Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Woodworking Bench for 1 Euro 85

That's right - a buck eighty-five!

Curious?  Here's a photo:
My 1 Euro 85 cent  workbench
Oh, gosh! What's he on about now?

Let me back up a bit. Here is a photo of my new shop in Alicante, Spain:

My new shop.
If it looks like a home office, that's because it is. We recently moved to Spain. The Frau went ahead to pick out he apartment. She asked me what my MUST-HAVEs were for a place here. I told her that was easy, only one thing - a shop.

She said, "No."

While our place is beautiful, I am going to have to get creative with furniture building here.

A little aside - I would like to make a shout out to Ethan, the Kilted Woodworker, and to the NAF Benefits Office. And a big "Eff-You" to the Defense Finance and Accounting Services in Indianapolis. DFAS took ten weeks to get me a report I needed for some retirement paperwork I had to get done before I left federal service on Monday.

Since they wouldn't scan me the report or mail it to my German address, I had them send it to the Kilted Woodworker, who agreed to scan it to me when it arrived in his mail box.

Everything finally got submitted two days before the deadline and the NAF Benefits Office processed it in one day. Plenty of time for me to mail off what I needed to mail to them on the last possible day. Thanks, Ethan! I literally could not have done that without your help.

Back to woodworking:

I brought a very modest woodworking kit with me. Basically it was whatever I could fit in a plastic tool box I had. The idea now is to get some good woodworking in with the resources I actually have.
Yes, it's a bidet.
Ever wonder how to use one of these?

Me too. I figured it's the perfect hight to use as a sawbench for crosscutting.

Joking aside, I plan on participating in Reddit's Popular Woodworking School Box Build. My plan is to prove you can do decent work with far fewer resources than you might think necessary.

Today I took the bus (we don't plan to get a car) to a local home center to buy some construction lumber for this build. Their construction lumber was crap, but they did have some plastic-wrapped laminated wood that will work. I picked out two of the nicest boards of appropriate size I could find. As a bonus, this is the kind of laminated wood where the pieces that make up the lamination are full-length.
Some assembly required.
I also got some nice pine strips intended for molding that were clear and relatively straight. these bits are around 1/2", for the bottom and box moldings. If there is enough of something left over, I will do the till, too.

I also bought some brad nails and a couple of really nice brass box hinges, because they didn't have anything like the strap hinges in the article that would work. These should look very nice.
Here's everything in my wheelie bag while we wait at the bus stop.
Now that I am not in my beloved Munich shop (for at least two years), I have decided to focus more on the positives of my new workspace: There's a gorgeous view, plenty of natural sunlight, a computer is in there, and air conditioning.

What more could I want?

BTW, I was serious about using that piece of OSB for a workbench. Wait until you see how this build goes! I was at first tempted for a first project to be a sawbench, a bench hook, or some other piece of workshop convenience, but I decided to try an experiment, and do a full on furniture build without any of that.

Wish me luck!


  1. The 'bidet' is used to the 'tcheco bath'... because when you bath your 'vegetables' in there the sound is "tcheco, tcheco, tcheco" :O
    I belive that wood came from a french home center brand, right? You may try to find some small 'carpintería' or 'ebanisteria' around you in the city.
    Other wise I have some friends that usually order wood on-line in Spanish Tiendas and some times even with transport its cheaper.
    Good luck! :)

  2. Haha! Thanks, António!

    Yes, I imagine that is a French home center. There are a couple of places in walking distance that I've found, including a ferretería, but sadly no wood of any kind yet. Mulesaw found a place near Elche with proper rough lumber. I would like to visit there, but I can only buy as much lumber as I can carry for two kilometers before getting on a train for home. An ebanisteria is a good idea. Maybe someone has a board or two they would sell me. My other problem is I'll have to be very strict about only buying wood that I'll need in an ongoing project.

    In the meantime, this wood is ideal for this larticular project, and I'll find out if my concept works or not.

