Recently (left to right below) Jake; Rob’s shop assistant, Dave; Rob, and Rob’s son-in-law, Chris “Frick” Wetmore built this custom workbench. Frick was more involved on the social media side of things doing site management, videography and editing. According to Rob, the need for a bench arose when he realized most of his online students were working on the end of their table saw or worse yet, a shop mate! Rob said, “I have a friend/customer that had been asking me to make him a super-duper bench so what better time! I use to make and sell benches but the selling price missed the actual cost by a few miles! I really enjoy making benches so I would entertain making another one. I bought back a bench I made 12 years ago and recently upgraded it and re-sold it. Point is, the market may be ready for a few custom benches. The hardware available has been a real downer so the chance to redesign and have a better mouse trap made was a big motivator. I ended up having new hardware made for the two benches in my shop plus the one I recently refurbished and sold, made a huge improvement. I think this latest bench is a bit over the top, I would not want to be the one to make the first “ding” in it!”
The bench is made from Mahogany and Hard Maple; all the horizontal Maple surfaces are veneered with ¼” thick Birdseye. The base is actually Spanish Cedar, looks like Mahogany and a lot less expensive. It even has a sharpening station!
The bench dogs have “T”shaped slots cut in them and “T” shaped pieces held in place with two springs from ball point pens. This provides enough tension to hold the dog in place over a greater range of heights. Works very nice.
Rob designed a better knuckle for connecting the threaded rod to the movable vise. It allows some horizontal movement to account for pieces that don’t have parallel sides however there is no vertical slop.
Over the top! Nah! Dovetail corners, Mahogany ramp, a tool tray, stretcher wedge…
Adjustable hinged height block features a 3″ lift. Rob said, “The older you get the harder it is to bend over. Using a plane it is advantageous to lean over the plane and use your body weight, especially when cutting dovetails. It is better done at a higher, more comfortable stance. You want the bench low for hand planing and high for cutting dovetails. Young folks can adapt, older folks don’t want to! For the finish, I applied several coats of thinned Tung oil on the top and sprayed the rest with lacquer. I did not want the excessively slippery surface lacquer leaves on the top, also wanted a surface that was easy to repair/refresh.”
Here is a brand new video, just YouTube posted at the time of this blog posting, by Rob on the build of this fine workbench…
Online Workshop Involves Both Cosmans
In 2011, Rob launched an online hand-tool workshop that was followed the next year by a second hand/power tool workshop, both projects aimed at reducing Rob’s need for travel away from home allowing him to spend more time with his family. Jake has been the cameraman for both workshops, as well as doubling as the featured apprentice, working through the hand skills as the student for his dad, the instructor. “I film five days a week. We try to keep the price really low so people can participate,” Rob said. “I have an online forum. If someone asks a really good question, Jake goes in and films the answer. My son-in-law downloads the videos to the website. We try to make the experience as if the person is standing right there. The audience likes our casual approach, we don’t cut anything and we work through the mistakes.” Here is more about Rob’s online workshop program:
Today Rob sees woodworking as an enjoyable hobby, but a difficult career. He speaks from experience. A college graduate, he launched a 12-year career as a custom furnituremaker trying to support a growing family. “I did all sorts of things to make it work. I sold graduation rings. I insulated basements.” In 1999, it became clear to Rob that he could never charge enough to make the income he needed. “I realized that the only people who would appreciate my work were the people who wanted to learn how to do it.”
In 2000, the opportunity to import a line of tools and sell them in Canada led Rob to produce instructional DVDs. “I recognized as I was selling these tools that many of these people had no experience in how to use them,” Rob said, “I started making DVDs to help them learn how to use the tools. As a result of the DVDs, I began to receive invitations to teach. I now have the perfect scenario.
Teaching is challenging and fun, and I am getting paid to pursue my hobby, which is building furniture.” Rob also continues to add to his line of premium hand tools. When asked what prompted him to design and make tools, he said: “Guilt! I was demonstrating to the audience with tools I had either modified or made. A lot of what I do is made easier because of these tools. As students recognized this, the demand for my tools became apparent. I could not find anyone willing to build them so I decided I would have to do it myself.”
In conclusion, it is an honor to know and learn from Rob in both woodworking and his views on life in general. Look for Rob at most Woodcraft shows and stores near you! You’ll be glad you did.
Thanks Rob, we appreciate all you do!