The Stillgar Workshop
at Cokesbury
This page contains pictures taken in the Cokesbury Workshop. With each picture is a description and sometimes a little story that goes with the item pictured. The thing we make most in the shop is excuses--to explain why projects aren't completed. This is not a commercial shop; we make things for our own satisfaction only.

Shop Floor
Bandsaw Shop Vacuum Anvil 1 Anvil 2

Page one
go to
Page Two

 Vacuum Table Power House Lighting
Workbench III      
email:      Go to Workshop Page Two                            

Main Workbench

This workbench is the heart of the shop. Most every thing made of wood in the shop passes over this bench at least once. Story: I made this bench in 2001 because I wanted a very strong bench made exactly to my specifications. The bench, made of oak, is about six feet long by 21/2 feet wide, has drawers and trays that open from both sides (The drawers are graduated with shallow at the top and deeper at the bottom), and the top can withstand a heavy hammer blow or a strong cranking or twisting action. The finished bench weighs about 250 pounds or so, but it can be disassembled so, except for the top, it will fit in the trunk of an average car.
      Near the back end of the top is a two inch deep tool tray in the center of the bench with a reinforced glass bottom. There is a vise on each end made of cherry, one with a double crank, the other with a single. The double crank vise has enough play in it so it will adjust to odd shapes and angles; the single crank vise is rigid. They are both shop made vises. The screws I found at the Green Dragon Farmer's Market outside Ephrata, Pennsylvania--interesting place.

                      Double Crank Vise

     History: I made the bench from oak (white oak, I believe) I purchased in 1974 to build a hay wagon body when I first went in the haymaking business. I didn't use all the oak and over the years moved it from barn to barn (three moves) until it ended up in the barn where the shop is.
      It was rough cut so had to be planed. It was hard as a rock so it took a whole day to plane and cut. The oak that became the six legs for the bench were 4x4's originally meant to be struts under the wagon body. Cut, planed and shaped, each leg weighs about 20 pounds.
     The top is a solid maple door with strips of oak and cherry assembled in butcher block style overlaying the door; the sides of the benchtop are oak. The door came from the music room of the high school where I taught for 37 years when the school decided to modernize its interior. That explains the reinforced (with wire mesh) glass tool tray. The top can be removed if one chooses to disassemble the table, but it weighs over a hundred pounds and is a two-man job
. Its about two and three-quarters inches thick.

Heavy Cart

I inserted this cart here because it has such an interesting history to me. It's a three wheeled cart (a swivel wheel back by the handle and two larger wheels toward the open end of the cart; all are steel covered with a solid rubber tires.) that I used as a kid of about age 11 and older to deliver silage to our herd of milk cows. I probably spent more time with this cart than I did with any other single tool on the farm.

Every day I'd push this cart under the silo chute, fill it, climb down from the silo, push the cart to the mangers and give each cow two large forkfulls of silage. In those days that loaded cart was so heavy that I had to get a running start to get it through the dip that was between one row of cows on one side of the barn and the row on the other side. My father followed me with the feed cart and gave each cow her specially measured portion on top of the silage I had left.

I have no fond memories of this activity because I did it every day after school and every weekend until I was 17, when we sold the farm. It took about an hour out of every day. I didn't like the job, but it was probably good for me mentally and physically.

Over forty years later when my father and mother died and my sisters and I were cleaning out the cellar, I found the old cart, still with its original silver color, but stripped of its heavy oak body used to carry the silage. My sisters gave no argument when I asked for the cart, so I took it home.

After power washing the frame and wheels, I painted it. The frame is John Deere green and the wheels are JD yellow. I built a body of oak and yellow pine with low removable sides. (sides are not shown in the picture.)

Now it's handy to move heavy supplies around the shop. I put a tongue on it too, so I can hook it to a lawn tractor for outside work. That sucker will hold a ton.

Dewalt 12" Sliding Compound Mitre Saw

I purchased this 12 inch Dewalt sliding compound mitre saw as soon as I retired in 2003. I'd wanted a compound mitre saw for a long time, and this one really fills the bill. It's one of those tools about which you say, "I don't know how I ever got along without it."

