After letting the glue dry overnight, it is time to trim the extra length of the tenons poking through the bench top. I didn’t quit know the best way to handle this so tried different methods. I tried laying a saw flat on the bench and just using the top of the bench as a guide. This worked well until the last portion of the tenon. While I expected the saw to chew up the top a bit, I didn’t realize the the saw would actually dig into the top. This created a gouge in the top that will now have to be planed out. Ugh.
Next attempt was using a jack plane and just feverishly working the plane until the tenon was flush with the top. If you want a workout, this is the way to go. For me? No thanks. I actually used that last method for two of the legs before sensibility kicked in.
For the last leg I went back to using the saw. This time I kept a slight pressure on the handle to make the saw angle away from the top of the bench. While this did not result in a flush cut, it did prevent the saw from digging into the bench. Then I used a plane to flush it up. Yeah!
I still have lots of work to to but it is awesome finally having all that wood that I have moved from 3 different houses finally come together into something that resembles a workbench.
I final flatting and construction/installation of the leg vise and this will be ready for use!
Unfortunately, that will have to wait for another year as my job has relocated me back to Japan.
Now that I have the mortises and the “stuff” cut out for the leg vise screw, I cut all of the tenons for the stretchers of the base. I didn’t take the time to photograph that because you probably know how to do that already and probably do it with some kind of machine. So I will not bore you with the details of that.
After cutting the tenons, I laid everything out to make sure that when I glued everything up, everything would be in the right place so I wouldn’t screw it up. Guess what? I screwed it up and glued the wrong piece in the wrong spot. After a little bit of stressing out and swearing, I got everything in the right place and glued and clamped.
Here is the base clamped. Yipee!
After waiting as long as I could stand it, I removed the clamps and put that sucker on the ground. Getting excited now. It’s only been four years…
After a little assistance from my lovely wife, Meggin, I squirted glue all over the place and we flipped the bench top onto the base. After that, I hammered some wedges that I made out of red oak into the tenons that had a gap in them and then squeezed the whole thing together with clamps.
Time to remove the legs and finish the base of the bench. It was really hard to disassemble it because I could actually use it as a bench even though it was not complete. I am pretty confident that this bench is going to stay together even if my joints are less than. This thing is going to be bomb proof. Since this is my first time making a project by hand, I have looked at just about every possible resource I could find. I’ve looked on the internet, read books, ask the cat, you name it I’ve done it. One thing I have learned though is the more you research the more questions I have and the more doubt I have before even starting the process. So it was just time to grab a chisel and start blasting away at the wood. I have eight mortises to cut in the legs for the stretchers. They will be an inch wide. Why an inch? I don’t know. It just looks right to me. I do not own a 1 inch mortising chisel. So to compensate for that, I used a 5/16 in. mortising chisel and cut two mortises. The theory for this, and this is not coming from experience, just arrogance, is that if I used a 1/2 in. chisel and made two passes the sides would not be square without the support of the wood on the sides of the mortise. This means that I will be cutting 16 mortises. I should get good after I am done.
Here I am making little cuts to define the shape of the mortise. You’ll notice that this raises the wood a little. If you take the chisel and lay it down on the workpiece, sideways, you can just scrap all these pieces off and you have a nice starting point to guide the chisel for the rest of the cut.
Then I kept blasting away until I reached the desired depth of the mortise, which in this case was about 2 1/2 to 3 inches. Once again this is an arbitrary figure, it just seemed right.
Trust me, this gets pretty difficult, for me anyway, once you get this deep with such a little chisel. (The note on the wood that says “DO NOT” was so that I wouldn’t chisel that part because I messed up when I originally marked out my mortises. I make many mistakes)
Here is what the two mortises look like when done.
Chisel out the middle and then two become one.
Now that the holiday dust is settling and things are getting back to a semi normal schedule, I recently had time to get the legs of the workbench “fitted” to the bench top. I use the term “fitted” loosely because as you can see by the picture, the tool used to “fit” is not the most delicate tool in the shop. Forget the previous sentence. I recently had time to “persuade” the legs to mate with the bench top.
After about an hour of pounding the remaining legs into place, I finally had all four installed into the top. One concern I had was being able to remove the legs later after fitting the stretchers. These are REALLY tight fitting. It was hard enough pounding these legs in one at a time. I am having a hard time imagining doing all four at the same time once the stretchers and legs are assembled as one piece.
Now that the legs are installed, it was time to flip it over and see how it sits on the ground. I enlisted the help from my loving wife and together we flipped it over and placed it on the floor.
First thing I noticed was that this bench, although small in size compared to most benches, is a beast. Even without the stretches installed it is very heavy.
Second thing I noticed was that the back left leg sits about 1/8 in. off the ground. So now the bench rocks and not in a good way. I double checked all my leg dimensions and they were all the same. Double checked the thickness of the bench on all four corners and found out that the back left corner is a little thinner than the rest. I was very careful in planing the surface of the bench to make sure that it was flat but thinking that the bottom wasn’t as important didn’t pay as much attention. I failed to realize how this would affect the legs.
I drove myself crazy thing about how to fix this. I can’t have a bench that wobbles. What’s the point in having a bench this heavy if it is gong to wobble.
I could re-plane the bottom of the benchtop to bring the legs to the same plane. Now I am going backwards, back to where I was about a year ago. Lots of work there.
I could cut the remaining legs down to match the shorter one. That would bring the bench down a little and there is the possibility of screwing up one of the other legs in the process.
