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38 days, or was it 38 ways ?

38 days of winter to go ?

c’mon, that’s nothing.

we’ve got it licked- spring’ll be here before you know it…

just-a-saunterin’ back through the inner city slumber … sure i get it,

some mornings feel like those halloween eyes and cracker jacks winkin’~

and on some other days your bones just wanna scream – like an icicle spear down the spine,

“nuclear winter, my dearest, sweetest and oldest friend here in the entire living world,

won’t you please stay the hell away awhile ?”

i suppose i shouldn’t complain, it is winter time in canada eh.

why do people still get so surprised?

making the news, popping up all over the place..

winter storm!!

snow daze!!

jumpins people,  we’re starting to sound like a bunch of americans !

; )

so here I am this week doing my Spring Cleaning routine…

Spring Cleaning it is not-

apparently not for another 38 days.

sun shining bright in the afternoon  sky…low and heavy you know the one,

that late winter warm while it’s still minus double digits outside.

a small february deception, this sun pouring in but giving no real warmth except the feeling it produces inside..i suppose that’s enough for now in this din of late winter.

good energy- produced on the inside- hand made you know!

a bright place in the basement woodshop.

i’m able to work in the dark (so to speak)

no lights today

no power at all-

just sunshine washing through my tiny valentine window up to the street outside-

the salt seepin’ down and in and all around, it’s enough to pickle-a-berry – but i digress.

they use salt to melt the ice here in ontario….almost daily downtown….lots of friggin’ ice…..

we don’t salt our sidewalks back home, just the fish you know.


again for the benefit of those in the back-

this is what I call the bi-annual (sometimes quarterly) maintenance dance I need to do  here in the wood shop and I would suspect that many of you out there would benefit from doing some of or even all of these same work shop chores in your shop during this ‘end of winter/spring-time-approaching‘ season.

Number one (and this generally happens twice a year here in this Southern Ontario basement workspace) is flattening my bench top. It’s Feb. 10th today and the bench top has bowed up almost an 1/8″ through its middle section since November. ..or was that me with the beer and the …no, it’s not me. this time.

I was trying to decide whether I’d just leave the bench and perhaps start dismantling the ‘ol dog and finally begin my new work bench design/project but I’m starting to see that it will have to  hold off for a while.

any surface planing style, flat-on-the-bench-top-type of work lately has been off a heavy slab of quarter sawn local hardwood and its been working out well for me..i just place the larger timber across the existing bench top and now i only have this planing surface to worry about…but alas-

that’s another chapter for another day indeed.

( long story longer…yes, i am aware- )

I  burn through an hour, listen to some vinyl and  flatten  this one here in front of me.

I have classes booked all month and really don’t have the time to start the new work system just yet. My existing work bench is laminated European beech wood and is/was approximately 2″ thick through the surface mid-section when it was manufactured.

This  winters temperatures in Ontario went from a plus double digit if i’m not mistaken to this past week down to -22…that’s waaaaay below freezing…solid ice…..everywhere…and salt…did i mention the salt..?? or the fish…??

so needless to say the ol’ furnace has been working overtime to maintain a comfortable ??? living temperature and the result is wood quickly drying out and moving around…

a ‘set ‘ you might say if you speak the language….

sent from my iPhone ?


The bench top was the first area to address and this is where my mid-week begins.

With a heavy cut set on the jointing plane, I traverse the bench top across its width to tear up the cross grain fibers; this is pretty effortless work cutting across the grain of the dry beech wood and only takes a few passes back and forth, end to end to get things back into the realm where I can live with it for the style work i do.

I follow with a few passes along the grain working the length of the work bench and finish off after a few more passes where ever i see light peeking through from under a reliable straight edge… .

I notice the area just in front of my shoulder vise has moved the most.

Why ?

I suspect its because in this area I’ve drilled a dozen or so holes through the years for my bench dogs and work holding devices. A little Swiss cheese effect and with every hole comes more exposed end grain. Remember how we think of wood grain like those little straws or sticks or brooms! or worms or bait or fir or  twigs or …?

So the moisture leaves more rapidly through these little exposed ends of wood fiber…It takes longer for the moisture to work its way out from a semi-finished or ‘tooled’ area so any time we expose more end grain we loose more moisture content from the wood/piece and thus wood movement is sometimes more prone to occur through the winter months.A reliable humidifier goes along way if you’re set up for it and acoustic guitars should be kept in a guitar case with a small humidifier placed inside which is nothing more than a small sponge soaked with water. The work bench and the hard wood floors and the furniture all end of loosing moisture and mass- the air is dry, it is winter…

Back to the holes drilled in the bench top all adding up to this little area in front of my face vise that bows up much faster than the rest and needed to be worked a little more. An extra few passes with a smaller sole plane I switch over to my 5 1/2″ and take another full sweep with a lighter bite and this is where I”ll leave it for today…there’s more work shop maintenance to do this week- ’till next time.


  1. Posted by Christopher Lindsay on Feb 10th, 2011

    Ahh. . . The benchtop — mine is also in bad shape. And the Winter — my yard is one mass of ice, goose feathers, and dog turds. It has been so chilly in the shop that I just want to play guitar where it is warm!

  2. Posted by Michael Rogen on Feb 11th, 2011

    Mr. Fidgen,

    Ahhh, how refreshing and pleasant it is to read the ‘poetry’ you graciously share with us. I’ve been a fan for a long time and I just wanted to let you know. In addition to your blog, the book is great and your work is inspiring. Being somewhat disabled, hand tools are what I use as well and the experience for me is much more enjoyable.

    Thanks for everything,


    PS – How’s the saw bench plans coming along? It certainly looks like a winner and I will build it as soon as the plans are available.

  3. Posted by John on Feb 12th, 2011

    Thats why all the “Yanks” move to the South. The forecast for Valentines Day is a nice balmy 71 degress !! You guys get the ice, and we get the sweltering heat.The humidity in South Carolina is so great (maybe too great) that you can leave a cigar out of the wrapper all day and no worries. Just takes longer to smoke.

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