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Free woodworking plans. Easy woodworking projects. Fun woodworking videos. Woodworking for Mere Mortals.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Make a miter sled for your table saw

I didn't have time to work on a project last weekend but spent a lot of time this week figuring out what I wanted to make this weekend. I think I'm going to make a bed tray for a laptop computer. Basically, a breakfast-in-bed kind of tray. I had a viewer ask me about such a tray a while ago, so I decided to make it.

As I played with the design, I realized I would need to make mitered corners. Every time I think about making miters, I cringe. Especially since this tray is going to be made with oak. I have a notoriously difficult time making decent miters in oak using my miter saw.

So this morning I decided to finally make a miter saw sled for my table saw. It's a project I've been meaning to make for years.

This was the fastest project and video I ever put together. I prowled through my wood and started building this around 11:00 this morning. I built it, shot the video and finished editing it by 4:00! Woohoo!

And it's one the the most useful jigs I have ever made. It is incredibly simple to build, yet extremely accurate. There are a lot of different kinds of miter sleds, but mostly I just need to cut 45 degree angles. So if making picture frames drives you crazy, give this sled a shot.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stool, bottle, bench.

I know. There is a saloon joke in that title somewhere.


I wanted to post a few more viewer projects that I've been saving. A while ago, someone was asking about building a stool. Here's one John Hendricks built that looks fairly simple and quite strong.


Groetjes Geert has turned a few large baby bottles! I had never seen this before, but in Belgum it is customary to give new parents envelopes containing money, delivered in a baby bottle. It's a cute custom and one that would be a unique baby gift anywhere.


Finally, I wanted to show off Ludovic Lemarinel's workbench made with white oak and maple. It's nice to see pictures of the construction. (Hey Paul...it's got a vise!)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Victor Hawkins sent over photos of a humidor he just made. There is really so much about this design I like. I could imagine it being a jewelry box, too.

What sets it apart is the brass hardware, the inlay and the killer finish. He also rigged it with a Cigar Oasis electronic humidifier that runs on either batteries or AC.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Puzzle box

Hey guys, I've been out for a few days and am now pondering something to make this weekend. Hmmm...I'll let you know when I come up with something.

In the mean time, here's a great little puzzle box someone recently send over to look at. I love this sort of thing!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Build a cheap, simple, sturdy workbench

It has been a lot of fun seeing all the workbenches this week. Thanks to all of you who sent pictures.

Whenever a non-woodworker visits your shop, they might marvel at — or at least be curious about — some of your tools.  Your workbench will probably receive little attention, yet for most woodworkers it's really the most critical element of a shop. We call it into service on every project we build.

If you want to set up a wood shop, your first project must be a workbench. There are plenty of plans available for the "ultimate" woodworking bench, but all you have to do is look through this week's viewer pictures to understand all that a work bench really needs to be: a sturdy table.

This video shows you a workbench design that I've been using for years. It costs next to nothing to build: a few 2x4s and a sheet of plywood, yet it will provide you with years and years of quiet service. Plus, with this basic design, you can modify it in any number of ways to suit your particular needs. It's all held together with a lot of yellow wood glue and 2 1/2" decks screws. It isn't a showpiece, but in my mind that's a plus. You won't be fearful of abusing it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

And even more workbenches...

Krzysztof Kleszcz

My workbench is quite old - at least 40 years. I got it from my uncle, who used to do some woodworking/carpentry in the past. Since I have this workbench, my woodworking became a lot more efficient and is giving me more fun, because I don't have to worry about good support for my workpiece.

It's made of beech, the length is approx. 240 cm (95 inches) and it's really heavy, the top is about 4 inches thick. It has two vices that are very comfortable. It also has two big drawers and on the back of the top there is place for tools.

Despite its age, it's still very stable and sturdy. Twice a year I clean the top with random orbit sander and put some oil on it.


Warren Downes

Here is a nice little workbench i made for my Father in law, i used threaded rod to hold it together no glue or nails for the frame, the frame is unbelievably strong you can jump on it (i did) and there is no movement.

The top is 2 layers of 19mm MDF glued and screwed together, i have an overhang on one side to mount a vice on, and holes for bench dogs.

