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Shop Project: Every workshop needs

somewhere to machine joinery, sand

workpieces and assemble the project. This
worktable will do all of that and more.

Multi-Function Worktable: Plans to Build the Ultimate Work Surface


COST – 3/5
When I moved into my mini-sized workshop a few years ago I built a pint-sized workbench.
While I’m happy with the bench, I often end up using the top of the table saw as an extra
work surface. It’s become my go-to work surface for sanding, assembly and finishing.
Clearly I’ve been in need of an alternative.

A recent visit to a friend’s workshop convinced me that a multifunction worktable was the
way to go – a worktable that serves a variety of functions, can be easily moved about the
shop, and provides storage for the compressor, mini dust collector and power tools that I most
regularly use.

The Base

You can build the base yourself from solid wood or sheet stock, or assemble one from a kit,
as I did. Either way, begin by deciding on the height, width and length for your table, and
whether it will be stationary or mobile. My work table is 37" high and approximately 27"
wide by 61" long.

To speed up construction, I opted to use heavy-duty work bench components from Rockler.
At 1/8" thick they’re very rigid. The components come in a variety of lengths and are pre-
drilled for easy customization. Plus, all the nuts and bolts and a set of leveling feet are

My stand uses 32" legs (#60749), 24" stretchers (#60764) and 60" rails (#53727). Because I
wanted a mobile table, I replaced the leveling feet with a set of foot-activated locking casters
(#47034). What I like about these casters is that they lock out both the rolling and swiveling

To gain an extra 1-3/8" of storage space between the top and bottom shelf, I inverted the
bottom stretchers and rails, which gave me 25-1/4" of usable height. I also installed a sheet of
1/2" ply at the very bottom of the legs over the casters to create a 3" high storage space for
clamps, cauls, levels, and the like.

The Top

I chose to incorporate a grid pattern of bench dog holes on the top and a clamp track in the
front apron. This would enable me to use a variety of commercial and shop made bench
clamping accessories. While I constructed my top from two layers – 1" Baltic birch laminated
to 3/4" ply – you could also use a single layer of ply or construct a solid wood top – this is a
better approach if you want to be able to replace the top. I also installed side and back aprons,
though you could dispense with them.

To supplement the clamping options offered by the dog holes I also installed a T-slot track. I
selected a Kreg Clamp Trak (#KKS2769) because it’s available in a 69" and at just under
3/4" thick and 2-1/4" wide, is exceptionally rigid. You can mount the track either flush on the
top, or vertically, housed in the front apron. For a vertical installation you’ll need to machine
a 3/4" × 2-1/4" channel down the center of the apron to house the Kreg Clamp Trak. You’ll
also need to drill holes though the apron for the Clamp Trak bolts. If you plan to drill dog
holes into the front apron, make sure it’s at least 1-3/4" thick to avoid drilling into the Clamp
Trak bolts. The height of the apron isn’t crucial – mine is 4". Note that once the front apron is
glued in place the Clamp Trak will be permanently attached to the apron – you won’t be able
to access the mounting screws on the back of the apron. If you want to be able to remove the
Clamp Trak at a later date mount it flush on the table top.

I attached the aprons to the top using floating tenons milled with a Festool Domino. I find the
Domino much quicker and more precise to use than a biscuit joiner or dowelling jig. It
guarantees the top of the aprons will be exactly flush with table top – no fine tuning required.
Once the top was complete I secured it to the base by driving screws up through the metal
rails, into the top.
Solid Base – Though you can make your own base out of wood or metal, Duguay chose to
purchase heavy-duty work bench components from Rockler to speed up his build. Notice the
narrow storage area underneath the main shelf for thin items.

Front Rail – Domino mortises and loose tenons secure the front rail to the top, while the
holes in the front rail accommodate the bolts that secure the Kreg Clamp Trak to the rail.
This view is of the back side of the front rail.

Not All Ply is the Same

I no longer use imported plywood, particularly from China, for a variety of

reasons. The most important is that there is no guarantee it doesn’t contain
formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogenic. And, on most of these
products, the face veneer is so thin you can just about wipe it off with a
swipe of your hand. Plus, I’ve yet to find a sheet that doesn’t have voids,
particularly on 1/4" stock. Over the past couple of years I’ve been using
plywood from Columbia Forest Products. They offer a good selection of
veneer, MDF, and combi-core plywood in thicknesses from 1/4" to 1-1/4".
Home Depot carries some of their construction-grade ply. You can order
cabinet-grade ply through your local wood specialty dealer.

Dog Holes
What makes this worktable so versatile is the arrangement of dog holes drilled into its
surface. This is the same concept as used on the Festool MFT/3 work table. If you plan to
build a top like mine, which has 105 bench dog holes, then you’ll save yourself a lot of time
and frustration by using a dedicated 20-mm hole drilling system.

I used the UJK Parf Guide System (#102278) available from Lee Valley. With it you can drill
a precise arrangement of 20-mm holes spaced exactly 97-mm on center, for any size work
table. The system is very easy to use, and the included 20-mm carbide tipped drill bit enables
you to drill through a table top up to 2" thick. It took me about 40 minutes to lay out the grid
of holes and drill the first set of 3-mm registration holes. Drilling and chamfering the 20-mm
holes took another hour or so. The drill bit has a sharp-pointed 3-mm guide pin that aligns
perfectly with the registration holes, ensuring the holes are drilled dead-on. You can also use
this system to add dog holes onto a conventional workbench.

Drilling Dog Holes – Duguay used the UJK Parf Guide System to drill a series of 3-mm-
diameter holes in his worktable top (above). He then drilled the dog holes in his worktable
surface (below).
To Finish or Not

Applying a finish to the top is a matter of personal choice. I eventually

decided to lay down a thin coat of satin Varathane Professional Clear Finish,
primarily to keep glue from adhering to the surface and make it easier to
brush dust off of it. Once the top begins to look tired I’ll do a light sanding
and then apply another thin coat.


I’ve been using a variety of accessories with my worktable. I’ve made a number of planing
and work stops, and also rely on some commercial products. Bench dogs are, of course,
indispensable. They’re available in brass, steel and reinforced nylon from Lee Valley, Kreg
Tool and Axminster. Bench dogs are available with 3/4" or 20-mm posts. The latter are
referred to as Parf dogs and were originally designed by Peter Parfitt to use on Festool’s
MFT/3 work tables.
Veritas Round Bench Pups (#05G04.03) and the longer Bench Dogs (#05G04.01) are
designed for 3/4" holes, though they work equally well in 20-mm holes – the metal side
spring provides enough pressure to keep them from sliding down through the holes. They can
be adjusted flush with the work surface. Lee Valley also has small (#05G49.02) and large
(#05G49.06) 20-mm aluminum bench dogs, along with small (#05G49.50) and large
(#05G49.55) 20-mm steel Parf Dogs, both of which have offset collars (so they can’t be
installed flush with the work surface) that work very well.

The bench dog I particularly like is the 20-mm Axminster Parf Super Dog (#104302). It has a
twist top that locks the dog securely in place with absolutely no lateral movement. The Super
Dog comes with a flush collar that provides just over 2-5/16" of projection; a chamfer collar
that registers the dog precisely at 90° to the work surface; and a 25-mm offset collar so you
can use the Super Dog with conventional Parf dogs. Plus, it can be inserted through the
bottom of the work table for use as a low-profile dog.

There are three work stops I find particularly useful when I don’t want to clamp a work piece
to the table top. They apply vertical clamping pressure and are low to the work surface so
they don’t get in your way. The Veritas Bench Blade, available with a 3/4" post (#05G22.10)
or 20-mm post (#05G22.13), extends only 1/4" above the bench surface and has a cam lever-
activated sliding jaw with 1/4" of travel. It’s ideal for use with all but the thinnest stock. For
thicker stock, I use the Kreg In-Line Clamp (#KBCIC), which has a 1/2" jaw and a
convenient 4-3/4" of travel. It’s super quick to adjust and delivers up to 250 pounds of
clamping pressure – enough to hold anything immobile on the work table. While it’s only
available with a 3/4" post, it works well in 20-mm holes. The Festool Clamping Elements
(#488030) are specifically designed for a 20-mm system. They have a slightly taller (3/4")
jaw than the Kreg and slightly longer (4-5/8") travel. Unlike the Kreg, they can be used single
handed. Clamping pressure isn’t specified, but they hold stock firmly in place.

For applying downward clamping pressure, I’ve been using Bessey in-line toggle clamps
mounted on Lee Valley Clamp Plates (#50F01.13) and Kreg Bench Clamps (#KBC3" reach
and #KBC6" reach). The Bessey clamp is mounted on a 3/4" post. I do find it a bit sloppy in
the 20-mm holes, though the long post cants enough to keep the clamp from moving upward
too much. While Lee Valley does have a 20-mm mounting plate (#50F01.03), the post is only
11/16" long, and it has to be secured from under the table – which isn’t an option for me.
However, if you have a 3/4"-thick top it’s worth considering. The Kreg Bench Clamps install
in the Kreg Clamp Trak and secure stock flush up against the front apron. The advantage of
these clamps is that they self-adjust for stock thickness – just squeeze the handle to secure the

These are very convenient, and I make good use of them.

Clamp it Down – With the help of a wide range of hold-down devices you can secure just
about anything to this worktable.
Grooved Rail – The front of the front rail has a groove to accept the Kreg Clamp Trak. Bolt
heads sit proud of the bottom of the groove to hold the Clamp Trak in place.
In Use – Duguay uses the hold-down devices in many ways, including fixing large panels
horizontally on the worktable’s surface, (above) and securing smaller panels to its front face
Exact Depth – Bolt heads, set at a precise depth from the bottom of the groove, hold the Kreg
Clamp Trak in place.

Accessorize – Customizing your worktable is easy. Use your imagination to come up with the
best solution for your situation. Here, a simple piece of plywood was added between legs, and
two hooks were added to store hoses and cords.
Shop Layout: From a New Floor to
Dedicated Ceiling Storage: How to Make it
All Fit – And Work.

A One-Car Garage Dream Shop

Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by James Provost

So you don’t have a double car garage, a huge basement or an airplane hangar in your
backyard for shop space and you’re really thinking it’s not feasible to get a decent shop set up
in anything smaller. Well, with some planning and some extra work, you’d be surprised what
you can accommodate in a dedicated smaller area.

I’ll emphasize dedicated smaller area, as in my case I don’t share any of my single-car garage
space with the family chariot. Although it took a while for my wife to appreciate that the car
should be kept outside in the winter to lessen the effects of rust, it’s been worth the exercise
to get the most use of space for my shop.

Phase 1 – The Floor

The most important element of my shop is the floor construction. Concrete is cold and hard
on the body and the pour of my floor had a significant slope both side to side and lengthwise
that was unacceptable for having some of the heavy machinery on mobile bases.

My garage had a standard height ceiling and I had issues running ducting for dust collection
overhead interfering with overhead storage access. I also wanted to run electrical without
having to run surface mounted conduit everywhere and I wasn’t going to remove existing
drywall to have it otherwise buried. The solution was to create two modules that covered
most of the floor area and fix them in place. This gave me a level floor and an area below
where I could bury my ducting and my electrical, solving the other issues I faced.

My garage walls had heavily dinged drywall and I wanted to be able to affix anything
anywhere so I covered them in T1-11 plywood with Reflectofoil® underneath where there
were exterior walls to also aid in keeping the shop warm. I also ran the belt sander over them
to soften the rough burred surface a bit before installing it. The T1-11 was sturdy and ideal
for affixing a level ledger board all around the shop perimeter using 2" by whatever width
was needed to arrive an inch or so away from the actual concrete floor. This acts as a ledger
in the non-traditional sense, in that it is what will be for most of the perimeter an actual ledge
to have panels laid over top of to two “modules” that would cover the majority of the floor
area that I would walk on and have my machinery on. The modules themselves are made of
vertical 2" by Xs of varying lengths and widths assembled with 3/4 ply overtop, but the edge
of each module extends ¾" beyond the edge of the ply to create the second ledge that panels
could be laid over top of. Below these panels is where I would run my ducting and BX wiring
throughout the shop.

Before fastening the modules to the floor using Tapcon screws, I wanted to help keep as
much coldness away as possible and avoid any major problems should I ever have a leak or
water spillage in the future from the sink I installed, so I first laid Dimplex® on the floor and
also covered it with Reflectofoil tucking the edges of both under the perimeter ledger but not
tucking it up completely against the wall per manufacturer’s instructions. I recall that -20C
cold January evening where I had laid down and butt-taped that last piece of the Reflectofoil
over top of the Dimplex. Exhausted, I lay down on my floor to rest and unintentionally fell
asleep only to wake up a while later, sweating profusely in my winter coat. That Reflectofoil
and Dimplex combo really works!

All the joists of each module are level with the perimeter ledger but the fact that my floor
slopes five inches from one end and varies two to four inches side to side posed a challenge. I
had to cut a lot of bevelled and angled joists to ensure my floor would be level and that the
tops of each joist would lay flat against the plywood as well. I did this by using my bandsaw,
which I must say was the trickiest and maybe most critical part of getting good results
overall. Basically, I would lay a joist on the floor where I wanted it, propping it up vertically
to level it, chalk line both sides of the joist using the perimeter ledger as reference, then went
to the bandsaw and free-hand cut along the lines as best as I could. After the first few, I got
pretty good at it, although there were a few that had to be restarted or skimmed off using a
belt sander.

Each module has a fastened plywood top to walk on, and a bottom sheet that would be
tapconned to the floor. I also made sure each module had removable lids in the center that I
can use to store scraps of lumber in. With heavy machinery rolling over top, I felt these
access areas needed reinforcing, so I notched out the joist tops and installed 3/4 x 3/4 square
hollow steel under the edge of the 3/4 ply to avoid deflection. Because I would be walking on
top of these access lids, I was reluctant to affix any kind of pull hardware that would trip me.
The lack of hardware also helps while I’m sweeping and rolling any machinery around.
Instead of pulls I use a glass suction device to remove the storage access lids and the other
perimeter covers. Works like a charm!
Retain Warmth – Dubé installed a number of layers to keep the cold weather out. First
Dimplex then Reflectofoil.

Level the Ground – In order to create a level floor, each 2x6 had to be precisely cut before
being attached to the base layer of plywood.
Run Your Wires – Instead of running wires, dust collection, etc. above head Dubé put it all
under the plywood floor.
A Solid Floor – Plywood was placed on top after each module was fastened to the concrete
floor. Plywood strips would partially overlap the 2x6s and be removable if required. Photos
(above) by Kevin Dubé

Consistent Height – Most of the small to medium sized machinery is located along one wall.
Surface heights were kept consistent, and each machine can be moved forward a few inches if

Phase 2 – Machinery Layout

The floor was no longer just a floor but was now part of the system of efficiency and space
saving foundation for my shop. The next phase was placement of all the equipment, which
was no easy task with the amount of equipment I wanted to use in my 11.5' x 21' space.
Sadly, I am no good at CAD software and have limited drawing skills. Trying to figure out
how to place everything was a struggle working with such tight tolerances. I ended up using
graph paper and scaled cut-outs of the equipment and went through different configurations,
keeping in mind what material infeed and outfeed requirements were needed, until I found a
configuration that worked for me. I think each situation has its best solution based on what
type of work you want to do primarily. In my case, I knew I wanted to make my own
cabinetry and built-ins for our home, so the handling, cutting and storing of plywood was my
primary focus. The lathe (which I have yet to use but will one day) and some other items that
are not used regularly had to be located carefully so they would not interfere with the main
function of the shop.

Some of the unique solutions I implemented were to raise all the equipment along one wall to
be able to gain space below for the storage of my jointer, as well as ease of access to the
panels in the floor below along the perimeter where the ducting and electrical were located. I
wanted to be able to have the router table, radial arm saw and the mitre saw surfaces all at the
same height for outfeed and infeed support. I also set these machines up so I could move
some of them closer or further away from the wall if required. Most shop equipment is
designed or built on stands around 34" high. For the router table, I fastened two triangular
2x6 brackets through the T1-11 wall siding into the studs to support my router table. The
table’s outer edges are laid on the brackets without fastening, allowing me to slide the table
forward and back as needed. I also built a sled for my mitre saw, which slides back and
forward from the wall. Below the mitre saw is my jointer on a mobile base, which I can slide
out for use. On the far side of the router table, I made a foldaway for my lathe, which doubles
as an outfeed surface for that row of equipment, and a desk area.

Another important storage consideration was full-sheet plywood storage. On the opposite
long wall I built an above ground plywood storage rack 37" off the floor, which is also
integrated into an overhead storage rack for regular lumber. A lot of lag bolts and metal angle
brackets went into this and it was worth the effort to be able to enjoy more side to side space
when using the table saw. Rather than use 2x4s vertically placed, as is traditionally done for
storage space above our heads in the garage, I used 2x6s laid horizontally and secured them
using metal fasteners to maximize the available space. I was really trying to squeeze every
inch I could out of the space available and was treating the space as if it was a boat where
every nook has a use and needs to be used in the best possible way.
Brace for It – The router table top rests on shop made braces, allowing Dubé to reposition it
with ease then clamp it in place before making a cut.

