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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!!

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Live Wood Veneering Demonstration!

Click Here to Watch the Full Veneering Demonstration

Russel Claridy of Simply Wooden Creations invited me to present a live wood veneering demonstration on his weekly YouTube show, “Let’s Talk Shop With Russ”  I was honored to have been invited and of course I said yes.  Doing a demonstration live is a bit different than doing a video because there is no editing!  I covered as much about wood veneering as possible within the time available.

Much of what I showed in this demonstration was already covered in my Basic Wood Veneering Made Easy video.  Of course the big difference, besides that there was no editing, is that this demonstration was interactive.  So, I received comments and questions as I went along.  It is also a lot more fun to present a demonstration in real time with other people as opposed to doing it in front of a camera in my shop.  Of course, I am usually not all alone when I am filming my videos because Zippy likes to stay close by.

The main points that I covered in the demonstration were:

  • Why veneer?
  • How veneer is produced and distributed
  • The importance of numbering the veneer sheets when you get them
  • My favorite place to buy veneer – Certainly Wood.com 
  • The many advantages of veneer
    • Easy to work with
    • Grain direction/wood movement is not an issue as it is with solid wood
    • Availability of exotic woods that are either  prohibitively expensive or simply not available as solid lumber
  • Pros and cons of different veneering substrates
  • Pros and cons of several different glues for wood veneering
  • Several different tools that you can use to cut veneer
  • Different ways to press veneer
  • Vacuum bags and how to inexpensively make your own vacuum bags

I also talked a little bit about marquetry and did a brief demonstration of the “window” method for producing marquetry  pieces.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time before I was able to show how I tape veneer together.

The good news is that my veneering demonstration was very well  received!  In fact, Russ asked me if I could do a follow up demonstrations sometime in the next few weeks.  Of Course I Will, and I am pretty excited about it because now that I have covered most of the basics I can move on to the really fun stuff!

In fact, I already spent a few hours in the shop deciding exactly what to demonstrate and exactly which veneers I will use.

We haven’t set a date for the follow up demonstration, but I will definitely announce it on my Facebook and Instagram accounts.

 

 

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How to Start Woodworking From Your Home Garage

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

How To Start Woodworking From Your Home Garage

You want to take up woodworking in your home garage, but you don’t know where to start?

Whether you intend to do woodworking as a weekend hobby, or whether you intend to take on a series of do-it-yourself projects around the house, this guide will give you some important tips to get you started.

Choose your work-space

Before you get started, you will want to make sure that you have a clean and sufficient space to work in.

A simple, well-lit, workbench or desk should be fine for small projects. You may also want to be sure that you have sufficient power outlets, if you intend on using power tools, in your work-space.

Safety First

Once you’ve decided on your work-space, you’ll want to make sure that you have the gear to help you minimize accidents while you are working and creating.

A pair of safety glasses or goggles and some work gloves should be fine, to get you started.

Depending on the size of your projects, and what they may entail, you may also consider wearing sturdy work shoes or boots, to protect your feet and an apron to protect your clothes.

 

You might consider wearing some old clothes you don’t mind getting a bit mussed up, instead.

Tools of the Craft

Before starting any craft project, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have all the tools you are likely to use, on hand, before you begin.

The following is a list of tools and their purposes, to help you get started:

Marking & measuring tools:
“Measure twice. Cut once.” Before you start cutting on any piece of wood, you want to make sure you have a tape measure, a carpenter’s pencil for marking and a combination square to make sure your marks line up, properly.

Cutting tools:
There are a lot of tools to choose from, but if you are just getting started you’ll want to consider getting yourself a circular saw, for straight cuts and a jigsaw for round cuts. (*Note: you will definitely want to be sure you have safety gear when handling these power tools.)

If you don’t feel you’re quite ready for power tools or you need something less expensive and/or quiet, for cutting, a handheld back-saw is a good alternative.

Shaping tools:
To smooth out the rough spots and rough edges on your work and for details, such as beveling, carvings, and moldings, you will want to make sure you have the appropriate shaping tools.

For simple projects, some sandpaper and a small chisel kit should suffice. Sandpaper comes in a multitude of textures, so you’ll want to be sure you have the right grit for the job you’re crafting.

For bigger jobs, you’ll want to be sure to have a block plane.

For more intricate tasks, you’ll want a router that comes with a variety of bits for you to choose from.

Tools to hold it all together:
You probably already have the following items in your toolbox, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure you have a hammer, a flat-head screwdriver, and a Philips head, at the ready.

You’ll also want a cordless drill for making holes. Besides a variety of drill-bit sizes, these usually come with screwdriver bits, to save you time from using a manual tool.

Make sure that you have enough nails and screws to finish your project.

For more intricate projects, you’ll want to make sure that you have wood glue and clamps, to hold your wood pieces together, while the glue dries, if necessary.

