My Basement Shop

I’ve had this blog for almost nine years and I’ve never bothered to show you my shop. I really don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I don’t think it’s all that special but below is a short video I posted to Instagram the other day.

I’ve had this shop for the past seventeen years when I bought the house in 2002. Before that, I had a shop in my parent’s basement when I started working with wood when I was a kid. Back then, I had a bunch of bench top power tools. Almost all of those tools have been upgraded. The only power tools that remains from the shop in my parent’s house are the band saw, jointer, and drum sander.

The king of the shop is my tool cabinet which I finished building in 2001. The inside has changed a lot over the years as I added to my tool collection. I doubt it’ll ever be finished as I’m constantly buying new tools to put in it and selling the tools I don’t use that much. It sits behind my workbench for easy access. The majority of the tools in the cabinet are antiques that I restored but I do have some brand new tools in there like a Lie Nielsen dovetail saw and a Veritas shoulder plane.

The workhorse of the shop is my Roubo workbench. Made from southern yellow pine, I based it off Chris Schwarz’s Roubo and Roy Underhill’s Roubo workbench. I use the hell out of it so it’s dirty. I never get any visitors to my shop so I don’t care that it’s not made from hard maple and looks perfectly new. I just use it.

At the end of the bench is my Emmert Turtleback Patternmakers Vise. I LOVE this vise. I bought it 20 years ago at an antique tool auction for about $500. It’s worth every penny. This vise gives me plenty of flexibility when clamping work pieces in it as it swivels 360 degrees and swings up. If you ever have a chance to buy one of these vises, do it! You won’t regret it.

In the middle of the shop is my SawStop table saw. I have no complaints about the saw. I tripped it three times. Twice was from the blade hitting my aluminum miter gauge. The third time it was the tip of my thumb. I was ripping thin strips of wood and every time I ripped the stock to make a strip, my left hand got closer to the blade. Like a dumb ass I didn’t notice the position of my thumb until it was too late. Luckily, it tripped and the tip of my thumb was spared. I sent the tripped cartridge back to SawStop and they sent me a free replacement. My thumb just needed a band-aid.

Another nice vise I own is a blacksmith vise. Because I do a lot of antique tool restorations, this thing comes in handy whenever I have to do some metalwork. It’s another one of those tool you don’t realize how nice it is to own until you use it.

On one side of my shop are my power tools. I’ve owned them for years with the Delta jointer going back to when I was a kid. I souped up my Delta band saw with a 6″ riser block and a 1 hp Baldor motor. My 15″ Powermatic planer is one of the best tools I ever bought.

In the corner of my shop is my lumber rack. I buy lumber when I need it so the majority of the boards on the rack are scrap wood. I have one or two boards of certain species but not enough to build a piece of furniture. I simply don’t have the money or the room to stock up on lumber.

One of my favorite power tools I own is my Jet oscillating edge sander. I wanted one of these for years until I pulled the trigger a couple of years ago. I love this machine as I use it on nearly everything I build. For years I used a home made disc sander jig attached to my lathe. My only regret about this sander is not buying it when I first wanted it.

All in all, I’m happy with my shop, I just wish it wasn’t in my basement. I’d love to own nicer power tools like a 12″ jointer or a heavy duty lathe, but there’s no way I could get them down basement steps. Or more importantly, get them back up when I move.

The Blacksmith Shop of Mt Vernon

Spending some time in Washington DC last week, my wife and I went to Mt. Vernon to visit George Washington’s estate. After we bought our tickets to the view of the house, we had some time to kill, so we walked around the grounds to see what else was around.


On the right side of the estate near the near the back, was the blacksmith shop. It appeared to be about 15′ x 20′ in size.


We arrived in front and saw one of the blacksmiths making a large hinge. You can see how soaked his shirt is as it was nearly 90 degrees that day. He must lose twenty pounds during the summer working in there.


Here’s a shot of the bench with a scrap iron on the ground waiting for use.


Here are some of the items the blacksmiths make at the estate. What’s really cool is they make axe heads and other tools.



On the side of the shop sat a bin full of coal which stank to high heaven. The smell of burning coal is not a pleasant thing.


