, , , ,

How to Use Reclaimed Wood for Building a Workbench

Building a workbench from reclaimed wood is both easy to do and easy on the wallet. You can gain even more in character of appearance if you source reclaimed wood for your project.

While reclaimed wood has grown into a trendy choice for interior decorating, it also makes for some of the best stock on hand for building anything from wooden toys to, as in this case, a sturdy workbench.

There are just a few things about reclaimed wood of which to be aware before you sink any nails or apply the glue.


Hidden Treasure

If you are unfamiliar with reclaimed wood, you might find yourself questioning this choice at first blush. The pieces are hardly smooth or square. It looks like an irregular mess of warped, crooked and rough sawn pieces.

However, when you take a closer look, you begin to notice the aspects of reclaimed wood that makes this source of material very appealing.

Beneath the crusty dirt or chipped and fading paint, through the nails or other metal, beyond the authentic aging and abuse, there is some fine quality wood there.

Depending upon the age and origination, you may have some high-quality, slow-growth stock that stands up to the demands of a reliable workbench.


You Decide: Old or New

With reclaimed wood, you get to make the decision whether you want to maintain its original appearance or take the time to mill the pieces. Beneath what can be considered a clever disguise, there is “good as new” wood just under the surface.

Remembering the fundamentals of a workbench are simple, your approach to preparing your stock should be as well.

Ultimately, the choice of design and degree of intricacy is up to you. Either way, step one is to address cleaning it up.

Cleaning Reclaimed Lumber

Reclaimed timber has trace elements, shall we say? It may have been a barn, at one time, or a gymnasium floor. Between the elements, exposure to natural waste, bugs, the presence of lead paint or chemical treatment typically applied to pallets, you will need to clean this wood.

A stiff brush and compressed air will clean off the finer particles. You can use soap and water to wash the pieces clean. You want to be careful with pressure sprayers to avoid damaging the wood. Using water means you will need to spread the pieces out to thoroughly dry.

Keep in mind, you want to avoid breathing in the sawdust from chemically treated lumber.


Inspect for Hardware

You will want to perform a visual inspection of all the reclaimed pieces to ensure there are no nails, tacks, screws or other remaining hardware and remove as many as you can. It only takes one nail to dull an expensive blade. And let’s be honest, for example in the case of table saws the blade doesn’t cost much but you really don’t want to ruin even a single blade by accidentally running it into a nail.

Urban lumber is notable for its remnant metal. You may appreciate the way the nail holes add character to the wood with their black stains.


Rough around the Edges

Reclaimed stock invariably shows the saw marks from how it was cut. Again, you can choose whether to keep these traces or sand them down. You would be able to mix and match the pieces to accentuate this aspect.

There may be pieces that are thicker at one end or irregular in shape. You can choose to work with these shapes unless you want to do the millwork to make them uniform in appearance. A workbench gets put through the paces anyway.

If the uneven qualities do not interfere with the intended work to be performed on the workbench, these aspects could add to the overall visual appeal.


Locating Reclaimed Lumber

There are numerous sources for reclaimed wood. Start where you are with local connections such as scraps and pallets from shops. Look for those people who specialize in repurposing barn wood or perform urban demolitions. Every time a store is turned over, there is a moment when the interior is remodeled.

In this process, there is a good deal of demolition where lumber might be reclaimed. Keep an eye out for tree trunks from which boards could be cut. You may even know of a neighbor who has a stock pile of logs they plan to get rid of. Just collect all that lumber and start crafting your workbench!

A very special thanks to  Paul Stanley at Woodworkboss.com for submitting this great guest posting for the Jack Bench Blog!!


Big News about Woodworking in America and Woodworker’s Guild of America!

I have two big announcements this week. Neither are directly related to workbenches, but they are both solid woodworking topics!  The first is that I finally decided to attend the Woodworking In America Conference held on September 16-18 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  This will be the first time I have attended and I am really looking forward to it!  Please let me know if you will be there because I would love to have the chance to meet you.

The second big announcement is that I have been invited to be a contributing editor for the Woodworker’s Guild of America!  This has been in the works for several months but I have resisted saying anything about it until now.  So far, I have produced one video and an accompanying article.  They have not released my video yet, so I don’t want to say anything more about it right now.  I will let you know more when they release it.

