Christopher Schwarz has helped many of us solve some pretty frustrating problems over the years.
If you were charmed by Harrelson Stanley’s Japanese workbench, then here is another variant for you that was built by Russ Merz of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Chris is a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking Magazine and the publisher at Lost Art Press.
Tool manufacturers, given my position here at the magazine, are high on my watch list so when JET introduced the new Vortex Cone Dust Collector (DC-1100VX), the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I ran the collector another few minutes while I watched the dust tornado spin inside the disposable plastic bag (simple minds, simple pleasures), then I pulled the canister from the machine to evaluate the amount of dust inside. When JET released the information about Vortex, I watched the Ed Sanders and Johnny Littlefield video (click the video button). Even though the Vortex collector is an improvement over older designs, there are a couple things for which I will ding JET. Also these collectors are on wheels, therefore they are supposed to be moved around your shop.
Another feature that JET uses on its dust collectors that I dislike is the ring used to hold the lower bag in the housing.
Click here for a look at the technical specifications of each of the 1100 CFM Vortex Cone Dust Collectors from JET. Glen Huey is a former managing editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, a period furniture maker and author of numerous woodworking books, videos and magazine articles.
I would like to see a side by side shootout of a Jet Vortex, and the same unit with a Thein baffle separator put before the same unit.
I am guessing the real thing to do is to have similar dust (same quantity of fine dust and coarser chips) by weight. It would be a major benefit to those of us who own a JET dust collector for JET to make a retrofit kit available for the Vortex cone. About five years after JET came out with a built-in remote control for their dust collectors, they made a retrofit remote control available. I have a flat baffle in my collector now, which is only partially effective, and am going to try the cone shape. Some people in the Phil Thien website have been putting a baffle in their DC’s for awhile now already, I was skeptical at first also. I specifically asked a company representative about a retrofit and was told that as of now, JET has no plans to offer the cone assembly separately.
If I were in need of these parts to update my JET DC, I would wait a bit for the shine to wear off the new penny.
Jet offered a canister upgrade for existing machines when the cannister filter was released.
I wonder if a cooking WOK would be closer to the cone shape than a salad bowl, it might also be heavy duty enough to stand up the constant air flow.
This particular table, which is in the collection of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (commonly called MESDA), straddles the 17th and 18th centuries in its form and its joinery.
The original table was painted, yet the surviving example has lost almost all of its paint to time. If you subscribe to my Instagram feed, you saw the speed of moving from two extremes in the post pictured above. This type of vise can be picked up new from suppliers such as Lee Valley or Highland Woodworking. All of the vises at the benches in our shop are the 9″ variety and seem to satisfy our needs well. On the right hand end is a Wilton i brought new from the Australian distributor – there are numerous time I wish I had 2 Records. I too pondered these options when I built my first dream work bench and ended up finding an old Columbian quick release on e-bay and yes the delivery charges were high. The leg vise is a great choice, hence linking to Bill’s recent addition to his bench.
When it comes to building or buying a bench, most woodworkers get wrapped up in what form it should take. This rig serves as the assembly bench in the Popular Woodworking shop, but if you put a vise on it somewhere, it probably could serve as a workbench in a production shop. During the last 10 years, I’ve built a number of classic bench forms, and I’ve worked on craftsman-made and commercial benches of different stripes. And now, after all this work, I’ve concluded that it doesn’t matter what sort of bench you have as long as it performs a set of core functions with ease. Before we get to the rules, it’s fair to say that a lot of the best commercial woodworking today is done on benches that disregard many of these rules. In 2006 I was teaching a class in hand work at a school where Thomas Stangeland, a maestro at Greene & Greene-inspired work, was also teaching a class.
One evening we each gave a presentation to the students about our work and I showed an image of the enormous French workbench I’d built the year before and discussed its unusual history. Thomas then got up and said he wished he had a picture of his workbench: a door on a couple horses. But what’s important here is that while you can build with the door-off-the-floor approach, there are many commercial woodworkers who still see the utility of a traditional workbench. The point is that a good bench won’t make you a better woodworker, and a not-quite-a-bench won’t doom you to failure. It took me a while to figure out how to make the mechanism work, but it’s really quite simple (see Fig. Before you begin, make sure that your bandsaw’s table is square to the blade, side-to-side and front-to-back.