I keep two moveable blocks the exact height of the saw base on the table, and move them manually according to the length of the piece I'm cutting. On the right end of the table is a sliding support topped with a roller I made from some copper pipe and three small bearings. The support will slide out far enough to support pieces up to 12 feet long.

There's not much interesting history with the saw as I've had it only a few years. But the bench it rests on was the first workbench I ever built. In 1962 when I was 20 years old, I had a makeshift shop in the basement of my parents' home. It consisted of this bench, an old Craftman table saw my uncle had loaned me, a quarter inch power drill, a small vibrator sander and a bunch of mostly used hand tools. Soon after, I bought a small craftsman lathe that I mounted on a homemade bench that hooked to this bench for stability.

I put a metal vise on the bench, and I was in business. I bought antiques (more like used furniture at the time) and old furniture and repaired and refinished the pieces with the help of the girl who would become my first wife.

The bench is made of 2x4s, pallet lumber and a few #2 pine boards. It's substantial enough for moderately heavy work. It has six legs and an open bottom shelf where today I keep templates of things I've made. So I can move it when I want, I built two sets of casters, one set for either end that can be lifted into place with two small hydraulic jacks.

Eventually I started building a few things, many of which didn't turn out right in their first rendering. I finally got a sewing cabinet right--on the second try--for my grandmother. When we decided to marry, my wife and I couldn't afford the furniture we found in most stores, so I decided to try my hand at making some.

First I made a few things that hung on the wall, like lamps, then a footstool or two. Eventually we needed a dining room table, so I put together a pine trestle table, then an antiqued pine desk and so on. It wasn't great stuff, but it worked. In fact, the pine trestle table was in use until 2009 in my first wife's home. After thinking for two years I would bring the desk back to life by fixing the trestle legs, I finally put it out along the road for free. Someone soon picked it up, so I presume it is enjoying a new life somewhere else.

So the 45 year old workbench continues on as the underpinnings for the sliding compound mitre saw.

Old Lathe

This old lathe replaced the cheap Sears lathe I bought when I first started woodworking. I found it in the barn of a neighboring old farmer named Percy. He used it for sharpening various tools around the farm and referred to the lathe as "the grinder." Percy and I worked together making hay one summer and he asked me to get a sickle bar mower blade that was "in by the grinder." When I went into the barn, I noticed that this was more than a "grinder."

A few weeks later I again inspected the tool and discovered it was an antique lathe. I asked Percy if he would sell me the grinder because at that time I had collected several old tools and wanted to add this to my collection. He asked how much, and I offered $10. He hesitated so I upped my offer to $20. Percy said sure. We could load it on his pickup and take it to my place. He reminded me that there were a couple of five gallon pails "over there somewhere with a bunch of stuff that go with it."

$20 doesn't sound like much today, but in 1970 when I bought it, Percy could buy a new grinder and have money left over. The tool was rusty or greasy, depending on where you looked on the lathe. The two five gallon pails were full of chaff, and it was hard to discern what was in them. We unloaded everything in a shed garage I had, and I didn't look at it for a couple of days because we were busy with hay.

When I did have time to look it over, I saw the lathe was complete and in the pails were all manner of lathe accessories that at that time would have cost me two or three hundred dollar to purchase. I was delighted and began to clean everything up. It was a few days before I completely removed the rust and grease; it was quite a mess. I lubricated everything, but I didn't have a motor for it because Percy had run the lathe with an old monster motor.

One interesting thing was that the lathe had flat drive pulleys meant for leather belts so I was stumped. I didn't want to replace the pulleys because they were part of the antique charm, but I wanted to use it with a V-belt pulley on a modern motor. So I mounted an old appliance motor with a V-belt, ran the belt around the middle most of the three flat pulleys, and by golly it worked.

This became my main lathe for the next 35 years. It has babbitt bearings which I have to oil frequently, but it still works well. In those two buckets were tool rests, centers with morse tapers, all necessary wrenches, a metal turning head with bits, various chucks and a few things I never have learned the use of.

