising young children, I did more dreaming than doing. Some of that is my own fault, for not seizing opportunities. Some of that is just the definition of raising a family.
Recently, I finished my Roubo-style workbench as described by Chris, and with vises by Benchcrafted. And now the transformation has begun.
I decided to build a kindling holder. We have a high efficiency wood insert in our fireplace and it's become tedious to remember the bits of kindling to get the fire started properly. A friend recently gifted me with some pine removed while redoing a room in their house. So I decided to throw together a simple rectangular box to hold kindling by the fireplace.
After practicing some hand tool flattening (the boards would end up about 10 inches wide and it seemed a shame to rip them down to fit my 6" jointer), I nailed and glued up the main carcass. When I went to make the bottom, I wanted it rabbeted to provide a cleaner look and stronger joint. But my glue-up was not quite perfect and the box, which looked completely square, was off a bit.
I could have trashed the piece and started over. But it looks square (it's off by less than a degree) and the wood is beautiful. And it's a kindling holder for pity's sake.
That's when I realized my new workbench offered an answer. With the wagon vise, a holdfast, a clamp, and scrap piece, I had a perfect jig for a backsaw to saw the edges of the rabbet. It took literally a minute to set up, including planing the edge of the guide scrap flat.
Once the edges were sawn, a router plane and shoulder plane finished the work quickly and with no dust or noise.
In less than fifteen minutes from idea to finish, I'd rabbeted all the edges of the bottom and router-planed them to fit. Trying to find a solution with power tools would have taken me at least an hour, a lot of noise and dust, and a nervous moment or two.
Chris Schwarz was incredibly kind during my bench build. I suspect he's so tired of workbench questions he would like to just scream when he gets another email about it. When I had almost finished my bench and sent him proud pictures, he nonetheless responded kindly, complimenting my bench and stating he thought it would transform my work.
I am happy to report he was right. Tonight was just the latest in a series of wonderful moments when I needed to hold my work and found a quick and reliable way with this workbench.