stevenbunn Fri, 02/27/2015 - 09:41
Front view of the moving jaw
Front Jaw Construction
This photo of the front jaw shows the rounded profile easing the jaw's outer edges. It also shows the location of the 1-1/4 inch diameter hole in which the bench screw seats. The garter slot cut in the bottom edge of the work-piece can be seen as well. As you can clearly see, I let a flat face on the jaw's top around the mortise drilled for the round shaft of the plastic bench-dog. The hole for the bench screw is centered in the length of the jaw and up 1-5/8 inch from the bottom edge. The block which forms the moving front jaw of the vise is to small to safely rout free hand. I cut mitered faces on the ends of the jaw using my table-saw and miter fence. Then I used a file and a spokeshave to round over the flat facets creating the curved profile you see here. I used the spokeshave again to form the interrupted curve on the top edge of the block.
stevenbunn Thu, 02/26/2015 - 16:04
Here is another view of the fixed jaw, showing the front view of the jaw. You can clearly see the #8 woodscrews that help hold the jaw in position, as well as the threaded hole for the bench screw, and the two holes through which the guide bars pass. Note that you have to make matching holes in the center plate of the nearer pair of legs for the guide bars and shaft of the bench screw to pass.
stevenbunn Thu, 02/26/2015 - 15:19

 To recap from an earlier post. I really liked the min-bench featured in the December 2014 issue of FWW. I wanted to make a copy of it. But I also wanted to keep the cost of materials down, and frankly, I am incapable of following any published plan exactly. I like traditional wooden vises and hand-turned wooden bench screws. So the version of the small bench I made incorporated a vise I made, and the other parts were constructed from scraps and cut-offs, which might otherwise have gone in the woodstove. The bench I built is inspired by the FWW bench, but is not a duplicate of it. Consequently be aware that any dimensions I mention may not agree with similar measurements given in the earlier article. You are free to use the information given in this and the following posts to make a similar vise for your mini-bench. The only cost to you is a beer drunk to my health, in thanks. To keep things simple, rather than attempt one article length post, I am breaking the story up into smaller segments. This keeps things sane for me and keeps the number and size of the accompanying photos within the limits set by the blog program.

Building A Wooden Vise for Your Mini-bench

The Fixed Jaw

The mini-bench I built has a Maple top 2-1/2 inches thick, 9-1/2 inches in width, and a length of a little over 42 inches. Adjust any of the measurements shown here to fit your top. The  faces of the vise are both made from material 1-1/2 inches in thickness, 5 inches wide and 9-1/2 inches in length. I started construction of the fixed jaw by cutting away a chuck of waste to create a large rabbet in the work piece 1 inch deep and 2-1/2 inches wide. This created an L shaped block. The rabbet seats against the end of your top, with the narrow lip forming the gripping face of the fixed jaw, and wider lower section, fitting tightly against the underside of the top, is threaded and lag-bolted to the bench top.


In this small block drill seven holes. In the upper narrow section, two counter-sunk screw holes for the #8 x 2 inch wood screws that secure the jaw to the end of the bench. A larger thru hole centered in the length of the block, and 1-5/8 inch up from the bottom face of the stock. This hole will be threaded, so the diameter of the hole you drill should equal the root diameter of the tap you use. The used a 1-1/4 inch tap and die set. The hole I drilled at this point was 1-1/16 inches in diameter. There are two 7/16 inch diameter through holes in the  lower face of the jaw through which the guide bars in the movable jaw pass. And two 3/8 inch diameter holes drilled vertically in the lower arm of the L, so that 3-1/2 inch lag bolts can be screwed into the underside of the top to lock the jaw securely in place. Note: I will add a dimensional drawing later this week showing the location of the holes described to this post.

stevenbunn Thu, 02/26/2015 - 13:49

Several people have emailed me to let me know that they were not able to log into the blog to comment on one or another of my posts. My programmer is working to fix this problem, and I hope to have this feature running correctly soon. In the meantime, if you want to comment on something I've written, please send your comments to me at my email address, I will copy your comments and post them on the blog. Thank you.