Easy Access – To have the option of running his air filter while it’s located centrally, Dubé
fastened it to heavy-duty drawer slides. It also makes getting at lumber stored behind the
filter much easier.
Sheet Storage – Because Dubé uses mainly sheet stock, he made sure storage wasn’t a
problem. He raised it off the ground in order to gain easily accessible space below.
A Place for Everything – From hardware and push sticks to clamps and glue, virtually
everything has a home in this well organized shop.

Phase 3 – Use Every Last Bit Of Space

It was important to look beyond the conventional setup for my dust collector. I removed the
standard mobile base and mounted the motor unit directly to my wall. Here it was recon-
figured for better dust collection via a shorter conduit from the impeller to the collector. The
collection bag was placed on a mobile base where its location can be fine-tuned. The extra
work was worth it; I now had a base unit that would conveniently fit in a smaller location.

My overhead wood storage is located at both upper ends of the shop and required the central
ceiling area to be clear to remove the material. This presented a dilemma while placing my
JDS air filtration unit, as these units are traditionally simply hung from the ceiling with
supplied hook screws and essentially stay put. Instead, I placed the unit on heavy duty drawer
slides, which enabled me to temporarily push it out of the way so long boards can be handled
with ease. Some of these customizations on their own may seem minimal but collectively
they make the shop much more space efficient and functional. I often hear of people in
similar sized shops lament about how they can’t do a lot of things because of space
limitations, or simply they need to move a bunch of equipment around just to use one
machine. This doesn’t need to happen. With proper planning and some outside-of-the-box
thinking you can enjoy working in your shop with more equipment and efficiency than you
would otherwise expect.

Multi-Purpose Table – This rolling cabinet/surface has a lot going for it. An infeed table,
tool storage and assembly area are just a few of its jobs.
Bits and Pieces – Dubé hates searching for his tools. A great example is at his drill press,
where he can easily access anything he could need without having to go anywhere.
HomeInOn: Concrete and plywood are
common options for shop floors, but
concrete may be too hard on your body,
while plywood likely isn’t durable enough
to stand the test of time. Learn about some
other options that can be used to support
you and your machinery for years to come.

Shop and Garage Floor Coverings

Photos by manufacturers; Lead Photo by Gladiator Garageworks

Just about all garages and home basements – and the workshops located in them – tend to have
concrete floors. Working on a hard floor, especially for long periods of time, can put a strain on your
whole body. It can be especially aggravating if you have health issues such as arthritis, foot problems
like bunions or plantar fasciitis (jogger’s heel), a herniated disk, or have had hip or knee
replacements. And, over time, these floors can become gouged, chipped, cracked and stained.

Many woodworkers cover concrete floors with a layer of plywood, either right over the concrete or
atop sleepers. Over time the plywood can delaminate – more often the case with cheap, imported
sheeting – because of moisture penetration, excessive voids in the plywood, inferior quality
adhesives or improper gluing during the manufacturing process, not to mention from sustained
normal use. They can also sag or crack if not properly installed.
Painting concrete or plywood floors is largely a cosmetic remedy. Even enamel paints won’t hold up
that long. What you need for a shop or garage floor is something that is comfortable to work on yet
can support your shop machinery, is durable, and easy enough to clean. If the shop is in the
basement of a house, you’ll probably want a covering that has low VOC (volatile organic compound)
emissions. For a shop that does double duty as a garage, you’ll also want the covering to be resilient
enough to support the weight of a vehicle, have good resistance to water, salt and oils, and it should
not be susceptible to staining from hot tires.

There are a variety of coverings that can be applied over concrete and plywood floors. For concrete
floors, epoxy is one of the most popular choices, while for plywood it’s interlocking tiles and rolled
sheeting. Epoxy isn’t recommended for plywood floors because it has a tendency to seasonally move
and, depending on the installation method, can sag or flex. Also, adhesives or other chemicals used
in the plywood can compromise the ability of the epoxy to fully bond to the plywood.

Some of the floor coverings we list below don’t require any specific preparatory work before
installing. However, epoxy is the exception. It can’t be installed over a floor that has moisture
problems. To find out if your floor transmits moisture, tape a 1 sq. ft. piece of plastic sheeting onto
the floor for 24 hours. If you find any moisture on the underside of the plastic you’ll need to apply an
epoxy sealer or primer before coating the floor.

Conscientious floor preparation is critical for epoxy to adhere properly, so you need to read and
follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. No skipping steps here. Usually this involves etching
the surface with either an acid wash or mechanical grinding, patching cracks and holes, and cleaning
the floor of dirt, dust, grease, oils and other contaminants. Do it right the first time so you only have
to do it once.

So, What is Epoxy?

Epoxies are used both as adhesives and coatings. Even though epoxy can be
brushed onto a surface, it isn’t all like conventional acrylic or enamel paint. Rather,
it’s a thermosetting resin that consists of two components – a resin and a
hardener. Just prior to use, these two components are mixed together. Once
mixed, the two parts begin to chemically bond together to form a strong, rigid,
plastic material that is significantly thicker and much more durable than paint.
Epoxy is resistant to abrasion, impacts, chipping, stains, moisture and chemicals.
Because it’s thicker than paint it’s much better at covering over minor
imperfections on wood and concrete surfaces. Epoxy surfaces are fairly smooth,
but under normal use will acquire fine scratches that make it less slippery,
especially when wet. However, slip-resistant aggregate can also be added to
produce a more non-skid surface. Epoxies also yellow when exposed to UV light
(water-based epoxies less so). Some epoxies contain UV blockers, or you can apply
a polyurethane topcoat.
(Photo by Rustoleum)

Single-Coat Epoxy,,,,

Epoxy applied as a single coat is probably the most popular DIY concrete floor coating, in large part
because it’s inexpensive and easy to apply. You’ll see these products marketed as water based (the
most widely available), solvent based, and cycloaliphatic (a curing agent added to some epoxies to
increase viscosity). Their effectiveness is, in large part, a function of the amount of solids in the
product. Consumer products, available from big box stores, typically have a solids content of about
50%, and dry out to about 3 mils thick. These are the least durable epoxy options, and best suited for
garages and workshops that don’t see a lot of heavy-duty use. Solvent-based coatings provide a
thicker film (around 5 mils) but produce more VOCs during application than water-based products.

There are also commercial-grade single-coat epoxies, like Rust-Oleum’s ‘6500 System’ that have a
100% solids content. This means they maintain the same level of thickness when dried as when
initially applied; there is no shrinkage in the film thickness. The dry film thickness on these products
can be 10 mils or more – a thicker final film surface will be more durable and last longer, which
makes them better suited for workshops. You can also add a glossy or satin topcoat of clear epoxy or
polyurethane to increase the durability of these single-coat epoxies.

Multi-Coat Epoxy,

You’ll get superior durability and longevity from a multiple coat system. They give a dry film
thickness that can be upwards of 40 mils. The process typically consists of applying an epoxy primer
or sealer coat, followed by one or two coats of a 100% solids basecoat, and then one or two
topcoats of a clear epoxy or polyurethane. Colour chips and anti-slip aggregate can be added – to
the basecoat or the topcoat – depending on the grit size. While they do provide better floor
protection, multi-coat epoxies are more involved and time consuming to apply than single-coat
epoxies. If you’ve never applied a rolledon coating before, you might want to consider hiring a
certified installer.
(Photo by FlexStone)


Polyurethane coatings are a newer floor covering option. They don’t bond as well to concrete as
does epoxy, and because they’re solvent based they emit VOCs. However, they do have the benefit
of being more flexible, so they can absorb impacts better, are very abrasion resistant and are 100%
UV stable. Typically they’re applied in a two-step process – a basecoat followed by a topcoat.

An alternative to polyurethane is polyasparatic. It’s also a two-part coating applied as a primer and a
clear coat. It’s VOC-free, 100% UV stable, has an abrasion and scratch resistance similar to
polyurethane, is very flexible, and cures very fast. Polyasparatic is usually applied by a contractor, as
it has to be applied very quickly, typically by spraying. Unlike epoxy, you’ll be able to use the floor
almost as soon as the coating is applied, rather than the three- or four-day wait needed for a multi-
coat epoxy to dry.
(Photo by Gladiator Garageworks)

Interlocking Tiles,,,
The snap-together design of these tiles makes them super easy for anyone to install over concrete or
plywood flooring. One of the advantages is that if a tile becomes damaged it can simply be popped
out and replaced. Unlike epoxy coatings, you don’t have to repair cracks or small holes in the
concrete. And, because they come in a wide variety of colours, it’s easy to plan a unique floor design.
They’re made of synthetic material (typically PVC or polypropylene).

Both poly and PVC tiles are durable, waterproof, UV resistant, and have good resistance to
chemicals, oils, mildew and mold. They’re also easier on the feet and legs than concrete or plywood,
especially when standing for long periods of time. The amount of weight they can support ranges
from a low of around 250PSI to upwards of 5,000PSI per tile. The tiles are recyclable, depending on
the nature of local municipal recycling programs. Some tiles, like PlastiPro’s UltraLock and
Swisstrax’s Rubbertrax, are made from 100% recycled content.

Polypropylene tiles are hard, rigid and lightweight. They come in sizes starting at 12" × 12", can be
from 1/2" to 3/4" thick, with either a perforated surface (to allow water flow through) or a smooth
or patterned solid surface. They’re a popular choice for garage floors. PVC tiles come in similar sizes
but range from about 3/16" to 3/8" thick. They’re softer, more pliable, and heavier than poly tiles,
which makes them a good choice for use in workshops.

(Photo by New Age Products)

Roll Flooring,

You can also get PVC flooring in rolls. Installation couldn’t be easier. You don’t use glue, so
essentially it’s a matter of ‘roll and go’. The flooring comes in thicknesses from about 1/16" to 1/8"
and in various widths and lengths. The thicker flooring can be had in rolls 9' wide and 60' long. The
covering is available in a more limited range of colours and patterns. Because PVC is impermeable,
it’s important to ensure that your garage or shop floor is free of moisture to prevent the growth of
mold. If not, you’ll need to apply an appropriate sealer. Borders and seams are typically secured with
double-sided tape, and because it’s not glued down it might shift when heavy loads are moved
across its surface. If you’re considering this product for a workshop, opt for the thickest flooring you
can afford.


Rubber is a more expensive floor covering than PVC or poly, but it’s more durable and will last a long
time because of its high resilience. It’s dimensionally stable, sound absorbent, and static, slip, oil,
chemical and water resistant. It’s natural anti-fatigue properties make it easy to stand on for hours
on end. It’s also very good at withstanding heavy impacts and scraping, and it can handle heavy
machinery being dragged across its surface or dropped onto it. Rubber coverings are available in
interlocking tile and roll formats, and both are made from recycled rubber products (typically
automotive tires). Tiles come in a range of thicknesses from around 1/4" up to 1-1/4", and in sizes
from 12" × 12" to upwards of 36" × 36". Rolled flooring, the kind you see in fitness centers, is
typically 1/4" to 1/2" thick and available in rolls of about 4' wide and almost any length. It’s usually
glued down.
(Photo by Carl Duguay)

Anti-Fatigue Floor Mats

If you don’t want or need to cover your shop floor, but still find the floor hard to stand
on for long periods of time, consider anti-fatigue floor mats. Standard carpeted floor
mats wear out much too quickly, and they don’t provide much in the way of cushioning.
Thinner rubber mats – the type with a pattern of holes across the surface, and some
interlocking mats – are durable, but not very resilient. A better choice are mats made
from synthetic polyurethane resin; these are durable as well as puncture, tear, stain,
moisture, and heat resistant, and don’t curl or delaminate. They’re available in a wide
variety of sizes. You can place these mats near high-use areas in order to provide
comfort while in the shop.
Shop Project: This router table was built 20
years ago and has stood the test of time,
although over the years a few minor
shortcomings have been realized. Learn
how the original was built and how to
tweak a new build so it’s virtually perfect.

The Ultimate Router Table Revisited

Photos by Rob Brown

Illustration by Len Churchill

When I designed it, I wanted to incorporate as much storage into the router table as possible so I added two banks of four
drawers, as well as the larger storage underneath the drawers. I have used this router table for the past 20 years and love it. In
this article I’m going to detail how you can build the ultimate router table by combining the basic design I started with, but
improving on a few essential details.


I made the height of this table about 1/4" lower than my table saw so I could use it as an
outfeed surface. It’s worked great for this task, as it’s very stable and strong. Unless you have
a need for something different I would suggest doing the same.

If you have your mind set on purchasing a router table, in order to get to the fancier builds
quicker, check out Carl Duguay’s article “Purchasing a Router Table” in this issue.

I used 3/4" particle board for my router table and I’m glad I did. Particle board is quite heavy,
which is good. The last thing you want is a light router table that moves across the floor
during use. Plywood might be stronger, but it’s also lighter, so use it just for the top surface.
Speaking of the top, plastic laminate makes a great surface to protect against wear.

No need for beauty

Router tables are meant to be efficient, small-shop workhorses, not dining room furniture. I
will admit that my router table might not be the best looking piece of shop furniture, but I’m
perfectly fine with that. I’d rather spend a little less time and money on this project and have
some left over for the next project that will see the inside of my home. If you really want a
museum-quality router table you can substitute nicely veneered particle board sheet stock,
and use solid wood for the drawer fronts and edging material. I didn’t even use solid wood
edging on this project, and after 20 years of use I don’t regret it one bit.

Outfeed Support – When planning the dimensions of his router table Brown aimed for about
1/8" shorter than the height of his table saw out-feed table, so it could be used to support
extra-long stock.
Keep it Simple – Though Brown would use dadoes and rabbets to join his next router table,
the particle board edges he made the base from were left raw. After about a decade of use he
applied a quick coat of paint to much of the outside of the router table to cover up all the
marks and smeared glue.

Build the base

If you’re looking for a router table to work a lot of extra large workpieces I would suggest
making the overall depth of the router table’s base 20", or possibly 24", though I have never
wished I went wider than 16". Stability has never been an issue for me.

Rip the 4x8 sheet into three 16" wide lengths. Cut the gables, bottom, shelves, partitions and
drawer dividers to finished length. Set up stops to ensure the gables are the same length, all
eight drawer dividers are the same length and the bottom and two shelves are the same
length. It’s also a good idea to mark all your pieces with name and orientation.

Rabbets first
The first change I would make to my router table would have been to use rabbets and dadoes
to secure all the joints in the base. I used biscuits and strengthened each joint with screws.
My base hasn’t shown any signs of weakening, but for ease during assembly, as well as
increased strength for years to come, don’t do what I did.

Set up your dado set to run a rabbet the same width as the particle board is thick. A few test
passes and a few shims will have the width dialled in nicely now, so there’s no fussing
around when it comes time to machine the dadoes. With a sacrificial fence clamped to your
rip fence, machine 1/8" deep rabbets in the tops and bottoms of the gables, as well as the tops
of the partitions.

Dadoes are next

I find it nice to know when extreme accuracy is required, and when it’s not. Some of the
dadoes can be located “close enough”, while others need to be positioned very accurately.
We’ll start with the tricky ones first. I would lay out all the dadoes with pencil lines before
starting, then double-check every dado is positioned properly, before cutting any joints.
Ensure you’re taking the 1/8" of material that will fit into the dado into account when laying
these joints out. The only joints that need to be located carefully are the “upper-shelf-to-
gable” joints (determined by the actual length of the partition) and the “partition-to-upper-
shelf ” joint (determined by the actual length of the drawer dividers). Set up and run both sets
of these dadoes now.

Dadoes that locate the drawer dividers and lower shelf don’t need to be positioned overly
accurate, since you will rip the drawer parts to whatever width is needed. You can machine
the remaining dadoes in the gables now. One dado in each gable will accept the lower shelf,
while the other three dadoes in each gable will accept the drawer dividers. While you’re
machining the dadoes in the gables to accept the drawer dividers, also run the partitions over
the blade, as the setup will be the same.

Easy Access – So you can get at the router for bit height adjustments, and to remove the
router, make a decent-sized cut-out in the back panel.

Dry assembly
The best part about working with non-veneered particle board is you can skip the sanding.
These parts are going to go together easily if the ends that are going to fit into a dado are
slightly eased, so do that now. A dry assembly is a very good idea, as this isn’t a simple
assembly. While the base is dry assembled, drill some countersunk pilot holes so you can
drive a few screws during assembly. Screws are going to be more helpful towards the middle
of the base, as clamps won’t be able to reach in much more than 4" from the front or back
edges. If any of the joints are not lining up you can glue 1/8" solid wood into the joint then
re-machine the joints in the proper location. These mistakes don’t need to be covered up
when making shop fixtures, unless your shop’s a museum.

