Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It’s not you…it’s me.

Two weeks ago, on April 1st, I received a call from Maine. I was busily working at Marc Adams School of Woodworking and the call went to voicemail. Later that evening as I drove to my parents’ house (where I stay when visiting MASW) I finally listened to voicemail and found that Andrew from Lie-Nielsen called because he was getting ready to build my workbench. It truly seemed like it had to be an April Fools joke.

Last year about this time I was talking to Mr. Lie-Nielsen, and I had finally decided to forego building my own workbench and just buy one. I asked what the lead time was, and he said, “about 6 weeks.” Thomas told me to call Casey back at the Toolworks and place the order through her. When I called Casey the next day, she told me Tom misspoke about the lead time. I was informed the benches were as much as 6 months out. I went ahead and ordered it, realizing that I would have a new workbench in time for Thanksgiving. Around October of 2007, I called to check on the status of my bench and found that I was still number 83 on the list of 130 people waiting for benches. A new bench for Thanksgiving would be out of the question.

I was lamenting my bench waiting frustration to Chris Schwarz who responded, “Why don’t you just build a bench?!?!?!??!” My response was something like, “Hey, Chris, you know Tom better than I do…. Do you think he would move me up the waiting list if I offered him like an extra Ten Dollars?” Chris replied, “Knowing him, he will either move you down or throw you off the list.”

I don’t think it’s a case of Thomas Lie-Nielsen being The Soup Nazi; I just got the impression he believes in treating everyone fairly. So I waited.

A couple of weeks later, I decided to start building the Holtzapffel Bench. That bench is nearly done, and I really like the design. While at MASW, students work on Lie-Nielsen workbenches, and they are very good benches. However, during the first day of my class with Chris Gochnour two weeks ago I kept discovering little things about the bench that were less efficient than the Holtzapffel bench, given the way I work. I love the massive legs of the Holtzapffel and the fact they mount flush to the front of the benchtop. This design offers clamping possibilities that are not available with the traditional European Trestle base. As much as I thought I wanted a tool tray, I have now grown accustomed to the clear 24” wide top of massively thick hard maple. (Note: Lie-Nielsen benches can be ordered with or without tool trays.)

So on April Fools Day as I pulled out of the parking lot at MASW, I was thinking about how happy I am with the workbench I built when the cellular signal improved and my phone's voicemail reminder told me of all of the calls I had missed during the day. I was thinking about my Holtzapffel bench when I listend to a voicmail from Andrew asking if I still wanted the Lie-Nielsen Bench. I called Andrew the next morning and found out some information… I was now number one on a list of about 200, and they aren’t taking any more orders (for a while). As Andrew told me about the challenges they face in meeting the demand for the benches, my mind began racing through thoughts of various schemes and dreams.

My brain went into Antiques Roadshow Collector Mode. I saw Leslie and Leigh Keno oohing over the bench, saying, “Yes. This is an original Lie-Nielsen Bench….” My brain then jumped to a glimpse of the estate sale with a Lie-Nielsen Bench covered with all of my tools. Patrick Leach’s Full Grown 50 year old Tool Elf was there offering “a hundred bucks for all of this old woodworking crap” which my 52 year old nephew was greedily accepting.

I thought about buying the bench and then immediately selling it on Ebay. How much would the guy who is currently #200 on the list be willing to pay to get an 8 foot long Lie-Nielsen workbench within 3 weeks??? The greedy look in my eyes was replaced with a look of fear as the vision of The Soup Nazi flooded my brain, and I heard Tom Lie-Nielsen’s voice say, “You’re the *^&^%*^$% who sold the brand new bench on Ebay????? NO MORE TOOLS FOR YOU!!!!!!!!”

Then, for about 10 seconds I tried to picture the layout of my shop with a $2000+ 8 foot long sharpening station. I couldn’t figure out where to fit it in. I also couldn’t figure out how to convince Gail to start working nights at a 7-11 in order to bring home extra cash to pay for it.

So after weighing all of these thoughts, I made the following speech to Andrew: “Working on the Lie-Nielsen bench here at Marc Adams’ yesterday reminded me of how nice these benches are. However, I am really happy with the bench I just finished making (don’t tell Andrew that it isn’t actually finished yet). Just in case you guys decide to stop making these benches, I would sure love to have one just from the collector side of things, but I cannot justify it given the lack of space in my shop. So, you see, Andrew, I love the benches you make, but they aren’t right for me.”

Then, feeling like all of those old girlfriends of mine from the 1990’s, I said the phrase that effectively closed my affair with the Lie-Nielsen workbench. I softly spoke into the phone and told him, “Andrew… It’s not you… It’s me.”