Before you glue parts together to re-build a box, sand their edges on a full sheet of 80 grit sandpaper. I put the sandpaper on the cast iron wing of my tablesaw and secure it with Gorilla Tape so the paper doesn’t buckle or shift (see Sources, page 64). American Woodworker magazine was acquired by F+W Media (parent company of Popular Woodworking) in 2014.
Ever since I picked up a king-size bed at a liquidation sale, I wanted a matching bench to hold my shoes at the foot of the bed. Since I use a combination of machine and hand tools, I made these as stationary stands to stack timber on when using a buzzer (planner?), bench saw (table saw), etc. I know Japanese style planes are used on the pull stroke… so do you back up the nearest trestle with a strategically placed foot? A cone shaped object suspended in the housing of the collector could improve dust collection by keeping larger particles from climbing into the canister filter of the collector thus clogging air flow.
One area that always has a generous supply of dust is our table saw base – our table saw collector doesn’t quite suck, but it’s close.
There was very little, but with a total run time of only about five minutes, I didn’t expect there would be much.
That meant there was a large amount of waste hitting the cone and that dust wasn’t traveling into the canister. I use the above-mentioned hose to pull my collector around the shop – the machine never rolls straight when pulled by the 4” collection hose.
I enjoy how it snaps into position, it’s getting the ring out when the bag is full that miffs me. Anyway, I’ve always thought that it was better to separate the dust wood chips and dust, plus anything else that might get sucked up before it reaches the impeller and filter.
Finished on all sides, they could be placed anywhere in a room in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
It looks somewhat like a “joint stool,” a typical form of heavy joined furniture in the 16th- and 17th-century household. When I decided to build this piece (approximately 3.2 seconds after seeing it at MESDA), I decided to build it like it was when originally constructed and not distress the wood or the finish. I’ve a project underway for which I soon hope to have a video done, and any Christmas knick knacks I might have planned to make as gifts will have to wait. There is about 13″ between the jaws when they are fully opened on a typical 9″ – pretty generous! Even allowing for the cost of shipping to the East coast it was one of the best investment I made. Nice to hear yet another positive experience with a Record vise, a safe bet for any woodworker! The Bench Crafted leg with the scissor and wagon wheel vices on my wood working Roubo style bench are super nice,but I find the wagon vice slowest of the three.
Tail vice (leg vice) hardware is under $50, and quick release under $100, at least it was last time I checked. It’s part of why I try and respond to all comments, especially so when the comments offer good advise and encouragement as yours does. After all, when woodworkers buy or build their first workbench, they are in the early stages of learning the craft.
I’ve been stunned by how awful some workbenches can be at some tasks, and I’ve also seen brilliantly realized designs. Though we both strive for the same result in craftsmanship, the processes we use couldn’t be more different. Chairmaker and furniture maker Brian Boggs uses more newfangled routers and shop-made devices with aluminum extrusions than I have ever seen.
This one is pretty easy, and the pivoting mechanism really doesn’t complicate things. I use three different blades for making this box (see 7 Tips for Making Bandsaw Boxes, below), and they really have to be sharp to accurately cut wood this thick. Glue the kerf in the lower corner of the middle drawer created by sawing out the secret drawer. I found this out the hard way one day, when a very small drawer turned out tapered from front to back. After seeing many designs that were running anywhere from $250 to $400, I thought to myself “I can do that” – and with a sheet of plywood and some pocket screws, you can too. That hose takes a beating with all the dust, shavings and wood pieces that get sucked into the impellers, along with the occasional measuring tape I might add – I’ve had a more rigid hose fail on a different dust collector.
Those of us that own a Jet DC-1100 and purchased the retro Canister Kit will not be able to add the new Vortex Cone.
They could be used for writing, getting dressed or for any other task required of the household. Yet it has thinner vase-like turnings that are more delicate than an early joint stool, and its drawer has features of both early and later dovetailed drawers. The crisp and new look is a bit arresting to modern eyes, but I think it’s like getting a glimpse of the past that few ever get to experience. But instead of going for new, I checked out eBay and found a nice WODEN brand vice for ?20 ($30).