A more detailed explaination of the log in problem is as follows. When the site was up and running on my designer's computer, the programming underlying the sign in part of the blog was being swamped by ads generated by spam-bots. So Jessica turned off the log in function for everyone except me  for the time being. Stay tuned. We will get the bugs out of the site soon. In other news, the few comments I have received has prompted me to post photos and instructions describing the construction of the small wooden vise I made for my version of the mini-bench, mentioned in an earlier post. Again thank you for your interest.

stevenbunn Sat, 02/14/2015 - 20:22
The base molding is built up using four layered profiles, wrapped around the font's base. The profiles were formed by hand using several traditional wooden rounding planes and a good old regular block plane. I like the over all traditional look of the profile, but am thinking of making the final lower profile from stock a quarter of an inch wider. This version is 3-3/4 inches wide. Four inches would allow the rounded profile to extend over and beyound the base, creating a better shadow line and stronger visual impact.
stevenbunn Sat, 02/14/2015 - 20:07

Baptismal Font Project

One of my long term projects is a commission to build a baptismal font for the Phippsburg UCC church. The church is celebrating it's 250th anniversary this year, and monies were set aside for several commemorative pieces of furniture to celebrate the anniversary. As an aid to myself, and to better visualize the design for the church committee overseeing the project, I decided to create a full-sized mock-up of the font. This allowed me to get a better sense of the mass and proportions of the design. Early work on the model led me to increase the diameter of the center supporting pedestal from 7 to 8-1/2 inches, as this gave the font greater visual impact. I increased the diameter of the top basin segment by the same amount to keep everything in proportion. I love the size and grounded-ness of the large built up base molding. The profile was based on molding profile found in an early New England church, dating to around 1720. It looks satisfyingly Gothic to me, and speaks to the traditional look requested by the church. I still need to create the octagonal ogee profiled top for the basin before presenting the font to the committee for approval or design changes. Even in plain pine with moldings only applied part way around the font, this is a nice looking creation.

stevenbunn Sat, 02/07/2015 - 09:01


Every month wood-working magazines feature another article describing the construction of a work-bench. The variety is astounding even mind blowing. Many of the designs are eye catching, and more than once I've almost, almost started to consider building one of these beauties. The thing that always holds me back is the reality that I have already built eight, maybe nine, work-benches in my life, and six of them are sitting in my shop. Enough is enough.


Then I read Steve Latta's article “Minibench Works Wonders,” in the December issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. In his article Latta describes building a small bench that clamps to the work surface of his work-bench. This raises the work to a more convenient height for doing intricate detail work on small work parts. I make a number of miniature Windsor chairs every year. And I often have found myself uncomfortably bent over as I carve the saddle of a miniature's seat on my regular work-bench or assemble the small chairs. Latta's design was not only appealing, it actually addressed a real problem I had not found an answer for myself. I copied the article and set it aside, concentrating instead on paying work. Still, the little bench had grabbed my interest. I found myself rummaging through  the scrap wood pile, looking for cut-offs that would be suitable for the parts Latta's bench required. My one design constraint was monetary. I wanted to build my version of the bench as cheaply as possible. Using scrap wood, and forgoing the purchase of an expensive bench vise, (the days of cheap Taiwanese vises appears to be a thing of the past) I built the small bench pictured here. I ended up spending less than $20.00. I limited my purchases to a set of Rockler plastic bench dogs and a length of 5/16-inch diameter metal rod, used to make the guide bars on the wooden vise.

 I added a Roubo style crooked planing stop to the front edge of the bench, and drilled ranked holes in the front legs allowing loose fitting wooden pins to be adjusted to support edge planing stock. Is this carrying things to far? Maybe. We'll see after I use the minibench a while.

stevenbunn Thu, 02/05/2015 - 08:29

We have had three snow storms since last friday, and it is snowing this morning as I type this post. As you can see in the picture, between my plow guy and the drifts walking out to the shop has become quite a chore. Luckily, we live on a hill top, so the wind has scoured the snow off the ground behind the barn. So my route to work now incorporates a detour around the barn. Have a good day.


stevenbunn Mon, 02/02/2015 - 16:13


Visitors returning to this site will notice that there have been a number of changes made to the website. I hope you find it easier to navigate and view. I knew I needed to update the site, but Andrew, my oldest son and web guru had graduated from college, and was working for MicroSoft. I dreaded the expense involved in hiring outside help, but my wife agreed that the site needed work and pushed me to get started.

I spent the early Fall pouring over the websites of those other chair-makers whose work I most respected and compared myself with. My site was fifteen years old, and hadn't been updated in a number of years. I was interested in seeing how my site compared to my competitors. What features attracted me most on a given site? How did that site's picture's quality, overall size and resolution compare to those on my site? How many different chair designs did the site feature? It was in some cases pretty depressing. Photos taken with an old hand held camera and loaded at ridiculously low .jpg resolutions to aid in quick loading times just didn't compare well against professionally photographed work. On the basis of photo quality alone I had to be driving away potential clients. I came up with a laundry list of improvements I needed to make to my site and sat down with the folks of Gopher Design. Gopher Design,, is a small family owned web design company, located here in Bowdoinham. I had first seen their work about five years ago when Jessica introduced herself at a local business meeting. I was attracted to Gopher's website designs because of their clarity, style and eye appeal. By the time I laid all my wants, must haves, and you can't cut this outs in their laps, I probably violated every aspect of their design aesthetic. They did a great job anyway and the result is pretty much exactly what I intended. Which is another way of saying that anything wrong with the site reflects on me rather than the designers.

