Friday, March 13, 2015


I've not been working on the Midwestern Oak Roubo Bench Project (MORBP). Besides the normal causes, (it's cold out there, laziness, Netflix) I have a few good reasons that this project has sat idle for far longer than expected. While I expect no reprieve from the harsh blog reading taskmasters, hopefully this provides an interesting diversion from you getting out in your shop...

#1 Injury

Who knew that intensely working with heavy timbers when you normally work at a desk isn't a good idea? Evidently not me. While I thought I had been careful, all that lifting, shoulder shrugging and mortise chopping caused a fairly debilitating injury in my left shoulder/back, I'd wake with tingling in my fingers. Without an MRI, I believe I partially tore the muscle where it attaches to my shoulder blade, and had a lot of inflammation in my left shoulder causing a pinched nerve. Because of interruption #3 I immediately moth-balled this project (and all heavy lifting) til at least mid Feb. (I have since fully recovered.)

Life Lesson: You aren't 25 forever.

#2 Small Projects

My son had recently expressed an interest in starting a project. I had figured that cutting boards would allow me to use up scrap and be an easier project than a box or something, and allow him to make a nice wedding present for a young couple that was getting married. Given the shared interest in video games, we settled on an 8-Bit design. I ripped all my small scraps into squares and then to short enough lengths that we could make the enormous number of components required. Then we glued them up in layers and then resawed into 3 pieces and sanded. This consumed a lot of my time since he couldn't run the requisite power tools; and while simple, there was a ton of tedious repetitive cuts to get the stock prepared. Still, it was a lot of fun to do something with the boy and the end results are pretty cool, and the folks that have received them as gifts have really liked them. We might make more of these in the future, but I would probably work with 2'-3' pieces and make a loaf of 30-40 boards at a time. 

Life Lesson: Father/Son projects are never a fair work split, but the rewards more than make up for it.

#3 Trip

My wife (who is at least as passionate about travel as I am woodworking) took me on a trip down under for a few weeks Feb-Mar. Our primary objective was New Zealand & Fiji (both incredible), but due to flight scheduling we ended up with a day layover in Melbourne, Australia. Somehow I realized this was the town that Vesper Tools calls home, so I began email pestering for a visit. Chris was a gracious host and quite generous with his time. He is very passionate about woodworking & tools. He makes some absolutely spectacular stuff in his shop and has a very nice collection of tools and books. It was nice to visit with Chris and meet a fellow hand tool zealot face-to-face, to see that we are more the same than different regardless of the continent. I must also say that the souvenirs I picked up in Melbourne that day blow the kitschy shops out of the water, and given that I'll use these tools often, will remind me of the entire trip every time I use them. Also I'm realizing that I under-bought (a 10" bevel in Tasmanian blackwood in particular), Thankfully Vesper will be at Handworks 2015.

I had also arranged with Philip Marcou for a tour of his planemaking shop, but due to weather changing our hiking days in New Zealand, it was not to be, Probably for the best, as his souvenirs add up quick. Still in my interactions with him, Philip seems like another nice guy, making high quality tools.

While in the past I've always enjoyed seeing the woodworking cultures of the places we've visited, moving forward, I'll dedicate a portion of each trip to woodworking or tools.

Life Lesson: Any trip that includes woodworking goes to 11.


  1. Nice post, Jeremy. I you owe no one an explanation for a project taking longer than expected. That is just a natural part of woodworking. Heck, I literally have three unfinished projects on my bench right now! Just try not to hurt yourself again. The great part about building a bench at a class is there is a dozen or so guys that can help lift every time you need to turn your slab over. It's worth the price right there.

    I love your Minecraft project with your son. I bet he has memories of that build now that will last his whole life.

    I love the pictures at the Vesper shop. I think it is great to connect with woodworkers when travelling. One thing I haven't figured out yet: how to keep The Frau entertained. Although my wife enjoys meeting cool people, she gets bored with talk about wood and tools after an hour or so.


    1. Thanks Brian. The only harsh blog taskmaster here is me. I know I do this blog thing for myself only, but I like to imagine hundreds/thousands of people eagerly waiting for my writing. Since I don't utilize a click-through here, I can just assume I have that many people silently subscribed via RSS... #legendinmyownmind

    2. Oh and my wife is fairly pleasant about woodworking excursions, but I agree with the time limit, I'll let you know if I find out any secret formula (handworks is coming up...)

    3. I suggested my wife take a wool spinning class, while I'm at the Studley exhibit, but that didn't go over too well.

  2. That's hilarious and for anyone not immersed in that world would sound pretty ridiculous. My wife is (uncharacteristically) interested in knitting, so who knows that might be what she ends up doing. Amana is a quaint little spot and if the weather is nice (it should be) its a wonderful time wandering and chatting with the locals. There is a nice little coffee shop right across from the barn. I hope our paths cross over that weekend.

    1. For sure! Everything is in line for me to be there, except I am having a bit of trouble getting the time off from work. We'll see, hopefully it will work out.

  3. Hi Jeremy.

    Nice to see that you are back in the shop again :-)
    I can totally relate to the statement that a father - son build is never a fair work split, but as you say,m the reward sure does make up for it in the end. The cutting boards look very fine.

    I don't like the life lesson of the injury though, I always expected perennial youth to accompany woodworking as a hobby. So statements like yours sort of say the opposite. That aside, you do need to take care while lifting etc. replacement parts for a back are hard to find, and even harder to install successfully.


  4. Well it's a life lesson for sure in working with large timbers. which in general isn't where my interest lie, so hopefully I have learned my lesson well enough. Good point about replacement parts, the model I have is well past its warranty period...