The saga of my broken Ridgid Sander is over.  I was ready to hit it with a hammer and throw it in the garbage! It had quit working and it wasn’t a bad cord or a loose connection.  The brushes looked good, too.  I went on the Home Depot website and all it said was that their power tools came with a 3 year warranty.  I received many comments on my YouTube channel saying that Ridgid tools have a lifetime warranty.  Obviously, I was skeptical because of what I saw on the HD website.  Well!  As it turns out, they do have a lifetime warranty IF you send in the registration form, something I almost never do.  However, THIS was the exception.  Long story short, they fixed my sander for free!

They Fixed My Sander!

I am planning a big road trip on my bike!

Summers in Minnesota are beautiful!  They are also very brief.  Consequently, I have been spending a lot of my time bike riding.  This next weekend I am going on an overnight bike ride with a group of friends.  It is 60 miles each day and I am a little worried about that!  The longest trip I have taken this year was 37 miles and I was really tired after that.  It will be a fun trip regardless and I will let you know how it turns out.

My friend Jeff Hand send me photos of a Z shaped end table that he made.

Jeff Hand

Walnut Slab End Table

Jeff made this from a single walnut slab.  He joined the pieces together with large angled dovetails.


He used custom made angled clamping cauls to put it all together.

Angled Clamping Cauls


I want to let you know about a really crazy YouTube video by Peter Brown.  Peter comes up with some pretty crazy ideas, but this one was really off the chart.  He turned a small piece of wood on his lathe, but he did it using only a strobe light.

, ,

Slab Coffee Table w/Carved Tree Trunk Base – Complete Build! 5 parts in 1!

A few months ago I made a slab coffee table.  It was quite an undertaking and I have 4 other articles on this woodworking project.  This video is an overview of the entire build process!  This video also includes how I did the copper finish on the base and a bit on how I finished the top of the slab.  This article is primarily about how I applied the copper finish on the coopered wooden base.

Before I talk about the finish, let me tell you about the other 4 parts of this build!

The first step in the build of this table was to flatten the slab.  I made a simple router jig that worked amazingly well!

The second, and most challenging part of building this table was constructing the coopered “Tree Trunk” base.  Although it was challenging it was also a lot of fun!

I love carving!  This was far and away the largest carving that I have ever attempted. Sculpting and Texturing with angle grinders  was both challenging and fun!

How and Why I Inlaid Stars in the Table Top is a bit of a story!  It started because the slab was full of worm holes and I wanted to fill them in.

I tried just filling them with epoxy, but it didn’t look right. (I screwed up) Then, in order to cover the epoxy, I decided to inlay stars in those spots.

How and Why I Inlaid Stars in the Table Top

OK!  Now let me tell you about the faux copper finish!

Initially, I wanted the base to have a bronze finish.  This was an easy 2 step process.  First I applied a base coat of brown, then I dry brushed a high-quality bronze paint across the top of the texturing.

Applying the brown base coat

Completed Bronze Finish

When I was done the base looked exactly the way I had envisioned.  It really looked like a piece of bronze! But, when I set the top onto my beautiful bronze table base there was a big problem.  The base had a very green tone and the top had a very red tone.  While each of them looked great by itself, they looked terrible when they were together!

The greenish bronze base looked wrong with the reddish slab top

So, being the perfectionist that I am, I brushed another coat of the brown base color over the top of the “bronze” and started over!

Applying 2nd coat of brown

I had 4 different paints.  First was the brown base coat, I found that I liked Rustoleum’s satin espresso color the best for this.  For the metallic’s it was important to use only the highest quality and I chose “Golden” brand acrylics.  The first one I used was an Iridescent Bronze.  Then I had two copper colors, Iridescent Copper was more reddish and Iridescent Copper Light was more of a gold colored copper.

It is important to use high-quality paint

First I dry-brushed a coat of the more reddish colored copper paint.

Dry brushing the Red Copper color

But the more I applied the more apparent it was that the red was a bit too red.  It seemed to have an artificial look to it.

A little bit too red!