The chuck on the drive end is not a Jacobs. The chuck opens and closes by using a heavy duty square-ended tool that centers two sliding jaws around a straight shaft on which the turning center is mounted. (There is no morse taper, except on the back end center.) The weight of the lathe itself and the cast iron leg made the tool very stable.

Over the years the old lathe has turned table legs, candle sticks, posts for clock cases, green turnings, and I don't know what all. Today it is back to being a grinder where I sharpen my lathe cutting tools and other things that need a fine edge on them, because I bought a new China made, Grizzley lathe.

A funny thing is--I never moved that V-belt off that center pulley and have used the same speed for all my lathe projects. I replaced the old lathe because I like the easy speed changes on the new lathe, and I think those babbit bearings could use a little attention--sometimes there's a little more vibration than I'm comfortable with.

2 HP Grizzly Lathe

The Grizzly lathe has few stories because I bought it in 2006 at the Grizzly outlet in Muncie, Pa. It has a 2 hp motor and variable speed from about 600 to 3000 rpms, 43 inches between centers and a 16 inch swing. Just the flip of a handle swings the lathe for outboard turning. It was inexpensive to buy (under $400)and works very well. Its cast iron legs give it great stability.

It comes with a six inch faceplate, a star drive center and a live tail center plus essential wrenches. It's easy to operate, and its variable speed feature is a joy to use. Of course, I'm comparing it to the old lathe(above) I got from Percy.

The Grizzly Bandsaw

TheGrizzly bandsaw arrived in 2008, and like so many other tools I had put off purchasing over the years, this saw is another one I don't know how I lived without. It's a 17 inch saw with a 131 and1/2 inch blade. It came with a resaw fence that I use often. The resaw feature coupled with my planer opens a whole new world of wood-working possibilities. For example to make the pigeon holes in the country secretary on Workshop Page 2, I first resawed some cherry boards into almost 3/8 inch width slices, then ran them through the planer to make the slighlty larger than 1/4 inch pieces I needed to build the pigeon holes

The bandsaw also has made handling wide boards easier. Instead of wrestling with them on the table saw, I slide them easily through the bandsaw, then clean them up on the table saw. I have three widths of blades for the saw--wide for straight cuts and resawing, medium for cutting wide turns and narrower for tight twisting and winding cuts. I built a dolly for it, so the saw rolls easily around the shop, and the dolly gives the bandsaw a handy work height.

Power House (Generator)

This 5000 watt Honda generator and a similar Honda 6500 watt generator are the power houses that keep the shop running. The 5000 does most of the work, so I keep the 6500 as a backup and as a subsidiary when I run tools requiring 220 volts, such as the bandsaw and the shaper.

When I built the barn in 1984 that now houses the shop, the barn was used mostly for farm machinery storage and so there was no special need for electric power. When I started doing shop work in the barn, I looked into having power run to the barn, which is in a fairly remote place on the farm, but the power company wanted $6000 for installation. That was a lot of money back then, and they also wanted me to build a road to certain specifications to the barn, a road I estimated would have cost me another $6000, so I abandoned the idea of installing electricity. In addition, I really didn't want to see electric wires stretched across the fields to the barn, and running wired underground didn't appeal to me either, especially in such rocky soil as we have.

In 1994, just about the time I decided to put a shop in the barn, we decided to have a family reunion in the barn. I wired the barn with the intention of buying a generator so we'd have lights in the barn and so the band would have power for their amplifiers and keyboard. I bought the Honda 5000, and that served as the only power until about 1999 when the 6000 watt generator was added. They work really well (although one generator would not be enough), and when the power goes off, we transport one of the generators to the house and use it there.

The generators have proved very reliable, except for the one time mice got into them and ruined both. After an almost $2000 bill to get them both running again, I put mothballs under them in the fall and winter when the mice come into the barn. That seems to have solved the problem. The mouse problem occurred only in the fall of 2009 and had never occurred before, but at that time one generator went bad, then a few weeks later the second generator went bad. The only thing we could blame was mice, but it could have been something else.