As you can see, it’s not difficult to get started woodworking in your home garage. Once you have prepared your work-space and made a trip to your local hardware store, all that’s left is to pick your project, and purchase the wood.

 

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Braxton Wirthlin Interview

I met Braxton Wirthlin in January of this year at his wood shop in Boulder City, Nevada.  Well, actually we met at a local pub first, but I digress.  Braxton is a very creative guy and he loves making things.  His interests range from traditional woodworking, to digital woodworking (with CNC’s), to wood turning, to welding, to ceramics, to cooking, and videography.  I am sure there are others; these are just the ones that I am aware of!

Braxton studied Visual Media Production at the Las Vegas Art Institute.  His creativity and his skill with video production really show through in his videos.  A great example of this is the video where he demonstrated turning a pen and the entire demonstration is filmed in reverse.  It is nice to see YouTube videos that include a bit of artistry.  Not everyone can pull this off, but Braxton does!  See for yourself here: Braxton’s Pen Turning Video

One of his more clever ideas was to to buy an ice cream scoop, a nut cracker, and a bottle opener at the dollar store.  He then stripped off the cheap plastic handles and added custom made wooden handles.  What impressed me about this was that he was able to think out of the box and save a ton of money as opposed to buying similar items from a dedicated woodworking supply store.

He got his start with video production by filming his friends riding their BMX bicycles when he was a kid. Braxon also built the wooden ramps and half pipes that they would ride over and this gave him some of his first exposure to woodworking.  He says that he was one of those kids who was fascinated with all things mechanical, and he was always taking things apart to see how they worked.  Sometimes he couldn’t put them back together again, but that is how we learn!

In addition to making YouTube videos, Braxton also keeps himself busy with commission work.  One of my favorite pieces that he made was a tap handle for a local brewery.  This might look like a simple project, but it required use of his skills with design, traditional woodworking tools, woodturning, digital woodworking and wood finishing.  Not to mention his ability to get the commission to begin with by marketing those skills.

Tap Handles by Braxton Wirthlin

When I met Braxton he was taking wood turning lessons from Jimmy Clewes, so it is no wonder that he is such a good wood turner!  He had also just purchased a new welder and was planning to incorporate more metal into his work.

Lidded Bowl by Braxton Wirthlin

Natural Edge Bowl by Braxton Wirthlin

Vase by Braxton Wirthlin

Wood and Metal Cabinet for a client

With all of his accomplishments, Braxton manages to live a well-balanced life.  He is a true family man and a stay at home dad who keeps his priorities straight.  I very much enjoyed meeting him and I look forward to the day when our paths cross again.

Charlie Kocourek and Braxton Wirthlin

Here are a few of my other articles and interviews that you might like:

Peter Brown Interview – The Epoxy King

Michael Cooper – Dream Shop Tour!

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4 Woodworking Gems in Northern California

Charlie and Ray Mowder

Michael Cooper with his latest sculpture in progress.

I really enjoyed meeting Michael. I saw a presentation that he did at the Furniture Society Symposium a few years ago and I have always been a big fan of his work. My time with him far exceeded any expectations I had ahead of time. He and his wife Gayle are two of the very nicest people that I have ever met. Spending time at their beautiful home was icing on the cake. In addition to many of Michael’s beautiful sculptures, their home is tastefully decorated with artwork and custom furniture by some of the great furniture making icons of our time.

Michael still has several of his sculptures on his property and it was great to see them up close. Michael was very generous with his time and we made several videos while I was there. In one of the videos he showed me his most recent sculpture which is still in progress. (See photo above) He also did a video describing his technique for making wooden coil springs and another one on his technique for making the convoluted compound curves that is a signature of his work.

Wooden Coil Spring

Michael showed me how he makes the compound curves as seen in the exhaust pipes of this sculpture.

It so happens that David J. Marks lives very close to Michael. I saw a seminar that David did for the Minnesota Woodworkers’ Guild and, well, he is David Marks! I was quite pleasantly surprised not only that David agreed to meet with me, but by how generous he was with his time. We spent the whole day together and we made two videos. The first one is about the fabulous 30” vase that he is currently working on. His wife Victoria joined us for the second video which was a complete tour of the David J Marks Woodworking School. David and the school are both great and I would encourage anyone who is considering taking a class to take a look at his school.

Not only was David generous with his time, but he also gave me a nice piece of exotic hardwood called Pernambuco as a gift! Obviously, David is very high on my list!

Charlie and David Marks

Charlie and Peter Brown

The trifecta of this portion of my trip was the opportunity to meet Peter Brown. Peter has a very good and extremely popular YouTube channel.   Peter is a very fun guy and really enjoyed myself that afternoon. Even though Peter has made a name for himself with his “crazy creations”, he is not a crazy guy. To the contrary, I found him to have the admirable qualities of being sincere, personable, and fun too!

Until next time –

Charlie from Jack Bench Woodworking!