Final assembly
With enough clamps, lots of glue and your pneumatic nailer by your side, start with one of
the “gable-to-upper-shelf ” joints. I would strongly suggest assembling the router table base
with the back edges of all these parts standing on a flat surface, as if the whole router table
had been tipped over on its back. The first few pieces are going to be tricky, but things will
get easier as you go. The next step is to add the lower shelf, then the second gable. With some
screws in each joint, add a clamp to the face and back of each joint and ensure the assembly
is somewhat square. The bottom is added next, followed by a few more clamps to bring the
gables together. Moving up top now, glue in the drawer dividers on one side of the base then
add that partition. It will likely be easiest to install the uppermost drawer divider after the
partition has been installed. Clamps parallel with the dividers, as well as one pressing the
partition into the upper shelf, are needed. Move to the drawer dividers on the other side to
finish the assembly.

Simple and Strong – Dadoes near the end of the sides accept short tongues in the backs. No
need for hand-cut dovetails here.

Store Your Bits – The bottom two drawers have no sides or back, and the bottom is 3/4"
thick. A series of holes can be drilled in the bottoms to keep often used bits nearby. Notice the
90° angled blocks which help secure the drawer fronts.

Back panel
Cut and install a 1/4" plywood back panel. It can sit flush on the backs of all the pieces that
make up the base – no rabbet is needed. Make a cut-out in the back so you can easily access
the router. There is no need to make this cut-out small, as a bit of extra room will come in
handy. Pneumatic nails, screws and glue will keep this router table base square and strong for

I made the drawer sides and backs from plywood, and used particle board for the fronts.
There’s no problem with doing this, but I have no idea why I did it this way. Possibly because
I didn’t have enough particle board material left over, as most of the sheet I bought was
already used up. Use whatever material you have on hand for the drawers. If money was no
object I would go with 1/2" Baltic birch plywood. Some of the 3/4" plywood that will be used
for the top will also work fine, as will particle board.

The upper six drawers can be constructed like most drawers. The lack of slides means the
drawer should be about 1/16" narrower and shorter than the opening. A groove or rabbet in
the inner surface of the drawer will house a bottom. If I was building these drawers again I
would opt for a rabbet, as that would give me a little bit more room inside the drawer for

The lower two drawers have no sides or backs and store a healthy selection of router bits. For
these drawers I used a 3/4" thick bottom, rabbeted into a front, strengthened with a pair of
super simple 90° glue blocks. A series of holes were laid out and drilled on my drill press. It
sounds unnecessary, but once the holes were drilled I chucked the twist drill bit in my
cordless drill and widened each hole ever so slightly by moving my drill while the bit is in the
previously drilled hole. This allowed the router bits to be easily removed from the holes
whenever needed. An anti-tip block was glued to the inside of each partition, about 13/16"
above the upper shelf and 3" from the front edge. This stops the lower drawers from tipping
as they are pulled outward.

Simple pulls work fine, though I clamped two finished drawers together, with their upper
edges facing towards each other, and drilled 1-1/2" diameter holes with my drill press.
Simple and cheap.
Anti-Tip – The sides of the upper six drawers keep them from tilting when they’re opened.
Because the bottom two drawers don’t have sides, Brown added a small block just above the
drawer bottom so the drawer wouldn’t tip when opened.

The top
The top needs to be strong and flat. I started with a piece of 3/4" plywood and covered its
four edges and two faces with durable plastic laminate. A small step up would be to opt for
solid wood edging after both surfaces were covered in laminate.

Run a groove in the top to accept a mitre gauge. The fit must be perfect, so take your time to
get this right. Don’t go any deeper than is necessary to accept the bottom rail of the mitre
gauge, as this will weaken the top. I would have thought a groove in the top would have
weakened the top too much, but after a lot of use I don’t think it’s a problem. If you wanted
to be extra safe you could screw a few pieces of solid hardwood to the underside of the top,
perpendicular to the mitre gauge groove. I think it works fine without the extra structural
additions because the top is fastened to the base with the four 15" long hardwood cleats,
which add a lot of strength and rigidity.

Mill the four cleats to fix the top to the base. When in doubt, make these cleats larger. The
most important thing to keep in mind at this stage is to secure the top to the base so it is flat. I
first used a straightedge to get an idea of how flat and even the top of the base was. Starting
at one side of the router table’s base I screwed one cleat to the base so the upper surface of
that cleat was flush with the uppermost point of the base. Using the straightedge to make sure
it was flush with the uppermost point of the base, I added a second cleat to the opposite side
of the base. These two cleats should be parallel with each other, and their upper surfaces
should be flush with the upper surface of the base. I then fixed the top to the first two cleats
and ensured the top was flat. The last two cleats were then positioned against the partitions,
and lightly pressed up against the underside of the top and screwed in place. At this point you
should remove one of the cleats, add glue to its side and screw it back in place. Repeat this
with the other three cleats so they are strong and will stay in place. If, on the off chance, the
top goes out of flat in the future, you can add spacers between the cleats and top.

At this point I cut and installed an apron between the two banks of drawers, directly under the
top. A few screws through the partition into the apron, as well as an L-bracket screwed to
each end, is enough. The apron helps support the top between the drawer banks while a heavy
workpiece is being machined.

Now that the top is fixed in place, it’s time to rout the area where the router’s base plate will
go and drill a few holes. I simply traced the shape of the base plate, and location of the holes,
onto the top. First I drilled the bolt clearance holes so bolts could be used to secure my router
to the underside of my top. I also cut a 1-1/2" diameter hole in the center of the recess so
router bits could protrude up though the top. To remove the waste I used a straight bit in my
plunge router to hog out the material to the exact depth of the base plate.

A Flat Top – Notice the angled gap between the drawer bank and the top.
Even though the router table’s base isn’t perfectly square and flat, the top needs to be. The
height of the cleats on either side of both drawer banks can be adjusted to secure the top to
the base so the top is perfectly flat.

Feet to stand on
The three wooden feet keep the router table from moving around during use, and are self-
levelling, but since this router table is heavy I came up with a simple solution to moving it
around my shop. I flipped the router table upside down and attached a caster under two
corners at one end of the base. Don’t cheap out on casters, as only quality casters are strong
enough for this task. I used rotating casters, though fixed casters would also work fine. The
feet were to be about 1/16" taller than the casters. I used 2×4 material for each foot, but any
wood will work. I positioned the long foot flush with the outer edge of the base and glued and
screwed it in place. Towards the end with the casters I added two more feet: one along the
front and back edge of the bottom panel. Both of these feet were placed so the casters would
miss them by about 1/2" when the casters rotated. You can also use fixed casters. When
turned right side up, the router table would balance nicely on the three feet. When the end
opposite the casters was lifted the casters would come into contact with the ground and the
router table can be moved around fairly easily.

Because there is a lot of weight being transferred through the lower portion of the gable I
glued a cleat to the inner corners of both “gable to bottom” joints.
Base Plate Recess – Use your base plate to trace the bolt locations, the center clearance hole
and the outer perimeter of the plate onto the top. After you have drilled the bolt clearance
holes and center hole, use your router and a straight bit to create the recess for the base
plate to fit. The router table just gets sandwiched between the router base plate and the
router base during operation. The shop-made base plate on the left is used with larger
diameter router bits.
Moving a Heavy Object – The foot is about 1/16" taller than the caster, so when the opposite
end of the router table is lifted up the caster comes into contact with the ground and the
router table can be moved around your shop.

The fence
One of the most important aspects of a router table is the fence. It needs to be strong, remain
secured in place during use, be high enough for all operations, and have the ability to create a
gap near where the spinning bit is located.

Break out the fence parts to final size, but don’t split the face into two parts yet. So the split
faces can slide left and right, four grooves must be routed into the sub-face – two grooves for
each split face. With a plunge router and edge guide cut the 1/4" wide x 2" long grooves with
multiple passes. The grooves should be centered on the height of the sub-face. At the center
point of the base and sub-face you’ll need to create a cut-out so the bit doesn’t cut into the
base and sub-face and shavings have somewhere to go during use. Run a rabbet in the sub-
face and join the base to it. To ensure they’re joined at 90°, glue a few wooden brackets in

Position the face against the rest of the fence and mark the location of the center of the four
grooves on the back of the face. Drill four clearance holes in the face, then remove some
material from the front of the face so the bolt will sit completely beneath the outer surface of
the face. I used bolts with square necks, so I could create a square notch in the clearance
holes in order to keep the bolts from spinning during use. You can now split the face in half
and install the two halves on the rest of the fence. The fence gets clamped to the top of the
router table during use.

Finally, add a wooden dust collection shroud and plastic attachment to the fence. It works
pretty well with the collection hose attached, but I generally only use it for larger runs.
A Strong Fence – Brown used solid maple to create a strong, adjustable fence. The split face
of the fence can be slid open or closed depending on the width of the router bit being used.
The fence is shown with the split faces removed for clarity. Notice the circular notch cut into
the sub-fence and the base, for chip extraction clearance.

Bells and whistles

As time went on I added a bunch of screws to the outside of the router table, as well as the
partitions, in order to store a wide variety of shop items. I also found myself using four
different screwdrivers quite often while working on my router table, so I made a wooden
block with four holes in it and screwed it to one of the partitions.

A Square Hole – So the bolt doesn’t spin when the tri-winged handles are tightened, Brown
cut a square notch in the first 1/4" of the hole and used bolts with square notches under their
Shop Project: Every woodworker loves
clamps, but how should they be stored so
they’re right beside each and every glue-
up? In a dedicated storage rack on wheels,
of course!

Clamp Storage

Photos by Wayne Wiebe

Illustration by Len Churchill

As a woodworker, I quickly learned that you can never have too many clamps. In the past, a
woodworker may have had six types or so, but with new technology it seems there is a clamp
for everything. The result in my workshop? Clamps all over the place.


Over the years, as I was working on projects, I found I was walking back and forth between
various areas of my shop looking for the clamps I needed for the job at hand. I was wasting
too much time and energy, and in some cases I never did find what I was after. I decided it
was time to build a clamp storage device that would hold all of my small clamps and was
portable enough to move to my workstation when I was clamping and out of way when I was

Take inventory of your clamps

My first task was to go through every box, drawer, cupboard and hiding place and collect all
my small-to-medium-sized clamps. I laid them out on my workbench and started to organize
them into types, sizes and how I use them so I could start on the design. I found I have
approximately 12 types of clamps, not including pipe clamps.

The majority of the clamps are “C” clamps and range in size from 2" to 8". Some are wide-
mouth for deeper clamping ability. I thought it would be best to hang these on a pipe so that I
could see the sizes and take hold of them easily. I had the same theory for the small bar
clamps, but found that the movable end always fell to the end of the clamp. This made the
hanging theory more difficult so I decided just to fasten those to pieces of wood at the end of
the cabinet. I use pinch clamps and three-way clamps on a lot of projects so decided cubby
holes would be best for those. It’s always nice to have some smaller pipe clamps (24") around
so a long cubby hole was needed for these. Finally, there are specialty clamps that don’t get
used that often, but you want to know where they are, so two drawers was a necessity. All my
requirements had been identified – I just had to figure out how to pull it all together.
Small Clamp Storage – The upper two cubby holes are great for storing small, and often
used, clamps.

How heavy are your clamps?

When I looked at all of the clamps laying there, the first challenge that came to mind was
dealing with the weight of the clamps and cabinet material. This unit was going to be 200–
300 pounds. I had to ask myself if I would actually be able to move this thing. I had another
portable unit in my shop so I loaded everything onto and into it. Wow! Fortunately, it didn’t
go through the floor but it did move. It was obvious that a more heavy duty caster was
required. I used a 3" caster, but with the benefit of hindsight a 4" caster would have been
even better, and I may upgrade mine.
Strong Casters – Though Wiebe only used 3" casters on his clamp rack, he suggests a 4"
caster might be even better. The weight of the rack can easily add up to well over 200
pounds. and scratching when the clamps are moved in and out.

Stay upright
Balance was the next issue. The rack had to be wide enough that it would not tip over, but not
so long that it would be hard to maneuvre. I figured out the overall length of pipe I needed to
hang all the C clamps and how they had to be spaced on the rack to accommodate the various
sizes of clamp. There are three rows on one side and two on the other. There is also some
room left in case I buy some new ones. The final dimensions are 30" long, 24" wide and 37"
high without the casters. This allows for two cubby holes on top for small clamps. Below
these are two drawers and one large cubby hole for short pipe clamps. This last cubby hole is
lined with plastic laminate to reduce bruising

Start building your clamp storage

The main body of the rack is built with G2S Birch plywood. All joints are put together with
1/8" deep dadoes, so 1/4" has to be added to some of the measurements. I was not concerned
about cosmetics, so everything was glued and screwed. By using screws, I could dry-fit

A few words on solid wood edging. Once the parts were cut to size and assembled, I applied
the solid wood edge strips to the edges of the parts where required with glue and a fine nailer.
I made sure to start with the strips just barely wider than the plywood, and applied it flush
with one face so I only have to flush up one face of the edging with the plywood. There are
also many other ways to do this. You could glue the edging in place with the unit dry-

Once the edging was dry, you could trim it flush and ease the edges before final assembly. A
third option would be to apply the edging to the parts before final assembly, with appropriate
setbacks where the dadoes are. The edges of the edging could then be trimmed flush with the
plywood before final assembly.

I installed the drawer slides and plastic laminate in the cubby holes before it was all put back
together. The drawer faces, handles, pull supports and bar clamp pieces are also made from
cherry. The drawer material in my clamp rack is solid wood but could also be Baltic birch
plywood. Joints are the same as the main body but dovetails are also an option, if desired.

The clamp bar is 3/4" black pipe used for gas fitting. In hindsight, I should have used at least
one 1/2" pipe at the top for smaller clamps as they just fit over the 3/4" pipe. The same pipe is
used for the pull. The pipes sit in 3/4" recessed holes in the plywood and are set far enough
back from the main structure to prevent the clamps from contacting the plywood (approx. 4").
If you wanted some flexibility down the road you could install the pipes with flanges after the
case was assembled. This would also make assembly easier.

The horizontal spacing between bars will depend on the size of clamps being stored and I
have mine set up so that the clamps are between quarter and half open. You should also have
the two upper bars down far enough so the clamps do not sit up past the top of the cabinet.
This allows you to lay a piece of plywood flat on top of the rack if you would like. The top
should be secured so that it does not tip and can be used for moving larger pipe clamps to the
work area.

I added a horizontal surface below each drawer, as well as one at the bottom of the pipe
clamp storage area. This makes the unit more rigid and allows for easy installation of the
drawer sliders. In addition, if you ever want to remove the drawers, you will have two more
cubby holes for long clamp storage.

Deep Drawers – The space in the middle of the clamp rack is wasted unless you make two
deep drawers. The weight of the clamps will ensure the drawers, even when both are fully
extended, will not tip the unit over.
Pipe Dreams – 3/4" pipe makes a great addition to this rack. Clamps are easily stored and
accessed and the pipe is very durable and strong.
End Cleats – Wiebe stores his F-clamps on wood cleats attached to one end of the rack.

During dry-assembly I was able to practice the order in which pieces are assembled, as well
as drill any pilot holes for screws. Varnishing some of the pieces before final assembly can
also save time and headaches. Starting with the bottom and one gable, then adding a main
divider, the drawer and cubby hole pieces, the second main divider, the 3/4" storage pipe,
then the final gable I assembled the unit. Parts like the drawers, handle and F-clamp cleats
were added once the unit was dry.

The end result is a very stable clamp rack that is easy to move to the work area, stores a wide
variety of clamps and makes them all easy to access. This is a great project for a beginner to
intermediate woodworker looking for a bit of a challenge as it requires a good deal of
planning, reasonable precision in cutting the plywood pieces and dadoes, construction of
drawers and a systematic order in putting it all together. I’m off to buy a few more clamps.
Shop Project: Need more shop storage?
This rotating rack can be custom- built to
the size you need, and will give you flexible
storage for years to come.

A Different Spin on Storage

Photos by Steve Der-Garabedian
Illustration by Len Churchill

INFO: COST – 2/5

No matter what size shop you have, storage is always an issue. I really like the versatility of
the pegboard system of hanging things. The hooks aren’t permanently locked to specific
locations on the board, and moving them when you need to adjust isn’t a hassle. The
downside in my shop was the linear area it was going to take up, and hence a spinning
solution was born. The idea for this rotating pegboard came from the corner cupboard in my
kitchen with its internal spinning storage rack.
Simplicity is the key
While you could build an elaborate frame for the rotating structure, simplicity is best. After
all, it isn’t a piece of furniture, but rather a workshop storage solution. All four of the wooden
frame parts are cut from 3/4" plywood. The center pole is 3/4" EMT (Electrical Metallic
Tube) with an outer diameter just shy of 1" and held in place on the ceiling of the shop with a
two-hole strap screwed to a joist. The 6", 500 lb. capacity lazy Susan bearing was the perfect
fit for this job. To lock the corners together I picked up a bag of 6" cable ties. For the
pegboard I went with the 1/4" thick size. The original version in my shop used 1/8" thick
pegboard and it lasted for more than 12 years, so that’s also a possibility.

