A friend of mine recently moved into her own place, and has been furnishing it with free and cheap furniture. This particular piece was originally picked up at the dump for firewood. After taking a look at the solid Maple top and halfway decent construction underneath, I suggested instead refinishing. For about an hour of work and $2 of paint (a pint of mis-tint from Ace Hardware), the table looks much better. Good enough to go into the living room, in fact. I simply planed the top down a little, taking off the old finish and most of the grime. As you can see, I didn't want to go deep enough to totally remove that ugly stain, but it's significantly minimized at least. Then I ragged on a few coats of Formby's tung oil finish and painted the base. Not perfect, but good enough for now.
This past weekend I took some time off work and headed up to Holyoke, MA to run in the 7 Sisters Trail Race, a 12 mile (3700 feet elevation gain) trail race on some rocky, rooty, and generally tough trails. Three days later, my legs still feel as though they've been beat with hammers. I'm looking forward to getting ready for the mile and 5k races coming later this summer.
As I'm spending more time bouncing around between a few locations on a weekly or daily basis (and the weather is warming up so when I get the time to work wood, I want to be doing it outside), I'm trying to get my whole woodworking kit smaller and more portable. For a while I was trying to work out a portable work bench solution (the Close Grain blog has a great write-up on this), but I've since abandoned that idea and have been studying Japanese methods. Below you can see my solution at the moment. This is a planing beam made from a solid Red Oak plank that used to be a mantle in a house I worked on last summer. They didn't notice it missing, but I took their reading glasses too.
I planed the top flat and removed a little twist from it. I'm thinking about adding cleats or feet for use on the floor, and alternatively I set it on a pair of horses to bring it to standing height. The two incomplete holes in the right are for sliding planing stops. It's about 4 feet long and maybe 10 inches wide. You can see some stains on the left from where I used the far end as a sharpening station.
I have been reading up on and have been wanting to try a Japanese plane for a while, so I finally ordered the cheapest one from Japan Woodworker in California. It arrived a few days ago, and I put it to use. I was pleasantly surprised to find the body pretty much ready to use right away, with the area behind the blade relieved, the sole in wind, and a slight hollow scraped in the appropriate place. Unfortunately, while flattening the blade I apparently removed too much metal so that now the blade sticks out too far when inserted. For now I'm simply using the chipbreaker as a wedge to hold the blade in place much like a western wood bodied plane. Eventually I may glue some paper shims into the blade bed to fix the issue. I need to sharpen the blade some more, but so far it cuts very well, and I am enjoying using it.