Sawbench & Diversions

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Blog entry by Scott R. Turner posted 04-18-2012 02:52 AM 13377 reads 3 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I haven’t posted anything in a while, but I’ve lately found time to get back into the shop and work on a few projects. One was a Chris Schwarz-style saw bench out of SYP from the local Big Box Store.

I glued up the top from a couple of dense 1×8s I had left over from some other project, penciled in a curve and roughed the sawing notch out of the end with a coping saw, which was a bit of a chore. The top has a nice heft to it.

The legs were glued up from matching halves sized out of 2×4s. The mortise for the leg stretchers was chopped into each half of the leg before glue up.

I don’t (yet) have a router plane, so flattening all these was a chore. The construction-grade pine was splintery and hard to smooth.

The next step was to cut the tenons on the leg stretchers. Ironically, I’d just bought a Japanese-style saw on something of whim, but I find I really like it. The thin kerf is wonderful, and having a rip cut on one side and a cross cut on the other is very handy!

I decided to drawbore the leg stretchers. I’d never done a drawbore before, and when I build shop furniture I like to take the opportunity to practice new skills. The pegs were made from half-inch oak dowel. I think in retrospect that I could have offset the bores more, but the joints came together nice and tight even so. Schwarz says to wedge the tenons, but I’ve left them proud.

Then I had to pause to refinish our porch table, which had picked up some usage scars and mold from the humid Virginia summers. I decided to use spar urethane since this table sits outdoors year-round. It turned out fairly well—not as glossy as the water-based polyurethane I usually use—but with a nice umber highlight that looks well on our porch.

I didn’t mind being out on the porch finishing for a few days; the azaleas were blooming and the air was a perfect Spring temperature.

After that it was back to the workshop to finish up the saw bench. With the legs and stretchers done, it was time to attach the legs to the top. This is a little tricky because the legs splay at a 10 degree angle. Suffice to say I laid out and cut as accurately as I could … and then got out the rasp to make everything fit together more-or-less as needed. Oddly enough, I didn’t get any photos of this part of the process :-) I pegged this joint as well.

I did, however, get diverted with another little side-project. Building the fire one night, I came across an oak billet that had rived nearly flat and decided to see how much effort it would be to work it into a usable board. (I guess I’ve been reading Peter Follansbee's blog too much, with all his talk of riven oak.) I also had a chunk of poplar I’d set aside from when a neighbor’s tree had fallen across her driveway a few years ago, so I pulled that out as well.

It was a fun exercise. I love the vinegary smell of red oak as it is being worked. In contrast, working the poplar seemed almost sinfully easy. I didn’t have any use for the boards, so they’re set aside for now.

Back to the saw bench. The Schwarz plan calls for a bottom shelf which I didn’t want, and a nailed on cross-brace from plywood. That didn’t appeal either, so I made a proper brace and pegged it to match the leg stretchers and the top joint.

I chamfered all the edges, but before I could saw off the legs, my son’s Odyssey of the Mind team advanced to the State Finals and I had to run him down to Newport News for the weekend competition. (And they advanced again to the Worlds, but that’s another story.) On the way back we stopped in a flea market, and I picked up a #4 Stanley and a circa-1915 #151 spokeshave.

Marked $65, but I paid $50 for the two, which won’t qualify for “Bargain of the Year” but seemed charitable enough to me that I didn’t even try to haggle further. And once I get the #4 tuned up I can retire my GRÖZ #4. (Not a terrible plane for $15 new, but it definitely has it’s limits.)

Tonight I managed to make it back to the workshop to cut off the legs. It’s a little “rocky” but rather than fuss with fine-tuning the fit, I just glued cardboard pads onto the two short feet. Here it is in action:

That’s a Disston D-8 from Bad Axe Tool Works in action—a Christmas present from the First Lady.

3 comments so far

View Tyrone D's profile

Tyrone D

314 posts in 3667 days

#1 posted 04-18-2012 04:24 AM

Looks like a very nice sawbench.

-- --Tyrone - BC, Canada "Nothing is ever perfect, we just run out of time."

View SamuelP's profile


793 posts in 3981 days

#2 posted 04-18-2012 08:55 AM

Great write-up and thanks for sharing.

I like the heft of the top. The legs are 2 2×4’s glued together? Did you use the same angles as the Schwartz bench?

-- -Sam - FL- "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns somthing he can in no other way" -Mark Twain

View Brit's profile


8463 posts in 4177 days

#3 posted 04-18-2012 10:17 AM

Great blog Sott. I’m not sure about the cardboard on the bottom of the legs though. :-) I think when I build mine, I’ll put three legs on it so will never wobble. LOL.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

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