Workbench #7: Finish line is in sight!...Maybe. Are they ever completely finished?

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Blog entry by KellyS posted 09-15-2009 04:00 AM 2969 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Dry fit time Part 7 of Workbench series no next part

I began working on the mortises in the top and had a complete relapse in talent. The first one was horrible. I used a drill guide I bought from Sears in hopes of everything being perpendicular and cleaner. Boy was I partially wrong. The first one came out horrible, but cleaned up so,so. I’m so glad this wasn’t one of the mortises in the base. I started trying to use a 1-1/2” fostner bit but eventually downsized to a 1-3/8” and chose to clean them up with a chisel. I was having a hard time staying between the lines for some reason. The next 3 went a little better and came out a lot cleaner. I still wonder if I could have used a small tabletop drill press and elevated the top and just slid the drill press around to each mortise, or put the table on these moving skates…AH well, what’s done is done.

Next I started fitting the legs to the mortises and adjusting with a block plane. Ah, bad choice, I wish I had a rabbet plane, my tenons aren’t completely square now. I trimmed and trimmed and …trimmed some more. Our neighbor’s son was at the house visiting and watching me work. He helped a little, but I think he was mostly in wonder about the amount of fitting I was doing. While pressing one of the tenons in I heard a crack and noticed that one of my mortises was too close to one of the butt joints in my top. DANG! DANG! DANG! I didn’t catch that. Upon further inspection I had two like that, each on opposite corners. What to do? I decided that I would “skin” the sides with a full length poplar board, glued and screwed (eventually screwed) to reinforce the joints. This would also mean that I would have to “skin” the outside of my base as I want the exterior of the legs flush with the top, which will make the bench look a little nicer. With all the nail holes and crowbar marks it’s not very pretty.

Man what a trick! This is like clenching the nails on a horse shoe; it really pulls those joints tight! On the first dry fit, I marked the center of each dowel hole, disassembled, and marked the tenons 1/8” higher up the tenon for a good snug draw fit. Oh! I made sure to number all my joints to before I took it apart so I could get it all back the way I drilled everything and mated up as snug as possible. I looked around for my pencil sharpener to sharpen the dowel ends and couldn’t find it, so I settled for sharpening them on the belt sander. Man this was great, I was stoked at how it was turning out. I used extended open time Tite-bond, fitted everything together and drove the dowels home clamped it up and let it dry. This is by far the most massive wood structure I’ve really made (Other than plywood type projects). I checked the next day and was completely amazed at how rigid the base is with everything drawbored together.

My wife and I made a trip to the local big box to buy some poplar to skin the sides of the table and legs. She even let me glue it all up on the kitchen table since the weather was bad. I don’t think I ruined the fifty cent table cloth. I think she let me do this so that she could hold it over my head later.

The top is really proving to be a pain to get it all fitted down on the frame right. It’s just not lining up at all, and the base is so rigid that it doesn’t really give much. I spent much of last night trimming on the tenons and finally got it snugged down tight. I think it will be ok. I still need to take it off and cut a rabbet for the deadman. I’m thinking about using a T-track instead of the traditional Rabbet way. I think I’ll go ahead and cut a rabbet on both sides of the table just in case I want to add another one for some reason.

More progress made this weekend. We went to a neighbor’s funeral this weekend. Sad day, 46 and healthy and passed away from a massive heart attack. I tell you, let your friends know you love them, let your family know you love them, and make all the sawdust you can between those times because tomorrow is a day promised to no one! When we got home I made progress working on “skinning” the legs and cross braces so that everything is flush with the table top. I cut the ½” notch in the one leg for the parallel guide for the leg vise. I may end up using a piece of aluminum instead of oak or poplar, we’ll see. Sunday I put the top on the base and doweled it together. I didn’t use the drawbore method, I just doweled it and figured that would be good enough.

I spent the next hour or two leveling and smoothing the top. I am plenty pleased with how smooth it is. I drilled out some of the nail holes and filled them with dowels. Sort of looks like the top has the measles.

It’s not the prettiest bench you’ve ever seen. If it were a car, I think it would be a Primer Grey Chevy Nova with a punched out small block 350 and a sold lifter cam. Not much to look at, but it’s got it where it counts! I took a few minutes to chop up some of the pine scrap wood I’ve had in my shop for a while and run them through the router to make a ship lap joint ( I think that’s what they’re called) and made a shelf.

Before the day was through I gave everything a good coating with Boiled Linseed oil. Everything! Top, bottom, and all the nooks and crannies. I remember reading something about some guys top bowing because he only finished one side of it, I just didn’t want that to happen to mine.

I must say, I’m really pleased with what I have made out of something that would have been thrown away. No need to celebrate yet. There’s still a lot left to do, but so far, so good. Next to add the leg and tail vises and put the finishing touches on it.
More to come later. Thanks for looking.

-- He who dies with the most tools wins!.....Just wait, I'm going to win!..ERR my wife will at least.

3 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117747 posts in 4121 days

#1 posted 09-15-2009 04:14 AM

Great work Kelly

View cylis007's profile


56 posts in 4013 days

#2 posted 09-15-2009 04:24 AM

I think that this bench looks good and solid. I also like the comparison to the Nova. Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

-- A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave. ~Benjamin Franklin

View PurpLev's profile


8552 posts in 4193 days

#3 posted 09-15-2009 04:47 AM

looks great! and can’t beat the lumber price…

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

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