I used a router to make a groove that the rod sits in for the rails and drilled holes with a 35mm forstner bit in the posts about 20mm deep for the washer an bolt and 10mm threaded rod through the post.

I think a drill press is needed as the holes going through the posts need to be a perfect 90 degrees for an exact fit.

Its around 5ft x 2ft but you could do any size you want, i think its well suited to a smaller movable work bench. Maybe next time some shelves and enclosing the base would be a good idea.

Its simple, cheap to build and really strong


George Fulford

I thought I'd show you the workbench for my meager little shop. It's weather-proof and tough. It is made from heart pine beams, 2x6's and cinder blocks. The beams were from my old house that was torn down due to Hurricane Ivan. They were axe-hewn back in the 20's for an old barn, then salvaged for my old house, now they're my workbench. I love recycling wood :) If only it hadn't rained today when I took these pics. Oh well.


Biff Alexander

Here's my new workbench. Although it won't win a prize for prettiest, it serves it's purpose well. The work surface is 3'5"X9'2" plus a removable trash can at the end to just swipe trash/junk into when a project is done. I still have to put the plywood on the bottom for a shelf, but other than that, it's a 2x4 frame with a 3/4 ply top, and a hardboard/MDF type cover. I only spent $20 building it by mostly using Lowe's clearance wood section, haha. I had a 7' bench when I first started woodworking, but there never seemed to be enough surface, so when I moved into the new shop, I figured I would just use that entire back wall for a workbench, considering I have stands for most of my other tools, and an old shopsmith to save space w/ bandsaw/scrollsaw/jointer/belt sander/disc sander.


Johnny Delgado

My basic workbenches. I made the 3 tables from IKEA parts. Simple but they've lasted and they work.


Andrew Vyn

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

And still more workbenches

Bill Akins

Here is my workbench I made a couple of years ago. You can see the bench during construction at: http://lumberjocks.com/Billboard/projects/page/3
It's made from Home Depot 4x4 posts for the legs, 2x6 top covered in MDF and hardboard. 2x6 skirt around it. Lots of bench dog holes. Cost $100 for the bench and $125 later for the 2 vises. Heavy, sturdy flat and does the job. Every few months I scrape the drips on the top, light sand it and apply a couple coats of poly. I added a shelf and a drawer underneath.


Chris Askwith

My main workbench is made using a crockery display stand I salvaged from a shop that was closing, I added some extra screws and struts to make it stronger and more sturdy, the height of it nice as I am a taller person and I can stand comfortable at. Originally it was full length across the top but I recently bought a new band saw and the only place to put it at the correct height was to chop off half the top and mount it on the lower shelf. 
The main use for this bench as you can see is to keep the tools I need for my lathe close to hand. The rest of the top is almost level with the table of the bandsaw so it provides a handy support when cutting longer stock. The lower shelf is used for storing logs of English bog oak that I use in the production of pipes. The bench serves me well and cost nothing but a few screws and off cuts to “beef” it up.
I have also included pictures of another little work area I made. With space being at a premium the area in front of the door is very valuable, but of course I need to be able to access it easily. So I built this fold down worktop, it is set at the correct height so I can sit at it comfortably and use it for a lot of hand work and fine detail work. It is surprisingly sturdy and sees daily use. Again it was made of scraps and offcuts and cost me only a set of hinges.


Derek McCrone

This is the first project I ever made. I decided I was an adult now and asked my parents for some power tools for Christmas so I could get into wood working. Once I got them I realized I needed a work bench, so I set out to make one!
This is the result. It's just made from 2x4s with a plywood top, but I think it turned out pretty good.


Michael Borg

The wooden crate with the MDF top is my work bench. Just the right size.


Dwayne Bowyer

Well, Dwayne wins the award for the best makeshift, dual-function bench! Ha!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More workbenches

Ben Johnson

It was one of my first woodworking projects about 10 years ago. It may not be pretty but it's heavy and I don't care if it takes a beating. It took me about half a year to build, mostly because I was watching too many Woodright's Shop reruns and thought I'd try some joinery that was beyond my skill level. Still no fasteners were used in the making of the bench, only glue.

