Holy Quackin’ Duckfish – that is a workshop!

If you haven’t seen it before, check out Marc “The Wood Whisperer” Spagnuolo’s latest workshop. (Click for a larger view)

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That is a killer workshop – size of a small football field, with an acre of space around each tool.  A glistening epoxy floor (or looks like), and Powermatic and Festool all the way (with a splash of Bessey for good measure).  Click here to head to Marc’s page on the workshop, including a full tool list, and links from them to the tools available through Amazon.  Don’t try adding it all up however, the value will floor you!

Don’t forget the obligatory drum kit at one end!

Getting closer

Been popping out to the shed to continue to take small bites out of the toy kitchen project.  This one is taking a lot more bites than normal – partly the detail I am including, partly the timber source I am using (and having to glue up constantly to get the panels I need).


Drawers (Gifkins Dovetail)

A kitchen needs drawers, especially one for cutlery. I decided to make two – keep things even on the sink unit.  Dovetail drawers were the order of the day, and once again I turned to the Gifkins – takes no time to dovetail up the sides.  Took me longer to machine and glue up the base!  I’ve only recently started using the Bessey clamps with the jig, and they sure do work a treat.


Tambour handle

The tambour door wasn’t working very smoothly while I was testing the track, but freed up a great deal when I actually secured it in.  The track was sanded, then waxed with Ubeaut traditional wax.  Now it runs as smooth as you’d expect – perhaps even more so!  I needed a handle, so took a piece of the reclaimed redgum, routed a finger hold, then dominoed it to the tambour door with 4mm dominos.


Stove progress

I am making this kitchen without any plans, so find it really beneficial to occasionally put the components I have made so far together, to get a vision of the final product, and see what needs to be done next. I also find it worthwhile, because it gives me ideas for other items to add.  The dovetailed drawers are one example, and a plan to make some spinning arms for the dishwasher is another.


Wooden hinges

I was still working on the concept of the kitchen being 100% wood and glue, and so tried to make some wooden hinges that used a wooden dowel.  The result was less than ideal, so rather than force the issue, I will incorporate a minimal amount of metal.

I am still planning on using wooden hinges, just now with a brass pin.  The photo above was during the trial, and is the largest hinge that I can make with the hingecrafter.  It didn’t work out for a number of reasons, but was a good test, and the lessons learned will be incorporated into the remake.  I am planning on making a wooden strap hinge for the oven door – if you have a hinge (especially a wooden one), sometimes it is nice to make a feature of it.  It also means I can make it large without it looking out of place.  I will get back to making the hinges next “small bite!”


Drawer fronts

Glued up the drawer fronts – a centre of redgum, because I could.  I have moved onto a new glue bottle (Gorilla yellow PVA), and wasn’t used to how far the glue spreads, and how much the nozzle dispensed, and got a bit much here!  At least the joint won’t be dry.  Easy enough to remove when the glue turns rubbery.


Drawers in place

I added runners to the sink unit for the drawers.  With a small recess in the side of each drawer, and a notched runner, the drawers need no other guide to work successfully.  The fronts still need to be added obviously.


Frontline Clamps

The Frontline clamps have again proved invaluable – hardly a minute that they haven’t had one panel or other being glued up.  So much so, that I really want to consider a more permanent home for the setup in the new workshop.  I am even considering whether to add an additional three clamps to my setup – either more 900mm ones to match my existing, or even three 1200mm clamps.


Tops ready for machining

The tops of the two units are now glued, sanded and are ready for final sizing, and for the sink to be inserted into one, and stove elements routed into the other.  Still so much to do!  Just so little time.

Carcass and Top

Gave the toy kitchen project a good nudge today, despite the heat!  I would have hoped to have more done, but it takes time dressing boards down from scratch, resizing and all.  And I’m designing as I go as well!

Carcass Front

Carcass Front

This is the front of the carcass, partially assembled using Dominos to ensure it all lines up.


Centre Detail

To deal with the central post, I used the Domino to punch right through, then a longer Domino (50mm) so there was enough proud to have plenty of depth for the cross members.


Testing carcass depth

With the front and rear portions of the carcass glued up, it was time to join the two together.  Rather than use the sides as a structural member, I decided to complete the carcass separately, then attach the sides afterwards.  To get an accurate length for the remaining pieces, I clamped the sides to the carcass, then measured.


Starting to take form

It also provided the first real chance to see how the unit was coming together.  One side is to be where the sink goes (and cupboard underneath), and the other side is the dishwasher (with tambour door – more of an industrial form of dishwasher!)


