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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Some might call this type of hand plane exotic, eccentric — even antiquated, but Japanese planes are attracting increasing notice and attention, even in today’s world where modern tools and machines offer instant ease and results. The Japanese plane, known as Kanna to the native speaker, appears to be simplicity itself. Historically, this plane was comprised of only two parts, the Dai or body, and the blade. But this apparent simplicity is deceptive because the designing and crafting of each part is a complex and exacting process steeped in history.

Fortunately, using a Japanese plane, at least at a basic level, is far easier than making one. In this video, Japanese tool expert Craig Vandall Stevens introduces us to this interesting, useful, even powerful hand tool. He’ll break down the basic construction of the plane and take a closer look at the uniqueness of the Japanese forge welded iron & hardened steel blade. Craig also demonstrates the correct methods — the hand & body positions and the unique pulling motions for enabling maximum success. (6 Minute Woodworking Video)

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Use a Smoothing Plane to Prepare Wood For Final Finishing

Before the widespread use of sandpaper (or glass paper as it was formerly known), artisans used smoothing planes to prepare their work for final finish. It was the “smoother” that the master journeymen of the past used to achieve the mirror-like finishes seen in many examples of the finest historical wood masterpieces.  So with such a pedigree, it seems a shame that this specialized hand plane has been all but replaced by the widespread availability and appealing usability of sandpaper.

Now don’t get me wrong, I use sandpaper as much as anyone, but despite sandpaper’s dominance, there remain good reasons to use a finely tuned smoothing plane for some of your projects. One is the simple pleasure of creating whisper thin shavings from wood. Plus, the smoother makes no dust so you eliminate the messy and dangerous particles that can clog up your shop, your tools, and your lungs. But perhaps the most attractive reason to consider this tool is the superior finish smoothing planes can impart to the finest of work. In this video, furniture maker Craig Vandall Stevens reveals the secrets to using a smoothing plane for final finish work. Craig’s mastery of this tool for final surface preparation is inspiring. After watching his amazing demonstration, you may become tempted to master the technique too. (4.5 Minute Woodworking Video)

This video demonstration features a Japanese smoothing plane, but the methods and concepts described apply directly to any smoothing plane including western style metal & wooden hand planes.

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