Get Hardware First – With all the hardware on-hand, start by cutting the base for the lazy
Susan, then the three main frame pieces. Drill centered holes through the three main frame
pieces, but only part way through the base piece.
Time to cut
The base of the structure is sized to the dimensions of the lazy Susan bearing frame; in my
case this is 6" square. Once cut, I drilled a 1/2" deep hole using a 1" forstner bit and
the bearing to it. The remaining three pieces of the frame were sized to 11" by 11"
and completed with through holes in the center with the same drill bit as before. A good
height for pegboard in my shop ended up being 66". For the width I cut two pieces at 11-1/2"
and the remaining two at 11" so that the corners could easily be tied together. When deciding
the size to cut the peg- board for your shop, take a minute and make sure the cuts are in
between the mounting holes.
Keep it Plumb – With the center pole in place, and the first two pegboard sides installed,
check for plumb before attaching the final two sides.

Some assembly required

To assemble the structure I first picked the location and hung the
3/4" tube from one of the
joists and roughly plumbed it. Since it came in a 10' length I used a hacksaw to chop it down
by 2'. This left some room at the top for me to push it up and slide the frame pieces onto it
from the bottom. If you have a closed ceiling, mount a piece of plywood overtop the drywall
spanning two joists and drill a hole through the center to push the tube up and through. I
attached the bearing assembly to the bottom frame piece of plywood, making sure to center it.
Next I slid the top and middle frame pieces onto the tube from the bottom, then lowered the
tube through the bottom frame and onto the bearing assembly. I’ve found that the weight of
the structure, and all it holds, is more than enough to keep it plumb, although you could
secure it in position to the shop floor with some silicone type of adhesive if you wanted.
Using a clamp, I held the top frame member at the correct height and used four #10 x 1"
round-head screws to attach the pegboard to it. I roughly found the midpoint, height wise, of
the pegboard and attached the middle frame piece using the same screws, then secured the
bottom piece as well. After attaching a second side, I double-checked for plumb and
proceeded to attach the remaining two faces. Once done, I used plastic cable ties, roughly
every 12", to keep the corners locked to each other, then trimmed off the excess.

K.I.S.S. – Cable ties are cheap, easy to use and strong. Secure the pegboard corners about
every 12" then snip off the excess.

While at the hardware store I picked up an assortment pack of hangers. They came with
plastic locks to keep the steel hooks from coming out of their assigned holes when pulling
tools off for use. Some packages of hangers even come with small boxes complete with tabs
that fit perfectly on the peg- board, and it isn’t too difficult to make your own steel hooks for
tools that are awkward to hang. In order to get even more storage, feel free to make the peg-
board sides larger. Just realize that the wider the sides, the more room it needs to rotate. It’s
not hard to come up with some great storage solutions for the shop when we
take a look at
other storage examples in our homes, like the kitchen in this case, online or even touring
other woodworkers’ shops.
Shop Project: Build this super-sturdy,
efficient workbench for your small shop
and you’ll never regret it. It’s big on
functionality, but small on space.

Pint-Sized Workbench

Photos by Carl Duguay; Illustration by Len Churchill


Download a PDF of this image.
NOTE: The Tail Vise used is #70G01.51 NOT 70G01.52

Early last year, I downsized to a small shop that is less than half the size of my former shop.
In order to accommodate a basic set of machinery, and to have sufficient space for bench
work, assembly, and storage, I opted to replace my full-size work bench with a much smaller
version, and integrate my hand tool storage into the bottom of the bench.

I designed the bench so that it could be built over a two-and-a-half-day weekend, and set a
budget of $300 for materials and hardware. This excluded the purchase of plywood for the
bottom cabinet, as I had ample cut-offs on hand. Rather than traditional square dogs, I chose
to incorporate 3/4" round dogholes. They are much quicker to install and would enable me to
use the wide range of Veritas workbench accessories. To speed up the build, I chose to make
as much of the bench with 2" rough (1-3/4" dressed) stock as possible, and to use dowel and
bolt joinery rather than dovetails or mortise and tenon.

Once ash is acclimatized, I find that there is very little latent shrinkage. Anyone who has used
ash will know that it’s a pleasure to mill and work with hand tools. Best of all, though, it’s
probably the least expensive domestic hardwood. On the West Coast 8/4 ash is priced at
$4.50 a board foot.

It’s best to purchase all your hardware before you build the bench. I chose a front and tail
vise from Lee Valley, as I’ve used both before, and they’re easy to install. You’ll also need a
3/4" Forstner bit to drill the dog holes. To avoid chipping the edges of the dog holes when
inserting or extracting the dogs, it’s worth chamfering the holes. I use a Lee Valley 82°
countersink (#44J21.01). By the way, most screws have an 82° head angle, so this
countersink is also ideal for ensuring your screws seat perfectly.

This bench called for 40 bf of lumber, excluding the base cabinet. Once in the shop, I milled
the lumber slightly oversized, and let it rest for the better part of two weeks before milling the
stock to finished dimensions. Keeping all main parts the same thickness (1-3/4") proved to be
a real time-saver.

Begin at the top

I began by orienting the boards for the top so the grain ran in the same direction, and then
marking out the location for the dog holes. While I chose to drill the holes 6" apart, you can
vary the distance.

My goal when gluing the top was to align the boards so that I wouldn’t be faced with a lot of
extra work hand-planing or power sanding the surfaces after glue-up, particularly as it
couldn’t be run through my planer. Edge dowelling the boards together resulted in a smoothly
aligned top that required minimal hand-plane work. I used the DowelMax, though you could
also use a biscuit joiner or the Festool Domino. I also used cauls to sandwich the boards
together, which further helps to keep them flush, particularly at the ends.

The board at the front of the bench top, in which you’ll drill a row of dog holes, should be
milled the same width as the block of wood you’ll use for the wagon vise jaw, which in my
case was 3" wide. The jaw width isn’t crucial, but it has to be wide enough that you can bolt
the end guide onto the jaw. You’ll also want to trim the end of this board flush before gluing
up the top. Once the glue dried, I trimmed the top to length.
Wagon Vise – Duguay routed a 1/4" wide groove in the back of the front rail and installed a
1/2" wide runner to fix one half of the movable portion of the wagon jaw. On the other side,
he machined a wider runner and fixed it, and the spacer it’s attached to, to the underside of
the top. Both of the runners ensure the jaw moves parallel with the upper surface of the top.
Front Vise – With the top, aprons and rails in place, Duguay positions the front vise and
drills the necessary holes before screwing it in place.

Assemble the base

The front legs are assembled from two pieces of 1-3/4" stock, aligned with dowels. I made
the back legs narrower, but if you like the look of beefy legs all around, double them up the
same as the front legs (Note: If you do, add an additional 4 bf of 8/4 ash to your lumber

I chose to use 3/8" dowels to join the top and bottom braces and rails to the legs, using four
3" long dowels per joint. Of course, if you’re concerned about the strength of dowels, you
could use floating tenons or mortise and tenon joinery. I’ve used dowel joinery quite a bit,
and have never had any joint failure.

Once the base was glued together, I drilled 5/8" holes in the top side braces, through which I
would later bolt the base to the bench top. To prevent the end grain on the bottom of the legs
from splitting if the bench is ever manhandled across the shop floor, I glued 3/4" feet to the
legs. While a finish isn’t absolutely necessary, I happened to have some polyurethane on
hand, so I applied a few coats.

Finish the top

With the top laid upside down on the base, I measured out the location of the bolt holes for
attaching the aprons, then drilled 1" holes about 1-1/4" deep that the nut and washer could fit
into. You’ll also need to chop a flat on one side of the hole to accommodate the nut and

Then locate and drill the holes in the front rail for mounting the front vise. There is also a
1/4" by 9" slot you’ll need to rout into the front rail to accommodate a 1/4" by 1/2" runner for
the wagon vise jaw. There is a similar runner on the opposite side of the jaw, which is
screwed to the underside of the bench top. Attach this second runner now, but only glue it in
place after the top is mounted to the base. You’ll also need to insert a spacer to correctly
position the runner in the groove on the wagon vise jaw.

Finally, determine the location of the hole in the right-side apron for the wagon vise screw.
Drill the hole, and then chop a mortise for the collar on the inside of the apron.

At this point, I turn the bench top right side up, and dry clamp the front and rear rails and
aprons in place. I also check to ensure that the vises mount properly. Best to check that
everything goes where it should, and make any necessary corrections before you glue things
in place. Once you’re satisfied with the fit, glue and screw the back and front rails in place,
and then screw and bolt – but don’t glue – the aprons in place.

Install the vises

To make it easier to install the vises, I flipped the workbench on its back. There may be some
tendency over time for some slight top to bottom racking when the front jaw is tightened. To
account for this, you can plane a 2° bevel on the inside of the front jaw or glue on a leather
face, which will compress somewhat to accommodate any racking. I chose to bevel the jaw.

I glued up two pieces of scrap ash to make the wagon vise jaw, creating a pocket into which
the end guide is bolted to the jaw. Drop the jaw into the opening from above the bench; one
side of the jaw will land on the runner you glued into the inside of the front rail. Then, from
underneath the bench top, attach the second runner and spacer to support the other side of the
wagon vise jaw. Screwing the end guide into the vise jaw is a bit awkward – a ratcheting
screwdriver helps.

To ensure the top of the front jaw and wagon vise jaw are level with the top of the
workbench, install them so that the jaws are about 1/16" above the bench top, and then hand-
plane them flush.

I drilled dog holes into the right front leg to accommodate a Veritas Surface Clamp. This
makes it easy to clamp wide boards and panels vertically against the workbench.
Surface Clamp – Dog holes in the front of the leg allow a surface clamp to be used so that
large panels can be fixed in place.

Build the cabinet

I used whatever leftover plywood I had on hand to make the bottom cabinet, trimming the
edges with ash. As the top and bottom aren’t visible, I simply screwed them together. The
cabinet rests on the lower rails, and a couple of screws through the bottom of the cabinet into
the lower rails keep it from shifting. I sized the drawers to accommodate what I wanted to
store, and installed them on fully extending side mount sliders. The cabinet is set back 1/2"
and the drawer handles are recessed somewhat to keep them flush with the front of the bench.

Final thoughts
While I thought I might miss a large work surface, this was not the case. I can easily clamp
30" wide panels on the bench top and can hold 60" boards in the front vise, supported by a
surface clamp inserted in the front leg.

The bench has held up beautifully over the past year. There hasn’t been any noticeable
movement in the top, probably because there is very little temperature and humidity
fluctuation in my shop, and the dowel joints are as tight as the day they were made. I don’t
know what the bench weighs, but it’s heavy enough that, even with aggressive planing, it
remains rock steady.

I recently added a tool tote to the back of the bench: a simple plywood box that provides a
catch-all for hand tools and bits of wood that would otherwise clutter up the small work
surface on the bench. It hangs off of two screws and can be easily removed.

If you’ve recently built a workbench for a small shop, I’d love to hear what you did. You can
email me directly or share your comments on the digital version of the article on our website.

Simple Box – To keep tools nearby, Duguay built a simple box, outfitted it with drawers, and
secured it under the workbench top.
Lots of Storage – The tool cabinet keeps tools at arm’s reach. Ensure the handles on the
drawers don’t protrude past the face of the top, or they will interfere with larger panels that
are clamped to the face of the bench.

Tool Tote – A simple tool tote attached to the back of the top with screws keeps the work
surface as free as possible from tools.

Janka Hardness
Janka hardness is a general measure of how effective a particular wood is at withstanding
surface denting. The number is derived by measuring the amount of pounds-force (lbf) that it
takes to drive a .444" steel ball into the wood’s surface to half the ball’s diameter. White ash
is a very strong wood (1,320 pounds of force on the Janka hardness scale) and is one of the
more shock resistant woods, making it perfect for workbenches. For contrast, Hard Maple
rates at 1,450 lbf, Douglas Fir is 660 lbf, and Red Oak is 1,290 lbf.

Additonal Photos

Wagon vise screw is bolted to a rebate cut in Arrangement of end bolts

the wagon

Base before cabinet was

The main vise

Chisel drawer Easily handles long boards

Shop Storage: These rolling storage
cabinets will help out in more ways than
you can imagine around the shop. You
won’t know what you did without them.

Rolling Shop Storage

Photos by Hans Braul; Illustration by Len Churchill


As hobbyists, most of us do woodworking for the satisfaction it gives us. For some, it’s the
finished product, whatever path you took to get there. For others, like me, it’s the process.
There is nothing more satisfying than seeing an idea taking shape through the use of finely
tuned tools and ever-improving skills. It gives me a sense of satisfaction and
accomplishment. But if there is one thing that dulls that sense, it is the chaos that comes from
a congested mess with too many tools with no home. Dropped chisels, scratched pieces that
were ready for finish, tools that simply disappear until the project is finished. Add to that the
frustration of trying to maintain a clean shop when every corner is jammed with homeless
tools. Some people thrive in such a space (think Einstein). Those of you need read no further.
For the rest of us, our enjoyment depends in large measure on organization, especially when
our space is limited.

For me, the solution was to replace a roughly built set of open shelves made of construction
lumber with a utility bench and a set of rolling cabinets that could accommodate all the hand-
held tools that I use on any regular basis.

Start with some planning

The first step was to lay out all the tools that needed a proper home, and measure each one.
Then I thought about exactly how and when I would be using these tools.

Which tools were the most frequently used? Which tools would likely be added to my
collection in the foreseeable future? I took a hard look at low-quality tools that had somehow
found their way into my collection (gifts, inheritance, poor choices from another time, etc).
Some had never been used and some had been replaced with better versions. I decided that
any tool that had not been used in the last five years or so did not deserve a home. These went
to the “Kijiji pile”.

Once I had decided on which tools were to be stored and in which configuration, I used
Sketchup to design the drawer configuration.

It was important to provide just enough room for each tool, with minimal wasted space. By
carefully arranging the available space, I was amazed that I could easily accommodate my
entire collection, with space available for future acquisitions.

The bench
The workbench top was constructed as a torsion box, from 1/2" Baltic birch. The internal grid
was an 8" square pattern. The vise was mounted to the top by through bolts that engaged T-
nuts, set in a reinforcing block internal to the box. The bench was set on a set of three 3/4"
BB dividers that were secured to the floor and back wall using L-brackets. The dividers were
spaced to allow about 1/2" clearance on the sides and 1" clearance on the tops of the cabinets.

Solid Worktop – Torsion box construction yields a rigid work surface. Braul supported it
with two plywood gables and a divider, and used L-brackets to secure the vertical panels to
the ground.

Simple and strong cabinets

The construction of the cabinets was pretty straightforward. The cases were of 3/4" Baltic
birch, with dado joints on the corners, cut with a router, then glued and reinforced with
through Dominos.
One of the cases included dividers to allow for two sets of narrower drawers. I chose not to
dado the dividers to the case sides and top, reasoning that the through Dominos, together with
1/2" back panels, would provide more than adequate strength and rigidity. I cut the backs to
size and glued and pinned them into the rabbets in the back of the case. I mounted heavy-duty
3" locking casters on the bottom of each case using 5/16" through bolts and T-nuts.

The top of each cabinet includes finger-slots to allow the cabinet to be maneuvered in and out
of their home under the bench. These were cut using a spade bit and jigsaw, and finished
using a 1/8 " round-over bit in a router.

Add Case Joinery – After cutting the case parts to size, Braul used his router table to
machine rabbets for joinery. A table saw could also have been used.

Additional Strength – Domino tenons were added into the case corner joints to add
additional strength (left). Once the glue was dry, the tenons were cut flush with the
outer surface and sanded smooth (right).
The drawer sides were made from 1/2" Baltic birch plywood, with 1/4" BB ply bottoms,
rabbeted into the sides and glued. I debated whether this would provide sufficient strength,
but it is clear that even for my heaviest tools, these drawers provide adequate strength. For
the drawer glides, I chose to use standard Blum glides for the lighter items, and heavy-duty
full extension roller glides for the drawers that would hold heavier power tools. This choice
was simply a matter of cost. The drawers’ corners were constructed by gluing and pin-nailing
the boxes together, then adding through Dominos.

It was important to ensure the boxes were square and correctly dimensioned, since the drawer
guides allowed only 1/32" tolerance.

I happened to have some thin spalted cherry that had been sitting in my stash for many years.
Because it was less than 3/4" thick in the rough state, I had never found a project where it
could be used effectively. So I decided to take the plunge and give it a place of honour in my
shop, in the form of false drawer fronts. The false fronts were mounted to the drawer boxes
using self-tapping screws from the inside. The drawer fronts were separated from each other
and from the case sides by 1/8 ". To mount the drawer fronts accurately, I used 1/8 " spacers,
clamped the false front to the drawer box and worked from the bottom drawer up to fix them
all in place.
Dominos Everywhere – In addition to adding strength to the rolling cases, Braul added them
to the drawer joints.
Work Upwards – Once the cases, drawer boxes, and false fronts were complete, Braul
worked from the bottom, upwards, clamping, and screwing on the false fronts. He used 1/8"
spacers below each false front to maintain a gap on the front below.

A home for each tool

Once the drawers were assembled and installed, the next task was to organize the space so
that tools would be held securely. See the sidebar to learn how I did this.