Next weekend I will be seeing Tom Lie-Nielsen. I hope things won’t be awkward. I hope we can still be friends if only for the sake of the 30 or so planes, saws, chisels, doweling jigs, aprons, and spokeshaves I own.


Anonymous said...

3 responses:

First, I think you've now met and exceeded your references to that school of woodworking already. I count 13 of either the name or the abbreviation on the whole of your blog. I can only hope that they're giving you the adwords payout or at least some free and fancy learnin' by now.

Second, I couldn't help but to notice, settled amongst the Woodworking adwords, the ad for the misspelled "Asian Gilrs for Dating" banner. Imagine my shock to learn that I could "Join Free." I can only assume that this is somehow related to your plans to get Gail nighttime employment. 'nuff said there.

Thirdly, what are you, nuts? I would have bought that bench from you at twice the price yesterday, and you wouldn't have had to resort to Ebay. This would have meant that you at least passed it on to a fellow woodworker. Then, I in turn, could have sold it for even more on Ebay.

It's not unlikely that I'm not kidding about that last part, though.

Jeff Skiver said...


HELP ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The truth is that I am a pawn in the international game of internet/email fraud.

I was kidnapped by a group of Nigerian email spammers late last year. They forced me to set up this blog as a way to establish credibility in the woodworking community (fat chance). Then, through a series of well placed Google Ads on a blog with internet traffic so dense it looks like stone touching pilgrims dangling on the precipice of a human stampede as they head to Mecca, my Nigerian captors would reap great financial wealth. (Note to self…Google and find out if folks on Islamic pilgrimages circle the Kaaba in a counter-clockwise manner. If so, their passion for pilgrimage could be guided by the same area of the brain that ignites the Days of Thunder fire in NASCAR fans. Further note to self: Schedule a meeting with Humpy Wheeler and pitch him with the idea of the Mecca 500. The weekend after Bristol under the Lights we head to Mecca for some short track bumpin’. However, try to keep the cars from crashing into the infield. Apparently that big Rubiks Cube stone building means something to all those fellas that want to kill the Jews and us good ol’ boy Christians.”

Anyway…the Nigerians did a big study with a bunch of focus groups, and among our Woodworking fraternity, the mention of my friend Marc’s school (that would be Marc Adams and the legendary Marc Adams School of Woodworking) creates a desire to click on Google Ads.

JasonB said...

$2000+ for a workbench? Mine is made from plywood. My uncle's workbench is made from an old solid core door (very flat) and legs from a kitchen table. To each his own, I guess.

Jeff Skiver said...


Your point echoes a story Chris Schwarz tells about Thomas Stangeland in his blog. You should take a look...


It's not the tool or the bench that makes an artist great.

As for the $2000, the sad thing is that given the price of lumber and the nice German vise hardware, the Lie-Nielsen workbenches have a substantial Materials cost. By the time they factor in Labor, Burden, Overhead, etc... I believe they are hard pressed to make a profit at $2000.

It wasn't until I built a bench that I began to understand the actual materials and labor that go into a well-made bench.

Let me say one other thing in defense of the Lie-Nielsen lead time on these benches. I had to wait a long time to move up the list, but I think that was because Thomas would not sacrifice quality for throughput.

One other thing worth noting... unlike the days when you had to pay 100% of the cost of a Harley Davidson at the time you ordered it, knowing you would celebrate at least one birthday before it arrived... there was not even a deposit required of me for my Lie-Nielsen bench order.

Rats...I better quit before Tree puts out a comment saying I'm lavishing too much praise on Lie-Nielsen Toolworks that I could save for describing Marc Adams' School of Woodworking.

Jeff Skiver said...

That URL didn't work well....

Here it is again. You'll have to cut and paste it into your address window. (just delete the space I deliberately put in. There is no space between .com/ and techni...)


JasonB said...

That's a good article, thanks for recommending it. I think the biggest difference in workbench "need" boils down to hand tools vs. power tools. We mainly use power tools and therefore, need flatness, stability, and clamp space. And our benches provide that. If I was trying to use hand tools, I would probably build a more traditional bench with all the vises etc. Still wouldn't pay $2000 though. I take pride in the deals I have in my shop. Like $260for a 1963 Powermatic 65 Left-tilt (I think all 65's were left-tilt) table saw. I Replaced the motor with a new Baldour for $285. With new belts and a new cord, I've got less than $600 in it. It would take 4 times that to buy a new saw of equal quality. I then traded my Delta Contractor's saw (the mid-sized $300 one) for a 1948 Northfield Foundry & Machine 12" jointer that was sitting unused in an acquatinence's barn. They make the exact same jointer today, and they run $11,500. I'll have to spend another $300 or so to get it running, which I should get back from selling my Grizzly 6" jointer. I've got other deals like that, but I won't bore you with any more.

