It all began in the beginning where most things begin; maybe everything does but I like to leave room for error since I am very prone to those. In the beginning were those men in my life who were for all practical purposes expert craftsmen whether it be wood working, machining or mechanics. As I grew up amidst these time honored tradesmen I developed an acute sense of disdain for those things which required forethought, patience and hard work to achieve. Growing up on a tobacco farm where the garden and the pastures are the source of your food is an idyllic concept for those who’ve not actually done it. As I neared that mystical age of 18 I became more firm in my resolve to leave the homestead and make my life a fast one in the great metropolis of Nashville, TN.
All this is being said to describe to the reader that there was this opportunity that was discarded, ignored and lost. The opportunity to receive, cultivate and ultimately pass on the trade of wood working. My grandfather was the type who spent the entire year crafting exquisite pieces of furniture, toys and knick knacks for each family member’s Christmas gifts. Untold hours were spent in his shop taking direction and making lots of sawdust which as far as I was concerned is all that was taking place.
Fast forward 20 years later and we find that I no longer have a grandfather in my life, I live 500 miles from my family in a large city in another state and my day job involves all things computers in a construction management firm. Here I am sitting amidst expert craftsmen still exercising a resolve to separate myself from who I was born to be. Note that using a computer I can design, analyze, schedule, plan and coordinate all aspects of a massive construction project with my specialty being the coordination systems in 3D models. Things that require forethought, patience and hard work to achieve, as most anything does.
So, what does this drivel have top do with a workbench you must be asking. Well, I have this motley set of tools in a smallish basement that I have managed to more or less accidentally accumulate over the course of several years and moves. A tablesaw, some circular saws, sabre saw, levels, squares, screwdrivers, etc. but more to the point a plunge router that until very recently had been sitting brand new in the box for 8 years.
In building an open air frame for a massive computing machine which would melt if placed in a tradition case I decided I had found the perfect opportunity to use this router. Using some scrap plywood I set about to throw together a rather well designed frame with little forethought, patience or actual hard work. Little did I know at the time that routers, while vastly important wood working tools are not something easily used without practice. After ruining all of the wood and spending a few hundred on a router table and some bits I decided it best to put the router away and maybe practice my skills on something less dependent on wiley power tools.
Thus, I discovered a project that emphatically avoids power tools, provides a new hand tool and requires forethought, patience and hard work. The handmade try square was going to be living proof that I could produce excellent results with nothing but hand tools. As I set about to work on this project I discovered my smallish basement had been missing a significant component of every shop; a workbench.
Memories flooded back to my grandfather’s shop which had multiple workbenches all of them handcrafted for a perfect fit and setup for its purpose. The try square project would have to wait until I had a handmade workbench in my smallish basement. And somewhere, deep in the part of my brain that connects me to my past and to who i was born to be a weak pulse began. A pulse most would call the “bug”.