The Finish
I applied three coats of wipe-on poly to the drawers. For the bench and cabinet boxes, I used
four coats of a tough polyurethane floor varnish. I wanted these surfaces to withstand
considerable wear, as I could see some tough days ahead for these pieces.

How are they used?

I have found that this project has transformed my shop in many ways. The biggest
improvement is knowing exactly where all my tools are. Also, when I’m doing hand work I
can have the tools close at hand, and I can conveniently return each tool to its home between
uses. Another benefit is the cabinets can be used as table saw infeed or outfeed tables. A final
advantage to having the cabinets around is that they work wonderfully as assembly surfaces.
At Arm’s Reach – Not only does Braul know exactly where his tools are, but he can roll them
to where he’s working, saving time and energy.

Assembly Tables – While you’re working on future projects, you will find many uses for these
rolling cabinets. Using the pair as assembly tables will come in handy from time to time.

Was it worth it?

For me, the answer is a resounding yes, but it comes down to individual comfort level. Some
woodworkers have taken their shop furniture and storage to an art form, while others barely
give it a thought. I fall somewhere in the middle. This project was a significant investment of
my time, and the materials weren’t free. But the result is an attractive, organized space that
makes me feel at peace when I enter my shop.

Dealing with Drawers

For the drawers for my tool collection, I
used a variety of options. For some drawers
– mainly the smaller ones – I made a
simple grid of 1/4" BB ply held together with
pin nails and secured to the drawer sides
using double-sided tape. This gave me lots
of flexibility down the road, when my tool
collection morphed, and I needed to make
adjustments. I was also sure to create
specific homes for sharp tools that could be
easily damaged. I didn’t want them moving
around at all.
When dealing with many of my large drawers I opted for 1/2" thick Baltic birch plywood. I
cut the pieces to size and either glued them in place or, again, used pins and double-
sided tape. It all depended on how sure I was that I would have a specific tool around for
decades. For some other drawers, I simply cut strips of wood to size then hot-glued them
onto the drawer bottoms to hold the tools in place. I consider these partitions
dispensable, since changes will be inevitable as new tools are acquired and/or more
optimal arrangements are realized.
Shop Project: This blade holder will not
only protect your sharp saw blades, and
keep them well within arm’s reach, but it
also won’t interfere with the regular use of
your saw.

Saw Blade Holder

Photo by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill


My table-saw is essentially right in the center of my shop, far away from those things us
woodworkers like to store stuff on: walls. I built this blade holder so all my blades, shims,
wrenches, and miscellaneous table-saw items were always nearby. I can rip a full 48" wide on
my saw and I didn’t want this holder to interfere with that in any way, so I positioned this
holder so there was a 4" clearance between my table-saw’s surface and the underside of this
holder. I have about 10 blades and one dado set, but feel free to customize this holder to suit
your storage needs.

Start at the outside

Though I used a mix of particleboard and plywood for my blade holder, I would recommend
using plywood. Start by ripping a 96" length of plywood to 11" wide. You can get all but the
thin plywood shelves, back, small blade supports, and optional blade stops out of this blank.

Crosscut the top, bottom, sides and divider to length. Though I didn’t do this next step, I
would recommend running a 1/8 " deep rabbet in the top and bottom that would accept the
sides, as well as a dado across these two parts to accept the divider. These will assist you
during assembly, but don’t add much strength to the unit. Once the rabbets and dados are
complete, bore a few screw clearance holes through them to make assembly a breeze.

Work your way inside

Machine narrow grooves across the left side and the divider that will accept the 1/4" plywood
shelves. The shelves are about 1-1/2" apart, but as long as mating grooves are equally spaced
the exact distance isn’t crucial. Next, run 1/4" deep dados that will accept the saw blades in
the bottom panel. Each dado should be about 3/16" wide so blades can be inserted into the
holder easily. Blade dados closer than 1" on center may cause you to cut your fingers each
time you reach in for a sharp new blade.

Lay the top over the bottom and mark exactly where the blade dados are located. After
machining the small blade supports to size, you can glue them to the underside of the top with
these lines in mind, creating gaps where the blades will be located. Be sure to leave 1/4"
between each support. I used two large blade supports to help house the outer blades of my 8"
diameter dado set. These large supports were cut to size then glued and screwed in place.

A quick dry fit, then it’s time to add the glue to the 3/4" dados and rabbets. Starting with just
the three parts that will be attached to the bottom panel, I apply an even coat to the end grain
of the plywood, let it dry for a few minutes, then reapply a healthy coating and bring the parts
together. A few screws (a pin nailer would also work well) in each joint and it’s time to do
the same for the joints that mate with the top panel. Clamps and cauls will hold the parts
together until the glue is dry. Cut the back to size, then install it with glue and screws. Be sure
to clamp the back to the rest of the holder, as you want the joint to be as strong as possible.

Cut enough 1/4" plywood shelves to fit in the grooves. I store my chippers, and a few other
smaller items, on these shelves. My shelves are friction fit, so if something happens to get
pushed towards the back of the shelf cavity I can slide the shelf out, like a drawer, and access

Mounting the holder

I felt I should beef up the structural integrity of my saws particle core surface in order to
make sure it could support the weight of the holder and its contents. This just meant adding
some solid under the end of the surface, and ensuring it was strong and stable. I then glued
and screwed the support panel to the holder, overlapping them by about 3-1/2". Fixing the
holder and support panel to the saw by myself was a bit tricky. I attached two small L-
brackets to the front of the support surface, about 3-1/2" up from the support surface’s bottom
edge. The L-brackets helped position the unit at the right height, so all I had to do was stop it
from toppling over as I screwed the holder to my saw’s surface.

At this point I added screws, brackets and hooks to the sides and back of the holder in order
to store even more stuff I regularly need when using my table-saw – the table-saw is a shop
workhorse, after all. Although I’ve never had blades roll forward, if your holder ends up
angled forward slightly you may want to consider adding small blade stops in the blade
grooves to stop this from happening.
Shop Project: Get Organized!

Dado Storage Box

When I purchased my dado-blade set it came in a flimsy clear plastic package that did
nothing to protect the components from damage in the workshop. The first order of business
was to build a sturdy storage box to keep the blades, chippers and shims organized and safe
from harm. It’s a better solution than the traditional nail in the wall and it will provide the
perfect opportunity to put the dado-blade to work.

My design features slots to hold the chippers and an area to stack the circular blades. The
blades are separated by wood spacers to prevent contact that can result in damage to the teeth.
The lid that slides into place to protect the contents of the box also provides a convenient
place to record sample dadoes. Each time I use a new arrangement of chippers and shims I
make a sample cut on the lid and mark down the blade combination in the groove. To identify
the components for this purpose I have pre-numbered my chippers and shims with a
permanent marker. Now when a project calls for a dado I find a sample that fits, then set up
the blade according to the predetermined recipe. This system is a real time saver because it
avoids much of the usual trial and error setup process.

I built my box to fit a standard 8” dado blade with 5 chippers. If your set is configured
differently adjust the plans accordingly.

I used Baltic birch plywood covered with plastic laminate for most of this project.

The laminate looks great and provides good protection against the rigors of life in the shop.
Baltic birch plywood is a little more expensive and harder to find than standard grades, but
there are fewer voids between the layers, which makes it an excellent choice for this
application. I trimmed the top and bottom edges of the box with solid oak to resist wear and
provide an attractive contrast to the laminate.

Start With the Box

Begin by cutting out plywood panels for the sides, lid, and bottom, then mill ⅜” deep x ¾”
wide rabbets on the ends of the long sides to make the connection at the corners. Rabbets are
stronger than basic butt joints because they increase the bonding surface for glue and provide
structural support. I formed the rabbets with my dado blade and a block of wood clamped to
the fence to serve as a positive stop (photo A).

With this done you can proceed to assemble the sides with glue applied to the joints (photo

Verify that the box is square before you set it aside to dry.
Plastic laminate is bonded to the outside of the box and the top surface of the lid.

Usually when I work with laminate I glue oversized pieces to a wood substrate, then trim the
edges flush with a router and a bearing guided straight bit. However, the pieces for this
project are relatively small which makes working with the laminate more manageable. This
allows me to cut the pieces to the exact size required saving me the job of trimming the edges
flush. To cut the laminate I used my tablesaw with a long board clamped to the fence to
prevent the thin material from slipping underneath (photo C - left). The laminate is bonded to
the plywood using contact cement (photo D - right).

I prefer the water-soluble variety because it’s easy to brush on and cleans up with soap and

Next, rip enough solid oak strips to complete the trim on the top and bottom of the box. I
milled a ¼” wide x ½” deep rabbet along the edge of the lower trim strips to receive the
plywood bottom and a ¼” wide x ¼” deep rabbet on the top strips for the lid. I completed the
rabbets using the dado blade and a sacrificial board clamped to the fence. The board allows
the blade to come in contact with the temporary fence without damaging the teeth. A feather
board is important to safely keep the thin material firmly against the fence while you work.

Mark the strips, then cut them to length with 45-degree mitres on the ends. The long strips on
top that guide the lid are left square on the open end and are a ½” shorter than the total length
of the box. With the bottom panel in place, install the edging with glue and clamps (photo E).
No nails are used here because they will interfere when you round over the outside edges
with a ¾” radius bearing guided router bit after the glue dries (photo F).

Now you can mill ¼” wide x ½” deep rabbets on three sides of the lid to form tongues that
will fit the slots on top of the box (photo G).

Adjust the fit until the lid slides freely in the grooves. A little candle wax rubbed on the
tongues will help prevent binding. At this point one end of the lid remains flat to receive an
oak handle. To make the handle cut out a blank from solid material, then flex a straight edge
to layout the curved profile (photo H).
A scale pattern is provided in the plans. Cut the arc using the bandsaw, then sand the edge
smooth. Before installing the handle, plunge slots for a single biscuit in the centre for added
strength (photo I).

After the glue dries round over the top edge with the same ¾” radius bit used earlier.

Now we turn our attention to fixtures inside the box that will secure the blade components.

Start with the holder for the chippers and shims by laminating two layers of ¾” plywood
together to form a block. Apply a piece of plastic laminate to the top face using contact
cement as before, then cut a series of evenly spaced 1”-deep slots (photo J).

You also need create an opening on one edge to form a pocket for the blade shims. I did this
by nibbling the material away with repeated passes over the saw blade (photo K).

Now you can glue to the block in place on the bottom panel. The plans show how the circular
blades are stacked on a post with spacers in between to provide the separation necessary to
protect the teeth. A 2 ½” long x ¼” diameter bolt serves as the post and a knob is threaded
onto the end to secure the arrangement in place. The head of the bold is recessed into the
spacer that is attached permanently to the bottom of the box. Begin by cutting out 4” square
blanks for the spacers from ½” plywood.

Plastic laminate is applied to both sides of the two removable spacer blanks and the top face
of the spacer that will be affixed to the bottom panel.
Use a compass layout a 4”-diameter circle on each blank, then cutout the spacers freehand
with the bandsaw or a scroll saw. Sand to remove the saw marks from the edges before
drilling holes to receive the bolts. Start with a ½”-diameter Forstner bit to create the ¼” deep
recess in the bottom spacer for the bolt head, then switch to a ¼”-diameter bit to make the
holes for the shaft (photo L).

Install the bolt in the bottom spacer and fill the recess with two-part epoxy to prevent the
shaft from turning when pressure is applied. Use carpenter’s glue and a clamp to secure the
spacer to the bottom panel.

Home Sweet Home

When the glue dries your storage box is ready for use. Line up the chippers in the slots, store
the shims in the side pocket and stack the blades with the spacers in position. Now, each time
you use your dado-blade you will be comforted by the fact that your investment is well
Shop Project

Shaker Workbench

Illustration by Mike Del Rizzo

A fundamental tool in many woodshops is the workbench. If you look at photographs of
shops in days gone by you will often see a craftsman working on a project using the bench as
a shop tool.

With such a wide variety of designs available, you really need to consider the work you do
and the requirements you have for your shop, to be able to select the best options for yourself.

I had been woodworking for 5 years before I took on the task of making my first workbench.
Until then, I had been working on a variety of non-efficient shop surfaces, often with a great
deal of frustration.

Designing the Workbench

I began my search by making a list of the key characteristics that I wanted in a bench. My list
continued to grow as I investigated books, shops, and the internet, looking for the right
design. The main features I wanted were a large work surface, versatile vise options, ample
drawer storage, and also a clean classic design. I finally settled on a design that is
traditionally referred to as a Shaker Workbench.

There are many variations of the Shaker design. While I used a variety of sources for
measurements and details, my primary source for construction details was Scott Landis'
"Workbench Book" (Taunton Press).

The bench I designed has a 30" x 82 ½" top with the case 57 ¾" long and 25" deep. The
overall bench height is 35 ½" (I stand 6' 2" tall).

The bench materials are a combination of hard maple with cherry plywood panels. The top is
an assembly of four 1 ¾" hard maple lamination bench tops that I salvaged from work. The
case construction is maple with cherry ply panels. The drawers are all hard maple with curly
maple drawer fronts and plywood drawer bottoms.

The vise construction focuses on authenticity and function. I chose a design that was
consistent with a traditional Shaker bench, incorporating both a tail and a leg vise. I was
inspired by the functionality of these vises and I sought out a screw that would be in keeping
with the authentic look that I wanted. The bench screws are solid 2" hard maple, made at
Crystal Creek Mills (contact Howard Card for details: ).

The Bench Top

I began the bench by making the top. Since my salvaged wood for the top was already
laminated I saved a lot of time milling and gluing. I was also able to use various parts of the
laminated top for other parts of the bench.

The bench top has a heavy front rail, consisting of three ripped strips from the recycled top.
There is a row of square bench dog holes set into the rail. The bench dog holes are 6" on
center set 1 ½" from the front of the rail. The bench dog holes were pitched 3º from vertical,
facing the tail vise. I used a router and a spacing template to create the bench dog holes
before gluing up the three- piece front rail to its final dimension of 4" x 5" x 57 ¾ I used
quartersawn white oak to make the bench dogs.

The top needed to be configured to accept a tail vise, which has a body length of 21 ½",
width of 5", and height of 4". I cut the front rail 57 ¾" long and then glued it to the face of the
bench top. At the other end of the bench the front sits on the leg portion of the leg vise, giving
a massive solid top.

The front edge of the bench top is a double lamination (3 ½" thick) 12 inches deep running
the entire length of the face rail, supporting the prime planing working area. This mass and
strength gives the top the structure to resist deflection under planing and also supports any
work that requires a solid striking surface. The rear of the top is built up with a few
laminations of maple to accommodate the bench top’s 3 ½" thickness.

On either end of the top are end caps, attached with breadboard joinery and lag bolts. The end
cap at the leg vise portion of the bench is 3" x 3" x 30". The end cap at the tail vise end is
roughly 5" x 3" x 34”, It acts as the captive member to which the tail vise is attached. The
captive nut for the wood screw of the tail vise is located and secured into the end cap.

Tail Vise Construction

The tail vise is incorporated into the bench top. Its construction is essentially a two-sided box
that is the body of the vise, with a wood screw and a vise bar that attaches the face of the vise
to the tail of the vise. This provides strength and parallism in the vise as it travels through its
full range of motion. The wood screw for the tail vise, leg vise and leg vise adjuster are all
lubricated with an application of bees wax. The vise face is a solid piece of maple, 4" x 5" x
4". It is attached to the back of the tail vise by a dovetailed board that is fixed to the side of
the vise face and the rear of the tail vise. These dovetails were hand cut and are incredibly
strong. The vise face also has a single bench dog hole, cut and chiseled by hand to match the
ones in the face rail, pitched 3º from vertical back towards the row in the face rail. The top of
the vise body is a ⅜" x 5" x 17" cherry panel that is recessed into the vise face and into the
tail portion of the vise body. The panel is attached with 6 brass screws, to enable access to the
wood screw if maintenance is required.

Under the bench top I also created a channel for the tail vise guide bar. The channel runs the
length of the bench face, about ¾" deep and 2" wide. The guide bar is 1 ⅞" x 24", attached
through the end cap to the back portion of the tail vise and the front edge of the face of the
tail vise. The wood screw is captured by a yoke. It is mortised into the end cap and captured
by a turned recess milled into the head of the wood screw.

To protect wood held by the tail vise I glued a piece of leather on the face of the vise.
Tail vise detail

Tail vise complete

Leg Vise Construction

The leg vise is characterized by its size and vertical orientation on the face of the front left
bench leg. The vise utilizes two screws, a 2" bench screw and a parallel base screw to help
keep the face of the vise parallel to the clamping face of the bench leg.

The leg vise body is 4 ¾" wide x 29" tall, milled from 3" hard maple. I shaped it with a
variety of hand and power tools to match the classic look of a Shaker bench. I cut a mortise
into the side of the leg vise for the yoke that captures the leg vise wood screw.

I then took some of the 1 ¾" maple I salvaged from the extra bench top laminations and built
up the front left leg with a 4 ¾" x 5" mass of maple. This acts as the face of the leg vise and
also captures the captive nut for the wood screw, supporting the width and mass of the top
front rail. I drilled two holes through the leg, one for the top screw and one for the lower
parallel adjuster.