Jeff Skiver said...


Far from being bored, I would like to place an order.

I want one of those 12 inch Jointers, and if you ever come across a similar deal on a Oneway Lathe... I'll take that too.

My planer is only a 13" benchtop model, so if you can get me something 15"+ (hopefully with a helical cutter) I'll gladly give you $250 or $300.

Seriously, congratulations on the good deals. I do love to buy good tools, but I also love good tool buys.

JaosnB said...

Your reply struck me as funny for two reasons:

First, many of my friends don't shop for used tools or guns, they "place an order" with me instead. They know I always check local auctions and estate sales for deals, and can usually come up with some good options for them. I've bought more stuff for other people than I have myself lately.

The second reason is the planer. I have a 12 1/2" Delta planer and it is the last tool that really needs to be upgraded. A couple of years ago, I watched a 24" planer sell at an estate sale for $100. I could have bought it for that, but I didn't have power for the 3ph 12 hp motor on the cutterhead and/or for the 3ph 5 hp feed motor. I also really don't have room for it in my tiny shop where everything is on wheels. Even that big jointer at 1000 lbs. is on a super heavy duty mobile base. I just couldn't picture that 24" monster on a base and don't know if one was even available. I realize now that I should have bought it just to resell it for a massive profit. But at the time, I was overcome with despair that I couldn't make it work for me.

So, the next planer deal is mine. But I'll give you first crack at the second one.

jaSOnB said...

Wow, so shook up at the memory of the lost 24" planer that I misspelled my own name

Anonymous said...

So, if I'm understanding what you are saying, there is a school of woodworking somewhere in Franklin, Indiana? and that some guy who spells his name in the french and welsh form runs the place? And, what's more, you are supportive of the place to the degree that you feel it's important to mention it from time to time on your blog? Just wanted to be clear about that.

Maybe, while you're at it, you could throw out a reference (props, if you will) to that Toolworks manufacturer with the hyphenated name. I think we need a reminder about every other paragraph of who it is that you favor for the handtools. We do tend to forget a few sentences later about your tool and woodworking education preferences, whatever they're called. Dang, see? Forgot their names already.

On a serious note, a great resource for shortening the reference to online links is tinyurl.com. Just type in the name and it will create a redirect to that name with its shorter version. For example, here's a reference to a school of woodworking: tinyurl.com/5uh5sb. And, here's one to a tool manufacturer: tinyurl.com/63yhs9

And, of all things, some guy named skiver whose wife apparently (out of embarrassment for the uncredible mistake she made) changed her first name for the picture: jeff and the little woman. Nice pic.

Jeff Skiver said...


It seems you have stumbled upon a photo of my first wife Tara. That was back when I was still using the full Dutch form (Van Skiver) of my otherwise German name (Skiver).

I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved Tara and how much it hurt me when she ran off with our pool boy Lance. She was my heart, my soul, my reason for living. Tara's departure was so painful that I dramatically changed my appearance (note the differences in the wedding pic's you linked to vs. the various shots of me here on the blog.)

Eventually I met Gail. We stumbled across each other by chance as we happened to both be trying to rob the same propane distributor one night. We decided to work together to make one big batch of Meth, and we have been hitting it off ever since. Gail can never replace Tara, but I knew she was a keeper when she uttered those magical words, "Life's too short to shoot bad Meth."

By the way, I searched the blog and did manage to find a photo of Gail.

Please note she had recently grown 4 inches resulting in all of her nurses' pants riding high on the cankles... that or bending over to look at Abby's impalement wound caused the pants to rise up. You be the judge.

Anonymous said...

Wow...I had never seen these particular comments until now. I thought I had read everything on your blog, but I missed these. It really seems like Tree is trying to pick a fight with you. I notice some real sarcastic undertones from him...just remember you are the one with a mercedes.

Anonymous said...

Picking a fight?!? Not at all! Just kidding! That's all, no more no less. Jeff's a funny guy, a great writer, and has very some very poignant articles here. I was only being sarcastic and adding to the mix. If it came across any other way, let's chalk that up to the difficulty in applying tone to text on a web browser. Not the easiest thing to do. Besides, those pictures still crack me up.