Breaking in

Monday, we began the joyful process of breaking in a new workbench. For Christmas, the kids acquired a gorgeous maple workbench from Santa, and B received her very first set of tools to go with it (before you think that is vastly unfair, K received his first set of tools when he was 7 too). The workbench isn’t too big, nor is it too small for two kids to work on side by side. It has three drawers and one big cabinet, a shelf that runs the entire length of it, and a wooden vise.

We set about using the workbench for the first time, and breaking in some of their brand new tools, too. Our first project? A block of wood. We have an old school-style pencil sharpener, the kind with a hand crank on one side and a rotating disc with several different sized holes for different sized pencils to fit into. I must have screwed that thing into the wall four times now, only to have it eventually come down again under the enthusiastic efforts of one small pencil sharpening kid or another. So, I decided that we need a sturdy block for it to sit on instead, and that’s what we set about building.

Of course, knowing that K was itching to try out the new hand saw and mitre box combo that had been sitting there on the shelf, shining yellow and black and silver and oh so enticing, and how B has been curious about sanding things and how that works after seeing the Mythbusters use a beltsander, I thought it might be much more fun to build a block of wood out of several smaller pieces of wood that would need measuring and sawing and aligning and glueing and sanding and sanding and sanding.

So that’s what we did.

We figured out a plan for how to build a long enough, wide enough, and tall enough block out of some old garden stakes (scrap wood 1″x0.5″ or so, with one end cut to a rough point). We decided we needed it to be 4.5″ long and 2 stakes wide, which then let us put 3 stakes cross-wise underneath for more height and strength. Five cuts. Mom demonstrated tool safety and proper technique, and B wisely insisted they wear their safety goggles, and they learned how to secure the mitre box to the bench, dog the wood into place so it wouldn’t move, and cut it to length using the hand saw. Once they had the idea and had tried a few practice saws on the first piece, they went to work on the rest until we had enough little pieces of wood to make our pencil sharpener stand.

The two long pieces were glued and pressed together using the vise, and the shorter ones using a wood clamp from The Man We Call Dad’s toolbox, and that’s as far as we got tonight since they do, after all, have school in the morning and can’t get to bed too late. Tomorrow, we’ll glue the two layers together and give them plenty of time to dry, and then we’ll get started on the sanding before finally attaching the pencil sharpener.

One thing I can’t decide – should we paint it or stain it, or just leave it au naturel? What do you think?


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