  3. This is going to be a great build.
    I know for a fact that you can get pretty far without a proper workbench.
    I think the natural sunlight is a bonus. There is not much of that in an engine room..
    Good luck

    1. Thanks, Jonas! I'm looking forward to this. Imagine woodworking in a room with no artificial light! I'm determined to do what I have to to build this box with what I have. The only concession I've made is I've given myself permission to go buy a clamp if I can't figure out how to get along without one. But for the meantime...

  4. "She said, "No."" The nerve of that woman!

    Looks like you're going into this with a great attitude. Make due with what you've got. Looking forward to the results.

  5. Thanks, Matt!

    I think I'll actually do quite fine. I have a decent collection of tools for this build, although some of them need some rehab and sharpening before I start. I suppose I better get on with it!

  6. Brian, I'm really curious to see how you go about this. I love seeing people's creative methods to surmount limitations, esp. as regards workholding (even though I have a knockdown Nicholson with planing stop, crochet, holdfasts AND a face vise). It just seems like it elicits the cleverest ideas!

    1. Hi Gavin! Thanks for the comment. I just finished up some crosscuts, and although it worked, I could have done it all so much easier with my Roubo bench, leg vise, shooting board, etc., etc.

      However, it is certainly faster than flying home, doing the work there and bringing the parts back. :)

    2. And as nice as a Roubo undoubtedly is, it's definitely not gonna fit in your carry-on.

    3. I'm thinking of building an "Observation Bench," for sitting on while looking at the stunning view. Who will know that it looks just like Christopher Schwarz' new Roman bench?

    4. YES! If you got really ambitious you could cook up something like a removable shaving horse. I'm planning a new horse for my inside shop and I intend to build the base to strongly emulate CS's low-slung Roman bench. And as far as "observation" goes, it should sit just fine. :-)

  7. Never envy a bigger shop, make what you got work for you. This should be a great exercise in making o the minimalist way. Make a saw bench sturdy enough to do chopping mortise on it, like i did, and it will go a long way toward making do in a compact space. Did you brought a hold fast?

    Bob, who has worked in various shop size throuhout the years

    1. Exactly, Robert! I quit complaining about the size of my tiny shop a while back, and now I'm thinking I was pretty lucky to have the space I did.

      I'm determined that this will be a functional build, just to show that it can be done. I might build some pieces soon that will help with building stuff, but let's just get this piece built first, to show me that I can!

    2. Hey, Bob! Jonas told me he invited you to Denmark. You should definitely come!

    3. Yes im thinking of going next year, hopefully we can all meet, that would be cool


  8. Welcome to the wonderful world of workshops with a view! I'm jealous of the airco... that's something I will definitely need before next summer. :)

    1. :)

      I haven't used it much, yet. Even though it is hot, with the windows open the sea breeze from the Mediterranean seems to do a pretty good job. Maybe once I start in some real heavy lifting...

  9. You can take a woodworker out of their shop, but they will always just find another shop. Look forward to seeing how you make do in an even smaller space, makes me feel even worse for not giving my shop the time it deserves.

    1. Well, that was my intent, to make you feel bad.


  10. Hi Brian,

    Congratulations on your retirement! I'm looking forward to see what you do with the new situation. Of course with that view, and a comfortable seat, perhaps a few bottles of wine could turn into a new hobby. :)

    We went to Barcelona for the first time this past December, and I loved it. I'm quite jealous. The wife and I have discussed traveling extensively in Europe perhaps for as long as a year or two, but that will have to wait for my retirement. I have another 6-10 years before I can do that though.

    I hope you are well. Best of luck,


    1. Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks a bunch! I'm not quite retired yet. I was fully vested in my retirement plan I had, but it will be about five more years before I can possibly start collecting anything.

      I'll take your congratulations, though, as both The Frau and I are using this opportunity to escape less than ideal work environments.

      If you do come back to Spain, let me know. We love company.


  11. So, will you place the wood on the bidet when you saw it...or will you be sitting on it yourself when sawing? Either way, make sure that you don't break it. The Frau will not be happy! Best Regards. John

    1. Haha! I actually haven't figured that out yet. Neither what to saw on, nor how to keep the Frau happy.