Screw it. I just cut a shim and put it under the leg. No more wobble. Now it ROCKS. (in a good way)
Now that the tenons for the legs of my bench are cut, it’s time to get busy with the mortises and sliding dovetails. I have been really timid in approaching this because of my limited experience and my lack of tools. I really wanted everything to fit just so with no visible gaps like a piece of fine furniture. Then I got over it and just decided to put the !@#$ing thing together. It’s just a workbench that is going to have the crap beat out of it on a regular basis. (If i am lucky)
First I drilled out the bulk of the mortise with a people powered drill. I don’t have enough batteries for my drill to handle this type hard hittin’ wood removal. It was a good workout though.
Then it’s time to chop out the rest of the wood and try to make everything square. I started on one side of the benchtop then flipped the thing over to try and meet in the center of the mortise, which is not so easy being that weighs over 100lbs. (guessing) This was an attempt at preventing one side of the mortise from being “blown out”. What I found, however, was despite my attempts at lining everything up so that my cuts would meet in the center and in line with each other, I somehow managed to get off coarse and now I had a “ledge” in the middle of the mortise. I cleaned it up with a bench chisel but now I am doubting the the legs are going to just slip into place.
Next I grabbed my Japanese style pull saw and cut the profile of the sliding dovetails and then used a bench chisel to cut out the waist. I did this the same as the mortises, starting on one side then finishing up on the other, trying to avoid blowing out one side.
Then I cleaned everything up with bench chisels, rasps, beer and lots of swearing.
This is where my lack of experience really rears it’s ugly head. After countless shaving, fitting, rasping, chiseling, rinse and repeats, this is where I am at. Legs that just don’t want to fit. Yes, I do have a 2lb hammer to help persuade this things to mate, but I still want to be able to take it apart to cut the mortises and install the stretchers.
Truly a labor of love. Lagscrews are starting to look attractive.
Although it is taking an eternity to get this workbench completed, I managed to make some progress today on the legs of the bench. I finally have the laminations glued, planed square and the ends evened out and fairly square to the long sides of the legs.
Even though I have two of Chris Schwarz’s books on building workbenches, I find myself kind of “winging it” on the build of the bench. Every time I look and one of the books, I find myself saying something like “Oh wow, that’s cool” or “Damn, why didn’t I do it like that? Too late now…” They are awesome books but I can’t help the way that I work. Build it now, read instructions later and hopefully learn from it.
After battling trying to make a bench, without a bench to work on, I decided that it was time to bore holes in the bench top to help hold the leg assemblies while planing them down to size.
Since I was making the bench by hand I stayed true to the cause and used a bit and brace to drill the holes. I made a jig to keep the holes in a straight line. (HA!) The concept was simple enough. A guide that would use a “dog” as a reference point for the next dog hole. Drill a hole, put a dog in the hole. Place jig over dog then drill the next hole with the other hole in the jig. Simple enough in theory unless you have the precision of performing brain surgery with a spoon.
My holes in the jig were not precisely lined up so as I drilled my holes the line wandered like a drunken… drunk.
So I decided to toss the jig and just go for it au naturale. It wasn’t any worse than using the jig. I would dare to say that it was a tad bit more accurate. Yay me! Anyway…
Even though the dog holes did not line up like I had wanted, they still work.
Finally got those boards glued and dried. I guess. I mean I left them in the clamps over night so I hope that they are good to go.
You can’t tell by the photo, but I guess I applied too much pressure on the “top” side of the,… top. There is a slight angle to the sides of the benchtop and the top actually measures about 1/8th of an inch shorter than the bottom. I was really concerned about the gaps of the boards being closed so they would not show. Oh well, live and learn. Nothing a jointer plane can’t handle, right?
After glueing up the first chunk of boards together I quickly realized that I did not have my circular saw centered, when I ripped these boards to begin with. At this point, I am pretty skeptical about using a hand plane to make this thing flat. (never used a plane before) I see that I got some glubies there. What a mess.
After reading more in Chris’s book, I decided to clean the boards with acetone, before gluing up additional boards. I wish that I would have done this on the previous chunk of boards. This may be a good experiment on bonding unclean surfaces.
Finally, I get everything glued and clamped. I believe I used every clamp that I had at this point. Cross your fingers.
Now is the time for the frustration and anxiety to really kick in. I am thinking that I should have glued fewer boards together at a time. I am thinking that I should have cleaned these boards better before I spread glue on them. I am thinking that I should have given it more thought before I clamped the boards together. I am thinking that I should have used a slower setting glue. I am thinking that I should have read more about making this workbench top before squeezing that first drop of glue from the bottle.
The thought was to force these twisty, bendy boards into submission and get them to “bend” to my will. While the clamps are doing their thing at the moment. I have a feeling of retribution coming…
Here I am using a circular saw to rip these 2×10 boards into the peices that will be used to make the top of the bench. I am using an aluminum straightedge to guide the saw. I was going to make the bench totally by hand but I don’t have a large handsaw as of yet and well, laziness kicked in and took over. I guess what I am really trying to say is that I do not have enough confidence to try and rip these boards with a Japanese hand saw.
There. I said it.
I have had this wood (Southern Yellow Pine) stored for about 2 years. I originally was going to build this bench in an apartment. Since then I have lived in Japan moved back here and lived in several places. We finally have a house now and I figured it was time to build a woodworking bench. Since I will be primarily be using hand tools for my projects, I will be building a bench to serve those needs. I have been looking at Chris Schwarz’s book “Workbenches from Design & Theory to Construction & Use” for guidance. Since this was originally going to be built in an apartment, the dimensions are on the “smallish” side. Now that I am in a garage again I fear that the bench will be too small. I had already cut the lumber lengthwise and am not willing to let it go to waste. So, I decided to go with this length anyway and see how it works out. Hopefully I will have a bench that is around 60 inches long.