I looked around the other buildings for a carpentry or cabinet shop, but found nothing. I find it odd that Washington didn’t have one on his estate somewhere. The only thing I saw was display case inside the museum with this panel raising plane.


Now That’s a Leg Vise

While traveling between Greenville, OH and Richmond, IN for work, I stopped in an antique store in New Paris, OH and came across this behemoth. The flywheel on this leg vise must have been 18″ in diameter and was very smooth when I turned it.

Some of you may be aware of Jameel Abraham from Benchcrafted who makes reproduction flywheel hardware similar to this for workbench leg vises. I’ve tried one at the Woodworking in America conference a few years ago and loved it.  I even considered buying one for my bench before I built my Roubo workbench a few years ago. This thing would beat up his flywheel and take its lunch money.

The screw mechanism for the flywheel is so big and heavy that it needs its own shelf. I imagine the leg vise can open up to at least 12″.

Even the flywheel on the bottom was no slouch. It was probably about 8″ in diameter. It keeps the leg vise parallel to the leg of the workbench to hold the piece more snug. Put a little grease on these babies and you’ll be ready to go.

The bench sat on casters that could be rolled around the shop. For $1500 it can be all yours. I told the shop keeper that the flywheels were probably worth $500 – $800 just by themselves. What an impressive beast.

My New Years Resolution

It’s a brand new year and I’m not getting any younger. I’ve been thinking over the past few days about what I’d like to achieve this year with my woodworking. The answer was clear. 2014 has to be the year where I finally get into and learn blacksmithing. For years I’ve been farting around with the idea of incorporating metal work into my furniture. I took a blacksmith class from Welch chair maker Don Weber of Paint Lick, KY in 2008 where I made a couple of hold fasts and a cold chisel, but unfortunately, I never took anymore classes from him. I use the hold fasts all the time and I’m very proud of them, I just wish I would have taken more classes. Don’s shop was nearly three hours away and I believe he has since retired as his website has been down for several months.

I really want to learn blacksmithing for a few reasons. I want to make hardware for furniture, handles for cutting boards and be able to heat-treat blades for tools. I bought a set of handles for cutting boards from a guy at an art festival a few years ago and the design is simple enough that I’m sure I could reproduce it with a little practice. If I make cutting boards I would add handles like these and sell them through my Etsy account.

I have been a member of Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil (SOFA)  for a few years and I attended their annual meeting in Troy, OH back 2011. SOFA offers classes on blacksmithing but Troy is an hour and a half from my house. Ten weeks of driving back and forth from Troy on the weekends doesn’t sound like that much fun.

I do have a few books on blacksmithing, but the best by far is The Backyard Blacksmith by Lorelei Sims. She writes about setting up a simple shop and teaches some basic beginning projects. It’s a great first step in learning blacksmithing.

Awhile ago I bought the first piece for my blacksmith shop, a 150 lb anvil, at a local auction. My wife warned me that I would buy an anvil and it would just sit in the garage for six months before I would even use it. Well she was wrong. It’s been sitting in there for a year and a half. I need to make an anvil stand for it, but that shouldn’t be too hard. I’ll probably write a blog about it when I do.

I have three blacksmith vises that I bought at a tool auction a few years back. I only use one of them right now as the other two are sitting underneath my shelving where I store my wood. The one I do use is fantastic and works much better than a metal machinist vise that is bolted on top of a workbench. If you ever have a chance to buy a blacksmith vise for a good price, do it, you won’t be disappointed.

Last fall, I bought the final piece of my shop at an antique show, a forge. It’s really nice with a hand crank blower. I would like to eventually make my own chisels or blades for molding planes and a forge like this is ideal for that task. Maybe I can even get good enough to shape my own carving tools.

Now that I have all the major tools for my blacksmith shop, I could set it up in the garage, but that is where my wife stores her furniture or parks her car. We’re talking about getting a shed in the backyard in the spring. If we do, that would be an ideal spot where I can pull out my anvil and forge and work in the yard. All I know is that it has to finally happen this year. I just wish there were blacksmith classes around Cincinnati I could take.