The bench stands 36-1/2" tall -- the height of my table saw on it's
stand. The base is made from doubled 2x6s and 2x4s. The top measures 2
foot by 6 foot and is made from sixteen 2x4's.

For the top, I cut all the rounded edges off all the 2x4's for the top
and cut dadoes every 6" in one of the boards for dog holes. After I
glued the boards together, I flattened the top with a jack plane and a
4 foot straight edge.

Things I'd change:
- A recessed tool tray for catching wayward tools would have been nice.
- A better vice.
- I store other bench top tools under the bench, and have found the
stretchers are too high for some of the tools I'd like to store.
- I'd get the top flattened properly.


Dave Higgins

Here's the work bench I built last winter it's built with constuction grade lumber everythig is laminated together nothing bigger than a 2x6 was used. The inlay work is my first attempt, and is made with peruvian walnut.


Charl Du Plessis

This is my Frankenstein work bench made from wood I salvaged from and old pergola and a deck! It is enormous, 3 meters by 1 meter by 1 meter!! This allows me to have my scrollsaws, bench grinder, and drill press all mounted to it and still have plenty of room on the other side to use as the "bench" part of my workbench without sacrificing alot of the surrounding area in my garage! The side without the tools mounted to it will be getting an MDF top put on it soon to eliminate the gaps between the decking timbers.

It certainly isnt pretty but it definitely serves the purpose. But best of all it cost me a bag of screws!!

John Short

Here is what I use. Its simply 3 2x12's glued up and sitting on a metal table in the back yard by my shed. dimensions are 3'x6'. Its all I can do without a real shop.


Tony O'Driscoll

This is my pride and joy. 300 pounds plus of Maple with a laminated MDF top. Front and end vices. I only wish I included a traditional shoulder vice rather than the large end end vice. I'm very glad I didn't include a tool well. I don't need it. It's 7' by 36".


Trevor Scott

Heres my bench. Built from leftover 4x2 from the garage reroof. Woodwork vice at one end, engineers vice at the other. Its 9' long so plenty of space for my drill and scroll saw. Slatted mid section gives me plenty of storage for tools, boxes etc. I need to squeeze a midi lathe in this week but that may have to free stand!

Mere Minutes:

Monday, September 19, 2011


Some great workbenches are rolling in!

Toshen Golias

Here's my workbench. This is actually v2. For fifteen years I used it as a low workbench, which enabled me to use benchtop tools on it. Over the years I slowly transitioned to floor standing tools and tools with their own dedicated stands, which enabled me to finally convert my workbench to full height, something I had planned for when I first built it (and that my back longed for every time I did extensive sanding!). At the same time, I glued on a fresh maple top.
The top is lined with 3/4" holes, and there a few on the sides as well. Using a combination of the vice, bench dogs, hold downs, surface vices, and a few jigs, I've been able to handle everything I've needed to so far.

It may not be the most beautiful workbench around, but it's heavy and stable, and I love every minute I spend working on it, especially given that maple is a wood I cherish and that stands up well to the abuse I throw at it.


Al Navas

Al has a purchased, European bench. This one's a monster:

Length: 96 inches
Width: 24 inches
Top: 3-1/2 inches
Apron: 4 inches
Material: European beech
Front and end vise
Currently considering building a Roubo style bench, to complement this one. But room in the shop is running tight...


David Blechertas

Heres my workbench. its not fancy but its solid and heavy and square.  
8'x3'x35" and the top is an old office cube counter top thats very thick heavy mdf, it gives me a nice wing for extra space or to clamp on to. all the vertical posts are notched out for a flush fit.


Dawn Sandlin

Hey, this one is almost identical to the construction on my benches!

Here's my workbench. 28" x 6' Base made of 2'x4's The table is three side-by-side 2' x 10' topped with a thin sheet of oak that was in my garage when I bought the house. It has a little, cheapo vise that works for most things.
The workbench isn't the sturdiest so I store my cinder block and another concrete block (under the newspapers) to help. The concrete pieces work as clamps, too. Overall, it is the perfect size for me and my projects. I can drill dog holes into it or drip glue or stain on it without worrying.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Workbench week

My workhorse. It is so heavy, I haven't move it in years.
Workbenches are for working.