Carcass glued up

These were also Dominoed, then the whole lot was glued and clamped.  The old adage that you cannot have too many clamps is so right.  I had all the Bessey clamps, and the two Jet clamps, and still had to resort to some others (that don’t have the same clamping force).  Another thing: as much as I always thought that Jet and Bessey were the equivalent of each other, with pros and cons to both, I have started to significantly favour the Bessey.  The ease to resize the clamp plays a big deal in being happy with the clamp as a whole, and the Jet is painful compared to the Bessey.


Laying out the tops

Just before I ran out of shed time for the day, I got a bunch of shortcuts/shorter sections, and dressed them up.  Then between the stove and the cupboard/sink, I found I had just the right number.  Not bad for an eyechrometer!


Commencing glueup of the tops

After sizing  to length, they were glued, and clamped in the Frontline clamps.

So that is where it sits at the moment.  Tomorrow the other top will be glued up, and progress made on the features that will turn this from an elaborate set of cupboards into a kitchen.

Deep Throat

You may not need the extra reach that this particular clamp offers, but it is useful to know that Bessey now have their “Deep Throat” range, with up to 500mm of throat depth.

Deep throat

Deep throat

Available from Carbatec. The 500mm throat is $300, so it is unlikely you’d buy a couple just to have them “in case”, but at least you know they are available if needed.

Small Steps

Probably seems like each ‘progress’ report is no different to the previous with the cot build, but there are a lot of small steps in between.

Lots of small other things too – floating tenons (aka dominos), holding everything together.  Little bit of thought required in setup for the Domino to ensure everything aligned, particularly where there were different thicknesses of materials, and offset joints, but once I got into it, the mortises were all cut in no time flat, despite there being about 40 to do.  They add so much

During glue-up, the Bessey K body clamps really started to shine.  The more I use them, the better I like them.   Increased my collection with a couple of 1250mm ones from Carba-Tec, along with a couple of Bessey extenders.


With all the components pretty much completed, what the final product looks like is becoming increasingly apparent.  And reflecting the multitude sketches of the various aspects of the project.

Building a project from pre-designed plans is a great way to learn woodworking concepts and techniques, but all the real problem-solving has been taken care-of.  It is not the best way to build, but I really enjoy building, designing and problem solving all at the same time, as in creating without pre-designed plans, and working out each step as I go.

Woodworking is a great mental exercise.

Progress Report

It seems like days of preparing components for the cot – lots of machining.  And that is pretty much exactly what it has been.  We have been working primarily with 190 x 45 Tassie Oak (kiln dried hardwood), although there has now been some pine thrown into the mix.  Each piece has been resawn, planed, thicknessed.  It really gives a sense of ownership of a project where every dimension is controlled by you, and not relying on standard timber sizes provided.

Clamping up the end-boards

The panels at the end of the cot are made from solid pine, so were reduced in thickness to 12mm, then joined with the Frontline Panel clamps.  With their unique action to cause the work to be held down, as well as together, they yield excellent results. More on these end panels later – we will leave them now while the glue dries.

Sorting out the components part 1

After machining so many components, it was useful to lay them out according to the parts they are made for.

Sorting out the components part 2

Lots of individual parts in one of these things!

Mortising for the slats

Cutting the mortises for the slats is made incredibly simple with the Festool Domino, and with the extension wings added on either side to get exactly the desired clearance between the slats (and in accordance with Australian Standards).  A job that could otherwise take hours completed in a matter of minutes.

Assembling the mattress section

The mattress section was assembled and glued, and there was a slight problem with the MDF sheet – it was not 6mm thick as it should have been, being up to 0.5mm out, which made it bind in the slot that was cut.  So the power of the Frontline clamps was bought into play – this time by converting to a standard panel clamp layout, then the Frontlines were closed up.  It took no where the full 4 tonne these clamps are capable of, and nothing can resist!

Now the observant among you will notice I have opened my Bessey account.  I decided to go with a brand that was readily available, so started my new collection with 2x 1000mm and 2x 600mm Bessey clamps.  Now I just need more (and more clamp sizes)

Assembling the sides

So once the sides were routered, it was time for it to go together.  The slats were not glued – easy to remove if they ever break (presumably not – we have already torture tested them).

Starting to really look the part

It is really looking like a cot now!

Routed end detail

Once the end panels were dry, it was time to add some details, so I chose to go with the 3D router carver from Carbitool.  One panel got a classic treatment. The other found something a lot more appropriate.