Bank of Lights

I made up several banks of lights like the one above and after some changes and fine tuning I ended up with somethng that works well. The top of each fixture started out as a cheap florescent light, but the florescents didn't work well in cold weather and they threw a cold light (although I still have a few very large florescent lights in use that I was given by a friend).

So I went to the lighting fixture department in Lowes and bought several very cheap six-bulb bathroom lighting fixtures. After removing the florescent light part from the original fixtures, I secured the bathroom light fixtures to the top of the former florescent fixture so as to cast the light downward. I then affixed two of the newly formed fixtures to a long pipe and suspended them from the ceiling--wala--a bank of lights. In some cases I suspened on one fixture.

Originally I used conventional bulbs, but they were a great pull on the power souce, the generators (see 'Power House"), and I often had to unplug a bank or two oif lights to run certain tools--like the table saw. When they came out with these new-fangled florescent bulbs, I decided to give them a try. The new bulbs were advertised to pull only a fraction of the power of the incondescent bulbs, so, expensive as they were, off to Walmart I went and took the plunge.

They work great. After a minute or so of warm-up the florescent bulbs throw an incredible amount of light, and they pull very little power from the generators. Now the whole shop stays lit all the time. When we saw the difference in power draw on the generators, my wife and I decided to replace all the house bulbs with the new type. We figure we save about $10 a month over what our electric bill would be using incondescents.

Below is the shop with the lights on. Since the barn has no windows and only skylights in the roof, lights are very important in the shop.

Lights in the back half of the shop

Delta Drill Press

This is a Delta tabletop drill press my wife (when she was still a girlfriend) bought me around 1993. It has an interesting feature: the head can be set at any angle; however, this feature is not as handy as I thought it would be when we purchased it. In retrospect, I believe a tilting table would have been more useful. The head also slides to move it closer to or farther from the vertical support beam. Though I seldom use the slide feature, it can be a very handy in particular circumstances.

One thing I'm very glad I bought at the same time is a mortising head with three square bits/chisels. Though I use the mortiser only occasionally, it too is very handy when I need it. The drill press also does double duty as a drum sander when I need to shape those hard to sand curves. I use large and small drums, depending on the sharpness of the curves I want to sand.

The table lacks a cranking table lift, which I often wish it had, but a lift would not work well with the angling head because the table couldn't swing from side to side. The angling head concept must not have proved popular as I no longer see this model offered. The hand lift table (with a lock on the vertical beam) on this model does, however, prove useful in a few rare instances, and its not as difficult to lift and set as one might think (as long as the beam is lubricated). The hand lift's universality (It can be stopped anywhere around the beam.) gives it a slight overall edge over a cranking lift, pain in the neck or not.

While the drill press has few stories, the table it sits on has one. A friend for whom we have baled hay for over 20 years was going to discard the table. He didn't know quite how because the table is all steel. (He had owned a big autobody repair shop in Elizabeth.) His best plan was to cut it up. When he offered it to me, I jumped at the opportunity. It was pretty rough--rusty and greasy--but after some scaping and cleaning, I painted it a dark green and set it in the shop.

This is one tough and heavy table. It must weight upwards of 400 pounds. It's about 4 X 8 feet so it doesn't get moved. The one time I moved it after it was set in the shop, I used a crane on my Ford tractor. Besides the drill press, the table holds a heavy metal vice, a chop saw for steel, cement, and such, some heavy anvils, and a small disk and belt sander. Underneath there are leg supports that act as a heavy-duty shelf. There I keep heavy stuff that I'm not going to use often. When there is heavy pounding (as in steel or other metals) or bending to be done, it happens on this table.

Workbench II

This is an extraordinarily handy workbench. Unfortunately, when this picture was taken the bench was covered with a pile of lumber. It is about 4 X 5 feet with a solid 1 3/4 inch glued up butcher block style maple top. It has three standard woodworking vises (two six-inch and one four-inch) and is bolted to manufactured steel legs. On one side a pattern maker's vise is built into the top.