The other thing I really wanted to add to my site was this blog. The body of the old site concentrated solely on chairs. It had no place to talk about the other things I make and love, tall-case clocks, wooden hand planes, period furniture and on and on. I have had great conversations with customers and other woodworkers by phone or email that would have been fun to share with others, but are now lost to time. I have a lot I would like to share. I hope as this blog evolves you will feel free to ask questions and express your opinions. More later. Thanks for dropping by.


stevenbunn Sun, 02/01/2015 - 16:48

One of the non-chair projects I have been working on this past year is a new Shaker work-bench. The bench was built so that I could take photographs to accompany an article I had written for American Woodworker magazine.

The article draft and photographs are now sitting somewhere in limbo at Popular Woodworking magazine. The article may or may not ever be published. Its a real bummer, but an interesting story.

I had previously written several other bench related articles which appeared in American Woodworker. My editor there, Tim Johnson, knew that I had in my shop a larger Shaker work-bench which was featured in a 1994 article in Fine Woodworking magazine. That was the first article I had ever written. Tim really wanted me to do an updated article describing the construction of a Shaker work-bench. He kept pestering me to do the article. But, I was reluctant because this committed me to constructing a completely new work-bench so that I could document the construction with photographs. This was no simple project. It was going to take a huge block of time out of my life, and practically speaking, who needs two, count them, two!! shaker benches in the same shop. I would never be able to turn around in the place much less have room to work. I love shaker benches, but still, what was I going to do with two? After a year of back and forth discussions I relented and agreed to write the article if Tim, and American Woodworker, would pay for the materials. He was hungry for the article and we came terms.


I submitted a draft of the article to Tim in November. Ordered material for the bench. And went so far as to take the month of December off from my part-time job as a cabinet-maker for Bowdoin College. I expected Tim to jump on the project right away, but he was busy shepherding five or six articles through the editorial process and trying to get them out the door for the next issue, and didn't have the time yet to talk with me. I, for my part, couldn't start construction until we had reviewed my suggested list of photographs and agreed on a final list of shots to go along with the text. So, I spent December kicking my heels and working on other things in the shop.


Tim finally called back the beginning of January. But before we got started, he said “I've got something to tell you. The magazine's been sold!” He went on to tell me that an entity named M+F Media, owner of Popular Woodworking, had bought out AW as well as a bunch of other magazine titles owned by AW's then current parent company. The staff was of course told, as always happens in take-overs, that everything was OK. AW would continue to come out and everyone's jobs would be safe. Typical lies that folks desperately want to believe. This is one of the reasons I work for myself. Tim and I got down to the task of building and photographing the shaker bench one step at a time. Because some shots are impossible to retake, or dummy up, Tim and his photo editor had to approve each shot before I could go ahead to the next step. This made an already lengthy project even more drawn out. Usually I heard something along the lines of, “Steve, image #23 is great, but could you re-shoot it from a higher angle?” Which was a polite way to say, “Dummy, go back a do it again.”


In February, Tim told me he was being laid off after the next issue of AW was put to bed. He promised that the transition between editorial staffs would be smooth and seamless. If only! Good-bye to Tim Johnson the best editor I've ever had.


The smooth hand over was a disaster. Major portions of the text were lost. Tim's notes, where he revised the order, and photo number, of each pose didn't get passed on. Since May of last year, three different editors has been responsible for the manuscript. And each time the draft has changed hands pieces get lost. In October, three editors, guess which ones, quit PW. Leaving my article in the hands of an editor who admitted she can not read blueprints. God help me!


I am to the point of walking away from the article. Despite promises of publication sometime in the future, I don't ever expect to see the thing in print. I'm now exploring the world of self-published e-books, you tube videos, and anything else, this blog?, that will help me leap over the editorial wall which separates the craftsman from the public. Did I mention the commission I have for a church's communion table? Out of one frying pan, editors, into another, church design committees. A topic for another day.


Its Friday morning in Maine. Snowing, and I need to go out and get a fire going in the wood-stove in the shop. As always, thank you for dropping by. Have a good day.