My new Roubo #14: Thankful for small victories...or how to eat an elephant one bite at a time

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Blog entry by JasonD posted 02-22-2011 06:50 PM 2417 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 13: Knocked several items off the list today Part 14 of My new Roubo series Part 15: Mon Roubo est complet!!! »

It’s funny that no matter how many hurdles I’ve tackled so far in building this bench, I still find myself “paralyzed” with fear when I come fact to face with a big new task….even if it’s a task that I’ve already accomplished in the build.

My next major task for the workbench was to flatten the top. This shouldn’t be too hard. For one thing, the boards were fairly close to lined up when the top was glued up. I purposely didn’t spend time jointing every one of them then, because I knew I’d have to flatten it eventually at the end. Secondly, I had just flattened the bottom of the bench top.

It made no sense for me to be worried about it….but when the time came to get started on it, I froze; at least, subconsciously. I started coming up with excuses: I’m too sore from putting in a lot of shop time this weekend. I need to wait for my son to have time to help me flip the bench. I don’t want to flatten it during the week because it’ll wear me out before I have to go to the gym. You name it, I was trying to find a reason to put it off.

This morning before work and after mulling over it for a bit, it finally hit me. I was staring at this elephant. So worried about it’s size, that I was too afraid to take the first bite. So, I very carefully managed to flip the bench back upright onto it’s legs. This was no small task for a bench of this weight; especially considering that, as I mentioned, I did it CAREFULLY and slowly to prevent any damage to the bench.

Then, I grabbed my straight edge (3/4” aluminum angle iron) and marked the high spots across the width for the first 4” – 6” of the length of the top. Next, I grabbed my “scrub” plane (a cheap, modern Stanley #5 with a HEAVILY cambered iron) and got to work. Take a few swipes, check with the straight edge, lather, rinse, repeat.

Within a just a minute or two, I was ready to reach for my LV LA jack (set to take a fine shaving) and was easily planing full-width shavings across that section. Slapped the straight edge down and it confirmed a nice flat 6” of bench top across the entire width.

I don’t know why, but it seems like one of the first skill we all master as woodworkers is the ability to over think simple things. If we’re not trying to come up with some Rube Goldberg-esque jig to handle a simple task, we’re worrying too much about getting in there in the first place. Granted, I’ve only been working wood for a little over a year, but the more I’m exposed to, the more it seems that I’m not alone in this bad habit.

Anyway, I decided then and there, that regardless of what my schedule calls for, I’m going to flatten the top over the next few days. Even if I only manage to get 30 minutes of shop time each night, I’m going to flatten about 6” of real estate at a time. If I can get halfway across in one night or only manage one 6” section, I’m going to take the progress and be happy with it.

Oh, by the way, I was so excited about my new “epiphany”, that I got motivated and knocked out two other small tasks: I got the mortise chopped out in the vise chop for the parallel guide and I got the holes drilled in the parallel guide, as well as getting the decorative curvatures shaped into the end of the guide. I don’t have my camera with me now, but I’ll try to get some pics uploaded at lunch time today.

8 comments so far

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3343 days

#1 posted 02-22-2011 08:52 PM

And here I thought I was to only one that did this. Good to know I have company. Now I don’t feel so alone. lol

View Don Johnson's profile

Don Johnson

704 posts in 3017 days

#2 posted 02-22-2011 10:27 PM

Oh! How I understand what you were feeling! – I am the same way before beginning ANY job.
I procrastinate – using similar excuses to those you mentioned – and keep shying away from starting.
Paradoxically, when I do eventually get started, I hate to stop!
So, I think I’m a representative of Newton’s First Law of Thermodynamics:
’Any body will resist attempts to change its state of apparent rest or apparent motion’.

I’m not sure if there is another Law that would apply, but usually I start off convinced that I won’t make a very good job of what I’m trying to do, but usually end up thinking , “Well, that’s not bad – even if its not the best one ever made!”

-- Don, Somerset UK,

View Bertha's profile


13551 posts in 2930 days

#3 posted 02-22-2011 10:47 PM

I also like, “I can’t start that until I get a proper xxxxx”. I know what you’re talking about.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Woodbutchery's profile


414 posts in 3822 days

#4 posted 02-23-2011 07:09 AM

I’m SO there with you.

I always find myself at the point in the project where the next step could really screw things up, and then it’s finding paper-clips to count, vacuuming the eaves, stringing spider-web together, anything to avoid that next crucial step.

Then I finally realize what I’m doing and just start, and find out just how hard it wasn’t.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

View JasonD's profile


180 posts in 3098 days

#5 posted 02-23-2011 07:25 AM

Thanks, guys. I don’t know why we do this, but it definitely seems like a trait we all share. It doesn’t matter if we’re hand tool users, power tool users, cabinet makers, wood turners, carvers, or whatever…we all seem to get that “uh-oh” right before we take the next step in a project. I remember a funny quote (don’t remember where from) that basically said “what are you worried about? this stuff DOES actually grow on trees…worse case, if you mess up, grab a scrap piece and repair it. if that’s not an option, just get another piece of lumber and get to work”.

Here is a picture of the work earlier today on the vise chop and parallel guide. I cut the ogee shape in the end with a coping saw, then finished shaping it with my spokeshave:

View BallardPops's profile


18 posts in 2877 days

#6 posted 03-08-2011 11:04 PM

Hi Jason – First let me say what a great job you have done on this project, and all with hand tools ta boot! Great solution on the vise chop and it looks good too. I really know what you mean about findiing excuses to not start a critical part of our project. For me it’s that I have usually spent so many hours on everything up to that point, that I don’t want to screw it up and start over. Then I realize that is part of what draws us to this hobby or job and if we are careful and use are skills we will get the job done and be satisfied. I started woodworking in 1960 (I know, long ago!) and still have yet to build a “real” workbench, all the reasons you stated and more. I hope to get mine started (European style ala Frank Klausz) by this June. I was injured 2 Jul, 2007 and am just now recovering from back surgery and am able to work a little, 30 to 60 mins a day. You have inspired me to get off my duff and get started. I’ve rambled on long enough. Thanks for your updates.


-- Ballard Pops

View JasonD's profile


180 posts in 3098 days

#7 posted 03-08-2011 11:39 PM

Thanks, Pops! Can’t wait to see your finished bench. I’d love to use a shoulder vise one day. I’m thinking about making a smaller “bench-on-a-bench” with a shoulder vise; kind of like Moxon’s twin screw, but with a shoulder vise.

View BallardPops's profile


18 posts in 2877 days

#8 posted 03-09-2011 01:21 AM

Hi Jason – I think that is a great idea, you would get the best of both worlds by having a removable shoulder vise. There are a few bench top vises on this workbench part of the projects tab, one by Jordan who is in high school! His is on page? 5, Jordan’s benchtop workbench. I look forward to seeing what you come up with! Hope your shoulder healed up and you are once again making shavings with your awsome handplanes. I’m going to make a set of planes (smoother, jack and jointer) to flatten my benchtop when I get to that stage. Take care.


-- Ballard Pops

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