Over the past few years, a lot of people have asked me to shoot a video on how to make a workbench. I've always set that on the back burner because I already have a workbench. Well, to be certain, I have four.

They all are made with the same down-and-dirty construction: 2x4s and plywood. They are strong, sturdy and made to be abused. They are benches intended for, well, work.

The Mere Mortals annex 

It recently dawned on me that really my shop has expanded into my driveway. I assemble projects and finish them outside my shop on almost everything I build, yet every time I need to haul out a pair of wobbly sawhorses and flop down whatever old board I can find to use as a bench top.

The sides of my new bench.
This weekend I decided to build one more workbench: one dedicated to my "expansion" shop in the driveway. It will be the same simple construction I've used on all my other workbenches and will have casters so I can roll it into my shop on rainy days. Not only that, it's going to be the same height as the tailgate on my truck. That will aid in sliding out sheet goods and rough cutting them.

But the design can be scaled to any size you wish.

To a lot of woodworkers, the workbench is the centerpiece of their shops. A "proper" woodworking bench can cost a thousand dollars to build. They are beautiful examples of workmanship and I admire them. Well, who wouldn't? But in my shop, a workbench needs to fill two needs: it needs to be sturdy, and it needs to be willing to take abuse. If I want to quickly screw a jig into it, I don't want to worry about ruining its finish.

Show me your workbench!

I want to see what you are using for a workbench. More specifically, I want pictures of your workbench to post here. Mostly what I want to see are workbenches that get the job done. Maybe it's something you slapped together 20 years ago and are still using. What do you like about it? Why does it work so well for you? If you were to make a new workbench, what features would you add? Post your pics on the Mere Mortals Facebook page. Or, email them to me at zrammedia (at) gmail (dot) com. Send a description with it!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Make a lighted shadowbox

If you have seen the last couple of Mere Minutes, you will know that I made a version of this shadowbox many years ago. I consider that one a prototype, because there is a lot that I was never happy with.

I spent a lot of time wiring and soldering, trying to get a little light bulb to shine into the box. It never really worked well: it wasn't very bright and seemed to just drain the 9 volt battery. Thankfully, today we have LEDs, which are brighter and last much longer. Not only that, they are cheap.

I used a "Stick 'n' Click" puck light for my new shadowbox. Cost $4.00. It uses three AAA batteries that will last for 1000 hours.

Don't waste good wood by building with it.

I made my original box with solid purpleheart lumber for the entire project. This was a waste of good wood. Many projects have a large percentage of secondary surfaces: structural components and other areas that aren't visible. Ain't nothin' wrong with using poplar or plywood on anything that won't show. And if it's something to be painted, MDF is outstanding. It's easy to cut and sand, it glues well, and paint flows on beautifully.

So this time, I used MDF for nearly the entire shadowbox. But it's the small bit of zebrawood that steals the show. I used just a two foot length, but resawing gave me six feet.

I also decided to improve this model by adding a mirror. In fact, once again I built the project around stuff Tim Sluder sent me. Along with the Shaker pegs, he sent four mirrors. I still have three left for more projects. Thanks again,Tim!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A couple of finishing tips

I was reading about poplar the other day in Wood Magazine, I think. Most of us avoid poplar for our finished pieces, because it has kind of a weird green tint to it. However, according to the article, feel free to use poplar... if you are patient. After a few years of aging, it loses that green tint and looks pretty nice.

In this video, I'll show you what purpleheart looks like after it ages. It's a remarkable change. Plus, I thought I'd throw in a couple of tips that you probably already know, but good ones, nonetheless.

Mere Minutes

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Working in the shop today. I've been struggling over a project to make, hence no video project this week. I decided to use some Zebra wood that I've never used and have been saving since May. But hey, I fixed my router...again!

Mere Minutes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Big chess set, check.

Denny North broke was the 2007 world record holder for the largest chess set. I really like his geometric designs for the pieces:

He designed this tabletop set for a local toy store down in San Jose, California. Think it's big?

That's nothing. Here's the world record winner and a picture of a lawn set.

Denny designs them for MegaChess who import the teak pieces from craftsmen who make them from furniture industry leftovers. Although Canada now holds the record with a king that is one inch wider, Denny is looking to reclaim his crown. Good luck man!