It took just $4 and a couple of hours to rehab the quick release mechanism and it is mounted on the LHS of my bench with the inner hardwood chop mounted flush with the edge of the bench. I agree with you, nothing matches the practicality and efficiency of a quick release cast iron & steel vise.
With the replaceable faces on the Jorgensen 40709 I seldom hesitate to get medieval with it if the need arises.


Like you, I’ve come across some nice deals online, but often times the shipping cost was relatively high, or quite possibly not even an option at all. Thanks for the heads up on the other options from Lee valley, at those price points they would be very tempting.
They don’t know what sort of bench or vises they need, or why one bench looks different than another. And many classic bench forms get built with modifications that make them frustrating in use.
As long as your bench obeys these rules (or most of them), you will be able to hold almost any workpiece for any task with a minimum of fuss.
More often, a commercial woodworker will have something akin to a clamping table, or even a door on sawhorses. Traditional French workbenches had massive tops (6″ thick), with legs that were big enough to be called tree trunks.
You can push them across your shop by performing simple operations: routing, sawing, planing. Last year, I introduced a box whose drawers pop out with the push of a button, and folks have loved it. The main idea is that you’ll be cutting things apart, removing a waste piece, and gluing the parts back together.
Take care when installing each blade; setting the guides properly is essential for you to be able to follow the cutting lines.
Its extra width helps prevent the blade from bending  backwards and twisting, which can result in a bowed cut.
Rounding the back of the blade with a dry oilstone will help the blade negotiate tight curves (see Sources, below).
I made provision to add an adjustable roller to each trestle to enable them to be used in tailing-off the machines. Sanders shouts that the 20 minute run time is up, you can see that the dust tornado in his machine is spinning much higher than the waste in the Vortex collector. Sure enough the tornado was much higher with the cone removed – I had found no film shenanigans. That may be my technique, so if you know how to pull the bag out without dusting yourself, please let me know. I luv the setup, it works great, and I wouldn’t ever consider going back to a generic style DC such as the JET.
As the ring gets smaller bring the other hand in from the bottom and lower the ring as soon as it can clear the housing.
I was wondering just how old it was, until I took off one of the solid cherry faces to find a message a father had written to his son, presenting the vise to him as a gift on his birthday in 1975. The one that is currently installed on my bench is a second hand Indian knock off of the Record called APEX. The tool box is now third in the list, the project video is something that will help me out in the winter months, after that it’s the bench.
This will add speed and enjoyment to your time in the shop and reduce the amount of time you fuss with setups.
Before Kelly Mehler opened a woodworking school, I visited his commercial shop and got a chance to inspect his vintage bench, which saw daily use.
Everything about a workbench takes punishment that is akin to a kitchen chair in a house full of 8-year-old boys.
If the bench looks delicate or its components are sized like a modern dining table, I would take a closer look before committing. The pictures on the next two pages tell the story quite well, but I’ve also made a video that shows every step of the process (see Source, below). Machine these pieces and make sure they’re flat, then glue them together with plenty of clamps. This blade's extra-deep gullets have plenty of room for carrying away sawdust, which also helps prevent a bowed cut. When you set it up, you spring the blade forward a bit, so the blade remains seated in the groove. Be very careful, though, and use only fine grits and light pressure to maintain control as you sand. I am thrilled with the functionality of mine (they are not a patch on the beauty of Russ Merz’s), I would to consider even loaning these out.
I’ve been following his journey through his early work on Facebook, and knew he lived close to where the vise was. The classic continental-style workbench uses a trestle design and dovetails in the aprons and vises to create a bench for the ages. The 19th-century English workbench uses an early torsion-box design to create a stable place to work. Mike Siemsen has a great introduction if you wish to go viseless and Bill Latanzino has just finished up installing a leg vise to his bench.
And good-quality modern workbenches use threaded rods and bolts to tighten up a design that lacks mass.
Not everyone should feel they need to be bothered with that and we are lucky to have folks like LV offering good value new.



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