For years this was my primary workbench--until I built the oak bench mentioned at the top left of this page. Its shortcoming is that it's a little low for my comfortable working height, and it's not as stable as one might wish. I've always meant to fasten those steel legs more securely and maybe add some drawers, but never got around to it. (I think a well secured shelf under the table would do the trick.)

The two vises on the ends of the table (on the side shown) make securing a long board easy. The pattern maker's vise on the opposite side of this bench will secure square or odd shaped items in a multitude of positions. I rarely use it, but when I need it, there's no vise better. It takes a little effort to set it up just right, but because the jaws can be set to any shape and the whole vise can be swung out and up, it secures odd pieces in handy work positions.

Pattern Maker's Vise

This bench too has an interesting story. The same friend who gave me the all steel table with the drill press on it, also gave me this bench--and for the same reason--he was going to throw it away! His plan was to burn it up, then scrap the remaining metal. When he offered it, I had it on my truck before he could change his mind. (Incidentally, this giving was not all one sided. Over the years I have given him several pieces of farm machinery I no longer used.)

This workbench came with the pattern maker's vise and the two six-inch wood vises. I added only the four-inch vise and cherry faces for the other vices.

Incidentally, there in front of this bench is my little 5hp, 12 gallon Shop-Vac vacuum--rolls around the shop and is very handy. It has good power and so far has done everything I've asked of it.

Shop Vacuum

Paver Brick Shop Floor

Displaying the shop's floor may seem odd, but I chose to use this floor because it was cheaper than having concrete poured, and I could make this floor myself at my own pace. I am not a skilled mason, nor could I make the amount of concrete needed to make a nice concrete floor. Instead I went down to a local place that makes and sells concrete products. After looking around their yard I settled on this red brick paver (actually cement).

You can see the criss-cross pattern I chose to give the floor a somewhat attractive look. I cut the bricks on my chopsaw, using a diamond-edged blade. The bricks are laid over a quarry dust base that lies on the natural clay in our area. It makes a very solid floor over which I have driven as much as a 6 ton tractor without any problems.

This floor has several advantages.
It automatically allows for drainage because of the spaces between the brick, so I have never had water on the floor.
2) It flexs sufficiently when heavy things are driven over it so that there is no cracking.
3) Tools on casters and wheels easily roll over this floor because this particular brick has no ridge, spacing, or dip at the edge as some patio pavers do.

4) As the shop has grown, expanding the floor space has been easy because all I have to do is go back to the supplier, order the same brick in the numbers I need to fit the expansion I want and come home and lay them myself at my own pace. (The shop is situated in a 3000 square-foot steel agricultural building. At the present time the shop floor covers only one half of the building.)

       Heating System

      Here you see the shop's heating system. This Reznor Heater sits high up near the building's roof line (about 12 feet) and sends out a blast (albeit a quiet one) that will bring the shop up to 60 degrees on a 35 degree day outside, even though the shop is in a steel, uninsulated building with plenty of air leaks where the roof meets the building's sides. The heating unit sits on four posts attached to what is called a "workbench" tank that sits on the floor. To the right you see the whole unit set up in the shop. I added a couple large shelves so as to not waste storage space.
      It turns out this is the heater I always wanted but didn't know about. Thanks to my neighbor Kriss, who is a heating and cooling guy, I found this beauty. A couple of years ago when he was installing a new oil burner in the farm house, I told Kriss if he ever found a unit that he thought would heat my shop to let me know. In November 2009, he remembered and said he thought he had such a unit. He was installing several units like this in a huge steel building being constructed as a fabricated steel factory in northern Jersey. When the owner decided he didn't need all the units he had purchased, Kriss took me up to see the heater. It looked right, we bought it, he installed it, and it works like a charm. At the top left you see the outside assembly.

Vacuum Table for Sanding

This is a gadget I made that doesn't work quite as well as I thought it would. The idea is to plug the shop vacuum hose into the outlet at the end to create suction through the slatted top so as to draw away dust as one sands an object over the slats. It does work--just not as well as I think it should. It is useful when sanding relatively small objects. The vacuum table is approximately 30 inches long and 18 inches wide.

