Toolboxes of the FORP

There was plenty of variety in the sawhorses here at the French Oak Roubo Project. Less variety was in evidence in the toolboxes; Chris Schwarz’s influence was readily apparent. But it was still fun to see what everyone brought, and I learned a few things over the course of the project. I want a slick, for one thing. It’s a great tool for paring the large mortise walls (thanks to Don Williams for lending me his – now I need to spend more money!). I admired all of the beautiful tool chests, and was impressed by how many tools people brought. But I still like the practicality of a limited selection of tools in a hard case with totally protective Kaizen foam.


I’m on my way back home now, with a van loaded to the gills with bench parts. I didn’t finish my bench (I wasn’t really planning to), but got one of the joints pretty well fitted. It may be a few weeks before I’m done; lots more travel in the next 4 weeks, and lots of work in the shop in the meantime. But it was a great week of work with a great bunch of people. Many thanks to all, but especially to Jameel Abraham (Benchcrafted) who organized the whole event, Bo Childs from Wyatt Childs who put up with the mayhem in his shop with extraordinary grace and generosity, and to Ron Brese, who put me up (and put up with me) for the week.

Day Four – French Oak Roubo Project

Panorama of the shop at Wyatt Childs Inc.

A panorama of the shop we’re working in. Check out the 16′-long bench-top at left!

Bases are together. Top to leg joints are in many different stages: roughly penciled in; carefully scribed; mortises cut; dovetails and mortises cut; or ready to be fitted. None of the benches are all together, and it may be that none will be completely finished by tomorrow afternoon. Some of us are leaving early. Others have to crate what needs to shipped home. We need to clean up and restore order and cleanliness to Wyatt Childs, Inc. And some have to load up benches, tools, sawhorses and supplies for the drive home.

The yards and buildings at Wyatt Childs Inc

The shops, warehouses and grounds at Wyatt Childs. The shop we’re working in is the brick building to the right

French Oak Roubo Project: Days -2, -1, and 1

Banner for the French Oak Roubo ProjectI arrived in Georgia Saturday afternoon, after driving down from Marc Adams School of Woodworking, where I taught last week. Jameel Abraham, Don Williams, Raney Nelson, Jon Fiant, and Ron Brese were already at Wyatt Childs amazing millwork shop, and had been at work cutting up the wood for the 14 workbenches we’ll be building this week. Cutting lumber of this size (the planks are 6″ thick, up to 24″ wide, and 16 to 20′ long)

6″ thick French Oak slabs, with Ron Brese (for perspective)

was a dance with two forklifts and a Wood-mizer bandsaw mill, with occasional turns with a chainsaw. I joined the fray for the last few tops.

Milling one of the bench tops on the Woodmizer

Cutting one of the benchtops to size with a Woodmizer

Today, we did the same dance cutting up more boards for the legs and vise chops, then spent some time getting the shop ready for the build. We also got to fire up the Straitoplaner, a massive machine that face joints and then thickness planes all in one operation.

The Straitoplaner

The Oliver Straitoplaner milling one of the bench tops

This is woodworking unlike anything I’ve done before, but amazing fun.

Sunday evening the other participants showed up, Jameel welcomed everyone, and Chris Schwarz gave a talk on how workbenches have evolved.

Monday we planed the workbench tops, jointed, planed and cut the legs and chops to size, glued up some of the two-board tops, and started in on the leg joinery. It felt like a very productive day.

Jointing one of the halves of a bench top was a group effort!