I was glad that I bought both copper colors.  To “fix” the too red problem I dry brushed just the slightest bit of the more gold colored paint over the top of the red.

Close up of base after finish was complete

It is not as easy to see in the photos, but adding that little bit of the golden colored copper paint made a BIG difference!

I was very happy with the final result!

Completed Table, compare this to how it looked with the bronze colored base!

Check out the accompanying articles about this table


How to Be Creative and Develop New Inventions – Andy Klein Interview

Watch video on YouTube

Andy Klein is an amazingly creative person. He has 5 patents for various different woodworking related inventions, and certainly there will be more!  His most successful invention so far is a saw blade that allows you to make a box on your table saw like magic. His saw blade invention is now fully developed and will be available through a major woodworking retailer sometime in 2017.

Andy Klein

He is currently trying to find manufacturing and/or retail partner to make two of his other inventions available to the public.

The first of them is new kind of parallel clamp.  This new clamp does everything that a regular parallel clamp does AND it can also function as a panel clamp.  If you have ever had a panel bow up when you tried clamped the pieces together then you would love this one!  I don’t have a good picture of his revised design, but I would encourage you to watch the video that he made about it:

Quick and Easy Kids Cherry Bookcase

A friend of mine saw a bookcase in a woodworking magazine. She knows all about my workbench and my woodworking YouTube videos so she knew that this would be an easy project for me.  So, she asked me to make one for her grandchildren.

Gluing the apron and the cleats on to the top

Her grandchildren, Billy and Alex live in another state with their mother and my friend was going to deliver the bookcase to them.  Actually, that was my biggest challenge on this project because she was leaving in 2-1/2 days so this was definitely a rush job!  After I agreed to do it, she asked me if I could make 2 of them.  I try to be a nice guy, but I couldn’t commit to 2 bookcases in 2 days!

Test fitting the pieces

She wanted the boys to be involved in construction of the bookcase, so I had to build it as a kit rather than a finished piece.  I had this in the back of my mind the whole time I was building it and I made sure that assembly would be easy and as fool proof as possible.

Zippy with the bookcase before I disassembled it and sent it off to the boys for finishing

I  don’t normally work from plans in magazines, but having the dimensions all laid out for me did make it a lot easier!  Of course, I did stray just a bit from the original plan. The plan in the magazine called for solid wood construction and used a combination of pocket screws and dado joints. I kept the dado joints, but ditched the pocket screws. I also made it from cherry plywood and added solid cherry edge-banding. Also, the one in the magazine had 3 shelves and I made this one with 4 shelves so it is taller than the one in the magazine.

After the boys got it they glued it and clamped it together, they nailed the back on and they applied a wipe on polyurethane finish.

It turned out quite well, especially since it was such a rush job!

Billy and Alex with completed bookcase


Woodshop Tip! How to Add Dust Collection to a Circular Saw

YouTube video on Adding Dust Fitting to Circular Saw 

Just about all of us have a circular saw in our workshop, but most of us call them Skillsaws!  These handy little saws have been around since before we were born. The name Skillsaw is a synonymous with circular saws as Kleenex is to tissues.  We buy them, we use them, and we love them.  Unfortunately, very few of these saws allow for any dust collection and the ones that do are either hard to find and/or very expensive.

That is a real shame because managing wood dust and keeping it out of your lungs is pretty important.  None of us want to end up dragging an oxygen bottle around!

I found a very easy way to add a dust fitting to just about any circular saw.  My Skillsaw came with a hole toward the back of the shroud around the blade where the dust shoot out.  My solution was simply to epoxy a small plastic dust fitting over the hole in the shroud.

Skillsaw with dust collection

Dust Port on Circular Saw

Adding the dust fitting to my circular saw was very easy.

Dust Port on Circular Saw

I was able to substantially upgrade my circular saw for less than five dollars!

Dust fitting on Skillsaw

OK, so the  obvious question is “how well does it work?”.  I would be lying if I said that it was as good as a one of the high end saws like a Festool.  But, a Festool will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $600.  If you can afford that, or if you use your saw very frequently then by all means buy a saw with excellent dust collection.  On the other hand, if you can’t justify big money for a saw that you use only once in a while then this little upgrade is a no brainer!