Router Tables

In this picture these are actually two router tables: you see a vertical table (with the router mounted in it) sitting on top of a horizontal table. I have to admit I'm very happy with the way they both turned out, and they work well. They were designed around a Triton Router that my wife recently gave me for Christmas. This site shows up close what I did to design the two tables:

The horizontal table actually has two router mountings. On the far end is my old Black and Decker router mounted in a small plywood table that I originally mounted on the corner of my workbench. On the near end is a formica top, taken from an old portable dishwasher we had, on which I have mounted my new Triton router. Just below the middle shelf there's a drawer (for router bits and such) that can be opened from either end of the table. It's all shop made, including the fence (below) that works only on the formica end of the table. ( I have a smaller fence for the other end.)

The fence can be used as a split fence as shown, or the split part can be removed to provide a solid fence. I have no mitre in the table. If I need the mitre effect, I use a flat board against the fence; this trick works most of the time but is not as good as a mitre inserted in the table--maybe someday. . . .

The vertical table uses a vise screw mechanism to move the router up and down a rabbeted slot on each side of a vertical stanchion. It works well and is a lot safer than a horizontal table in certain applications. I've found a slanted jig that can be used with the vertical table that appears to make cutting raised panels very simple--we'll see.

I made a third table that is a sliding table to accommodate writing and making designs with the router (as in sign making) as well as cutting sheets of plywood. To get a fuller explanation and see how this table works, click on the picture below.

Craftsman Table Saw

If this old Craftsman saw could talk, it could tell a hundred stories, many of which would be about the stupid things I have done while using it--the most interesting being about how I cut off half of the middle finger on my left hand. While that story is about the worst event, there are many more about my pushing limits I never should have. (The picture shows that I use it without a blade guard or a splitter.)

I bought this saw in 1969 when we bought the farm because the house needed major renovations inside. Until that time I had used a much older Craftsman saw that I'd borrowed from an uncle. When he wanted it back, I had no choice but to buy one. At that time the $300 (maybe $279) I paid for this saw was a major investment--more than a refrigerator or a stove! But when I bought that saw I was stylin'!

Now there are "contractor's saws," occasional-use saws, midsize saws, general-purpose saws, benchtop saws, cabinet saws, collapsible roll-around saws and on and on, but back in the 1960's there were pretty much just table saws. If you happen to sit one on a cabinet, you had a cabinet saw, but it was the same saw you could put on legs. If you added wheels or casters, you had a portable saw.

I've always been going to build a cabinet around this saw, but for 37 years it has set on the same legs with a couple old sheets wrapped around the bottom to contain the sawdust. I bought aluminum side extensions with the saw and later added wooden extensions with a wood run-out table. It works as well as it ever did, maybe better since I replaced the original motor two years ago. I've looked at some of these new saws that are as big as cars and do everything but cook breakfast, but for my purposes I can't see the advantage--though I often wish I had more power (This saw has only 1 1/2 hp) so I could cut faster.

The story of the lost finger begins in 1972. I was a young man of 30 making an outside door of 2 inch pine for my neighbor. The neighbor, who had a radial arm saw, had recently purchased a wobble dado (a relatively new item to the market at that time) and suggested we might use it on my saw to make the dados in the main door frame for raised panels that were to be inserted. All was going well until I tried to back into a cut (something one should never do)because my shop at that time was too short to accomodate the length of the door's rails when I made the dado cuts.

I was not used to the dado and misjudged the power of its bite. I was also reaching over the blade (something one should never do) and my stance was not well balanced (something one should never do). If I had seen anyone else doing what I was, I would have believed him too stupid to operate power equipment, but thinking I could get away with it this once, I proceeded.

For what I was doing, I was very fortunate. The wobble dado kicked the piece of wood, flipping my hand into the blade. I say I was fortunate because I could have lost many fingers or even the whole hand. We went to the hospital, the finger was cleaned up, and I missed "Hawaii 5-0" that night. In a way that event was a blessing because it greatly increased my respect for power tools and my fear has served me well over the years. That missing 1/2 finger has provided all kinds of humorous conversation over the years, but I won't go into that.

