Building my Workbench #9: One Day I Might Finish this Beast!

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Blog entry by HokieKen posted 05-01-2017 12:19 PM 1383 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 8: Chisels be Cryin' Part 9 of Building my Workbench series Part 10: Home Stretch Baby! »

Man, it seems like each big project takes twice as long as the previous one. Aren’t build times supposed to go down as you get more experience? ;-P

In all seriousness, this bench is taking FOREVER it seems. But it’s due to much more limited shop time than I’ve enjoyed in the past. I have learned to be okay with that and cherish the time I have alone with the smell of wood, the “thwack” of my mallet on the chisel and the solid “thunk” when I know that chisel has gone as deep as it cares to go in that particular spot. I am really exercising my hand tools. Not only because I want to become more proficient with them but because I find that with less time in the shop, I much prefer that there be no saws, routers, dust collectors etc… running. I still love my little electron eating tailed babies, but I love my silent children as well and more so at times :-)

I recently picked up a couple of planes I’ve been on the hunt for for a LONG time. Millers Falls #10 and #15 (Stanley 4.5 and 5.5 sizes). Man what I’ve been missing!! Particularly the #10 is a huge help. If I were relegated to a single hand plane, I now think this wide-bodied smoother would be the one:

I also picked up a Stanley 140 a while back to tune tenons. It’s okay but I think I’ll find it more useful on smaller stock. With tenons this large, I find I’m constantly bloodying my knuckles. It’s a super fellow for end grain though so even if I don’t come to adore the rabbet part, the skewed iron was worth the investment.

So back to the bench… I know I promised a pictorial update. And I’ll deliver ASAP but, I have it flipped upside down now to fit the legs and it’s a B E A S T when I have to flip this sucker over by myself! As soon as I get the last 2 legs fit, I can cut and fit the stretchers then I’ll flip her back over and take some shots.

I finished fitting the M&T joints for the back legs and have the front left leg fit. I’m really trying to tune it so it’s perfectly flush to the front of the bench and perfectly square to the top since I’ll be installing a leg vise there. Here is where I’m at:

I read somewhere that your joint should be just tight enough that you have to drive the tenon in with your hat. Well, it’s about right :-) My problem is that I squared the top and the front edge but I didn’t square up the bottom to the front. Of course, not thinking, what did I do? Chopped the mortise square to the bottom which meant the leg ended up about 1 degree out of plane with the front. No biggie, I chiseled the front wall of the mortise down with a little undercut and glued a thin spacer to the back wall and I have a nice tight joint again that’s flush with the front edge. Now, the problem is that the back shoulder seats and there’s a small gap of ~1/32” at the front. It’s not terribly noticeable, the joint is solid and with the bottom of the bench not being truly flat, it’s unlikely I’ll ever get it tuned perfectly and I’m worried that repeatedly putting the tenon in and out will loosen the fit.

Should I leave the gap? Put a little tinted epoxy in it? Tune it until it’s perfect? Remember, there will be a leg vise here so it won’t really be visible. I just don’t want that gap to allow a little bit of movement in the joint that will, over the years, cause a problem. FWIW, I don’t think I’m going to glue the tenons into the mortises but I think I’ll cross pin them with 2 dowels through each tenon. Why not glue them? Well, in case I have to move, I want to be able to pull the top off and move this sucker! The way I’m planning, I can drill the dowels out and do so. Then I would glue it at the next house and tell my wife that we can never move again because I can’t take it apart any more.

As another little tooling aside, I recently bought a chisel lot off the ‘bay and one of them was a 1 inch “Fulton Special” bench chisel. It’s a big beefy fellow that has nice weight and balance. I thought it was going to be perfect for chopping these 2” mortises. That’s him in the middle below as purchased.

So I lovingly flattened his bottom and ground a 25 degree bevel then honed a 30 degree on the front half of it. Then I turned him a lovely new cherry handle with some leather washers on the end to cushion the blows that I would deal him. Then I put him to work.

Well about 1/2” down into the mortise…

Bad spot in the material right? No sweat. I finished out that mortise with another chisel and then I ground the Fulton back square and re-shaped and honed the bevel. Started on the next mortise and…

So are these Fultons to be avoided? Is it just this one? It’s as if it was hardened but not tempered. It’s not particularly hard to grind or hone on diamond stones but it seems to shatter like glass.

I know what you’re thinking, it’s the user. It may very well be but, I’ve chopped the mortise fine with another chisel. And you know what kinda chisel it is?

Yep, an Aldis one. I bought it at the grocery store! After hearing and reading Paul Sellers recommendation, when I happened upon them in the store last year, I had to try them out. I must say, they are great. I have been using them as beaters rather than primary chisels but this one has really impressed me. I’ve done 3 of these 2×4 mortises 2 inches deep with it (other than the little bit the Fulton did between breaks) and haven’t had to do anything more to the edge than a few swipes on a leather strop.

So, long story short, if you have the opportunity, pick up a set or two of them things if you find them in your local Aldis. IIRC, I paid $8 for the set of 4.

Well, there you have it… a little update. I still owe a pictorial one and I will deliver soon! Please chime in below if you have any thoughts about how I should handle the small gap on my leg vise leg shoulder or if you have any experience with the Fulton Special bench chisels.

Until next time, thanks for checking in!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

2 comments so far

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

4544 posts in 2250 days

#1 posted 05-01-2017 01:15 PM

I have both a Stanley 4.5 and a MF 10, and these are almost always the planes I grab first for smoothing. I do think the MF 10 is a little better, but I have only have the one sample so its hard to say if thats because of the particular two that I have or if its true in general. I often hog off the high spots a 5.5 that has a cambered blade. It is only by willpower that I don’t spend all day in the shop juts making shavings for only the joy of planning.

I am surprised by the fulton breaking as it did. It must have been hardened poorly. Send it back to the manufacture for a replacement. LOL. I have two sets of the aldis, I may make some skew or dove tale chisels out of them or just use them for chopping.

-- Don K, (Holland, Michigan)

View HokieKen's profile


16022 posts in 2111 days

#2 posted 05-01-2017 01:34 PM

I’ve come to prefer MF planes Don. It’s more of a “feel” than anything but I find them easier to fettle and I think the factory irons take and hold an edge better. Also I’ve found that in general there is less work to be done when rehabbing the Millers Falls. I now have 9, 10, 14 and 15 sizes from MF and the only Stanley bench plane I have left is a #5 set up for heavy cuts.

I have 2 more sets of the Aldi chisels still in the package. I’m considering grinding one set down to intermediate sizes (1/8, 3/8, 5/8, 7/8) and grinding the other set as skews. Or they may just set in the package forever and end up in a box at an estate sale after I die ;-)

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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