Case Construction
The case is essentially a chest of 8 drawers with a heavy front left leg to support the function
of a leg vise. The main dimensions of the base case are 57 ¾" wide, 25" deep, and 31 ½"
high. The maple legs are 3" x 3" x 31 ½" mortised to accept maple rails. The 1 ¾ "x 3" rails
are salvaged wood from the re-cycled maple tops. The rails and the legs were milled to accept
¾" cherry plywood for the side and rear panels.

The rail tenons are ¾" x 1 ¾" x 2 ½" deep for the top rails and ¾" x 3" x 2 ½" deep for the
lower rails. They are all glued and pinned with ¾" cherry dowels.

The open face of the bench case is 50" wide x 27" high. Inside this space I incorporated a
frame-and-panel case assembly giving me space for 8 drawers. The drawer web frame also
incorporated ⅜” plywood dust panels. While helping to keep dust out of the drawers the dust
panels also add to the total mass of the bench. The drawers are 24" deep, made from hard
maple with matched curly maple faces. I used ½" stock for the sides and ⅞" for the drawer
faces. The drawer heights range from 4", 5", 6 ½", and 8". The drawers are all finished with
⅜" plywood case bottoms, featuring through and half blind, dovetail construction.

I hand turned the drawer pulls from the re-cycled maple, attaching them with wedged split
tenons. Making 16 pulls that are all the same is a real challenge, but the subtle variations add
subtle character to the workbench.

The bench top is indexed to the base case using location cleats. The cleats are attached to the
underside of the top to control the front to back and side to side register. The mass of the top
is all that is needed to hold it in position.

I finished the top with a 3 coats of a boiled linseed oil application. I left the finish to dry on
the top for two weeks, then I rubbed it out with 0000 steel wool and applied a wax finish. The
case was also given a boiled linseed oil finish, followed by two hand applied clear coats to
protect the base. The ease of repair of this style of finish on the top makes it a functional and
simple finish to maintain.

I am very pleased with my results. The efforts of my research and homework helped direct
me to select the bench I wanted and the features I needed. Attention to traditional to details
and construction methods also paid off by giving me a fundamentally sound bench with an
appealing classical Shaker design.
Woodworkers' Gallery: This workbench by
Edward G. Robinson, from Burlington,
Ontario, incorporates a unique bench top

Unique Workbench

Made by Edward G. Robinson

The top for this workbench evolved as a result of Edward’s research into the effects and
control of seasonal wood movement. He also wanted a bench that would serve as a carver’s
bench and a traditional joiner’s bench, with an ability to support a variety of clamping
options. Adequate drawer storage for a collection of chisels and hand tools was another
priority. The result was a two section bench with a center tool tray. Each section was made of
three 3" x 3" x 36" long hard maple rails, with 20 tie bars holding them together. The 40 tie
bar joints were tapered dovetails that were hammered tight and glued. Each end of the
sections also had three tapered dovetail joints that held the end caps in place. The remaining
square holes were filled with flush-fitting lipped hard plastic dogs. Four of these dogs had ¾"
round bench dog holes and could be moved to where ever they were needed, since they are all
identical. The outside birdseye maple skirts were joined with hounds tooth dovetails and
provided continuity with the end caps as well as room for bench dog holes and solid
mounting for a variety of vises.
With this design, Edward believes he has the wood movement demon firmly under control, as
after one year of seasonal humidity changes everything remains stable and solid. This may be
the only bench in the world like this for many years to come.
Shop Tools: We have seen a lot of
woodworking shops, and we have found
that each shop is as unique as the person
who works in them.

Workbench Accessories

Whether the person builds large scale furniture, or small intricate jewellery boxes, they have
at least two things in common: a love for making handcrafted items out of wood, and the fact
that at least some of the work will be done at a workbench.

Whether it is a classic hardwood workbench fitted out in the traditional way, or a simple
plywood top on a couple of sawhorses, there are workbench accessories available that will
make the time you spend at the workbench safer, more accurate and more enjoyable. It would
be impossible to cover the entire list of accessories, so we will try to cover some general
categories that would apply to most woodworkers.

Most workshops are set up in whatever space is available, which usually means a corner of
the basement, a shed, or a garage. If you are one of the lucky ones, you may have a separate
stand-alone shop dedicated to your woodworking, but most of us will have to make the best
of the space we have.
When working at a bench you will need lighting that is appropriate to the tasks you will be
performing. There are two types of lighting to consider: area lighting, and task specific
lighting. To light up general areas there are several options. Fluorescent fixtures are very
popular because they are inexpensive, provide a decent, shadow free light, and are easily
installed. Depending on the height of the ceiling in your shop, you have the option of
permanently mounting them to the ceiling, or hanging them from chains above your bench,
which enables you to move them out of the way if you are handling large pieces.

General area lighting is fine for most tasks, but there will be times when you will find
yourself requiring task specific light. Adjustable task lighting is one of the best additions you
can make to your bench. An articulating desk lamp is perfect for all of those detail operations
where a little extra light is required. Such lighting can be found new for around $10. Most of
them come with a plastic adaptor that you clamp to the edge of a desk to hold the lamp.
Discard this piece and build a compact heavy base that will support the fixture, and allow you
to move it to where it is needed. Another option is to replace the plastic holder with a shop
made version that fits into your bench dog holes.

Before you can start working on a piece of wood you'll need some way of holding it fast to
the bench. There are a countless numbers of work holding devices, from face and tail vises
made in the traditional manner to new innovative hold-downs made of modern materials. The
ever-popular bench vise is available in a variety of styles, sizes and materials. There is likely
one to fit almost every budget and need, from the clamp-on vise to the permanently mounted

A vise will hold small to medium-sized parts that fit in its jaws, but to hold large panels
horizontally for sanding or carving you will need dog holes. Dog holes are rows of holes
placed in the right location on the bench top. These holes, used in conjunction with wooden
bench dogs and a vise (with a pop-up dog) is the easiest way to secure large parts to your
work bench while still allowing the entire surface of the material to be unobstructed. Bench
dogs are available from several manufacturers for either round or square holes, but can just as
easily be made in the shop from scraps. The fixed bench dog becomes one end of a long
clamp, the movable dog on the jaw of the vise the other end.

Thousands of years ago when a hunter needed to sharpen a spear, he found some suitable
rocks and wedged the stick into a cleft in the rocks to hold it while he put a point on the
business end. The bench hooks and bird’s mouth style methods of holding work are a direct
evolution of this. Bench hooks are quick and easy to make and provides a solid support for
sawing, sanding and other shaping operations. If you are working with longer parts, two or
more identical hooks will easily support long stock.

There are many commercially available hold down solutions out there, with one for almost
every application. Have a close look at the methods they employ to hold the work, and you
will realize that most of these have several variations that can be shop made, using readily
available parts to suit your individual needs and budget.

Measuring and marking are another set of tasks common to bench work. It stands to reason
that your joinery will only be as accurate as your measuring and layout tools allow. A
carpenter's pencil and a rusty tape measure are fine for framing work, but would leave
something to be desired at the bench. A basic kit containing a few items is an important part
of your bench. To be accurate with a pencil you'll need to keep it sharp, so invest in a proper
sharpener of some sort – knives are great tools, but lousy pencil sharpeners for layout work.
Keep a few different grades of pencils handy to use on various types of woods. A good basic
pencil is the standard HB that uses a lead that is of average hardness. Pencils harder than this
(i.e. H, 2H) are too hard and will easily damage the surface. I keep a softer 2B pencil at the
bench as well, because the lead is much softer and leaves a dark line behind without scoring
the wood.

For measuring parts smaller than three feet, a quality stainless steel ruler is indispensable.
They are far more accurate in use than a tape measure and can be used to draw straight edges
as well as shallow arcs. A set of four in various sizes is a great addition to your bench. For
larger parts, select a good quality tape measure and use it only for your shop projects. Buy a
cheap one for other construction use, or if you are like me, buy a dozen of them, misplace
eleven, and hope that you can find the twelfth one when you need it!

For the ultimate in marking accuracy at the bench, choose a marking knife. Several
manufacturers make specialty knives for this, and my favourite is the Veritas Striking Knife.
Using a knife, you can be far more accurate laying out joinery and cuts that you can ever be
with a pencil. The lines left behind by a marking knife can be tricky to see (especially as we
get older) so use the 2B pencil to highlight the score line. You'll end up with two pencil lines,
with the score line clearly highlighted between them.

Most of the cutting and trimming done at the bench isn't of the heavy-duty variety, usually
being limited to joinery and fitting operations, so a few basic cutting tools should be part of
your workbench essentials. The type of work you do will influence the cutting tools you'll
find most useful at the bench, but a good rip saw and a good crosscut saw are useful. Look
for a well-made saw that is comfortable in your hand over time.

When cutting joinery at the bench, a good set of chisels is indispensable. They are equally
useful whether you use power or hand tools. You don't need an expensive set of chisels for
your bench – my favourite set for everyday use is an inexpensive set of three. After spending
a little time dressing and honing them, they function every bit as well as chisels costing much

A utility knife is another indispensable addition to your bench. There are many choices in
utility knives, but not all are created equal. The newly redesigned Irwin Pro Touch Blue
Blade utility knife is the safest and most comfortable one I have found. Look for one with a
retractable and unbreakable blade.

Keep a sharpening stone and a leather strop charged with honing compound handy so that
you can quickly (and regularly) dress your edge tools. This reduces the frequency of major
sharpening and means you’ll always have a sharp tool at hand.

There are times when you are working at the bench when the only thing that will fix a
problem is a good whack with a 'persuader'. Keep a few striking tools such as hammers and
mallets handy at the bench. A basic hammer for driving nails can be found in almost every
toolbox, but bench work often requires a few other variations of this common tool.

A dead blow hammer is useful when assembling or disassembling pieces. The head on such a
hammer is hollow and filled with lead shot in oil. This material in the head keeps the hammer
from bouncing back after it strikes the surface. With a rubber or plastic covered head, they
allow you to deliver a solid blow without risking damage to the piece.

Wooden mallets have been used in furniture construction for a long time. These are easily
made in the workshop and can be as basic or as fancy as you want to make them. Making a
few in different sizes means you will always have one suitable for the job at hand.
How about a block of wood as a workbench accessory? Sure, why not – it can be
indispensable. Keep a few handy when using clamps or striking implements to protect the
surface of your parts by spreading the force of the impact over a larger area.

For those of you without ready access to running water and cleanup facilities in your shop,
the next time you empty the dust collection for your electric sander, save the very fine wood
dust or wood flour. Keep it in a sealed container and reach for it if you should spill something
on your bench. Sprinkle some of the flour on your spill and it will instantly soak it up; it
works equally well on finishes and coffee. Where this really shines though is if you are
applying a finish to your project. If your fingers are covered with finish, use the flour
(sawdust works equally well) to give yourself a quick dry scrub. Just as on the bench, the
wood flour will absorb all of the wet finish from your hands.

It's a fact of life that every horizontal surface in the shop will fill up with tools. Make it easier
to maintain working space on your bench by providing some sort of tool storage space that is
convenient and practical enough that it will actually be used. In most cases this takes the form
of a recessed tray somewhere on the top, either in the middle or along one side. Keeping your
tools in these troughs gives you more working room on the bench and keeps your tools safe
from damage that might be caused if they roll off the bench.

No matter where your shop is located, your bench must be comfortable to work at. The two
most important factors affecting this is the height of the top, and the floor you are standing
on. If you are making your own bench, build it to suit your own work habits and height. Don't
worry about what is a standard height or dimension; build it to suit your specific
requirements. I've seen the massive shaker benches, as well as diminutive benches the size of
footstools, and the one thing they all have in common is that they suit the work habits of the
person using them.

Standing at a bench for hours can be very hard on your feet and spine if you don't have the
right floor. A concrete floor is what is most commonly found in workshops and these are as
hard on you as they are on any tool that rolls off the bench and falls on it. A wooden floor,
even one put together inexpensively using plywood and 1x4 sleepers, is a massive
improvement for you and your tools. Another option is commercially available anti-fatigue
mats although these can be expensive.

Most bench work, by its very nature, involves primarily hand tools, but making provisions for
electrical power and air at your bench is a wise idea. A power bar fastened to the underside of
the bench will provide enough power for your portable power tools, without having extension
cords all over the place. The same is true for air. Compressed air at the workbench can be
very useful when assembling projects with a brad nailer or one of the newer 23-gauge
pinners. When sanding, carving or chopping out mortises, having a blowgun at the bench can
quickly remove loose debris from your workspace. Always use proper safety equipment
when working with air.

Everybody will have a different list of workbench accessories based on personal work habits
and interests. Such accessories can be either commercially produced or made in the shop as
needed, but they all have one thing in common - they all make the time you spend at your
bench more productive and enjoyable. - CWM
Know Your Tools: If you have trees on your
property a chainsaw can be very handy to
have around. Felling trees, trimming
branches and cutting up fallen trees are all
tasks you may be able to do yourself.


Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill

Chainsaws use a chain with sharp steel cutters fastened to it, circling a steel bar to cut wood.
Chainsaws have a reputation for being very quick cutting but usually not very neat. Traditionally
chainsaws are powered exclusively by two-stroke gas engines, but these days they're also available
as battery-powered tools. Chainsaws come in different motor power ratings and different bar
lengths. The bar length determines the maximum thickness of wood that can be cut through in one
go. Chainsaws can be handy for trimming trees, cutting firewood, and even demolition work or
cutting a large beam to rough length in the shop. Chainsaws can also be used for carving, but if you
want to give carving a try, it’s a good idea to look for a saw with variable speed.

Get the Most Out of Your Chainsaw

Firm Footing
The great outdoors is not as smooth as your shop floor. Be sure to keep both feet on good secure
ground, and avoid leaning or reaching awkwardly when using a chainsaw. Avoid the temptation to
use a chainsaw on a ladder.

Two Hands
Chainsaws can kick back if the bar gets pinched suddenly, and using two hands will help you keep
the saw under control. Chainsaws are also designed exclusively for right-hand use; your right hand
should always be on the trigger, with the left on the handlebar.

Sharp Chain
Just like your other tools, a chainsaw needs to be kept sharp. If you find your saw is not cutting well,
it’s probably time to sharpen or replace the chain. Keep your chain tension snug (but not too tight)
to transmit maximum power from the motor to the chain, prolong chain life, and keep the chain
from jumping off the bar.

Safety apparel
Chainsaw chaps or pants, gloves, hearing and eye protection, as well as safety boots, are worth the
investment. There are lots of great products on the market to help increase your personal safety
when using a chainsaw.

Be Realistic
Don’t underestimate the weight of a tree. An 8' oak branch 8" around weights over 200lb. Have a
plan to control falling branches. Don’t overestimate your ability. If you are unfamiliar with felling
trees, get training or hire a pro and keep your chainsaw for pruning jobs.

Price: $200–2000 (Gas)

$250–600 (Cordless)
Weight: 7–20lbs
Cut Capacity: 8–60" (Gas)
10–15" (Cordless)
Know Your Tools: Get the most out of your


Illustration by Len Churchill; Photos by Rob Brown

Bandsaws are versatile shop machines that don’t take up much floor space, and are both easy
and reasonably safe to use. They lack the cross-cutting accuracy of a table saw, but are superb
for ripping rough and dimensional lumber to size, re-sawing lumber into shop-made veneer,
cutting curves, circles, and irregular shapes, and cutting a variety of joinery, including tenons,
lap joints, and tail boards for dovetails.

A 14" saw with a 1-1/2 to 2 HP motor is ideal for most small and hobbyist shops. A larger
throat capacity is preferable. However, if you won’t be milling your own veneer, a large re-
saw capacity may not be important. Look for a welded steel frame, dynamically balanced
castiron flywheels, cast iron trunnion, flat table, tall sturdy fence, rack-and-pinion guide post
with easy-to-adjust guide blocks and a 4" dust port.

Price: $375-$8,000
Ripping capacity: 10"-24"
Re-saw capacity: 6"-24"
Motor: 1 HP-7.5 HP
Guides: Blocks (steel/ceramic/ phenolic); Rollers/bearings (steel)
Frame: Cast iron; welded steel
Flywheel: Aluminum; cast iron
Blade capacity: 1/4"-1-3/8"
Get The Most Our of Your Bandsaw

Use the Right Blade

Select a blade width to match the stock you are cutting – around 1/4" for cutting tight curves
and thin stock; 1/2" for general sawing; and 3/4" for re-sawing. Don’t be a miser – replace
worn blades.

Keep the Guides Adjusted

Each time you change blades, check the alignment of your upper and lower guides and thrust
bearings. Position the guides just behind the gullets on the blade.

Keep on Track
To help reduce blade drift, track the blade in the center of the upper wheel. Replace damaged
tires, and ensure you clean them whenever you change blades.

Don’t Over-Tension
Blade tension scales on bandsaws sometimes don’t take into account blade size. Instead,
move the guidepost all the way up, then push sideways on the middle of the blade with your
finger – adjust the tension so that it deflects no more than 1/4".

