My Ultimate Workbench Build #6: Planing, and chopping mortises...

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Blog entry by RS Woodworks posted 07-27-2011 04:57 PM 11398 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Joint, plane and repeat.... Part 6 of My Ultimate Workbench Build series Part 7: Trials and tribulations in sliding dovetail end caps... »

Well it’s been a little bit since my last blog, but here is what I’ve been able to get done in the shop over the past little bit.

I last left with a freshly glued up top, and a question on what timbers to use for the legs. Well I decided to use the four maple beams I had for the legs. Even though two of them contain the pith, and some rather large cracks, I would rather have that then 3 different types of wood that looked only slightly better, so maple it is.

After the top was glued up, I trimmed the ends off to make them flat, square and even. I marked carefully to ensure I cut in the same spot from the top and the bottom. A misalignment here would mean doing it over again and loosing length to my benchtop. I set up a straightedge and used my circular saw for this task, taking several passes from each side to reach the desired depth.

Here is what it looks like after cutting all the way through. Some burning and some unevenness, but nothing I can’t live with.

I used my skew angle block plane to clean up the ends. Planing the end grain of maple and walnut is a task and a half. I made sure that the ends remained square to the top as well.

With that task done it was on to planing the top completely flat and even. Doing the sections with the planer before glue up certainly made things easier, butthere were still a few high spots to plane down and make everything nice and even. I used my newly aquired Stanley SW #7c jointer plane for this task.

As you can see I am planing at a skew across the grain. This minimizes tearout on the changing grain direction of the maple and leaves a smoother finish.

That was a ton of work! But a nice result, some final smoothing once the top is assembled to the base and it will be ready for a finish. I decided to see how much this top weighed. I brought the bathroom scale down to the shop and then muscled the top onto it…

139 lbs!

The next task was to cut the legs to final length, and then cut the integrated tennons into the tops of them. I cut them completely on the table saw, first making the cross cuts with the panel sled. I have yet to make myslef a proper crosscut sled, so this is what I use for now.

I then used the tennoning jig to cut the cheeks.

You can see in that second pic that the width of the leg is more than the capacity of the built in clamp on the tennoning jig, so I had to clamp it seperatly. Worked like a charm though and with a quick touch up with a shoulder plane I had very nice square tennons.

Well every good tennon deserves a nice mortise, so on to that task.
I marked out their locations carefully. I had to be extra careful to decide which leg went in which position, mark it, and then measure the tennon size. Why you ask? Well because each leg and each tennon is a slightly different size. I decided instead of making the legs all the same size, which would have amounted to the dimensions of the smallest timber, to leave them all as big as possible after cleaning up all faces. The largest leg then got positioned front left, where the leg vise will be. So accordingly, the mortises were all slightly different in sizes and marking them out was a careful task. Once marked, I used a forstner bit and a square piece of plywood (usually used for carcass glue ups) to make my mortise holes.

Once roughed out with the mortise bit and drill, I cleaned them up with chisel and mallet. Those are my lovely Ashley Isles chisels that my wife bought me for Christmas a few years back, and the mallet is one of two I made a while ago as well (see my projects page), my father has the other. And yes, I do beat on those chisels. The bubinga handles can take it.

With all four mortises and tennons done, it was time to test fit the legs in place. They all fit perfectly!!
Well, perfect enough for me anyway.

I have more done already… but thats enough for one blog post. More to come soon…. Stay tuned!!

-- I restore the finest vintage tools! If you need a nice plane, saw, marking tool or brace, please let me know!

5 comments so far

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 5018 days

#1 posted 07-28-2011 06:13 AM

It is coming along nicely. Thanks for sharing your progress.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2080 posts in 3560 days

#2 posted 07-28-2011 06:18 AM

You do very nice work. I also can’t help but notice how clean and orderly your shop is… even in the throes of your project build. Kudos.


-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Manitario's profile


2816 posts in 3803 days

#3 posted 08-22-2011 08:05 PM

this is an impressive undertaking. Looks really good though, and very solid. I’m curious how much you pay for maple and walnut up in Edmonton?

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Bertha's profile


13588 posts in 3614 days

#4 posted 08-22-2011 08:11 PM

This is great! I love that the skew and the 7 featured so prominently. I’m amazed that both you and I prefer that style of mallet! My favorite mallet looks just like yours…squarish handle with a big palm swell. It’s a joy to see these hand tools getting a workout.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View RS Woodworks's profile

RS Woodworks

533 posts in 4172 days

#5 posted 08-23-2011 06:22 PM

Thanks Rob and Al.
Rob, I can get this nice clear 8/4 maple for about $3.80 / bf, and the walnut I used for the top I picked up for cheap from another woodworker who wasn’t using it, but to buy it it about $5.60 / bf if I recall.

-- I restore the finest vintage tools! If you need a nice plane, saw, marking tool or brace, please let me know!

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