Lego Table #2: A Tough Day in the Shop

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Blog entry by Eric posted 11-02-2008 04:02 PM 1753 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Sketchup Model Part 2 of Lego Table series Part 3: Hand Planing and Hand Sanding »

So yesterday I went to the lumber yard and bought all the wood I expected to need for the lego table. I was pleasantly surprised at the price. I bought 12.5 board feet of kapur (30’ of 1”x4” and 10’ of 1”x3”) for $18.25 and a 4’x8’ sheet of 1/2” plywood for $13.75. I tried to pick boards that were straight and not warped, and at least in that respect, I succeeded.

Today I had some good dedicated shop time. My first task was to cut the boards down to the individual components of the table. As I was doing that, I realized that I had neglected to look for one thing when at the lumber yard – cupping. One board was cupped the entire length.

Since I don’t have a thickness planer, an electric planer nor a belt sander, I dragged my knuckles over to the “workbench” (a 2”x6” resting across my japanese sawing trestles) and tried to “knock off the high spots” as I hear people like The Schwarz say. Easier said than done. To the extent that I feel skilled in sawing, I feel that same amount of ineptitude in planing. I guess it doesn’t help that I don’t have a workbench. It also doesn’t help that my irons haven’t been honed in a while.

So I got frustrated. Frustrated that my blades are dull. Frustrated that I don’t know how to flatten a board. Frustrated that flattening a board is kind of important sometimes. Okay, often. Frustrated that this quick-and-dirty build of a lego table might take months.

But then I chilled out and decided to take a long view of my progress in the craft. Hand plane skills don’t come overnight. I need to think of this as part of the journey. I am considering whether or not to go buy another board to save me time in building this project. That would, however, still leave me needing to learn how to flatten a board. So maybe I’ll stick it out.

In the meantime, I now know how I’m going to spend the last of my Tool Fund money: I’m going to get a replacement plane iron/chipbreaker set. I think it will really help me be less anxious about planing. My #4 and #5 planes both use the same size irons, so I’ll be able to interchange them as needed. And I’ll be able to turn my existing irons into specialty blades. Maybe one will be slightly cambered (as will probably the Hock be), and the other I’ll turn into a scrub plane iron. I think I heard one of Matt’s podcasts talking about that.

Kind of a rambly post today, but that’s how I feel. A bit discouraged, but at the same time determined to get through it.

P.S. Oh – here’s a pic of the parts. Notice the yellow sapwood on what will be the legs. I chose that board partly because it was so straight, but also because, what the hey, let’s see how this ends up looking!

-- Eric at

7 comments so far

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3782 days

#1 posted 11-02-2008 04:54 PM

Hang in there, Eric! We all have days like this.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3849 days

#2 posted 11-02-2008 05:08 PM

Frustration is a fundamental part of the learning process when we are trying to develop a new skill or learn to use an unfamiliar tool. But, in situations like yours, the initial frustration is well worth the end result. Once you “hone” your planing skilsl you will have increased your inventory of hand skills.

Keep us posted on your workbench progress.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3655 days

#3 posted 11-03-2008 07:40 PM

I typically find my frustration leads to new tools. New tools lead to setup time and more frustration. But at some point you begin to break out of the fog. For me it happened this weekend (about 5 months of heavy hobby investment). I focused on a project, building the base for my new dining table. As the individual tasks were completed each gave a sense of accomplishment. Just a few months ago I couldn’t sharpen a plane, much less use one to remove tool marks and taper legs. I found myself with a big grin as the fluffy shavings piled out the mouth of my 90 year old smoother. It was such a joy to have things start to click. Hang in there.

S4S is a bit of a misnomer at the lumber yard. Maybe there should be 2 grades of it (like ready to use and needs work). Some of the s4s at the home center locations is terrible. It is cupped, bowed, warped, and twisted. You would be better off chopping it into kindling and saving yourself the aggravation.

From the tool fund it looks like you are heading to the neanderthal side. Not a bad place to be. I often find far more satisfaction in getting tasks done with only the hand tools. I also view it as a way to pass forward this knowledge to future generations. Good luck.

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3811 days

#4 posted 11-04-2008 08:14 AM

Thanks for the encouragement, guys.

-- Eric at

View Texasgaloot's profile


465 posts in 3727 days

#5 posted 11-05-2008 10:24 PM


Sorry I haven’t had the time to reply in a timely manner. I’m also sorry for the frustration—been there, done that! I’ve been playing in sawdust almost as long as Matt has been alive (don’t tell him I said that.) It seems like in every project I can recall except for a handful, there has been a point where I have said words to the effect of, “Holy Cr*p! I can’t finish this thing! I don’t have the _” Words for the blank vary with the mood: tools, skill, material, skill, time, skill, money… did I say skill? I’m not going to say that anything magic happened, because I still have a few unfinished projects I’ve started floating around, but otoh the vast majority of my projects perseverance as seen me through. Set the tools down and come back tomorrow knowing my feelings are normal.

This is happy news for me, really. Another convert for “the cause” of Neanderwoodworking!

Mack (“The Wood Shepherd”)

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3788 days

#6 posted 11-05-2008 10:52 PM


Sometimes things happen for the best. Sharpening up your hand planes and planing skills is a big positive. I think the hand plane is undergoing a “re-discovery” by many woodworkers.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View woodworm's profile


14468 posts in 3618 days

#7 posted 11-06-2008 04:15 AM

Looking at the picture, I think the cupped boards is correctible, since it’s not associated with a “twist”.
Draw lines on the board end at the lowest point for both sides, if the remaining thickness is usable for your project go ahead with hand planning. If the thickness of stock to be removed is something like 1/4” IMHO is not worth doing.
I have done that when making my workbench, and I got to take a week rest.
Alternativelly, rip them into two halves (get the service from a sawmill, in your case) then the flattening work would be much easier.

Good luck.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

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