Shine a Light on Your Work

Especially when freehand sawing or cutting close to a cutline, you need to see your work
clearly. Task lighting shines the light exactly where you need it.
Know Your Tools: Benchtop CNC Routers.
The key to successful CNCing is learning
how to use the software.

Get the Most Out of Your CNC

Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill

Learn the Software

The key to successful CNCing is learning how to use the software. Where feasible, take a
hands-on or online course. Reach out to the vast community of online makers.

Work Within the Limits

Ensure you understand the maximum and minimum routing speeds and feed rate of your
machine and work within those limits.
Know Your Speed
Learn how to calculate optimal speed and feed rates and set the right cutter depth to get the
best results. In general, higher speeds are for roughing, slower speeds for finish cuts, and
materials of different densities require different milling speeds.

Invest in Good-Quality Cutters

Purchase good-quality cutters from reliable sources. Begin with HSS while practicing, and
then move on to more expensive but durable Carbide.

Avoid the Chatter

On small CNC machines there is a greater tendency for cutters to chatter, which can cause
them to bend and eventually break. Use the appropriate size of cutter for the task at hand, and
adjust cutting depth to avoid excessive deflection.

You can think of a benchtop CNC machine as an inverted table router that is controlled by a
computer. Instead of the router motor being under the table, it’s on the top. The router motor
(in higher end CNC this is replaced by a spindle motor) moves in three directions, called the
X- (front to back) Y- (side to side) and Z-axis (up and down). These determine the maximum
milling limits of the machine. CNCs are often rated by the size of their milling area.

The router motor is suspended on a gantry above the work table. Stepper motors move the
router motor along the X-, Y- and Z-axis. A ball screw and nut assembly (sometimes a lead
screw or rack and pinion assembly) converts the rotational motion to linear movement. How
quickly an item gets milled depends on both the travel speed, the speed at which the motor
moves about the milling (or work) area before it begins cutting, and the cutting speed, which
depends on the router speed you select, size of cutter, depth of cut, and type of material being
milled. Designs are typically uploaded via a USB cable, and the CNC is controlled by means
of an onboard LCD panel or hand-held controller.

Price: Kit ($500 – $2,000); Assembled ($2,500 – $10,000)

Motor: Palm router or spindle motor
X- and Y-axis Milling Area: 7" x 9" to 33" x 33"
Z-axis: 2" to 7"
Motor Travel Speed: 3/4" to 3-1/2" per second
Know Your Tools: Get the Most Out of Your
Block Plane. These are the smallest of
regularly used hand planes.

Block Plane

Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill

They are especially useful for chamfering, smoothing end grain, fairing convex curves, cleaning up
dovetails, box joints and other exposed joinery, fitting doors and for all manner of precision planing.
Most have an all-metal body. Low angle block planes have the bed set at 12°; standard block planes
have it set at 20°. The plane iron is usually ground at 25°, which gives an effective cutting angle of 37°
for a low angle plane, and 45° for a standard plane. Some have an adjustable throat plate that allows
you to close up the mouth to help minimize tearout. On some planes there are two adjusters – one to
move the plane iron forward/ backward, another to move the iron from side-to-side. The ‘Norris style’
adjuster combines both adjustments. Since a block plane is a lifetime tool, don’t skimp on cost. If
buying a first block plane, consider a low angle model.

Price: $50 - $400

Body: Magnesium Bronze, Ductile Iron, Steel or Wood
Length: 3-1/2" – 6-5/8"
Bed Angle: 12° - 20°
Top Brands:,,,
Keep Blades Sharp
A sharp blade requires less effort to push the plane, and it makes a cleaner cut, especially when
working end grain and wild reversing grain.

Close the Mouth

For fine work, adjust the mouth (throat) so that it’s only about 1/64" wide (applicable for planes
with an adjustable throat plate).

Skew a Bit
Skewing the plane lowers the cutting angle and does a more effective job slicing wood fibers.

Don’t Over Tension

You only need to apply enough tension to the cap adjustment wheel to secure the blade in place.

A few strokes with a stick of beeswax or paraffin across the sole of the plane will help it glide more
easily across your work surface.
Know Your Tools: Get the most out of your
brad nailer

Brad Nailers

Illustration by Len Churchill

Brad nailers are among the most popular pneumatic tools in the workshop, and with good reason.
Use them in place of, or to supplement, screws when assembling cabinets, jigs, and fixtures, to install
all kinds of small to medium size trim and moulding, and to stabilize work pieces during clamping.
Because they require a low volume of air, typically around 2 CFM at 90 PSI, you can use them with
most air compressors. The features to look for will depend on how frequently you’ll use the gun, and
for what tasks. Furniture makers, for example, will likely be concerned with the size of the nose, sight
line, and a rear exhaust, while finish carpenters might place greater emphasis on tool weight and
ergonomics, dry-fire lockout, quick-release nose, and a belt hook.

Price: $35 to $275

Nail Length: 1/2" to 2"
Weight: 2 to 3-1/2 pounds
CFM Requirement: about 2 CFM @ 90 PSI
PSI Range: 70 to 120
Warranty: 1 to 5 years
Get the Most Out of Your Brad Nailer

Treat With Respect

While nailers are fairly safe tools to handle, nails sometimes fly in unexpected directions.
Wear eye protection, keep your hands away from the line of fire, and disconnect the air hose
before reloading.

Maintain Your Tool

Most nailers require oil. Keep your tool in tiptop shape by oiling it as per the manufacturer’s

Keep Pressure High

Set the air pressure to the upper limit of the pressure range, typically around 100
PSI. Brads will be less likely to split your material, blow out through a side, or not sink below
the surface.

Keep Fingers Away

Avoid inadvertently firing the nailer by keeping your trigger finger away from the trigger
until you’re ready to shoot, and don’t place your finger near the trigger when carrying the

Use Right Sized Nails

Don’t use the same size of nail for every task, as nails may blow out the side, or completely
through, your material. Choose a nail that is long enough to go through your material, and
penetrate about 1" into the substrate.
Know Your Tools: Chisels. A chisel is useless
unless it’s sharp.

Get the Most Out of Your Chisels

Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill

Invest in Sharpening Equipment

A chisel is useless unless it’s sharp. Deciding what type of sharpening system you want to purchase
is the first step to using chisels properly.

Don’t Pry
A chisel isn’t a hammer or pry bar, unless you have a dedicated chisel for that type of usage. Refrain
from using a chisel in an inappropriate way, and it will treat you well in return.

Store Them Properly

Chisels without a safe home will easily get damaged and may even cause you harm. Whether it’s in a
drawer, dedicated box or hanging on the wall, keep your chisels safe.
A Sharp Chisel is a Safe Chisel
Resharpen a chisel at the first sign of it getting dull. A dull chisel is erratic and will cause damage to
the user and workpiece. A few minutes is often enough to create a razor sharp edge.

Use a Guide
Purists would disagree, but a honing guide is a great tool to assist with creating super-sharp tools,
especially for the beginner to intermediate-level woodworker.

A very simple tool, the chisel’s job is to accurately remove small amounts of wood from a
workpiece. Sold in sets or individually, it’s great to have at least four different widths
available as you work. Having a few cheaper ‘utility’ chisels around comes in handy when
doing rougher tasks, but there’s no substitute for a proper, sharp chisel. There are many
different types on the market, but a bevel-edged chisel is all the beginner woodworker needs,
unless they’re focusing on hand tool-only woodworking. Less expensive chisels will work
well; they just don’t get as sharp, retain their edge as well or look at nice as more expensive
versions. Learning about the different bevel angles at which to sharpen chisels will allow you
to fine-tune your chisels, depending on the work you’re doing.

Price / Chisel: $15 - $150

Common Types: Bevel-Edged, Paring, Butt, Mortising, Japanese
Common Widths: 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 3/4", 1" and 1-1/2"
Common Metals: A2, O1, PMV-11
Know Your Tools: Get the most out of your
air compressor. Compact air compressors
can power a range of tools, including
pinners, nailers, staplers, drills, ratchets,
and sprayers.

Compact Air Compressors

By Carl Duguay
Illustration by Len Churchill

Their small, compact size means they don’t take up a lot of shop space, they can be stored
under a bench or even suspended from the ceiling, and they can be easily transported to a job
site, or used around the home.

One of the most important factors to keep in mind when choosing a compressor is that it must
have the capacity to deliver sufficient air for the tools you’ll use it with. It’s a good idea to
choose your air tools before you choose the compressor. The key specification you want to
look at is the CFM that the tool requires at a pressure of 90 PSI – the pressure requirement for
most air tools.

Price: $100–$500
Weight: 20–75 pounds
Capacity: 1–4 gallons
Power: 1/2–2 HP
Output: .75 CFM at 90 PSI to 4 CFM at 90 PSI
Warranty: 30 days to 1 year

Get the Most Out of Your Air Compressor

Read the Owner’s Manual

Know your compressor before you use it. Most require a break-in period, and all need
periodic maintenance.

Drain the Tank

Prevent the inside of your tank from rusting by opening the drain valve at the end of each
work day. Release the air pressure in the tank first.

Clean the Air Filter

Prevent excessive wear on the motor and compressor pump by cleaning or replacing the air
filter regularly. The more dust in your shop, the more frequently you should clean the filter.

Don’t Exceed the Duty Cycle

Most small compressors aren’t meant to be run all the time. Persistently exceeding the
compressors rated duty cycle will reduce the life of your compressor pump.

Adjust the Regulator

Not all air tools require the same amount of air pressure. Adjust the regulator to match the
pressure requirement of the tool you’re using – it will extend the life of your air tools.
Know Your Tools: Get the Most Out of Your
Cordless Drill/Driver. Compact drill/drivers
provide ample power for most day-to-day
drilling and screwing tasks.

Cordless Drill/Drivers

Compact drill/drivers provide ample power for most day-to-day drilling and screwing tasks, making
them ideal for DIYers, hobbyist woodworker, furniture makers, and trades people who primarily drill
smaller diameter holes (under 1"), sink shorter screws (under 2-1/2"), and tighten smaller nuts and
bolts. These drills typically use a 12V battery platform and feature 3/8" keyless or 1/4" hex chucks,
and dual speed ranges with a 1,500 RPM upper limit. Heavy-duty drill/drivers, which usually use
batteries that are at least 18V, are the better choice for renovation and construction work. They’re
more durable, provide greater power, speed, torque and run-time. Premium features include all-metal
gear trains, die-cast gear housing, electronic torque setting, and carbide chuck jaws.

Price: $50 - $500 (Tool + Battery)

$120 - $500 (Kit)
Weight: 1.6 – 4.6 pounds
Battery Platform: 12V, 18V
Chuck: Keyless; 1/4" Hex
Speed: 0 – 4,000 RPM
Torque: 100 – 900 in-lbs

We Recommend:
It’s usually more economical to buy a drill/ driver kit that consists of one or two batteries and charger.
Opt for a lithium-ion battery and brushless motor. If the vast majority of work you do is small-scale,
and you rarely need a lot of power, opt for a compact drill/ driver, as it will be easier to manipulate,
and less expensive.
Get the Most Out of Your Cordless Drill/Driver

Choose the Right Speed

Most drill/drivers have two speeds. Choose setting 1 (low speed/high torque) for driving
screws and setting nuts. Use setting 2 (high speed/ low torque) for drilling and

Adjust the Clutch

The clutch collar has settings from 1 to around 20. The higher the number, the higher the
torque. Adjust the clutch to prevent screws from being driven too deep. There is also a drill
setting, which disengages the clutch when boring holes.

Feather the Trigger

When setting screws, particularly in thin stock, or when you want to align the screw heads
uniformly, try feathering the trigger to rotate the bit in small increments.

Replace Dull Bits

You’ll reduce frustration, and drill cleaner holes faster with sharp drill bits. The same goes
for your countersinks, counterbores, and plug cutters.

Get a Second Battery

If your drill comes with a single battery, buy a second. You’ll always have a fresh power
supply ready to go.
Know Your Tools: Things to consider when
buying a cyclone collector

Cyclone Dust Collectors

Illustration by Len Churchill

Cyclone collectors are more efficient at handling wood chips and dust than single-stage collectors.
They work by drawing dust-laden air into the collector, where cyclonic action causes the heavy wood
chips to spiral down a funnel into a waste container, while the lighter dust particles are drawn
through an impeller into a filter canister. Clean air is vented out through the filter into the shop, and
the fine dust settles into a waste bin. If the cyclone collector is equipped with a HEPA filter, it will
remove dust particles down to 0.3 micron.

Price: $1,200 and up

Water lift: At least 8"
CFM: 700 to 1,200
Amperage: 11 to 20
Warranty: 1 to 5 years
Things to Consider When Buying a Cyclone Collector

Customize your system

Individual machine CFM requirements, shop layout, and knowing which machines will be on at the
same time will enable you to determine the optimal CFM and static pressure best suited for your

Strong motor
The most likely component to fail on a dust collector is the motor. All things being equal, choose the
collector with a longer motor warranty.

The finest dust

A 1-micron filter is typically standard – a HEPA filter provides much better protection for your lungs.

Cyclone capacity
A larger dust capacity means a longer time between emptying.

Enough power
Ensure you have the right circuit in your shop to handle the motor amperage, as some collectors
require a 20 amp circuit.
Know Your Tools: Get the most out of your
dado set.

Dado Sets

Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill

A dado set is not for cutting workpieces to size, but rather for machining joinery cuts like
dados, rabbets, grooves and tenons. It’s possible to create these joints with routers, hand
tools, etc., but using a dado set in a table saw is much quicker, more accurate and is much
better geared to repetitive cuts. They are generally used on a table saw, but will also fit on
most radial arm saws. A dado set can be adjusted with shims to almost any width imaginable
between 1/4" and about 13/16" in order to accept many types of man-made boards or solid
wood workpieces.

Before using a dado set, do your research. If they are used incorrectly the potential for
personal injury can be high, as a dado set removes more material than most other hand-fed

Price: $80–$350
Sizes: 8" is most common, 6" is less common
Anatomy: Two outer blades and four to six chippers
Widths: 1/4" to about 13/16"
Typical Arbor Diameter: 5/8"
Get the Most Out of Your Dado Set

Safety is Primary
Know how to install and use a dado set before turning your table saw on. Knowing a dado
set’s limitations is just as important as knowing its strengths, so make sure you do your

Maintain Your Blades

A clean set of blades – both teeth and main center plate – will last longer and give you better

Don’t Feed Too Fast

Because a dado set removes much more material than a standard rip or cross-cut saw blade,
there is a higher chance of kickback if the operator feeds the workpiece too quickly.

Keep Fingers Away

Even though you’re not cutting entirely through a workpiece you should never place your
hands directly over the blade. An overarm guard can help protect you, and push sticks are
often required.

Remove Manageable Amounts of Material

Rather than hogging off large amounts of material in a single pass, and risking kickback, take
multiple passes if the situation calls for it.
Know Your Tools: Get the most out of your
drill press.

Drill Press

Illustration by Len Churchill

Photos by Fisch & Lee Valley Tools

Bigger Tables are Better

A large table that moves up and down smoothly on a robust rack and pinion system and locks
easily and securely in place is great to have. If you don’t have a large table, a plywood one,
with all the bells and whistles, can be made in your shop.

Use the Right Bit

Sharp bits not only cut smoother holes, but also cut through stock quickly. For general
drilling, twist, brad- point, and spade bits work well. For holes with super-crisp rims that are
accurately sized, use Forstner bits.

Drill in Stages
Keep holes from plugging with wood chips by retracting the bit every 1/2" or
so of drilling
depth. Bits won't heat up as much, and will maintain a cutting edge longer. You'll find this
especially helpful if your drill press has a 1/2 HP or smaller motor.

Watch Your Speed

For best results, match drilling speed to the type of material and size of hole you are drilling.
In general, select a slower speed for larger bits. Consult the drill speed chart that comes with
your drill press.

Pimp Your Drill Press

There are lots of ways to enhance your productivity with a drill press, including a mobile
base, a keyless chuck to speed up bit installation, a mortising attachment to speed up mortise
production, and a sanding drum for smoothing curved stock.
To drill straight and true holes quickly, easily, and consistently, you’ll need
a drill press.
The model you choose should be based on the type of drilling you do. For small-scale work
(such as box making, crafts, and toys), or if you have limited shop space, a bench-top model
may be sufficient. For furniture and cabinetry work, a stationary model will likely be a better
choice. When buying a drill press, look for a large swing (twice the distance between the
column and spindle center) to more easily drill in the central portion of wide panels. A long
stroke (the distance the chuck travels vertically) will make it easier to drill through thick
stock. You'll find that a #2 Morse spindle taper, and a 3/8" to 1/2" chuck is common. If you
do a lot of drilling, you'll save time with a variable speed drill press rather than having to
manually switch belts.

Price: $80–$2,000

Swing: 8–24"
Stroke: 2–6"

Motor: 1/3–1-1/2 HP

Speed range: 120–3,900 RPM
Chuck size: 3/8–3/4"
Spindle taper: MT2–MT4
Know Your Tools: Hollow Chisel Mortiser.
Invest in premium bits; they’ll last longer
and cut cleaner mortises.

