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Give Your Workbench Timbers Time to Dry

Rusted HoldfastOne tip to consider if you are building a workbench with large timbers. These timbers are usually quite a bit wetter than the typical kiln dried lumber we use every day. So once you have your bench built, drill your dog holes but don’t put dogs or anything in them for a bit to give the wood time to drop the moisture from the core. If you push in a dog expect to find it frozen in place and almost impossible to free from the timber. Trust me on this, it only took about 15 minutes for the wood of my planing beam to grab on to a dog and not let it go. Moreover, be careful of leaving your hold fasts in the dog holes until the wood has dried out. I popped this Gramercy holdfast out of my planing beam yesterday only to be greeted with lots of rust. Pictured is the holdfast after I have cleaned off most of the rust. I have to work on it some more with an abrasive to remove all the nasty stuff but I wanted to snap a picture to illustrate what can happen if you don’t give the timber time to shed its excess moisture.

Once the wood doesn’t feel wet to the touch you can begin to reshape the holes. Your perfectly round dog holes will now be a bit oblong in shape and while you could rig up something to drill the hole again, I have found a coarse rasp does a quicker job at removing the small bit of wood required to get a smooth fit with your bench dogs and holdfasts. Once you have the fit you want, wait a few more days and try it again. Don’t be surprised if you get even a little more shrinkage and have to repeat the process.

Joinery Bench and Planing beamFinally as a parting shot and follow up to an earlier post, here are my new softbox lights bathing my joinery bench in light. I have been working at this joinery bench now for more than a year and I’m thankful every day that I built it. I spent the entire weekend with carving gouges in hand and my back isn’t the least bit sore and my arms and shoulders are fine too. The higher level of the top makes for the perfect working height for detail work like carving. The new lights worked like a champ too and I got some of the best footage I have ever shot.

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