Adding 3d Routed Detail

So assembly has begun in earnest.  Hard to stop once the finish line is in sight!


After spending quite a bit of time working on a certain project, I have quickly come to the conclusion that I don’t have a good enough set of clamps.  Sure, I have a whole collection, of various ones, and that is useful for a wide variety of jobs, but when it comes to a glueup, a whole set of identical clamps is the way to go.

Given I keep turning to the Irwin Quick Grips for so many of my small clamping needs, I need to find a good set.  My issue with the Irwins, is they tend to load up unevenly across the surface, causing the two pieces of timber to slip apart -rather undesirable when gluing up.  They also don’t give as good a feel for how much pressure is being applied, nor are they particularly powerful.  That is not to say it is all bad. I have plenty of other clamps, and yet still do turn to the Irwins for their convenience.

While passing by Carbatec yesterday, I picked up another couple of X5 clamps from Lidwig.  They are not a replacement for my main set, but again they do a good job when needed, so having a few more available was preferable.

After that though, I really wasn’t sure where to go with respect to what brand I should start consistently collecting.  Funnily enough, and you may remember that there was an article in Australian Wood Review on just this topic back in about 2009, and written by me no less.  I couldn’t remember my own outcomes, so have gone back to that article to make a decision on what to start purchasing.

I may have to drag out my second article on panel clamps to see what I thought of the K Body clamps from Bessey.

Must say, I am looking through the list (23 clamps), and not one stands out as hitting all my ideals – size, weight, quality, cost.  Hmm – more research required.

Best Parallel Clamp

I received an email tonight asking about parallel clamps, and thought my response may be of benefit to the wider community, so have posted it here.

The question was:
Hi Stu. Mate I was wondering what would u say is the best parallel clamps?
Jet, Bessey, Groz. And include best and value$$

My response:

The “best” without question are Frontline, with 4 tonne of clamping force, U section structural grade aluminium channel beams, thrust bearings, and a unique ability when making panels of applying pressure to push the panels flat, before pushing the boards together. Invented, and made in Australia. They are expensive compared to other clamps, and not designed to be used on something like a glueup of furniture for example.

I wrote an article in the Australian Wood Review a couple of years ago on exactly this topic, can’t remember my findings exactly, but both Jet and Bessey rated well, and would be my preference for a set of parallel clamps. Jet seemed particularly good value for money at the time, and a nice clamp, but it seems the vast majority regard Bessey as the preeminent brand, and any well stocked workshop inevitably has a large collection of Bessey clamps to hand. My clamp range is sadly lacking now I am thinkng about it. I do have a pair of Jet (and three 900mm Frontline!) and when I do get to stock up, I will only be looking at Jet or Bessey for value for money, quality and versatility. None of the other brands will get a look in.

Master Lowes

While down in Mornington last weekend, I spotted one of the new Masters stores (Lowes in the US)


Couldn’t resist a bit of a look around. This won’t be news for everyone, some have obviously had an opportunity to shop there already. Some of us haven’t!


Racks and racks of tools. A bit of range: 909, xtreme, Hitachi, Panasonic, Bosch, Worx. Some interesting relationships right there. 909 is pretty much identical to old GMC tools, same mouldings, same everything, different name. Xtreme according to one of the staff is the budget range from Worx. Now Worx is owned by Positec, who also own Rockwell, and Rockwell is the budget version (in Australia). Worx Pro is the premium range (and is called Rockwell in overseas stores). So where does Xtreme fit in? Confused? Me too.


A whole wall of Sonicrafters. Back to my discussion: another tool I saw is called the iDrill. In white or black. Rather Apple-like. But it is a drill people! Had a quick look at it, and took the battery out. Now that is interesting- a very familiar battery shape. Looks the same as my Rockwell Li-Ion range of tools. Wonder if that is a Positec tool as well?


One or two Dremels (& accessories)

A whole wall of extension cords


And good to see I can get some reasonable Bessey clamps from more than one source down under.


It was really interesting to see some very familiar GMC tools again, now under a 909 brand. The relatively low cost (at the time) GMC thicknesser really opened some interesting new woodworking doors for me back in its time.


And yet another version of the Triton Superjaws. Boy did GMC really stuff up not maintaining that international patent.


There were shopping trolleys that looked like racecars, motorised scooters for those tired of walking, but I really found interesting was this rack of plastic. Wrap your project for transportation, line your boot. All really simple, neat touches.

Interesting times!

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