This little Craftsman compressor and the old monster compressor, which sits back in a dark corner of the shop, supply air for the shop. The Craftsman works well, but often needs a little prodding to keep running. It has a tendency to overload the generator that supplies shop power. The old monster, which I bought used for $50, always works but takes forever to build pressure. I have the air hose attached to a rope with clothesline pulleys and so can pull out or retract the line as needed.

        Chopsaw for cement, ceramics, metals

This is a simple tool that does what it's supposed to very well. I bought it on the spur of the moment when I was putting a cement brick (patio brick) floor in another barn. I had previously made cuts with a skilsaw, but that was dangerous and dirty. This saw is not somthing I use often, but when I need it, it really simplifies cutting hard stuff.

This Milwaukee chopsaw is for what is called dry cutting--no liquids involved and uses a 14" blade. I use both diamond and abrasive blades; the diamond lasts a long time but is very expensive while the abrasive blades are cheap but get quickly used up.

Power Hacksaw

I bought this metal cutting bandsaw from a peddler from the Carolinas in about 1977. We took it right off his pickup and into my barn. I also bought a 20 ton hydraulic press from him. I paid him and he was gone. I didn't know how well it would work, but it was cheap (I think I paid $79 for it.) and I was tired of hacksawing everything by hand. At that time I was farming full tilt so cutting metal was a common need.

This little saw has been a lifesaver. I have used it frequently from the day I bought it and continue to do so. It has never quit and I've had to change the blade only about three times in 30 years. It's not terribly accurate, but it will cut rod and angle iron very nicely. It has a small table that can be inserted, and I've used the table to even cut some sheet metal. It was certainly worth the money.

Work Table

I originally made this table as a run-out table for the tablesaw, but I found myself using it so often for assembly of light projects that I gave up the run-out table idea and made a different setup for the tablesaw, something more simple.

I use this table almost as much as the workbenches because its so big (about 3' by 6') and so mobile. It's mobility makes it handy for moving projects around the shop, and its top has a manual up and down adjustment (which is a little clumsy because each side must be adjusted individually) that makes it able to accomodate the various surface heights in the shop.

As the pictures shows, the table is also handy for piling stuff, especially all the parts that are going to be used for a particular project. I stuck two drawers in the front to hold sundries--never enough storage.

Big Tex 10,000 Lb. GVWR Trailer

I have always wanted a nice trailer to haul heavy stuff, so when I retired I treated myself to this 16 foot Big Tex trailer. It works nicely with my 2001 Chevy Silerado 1500 pickup with a trailer package. We haul everyhting from farm tractors to lumber and projects on it. Of course, since I bought it, I have wished a few times I had bought a bigger trailer, but a larger one would not have worked so well with the pickup.

One thing I added as soon as I bought the trailer is a winch. My mechanic and friend Rocky built a mount for the heavy duty Ramsey winch into the front of the trailer. That winch has proved its worth over and over. I don't know how many vehicles that wouldn't start the winch has pulled on the trailer. It works with anything that will slide. I had it built to work off a mounted batterty rather than hook it to the truck's electrical system. The battery hookup allows me to pull things on to the trailer, even if I'm pulling the trailer with a tractor.

There's one thing I don't understand about the manufacturers of trailers like this one: why don't they spend a little extra for sturdier and more reliable tail lights. The only real problem I've had with this trailer is tail light repair, and I have had it over and over. I finally bought new tail lights.

Something I didn't think of when I bought the trailer is that the side rails, which add a great deal of strength to the trailer and are in many ways very practical--such as for tying--do not accommodate a loaded car. When the car is on the trailer, it is very difficult to open the car's doors to get out of the car after one has driven it on the trailer. With a big car, the driver must climb out the window of the car!