Get the Most Out of Your Hollow Chisel Mortiser

Photos by Carl Duguay; Illustration by Len Churchill

Buy Quality Bits

Invest in premium bits; they’ll last longer and cut cleaner mortises.

Align the Bit

Proper alignment of the chisel and bit is important to ensure that mortises are drilled properly.
The bit should be about 1/16" below the chisel tips.

Learn to Sharpen
The chisels tend to dull faster than the bit. Use a cone sharpener to keep the chisels razor

Add Some Depth

A mortising bit doesn’t cut a perfectly flatbottomed mortise. Be sure to cut mortises about
1/8" deeper than the tenon length.

Cut Alternate Holes

Cut the first hole in the center of the mortise, the next holes on the right and left ends, and
then work back towards the center.
A hollow chisel mortiser consists of a metal frame, a motor that rides up and down the frame
via an articulating handle, and a chuck to which a mortising bit is attached. If you work
primarily with mortises up to 5/8", a 1/2 HP motor will suffice – otherwise opt for a 1 HP
model. Features to look for include: a large work table (some have side extensions to better
support long stock); a solid fence that is square to the table and easy to re-position without
getting out of alignment; a quick-release tool-free hold-down to secure the stock; an accurate,
quick-to-adjust stop for setting precise mortise depths; an adjustable handle that moves the
column up and down smoothly; and a chuck that is easy to access when you need to change
the bit. Some high end models offer titling heads for cutting angled mortises.

Price: $500 – $800

Motor: 1/1 HP
Chisel Capacity: 1/4" – 1"
Plunge Depth: 3-1/2" – 9"
Fence to Center of Bit: 3" – 4"
Top Brands:,,,,,
Know Your Tools: A Japanese saw is a
finely crafted tool that creates a very thin
kerf and cuts on the pulls stroke.

Japanese Saws

Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill

The are two main differences between Japanese and western- style hand saws; Japanese saws are
much thinner and therefore leave a thinner kerf, and they cut on the pull stroke. Though there are
many specific types of Japanese saw, there are three types which are most commonly used in the
west. The dozuki is similar to a tenon saw. It’s single-sided and has a spine running down its back to
add rigidity. The ryoba saw is double-sided, with one side for ripping and the other for crosscutting.
A kugihiki saw has teeth with no set. It’s a single-sided saw without a spine, so it can be used for
flush cutting. The teeth of a Japanese saw are much smaller and more numerous than a westernstyle
saw. Some blades hinge out of the handle, while some other blades can be replaced.

Get the Most Out of Your Japanese Saw

Select the Right Saw
Always use a rip saw for rip cutting, a crosscut saw for crosscutting and the correct style of saw for
the work you’re doing. It’s astonishing how poor they can be when mismatched with the task at

Start Simple
An expensive Japanese saw isn’t always better than a cheaper version. Start with an inexpensive saw
then add to your collection as your need and experience change.

Gentle Cuts
The small teeth on Japanese saws (especially the crosscut versions, or when cutting in dense wood)
can be damaged easily. Don’t work too aggressively.

Replace When Possible

Some blades can be removed from the handle and replaced. When damaged, a Japanese hand saw is
only going to cause problems, so these saws are great to learn with.

Beware the Bench

When setting a saw down, ensure it’s not going to get damaged by hitting another tool, or allow you
to brush against it and injure yourself.

Price: $40 - $300

TPI: 27
Kerf: 0.015" – 0.030"
Common Types: Dozuki, Ryoba, Kugihiki, Kataba, Azebiki
Know Your Tools: Get the Most Out Of
Your Jointer. Jointers are available in
benchtop or stationary format.


Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill

Stationary models have an open stand or closed base. Jointers are further defined by their
cutterhead width, which determines how wide a surface they can cut. This ranges from 4" up
to about 16", with 6" and 8" being the most popular. The most common type of cutterhead
consists of three or four straight blades. Increasingly popular are spiral cutterheads that
consist of a series of small carbide inserts. DIYers, craft makers, box makers, or anyone who
works on small projects can get along nicely on a benchtop or small open stand jointer. If
making cabinetry or furniture, choose the largest jointer you can afford with a segmented
cutterhead. Choose wisely, as your jointer is likely to be a once-in-alifetime purchase.

Price: $400 - $10,000

Format: Benchtop, Stationary
Cutting Widths: 4" – 16"
Bed Length: 45" – 83" (30" for benchtop)
Cutter Style: 4 straight blades; up to 60 inserts (12 for benchtop)
Motor: 3/5 HP
Get the Most Out of Your Jointer

Cut the Bow

For stock that is severely bowed it’s quicker and more efficient to mark a straight line along
the bowed edge, cut to the line on a band saw, and then joint the edge.

Out With the Twist

Exercise caution when jointing severely twisted stock (diagonal corners bending in opposite
directions). You can reduce the twisting somewhat by hand planing or belt sanding the high
corners. If the stock is long you may be able to cut it into shorter sections before jointing.

It’s All Downhill from Here

To reduce tearout, orient your stock so the grain slopestowards the infeed table, the same
direction the cutterhead knives turn.

Don’t Weigh It Down

Apply light to moderate downward pressure while jointing, especially for bowed stock.
Otherwise you risk pressing the bow out of the board by hand, only to have it spring back
when hand pressure is released.

Don’t Be a Hog
While you can take heavy (1/8" or so) cuts to remove stock quickly, for a smoother surface
always use shallow 1/32" cuts to finish up.
Know Your Tools: Get the most out of your


Photos by Manufacturers; Illustration by Len Churchill

The swing is the largest diameter work piece a lathe can rotate. The distance between centers (DBC)
is the longest work piece that can be held between the head and the tail stocks. Benchtop lathes,
which can be mounted on a user-built or commerical stand, provide all the features and performance
that most hobbyist woodworkers, furniture makers, and DIYers will need. An optional bed extension to
increase the DBC can be added to many models. Larger stationary lathes provide more power, have
greater swing and DCB capacities, longer quill travel, less vibration, and offer more accessories.

Benchtop Lathes
Price: $250-$1,400
Swing: 10"-14" DBC: 14"-18"
Motor: 1/3 HP-1 HP
Speed Range: 250-4,000 RPM
Spindle Thread: 1", 8 TPI
Spindle Taper: MT2

Stationary Lathes
Price: $2000-$7,000
Swing: 12"-24" DBC: 16"-43"
Motor: 1 HP-3 HP
Speed Range: 50-4000 RPM
Spindle Thread: 1-1/4" x 8 TPI
Spindle Taper: MT2 - MT3
Get the Most Out of Your Lathe

Wear Eye Protection

Wood chips fly at considerable speed, and in the blink of an eye you can be left without one.
Invest in good quality safety glasses (or better yet a face shield). And avoid loose clothing
that could get tangled on your work.

Keep Tools Sharp

Purchase a bench-top grinder and sharpening jig to keep your turning tools in top condition,
and spend the time to learn how to sharpen properly. It’s not complicated. Alternately,
purchase tools that use replaceable disposable insert cutters.

Lighten Up
You can’t turn what you can’t see. Provide adequate overhead, or focused task lighting, on
your work.

Roll, Don’t Rock

When spindle turning, rather than standing still and moving your arms, keep your arms
pinned to your sides, and shift your body back and forth – you’ll find it easier to make long
flowing cuts.

Don’t Forget the Tools

Be cautious of buying large tool sets. You may end up with tools you’ll rarely, if ever use. An
alternative is to buy a tool
Know Your Tools: Get the Most Out Of
Your Random Orbital Sanders. These are
the most popular hand-powered sanders for
woodworkers and DIYers.

Random Orbital Sanders

Photos by Manufacturers; Illustration by Len Churchill

Their combined rotating and orbiting motion produces a more consistently randomized
scratch pattern than other sanders. For best results you should always finish by hand sanding
in the direction of the grain. Most random orbit sanders are corded. All come with either a 5"
or 6" backing pad (platen) that has 5 or 8 holes through which dust is extracted. Use sanding
discs that have a matching number of holes. The orbiting motion, referred to as the 'stroke,'
can be as small as 5/64" (best for fine-finish sanding) to as large as 3/8" (for very aggressive
sanding). A 3/16" stroke is fairly common. Options to look for include a detachable front
handle for sanding large panels, variable speed control (helpful when sanding veneer and
plywood), a lock-on switch, quick pad stopping when the trigger is released, and a dust port
that accepts a vacuum hose. If you do a lot of power sanding choose a model that offers
vibration-dampening control.

Price: $35 - $850

Pad Size: 5", 6"
Stroke: 5/64" – 3/8"
OPM: 3,000 – 14,000
Motor: 1.5A – 6A
Weight: 2.5 pounds
Get the Most Out of Your Random Orbital Sander

Don’t Strain
Let the sander do the work and don’t rush it. If you feel the need to apply downward pressure,
change to a coarser grit. Don’t let dust accumulate on your work – remove it periodically, and
always before you begin sanding with a new grit.

Keep it Flat
To avoid creating depressions in your work surface or rounding over edges, keep the sander
pad flat on the work surface and keep it moving at all times.

Start Off, Lift Off

To avoid swirl marks, start the sander when it’s off the work surface, and wait until it reaches
full speed before sanding. When you’re finished sanding, lift the sander off the work surface
and then turn it off.

You’ll get much better dust control by connecting your sander to a dust extractor. If your
sander doesn’t have this option, empty the dust bag or canister frequently – well before it fills

Cover Up
Sanders generate a lot of very fine dust, so ensure you wear suitable respiratory protection.
Wear gloves to absorb vibration if doing a lot of sanding.
Know Your Tools: Get the most out of your


Photo by Rob Brown

Illustration by Len Churchill

Set Your Speed

Adjust router speed for the type of material and the size of the router bit being used. Typically, the
larger the bit, the slower the speed. Consult a router speed chart if in doubt.

Learn to Climb Cut

Reduce tear-out by moving the router in the opposite direction of normal feed. On a router table only
climbcut when using a jig or power feeder.

Purchase Quality Bits As Needed

While bit sets may seem economical, many include bits you will seldom use. Buy bits when you need
them, and select premium quality bits – they cost more, but they give better results and last longer
than economy bits.

Turn it Upside-Down
A router table makes it easier and safer to use the router – particularly for small, narrow stock. You
can do more precise routing, with better dust management. Build your own or buy a fully decked-out
router table.

Invest in Jigs
Purchase or make jigs for freehand routing and for use on a router table. There are jigs for routing
circles and arcs, inlays, mortises, and dovetails, and for shaping complex convex and concave
With a stationary (aka fixed-base) router, the cutting depth remains constant while the router
is in use. With a plunge router you can move the motor and router bit assembly up and down
while the router is in use. A combination router consists of a motor and interchangeable
stationary and plunge bases. Either style of router can be had in one of three motor sizes: up
to 1 HP for compact (aka trim, laminate, or palm) routers; between 1 and 2-1/2 HP for mid-
sized routers; and 3 HP and larger for production routers. Features that you’ll want with any
router include soft start, electronic feedback circuitry, easy-to-use micro-adjust depth control,
spindle lock, and interchangeable sub-bases. For mid-sized and production routers look for
models that have both 1/4" and 1/2" collets.
Know Your Tools: Spokeshaves are as fun
to use as they are functional. Get the most
from your spokeshave so you can turn it
into one of your go-to hand tools.


Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill

Spokeshaves (aka 'shaves') come in a multitude of shapes and sizes and are used for rough shaping
and smoothing curved surfaces. They all have two in-line handles and a cutting blade that projects
from a short sole to regulate the depth of cut. The depth of cut is regulated by adjusting the height
of the blade in relation to the sole. The body can be made of metal, wood or a combination. The sole
can be flat, round, concave or convex and the blade can range from about 1" to 2-3/4" wide. A
standard shave has a blade installed bevel-down at a 30- to 45-degree angle. A low-angle shave has
the blade oriented bevel up, set at 20 degrees. Depth of cut is typically controlled by one or two
knobs. In use, the spokeshave can be pushed or pulled. Wood body kits are available from Lee Valley
and Hock Tools.

Get the Most out of Your Spokeshave

More than hand planes, learning how to efficiently use a shave takes practice. Your aim is to produce
long, continuous shavings, not wood chips.

Sharpen the Blade

As with any cutting tool, a dull blade won't produce a smooth cut. The blade needs to be razor sharp.

Use the Right Stroke

Treat the shave with respect. Hold it between the thumbs and fingers in a light grip. You can push or
pull the shave depending on the grain direction of your stock.

Skew it
Shaves are prone to chatter because of their short sole. Whenever possible, skew the tool to help
minimize chatter – reducing the blade’s effective cutting angle reduces resistance.

Chose the Right Shave

A flat shave is the choice for edges, bevels, tapers and outside curves, but for round shapes and
inside curves, a round shave is a better choice. You'll get better results and more enjoyment using a
shave with the right sole for the task at hand.

Price: $30 - $160

Types: Flat, Round, Concave, Low-Angle, Large, Small
Materials: Aluminum, Bronze, Iron, Stainless Steel, Wood
Know Your Tools: Things to consider when
buying a table saw.

Table Saws

Illustration by Len Churchill

Also called a variety saw because of all the operations that can be completed on it, the table
saw is the backbone of many wood shops. By far the most common blade diameter is 10", but
the saw itself comes in three common sizes. From largest to smallest they are: cabinet saw,
contractor saw, and portable saw. If you really want to get picky, a fourth type – hybrid saw –
has some characteristics of both the cabinet- and contractor saws. The cabinet- and contractor
saws are very stable for ripping 4x8 sheets, are often equipped with long extension rails for
ripping wide parts, but cannot be moved around. Portable saws can be divided into two sub-
categories – benchtop and jobsite. Benchtops are the smallest saws, and slightly larger jobsite
saws come with wheels and a stand to make setup easy. The difference between the three
types of saws isn’t just size, but also how durable and robust the inner
workings of the saws are constructed. The cabinet saw is the most robustly built saw and will
provide many decades of use.

Price: $200–$4000+
Weight: 50–500 lbs
Rip Capacity: 16–48"

Things to Consider When Buying a Table Saw

A Good Fence
Most cuts made on a table saw use the rip fence, so a solid, straight fence that doesn’t flex,
locks square to the blade, is easy to adjust, and locks firmly to the table will pay off in the
long run if you use the saw often.

Safe Technology
Sawstop produces flesh-sensing table saw technology, which immediately stops the rotation
of the blade the moment it comes into contact with conductive material; that is, skin. This
type of saw is no excuse for unsafe operation, though.

Buy a Good Blade

For best results in solid wood, use a rip blade for ripping and a cross-cut blade for cross-cuts.
When using sheet stock, there are other blades to help you obtain a clean cut. Dado blades are
also very helpful. A good blade goes a long way to making a good cut.

After-market accessories and shop-made jigs can turn a table saw into an extremely useful
piece of equipment that can tackle almost any cutting task. Learn about some of these
accessories, and consider what type of work you want to do with the saw, before deciding on
a model.

There are more serious injuries on table saws than on any other piece of woodworking
machinery. If used incorrectly, the user is often in line of kickback and also has his or her
hands near the blade, resulting in loss of fingers, or worse. Learn how to use a table saw
safely before making the first cut.
Know Your Tools: Benchtop Thickness
Planers. Light cuts of no more than 1/16"
per pass will leave a nicer surface.

Get the Most Out of Your Benchtop Thickness Planer

Photos by Manufacturers; Illustration by Len Churchill

Keep it Light
Light cuts of no more than 1/16" per pass will leave a nicer surface. Remove no more than
1/32" per pass if using wide or dense boards.

Smooth Sailing
Keeping the table clean and waxing it from time to time keeps the material moving through
the planer smoothly.
Keep it Sharp
The blades are replaceable, and often two-sided. Replacing them leaves a smooth surface that
is easier on the machine.

Rotate it
If the planed surface of a board isn’t smooth, end-forend the board. Because of the grain
direction, a board may chip heavily in one direction and not the other.

Dust Collection
Hooking up a dust collector to a planer will help control the large amount of chips that are
created and may leave a smoother surface.

Also called lunchbox planers, a benchtop thickness planer is a cost effective way to machine
lumber to final thickness. Once one face of a board has been flattened with a jointer, use a
planer to dress the opposite face parallel to the first, and to a uniform thickness. The infeed
roller above the material pulls the wood in and secures it for the cut, then the cutterhead
dresses the wood before the outfeed roller keeps downward pressure on the workpiece. A
benchtop planer will work well for most hobbyists, and even many professionals. Some
models have two speeds, as well as pre-set depth stops for repetitive cuts at common settings.
Most cutterheads contain replaceable (sometimes double-sided) HSS knives. Though
expensive, a helical cutterhead produces a smoother surface, especially when working with
figured material. All planers are loud.

Price: $200 – $800

Planing Width: 12" – 13"
Planing Thickness: About 1/4" – 6"
Planing Length: 12"
Max. Removal Per Pass: 1/16"
# of Knives: 2 or 3
Weight: 50 – 100 lb