The building of a workbench often becomes a right of passage for many accomplished woodworkers. For these artisans, it’s a tangible expression of their skills, esthetic, and approach to the craft. It’s also a prized tool. Why a bench looks and works the way it does will not always reveal itself quickly. But if you ever visit the shop of a master craftsman and ask about their bench, you might be amazed at what you’ll learn.

In this video, we get to do just that when we meet master cabinetmaker Patrick Edwards who gives us a guided tour of his massive, hand-built bench designed for working with hand tools. Patrick works almost exclusively with hand tools, most either originals or hand-made reproductions from the 18th and 19th centuries. Patrick says pretty bluntly, “The bench is the first tool. The bench is the beginning tool that every person who works with hand tools has to have.” In Patrick’s case, it truly is the centerpiece of the shop. And it’s easy to see why, because if you can’t hold the work, you can’t use a hand plane or a chisel or any tool that requires the workpiece to be held stationary. For hand-making drawers and dovetails, you really need a purpose-built bench.

Patrick’s bench is influenced by several historic styles. His incorporates characteristics of a typical Northern European style bench which features wooden-screwed tail and shoulder vises complimented by a series of dog holes (the bench style most famously used by Frank Klausz). And he also merged elements of the French style Roubo bench, which makes use of quick-release iron holdfasts. Then for good measure, he added an antique leg vise to one corner (which he purchased from Windsor chair maker, Michael Dunbar). The combination of all these vices and clamping stations allows him to hold almost any workpiece including often difficult to hold turned objects and carvings.

Now decades old, Patrick’s toothing-plane-scrubbed bench has a well earned patina, evidence left behind by the maker working his craft. It’s a patina just waiting to tell us its story. I hope you are inspired. (10 Minute Woodworking Video)

Patrick Edwards is President of Antique Refinishers, Inc. which offers restoration, conservation and reproduction of pre-industrial American and European furniture for dealers, private collectors, and institutions. Mr. Edward also owns and instructs at the American School of French Marquetry, Inc. Both business are based on San Diego, California. Mr. Edwards has also formulated a slow-set, ready-to-use liquid hide glue. which he produces and sells under the brand name “Old Brown Glue”.

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In rough carpentry, deciding how to cut into a board is pretty straight forward — measure to length and chop. But for fine woodworking, slicing up a prized piece of lumber is a more refined skill. In this video, professional cabinetmaker and teacher Eric Matson shows how to evaluate rough lumber prior to cutting. First, he identifies and marks with chalk unusable defects in the stock including knots, checks, and sapwood. Then he decides how cut to the board into rough component pieces for maximum yield and beauty. Part of Eric’s goal is to assure that sectioned boards “wrap” the project (i.e. a piece of furniture) in the same sequence they come off the board. This artful attention to the flow and continuity of the wood’s grain increases the quality of the final project. Grain flow is the core objective, but a complete evaluation also includes identifying highly figured parts of a board, which can be used for focal points (drawer fronts, table tops, etc). And if surplus material remains on the board, Eric makes sure he cuts extra spare parts and “set-up” pieces when possible. — Keith (4 Minute Woodworking Video).

Eric Matson is the Director of the Fine Woodworking Program at Rio Grand University. Rio Grande offers a one year certificate program, as well as two year associates and four year college degree programs. Graduates have the skills and knowledge to be productive in custom furniture shops and architectural/cabinet shops. Rio Grande (pronounced rye-oh) is in Southern Ohio.

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Dimensioning rough boards by breaking them down into smaller, precisely sized parts is one of the key first steps in any woodworking project. This preliminary process certainly isn’t the most glamorous part of working wood, but virtually every skilled artisan will agree it’s one of the key steps for achieving consistent, high-quality results.

In this video, artisan Eric Matson, who is the Director of the University of Rio Grande’s Fine Woodworking Program, walks us through the same eight steps Eric’s students must master early in their college training. Eric explains how even twisted, cupped, bowed or kinked boards can be quickly and safely broken down into smaller rough parts, which can then be milled to tight tolerances and made ready for jointing and other more refined processes. In part one of this two part series, you’ll learn how to rough cut boards to length, rip to rough width, joint one face flat, and plane both faces to thickness. But there’s more to Eric’s approach than just these basic steps. Eric also shows you how to stay organized and mill parts in batches, and why it’s important to prepare extra parts for set-up, testing, and disaster recovery. His entire approach offers you a comprehensive strategy that will help you achieve the tight tolerances essential for master quality work. — Keith (11 Minute Woodworking Video)

Click here for Part Two, the final segment in this series. Watch steps 5 through 8..

Eric Matson is the Director of the Fine Woodworking Program at Rio Grand University. Rio Grande offers a one year certificate program, as well as two year associates and four year college degree programs. Graduates have the skills and knowledge to be productive in custom furniture shops and architectural/cabinet shops. Rio Grande (pronounced rye-oh) is in Southern Ohio.

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