Wall of Clamps

Clamps are one of the most essential and most bothersome parts of any woodworking shop. Most projects require some kid of clamping, even if it's just to hold down a project while it's being worked on, and some projects require an extraordinary amount of clamping. In any case I've never found a clamping procedure that I enjoyed, especially when more hands than the two I have a required.

I've acquired clamps over the years mostly by following this principle: Buy two clamps every time I go to a woodworking store, even if they're more expensive than they should be (and they always are--and always have been).

Clamps are also a pain in the neck to store. Almost every woodworking magazine I pick up has some clamping or clamp storage solution. My storage solution is very simple: I hang all my clamps on either this set of old racks that were actually intended for another use, or on my workbench. The ones on the workbench (about 10 non-scarring clamps with quick release) are the clamps I use most often, It's a long walk when I need these clamps on the wall, but I've never liked the concept of a mobile clamp rack so often seen in magazines--just one more thing to get in the way..

Workbench III

      This workbench was added in November 2010 and has a somewhat interesting story. My wife Felicia and I were riding along a local side road when she spotted what she though was a butcher block table top someone had put out either for free or to sell. I had been looking elsewhere and didn't see it. I was skeptical but turned around and drove back to take a look. Sure enough--honest to goodness 1 and 3/4 inch maple butcher block, three feet by four feet. Since there was no price on it, we drove to the owner's nearby house and asked about it. He said just take it, so with some hernia-worthy straining we got the thing in the back of our Jeep.

Workbench III (second pic)

 We took it home to the shop. I cut up some 4x4 white oak into 2x4s and made the legs, added some previously purchased casters because I wanted a bench that rolled, cleaned up and painted an old 7" Wilton woodworkers vice I had acquired from somewhere, added a sliding shelf and there it was--my new workbench. It's a sturdy bench and weighs in at about 175 pounds.

Anvil 1

This old anvil has followed our family since1949 when my father bought the Ernest Bellis farm outside Ringoes, N.J. When the Bellis' had their farm sale no one bought this anvil, probably because it was too heavy to move. It was a very old anvil then so its age can only be guessed. The anvil was in what the Bellis's called the wash house which Ernest had turned into a workshop after they moved the washing chores into the house. (Incidentally, in that washouse house was a dog treadle which the Bellis family had used at one time to run the washing machine.)

In the wash house-workshop was a huge workbench with this anvil on top. In the 10 years we were on the farm, that anvil hardly moved (It probably weighs about 80 pounds). I remember Dad used it when he had to pound the rivets to secure new blades in the sickle bar mower knife. Dad took the anvil with us when we sold the farm, but he almost never used it, so when I bought the Cokesbury farm and had a #6 sickle bar mower for the 1948 John Deere I bought, he gave the anvil to me. Now I rarely use it, but when I want to really whack a piece of steel against something solid, there's nothing better under what I'm hitting than this anvil.

Anvil 2

This anvil belonged to Dick Laskey's grandfather. Dick was a neighbor and good friend who lived across the road from the Cokesbury farm. Dick and I were both interested in making stuff. In fact, Dick and I were making a back door for a new addition on his house when I cut off my finger. (See the story under tablesaw above.)

Dick and I eventually turned our attention to making ornaments and lamps out of tin. My old anvil (See anvil1.) was not very useful for the finer curves in some of our lamp making projects, so he brought his anvil over to my shop, where we did most of our tinkering. We made a lot of great tin stuff, but never quite achieved professional grade. When he moved to Texas in 1978, he gave me this anvil, and I've been forever grateful.

In fact, I visited Dick in 2007 and I noticed that in his Oregon house on the Pacific coast, he still uses several of the tin pieces we (he more than I) made back in the 1960s. In his dining room he and his wife Grace use a very nice chandelier he made , and he had several wall sconces around his house. Two sconces in the dining room are fitted with pieces of bluish antique mirror, and they present a very nice glow, even when they're not lit.

I use the anvil frequently because when something metal has to be shaped, this anvil offers all kinds of curves and flat surfaces. I often use it now to shape aluminum flat stock which I incorporate in many of my woodworking projects. I also use it for copper and tin pieces when the need arises.

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