Another New Fangled Workbench #4: "...doing all that planing."

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Blog entry by MichaelW posted 05-06-2008 03:41 AM 3237 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Lessons from the planing beam Part 4 of Another New Fangled Workbench series Part 5: The best thing I'll ever build... »

I am dedicating this installment to GaryK’s comment from a previous entry. Gary this picture is for you:

In addition to these three bags of shavings, there were a several more that either were added to the compost or made spectacular fireplace starter on some recent colder rainy nights.

The three planes pictured below were my workhorses, the scrub in the top most position, no. 5 in the middle, and smooth at the bottom. In the course of all this planing, I am finding the ergonomics of the ECE wood planes preferable to the Stanley.

My progress is becoming observable as I have whittled my stock pile down and have many pieces cut to size. There has been a lot of twist introduced along the way from drying that I have had to take out with the planes. The scrub has been very valuable in this process, though I have at times also introduced some coarse tearout using the scrub.

In addition to using the square, I also started employing a piece of mdf board to check the pieces for flatness and the two in combination helped me get them fairly trued up. Once they were in pretty good shape, I cut them closer to final length and then rigged up a shooting board and squared up the ends with an ECE jointer or try plane.

Then I laid out the legs, bench supports and skis along with what will become the planing beam bars to get a look at their appearance. I spent some time going back and forth between watching the video of the bench on FW and the pictures and drawings in a copy of the article and decided to cut the primary legs back a bit in width. This will give me a little symmetry under the tail vise pipes and yet I think still provide adequate strength.

I don’t always use hand tools and for this operation plus cutting out the keyhole slots and ripping the excess stock off of the primary legs I employed the use of my vintage 1968 Delta Bandsaw great production year, some real originals born that year, that is why I was sold on this model. I notice the bench doesn’t employ keyhole slots in the secondary legs and am going with that as well, they are 5 and 1/2 inches in width and I welcome any comments as to why it wouldn’t be necessary or if I should revise and include them. It was interesting to note that when I cut one of the keyhole slots on the bandsaw, the cut closed behind the blade so there was some tension going on there.

In Jeff’s blog he mentioned using sketchup and I have it downloaded on another computer and when I can make some time to get familiar with it I think it will be a great asset, but for this project I have been referencing a copy of the article and making a lot of my own paper and pencil drawings to scale to figure out how to come to some dimensions for the placement of the tail vise barclamps and front vise barclamps. I am using the 3/4 inch size as I like the handles better and did some figuring on how the front ones would align with the edge of the front of the bench. I put a close up picture of my drawings and notes below, but not sure how well they will come across on the site

Below are the pieces that are beginning to emerge for the project:

Bench supports and skis

Primary and secondary legs

Here I am laying out the mortises in the supports and skis. They are a little difficult to see as I was using a mechanical pencil and trying to make as fine a line as possible. The articles I read stress using a mortise gauge or marking knife and I had purchased some clovis point shaped x-acto blades, got one out of the package to scribe my fine line, only to discover that my x-acto handle was too small for this size blade… so the mechanical pencil. I referenced articles in FW by Tage Frid and Ian Kirby on mortise and tenon joinery that had several helpful drawings and concepts to keep in mind and then hybridized their respective approaches for this application. As I write this it occurs to me I should have pointed out that I decided to use this as an alternative to the lag joinery in the original article. My thought is that I would like to be able to disassemble the bench should we move at some point, but it would be fine to keep the legs as assembled units for packing should that happen. So this was a chance to take a shot at this traditional style of joinery and hopefully have a rock solid bench. I am also considering doing tusked mortise and tenon joints for the stretchers, but have to take a closer look at the characteristics of this wood to see if it will work.

Also here the layout of the tenons on the secondary legs. Again, I welcome comment as to why or why not the keyhole slots should or shouldn’t be included in the secondary legs. I am planning on adding an additional stretcher between them as well and then creating a shelf for the planes between the two stretchers.

Finally, here is a shot of one of the secondary legs with the tenons cut. I have cut the majority of the waste away on the bandsaw, but left the final approach for the chisels. Along the way, I found I could mimic some of the functions of the finished bench on my saw horses. The big hulk of stock that will become the table is resting on the lower portion of the sawhorses and made a solid platform to rest the legs on while cutting out the tenons. I then put the two boards that are the stock for the stretchers on top of the saw horses and used to large quick clamps about 5 feet apart on the two top boards to clamp the leg being cut into place. It worked fairly well to provide me with a stable base to work on, though I am amazed that the plastic sawhorses have not completely collapsed.

Well that is about as far as I am, it will take some more time to clean up the rest of the tenons and cut out the mortises. I have been patiently waiting for the steel city drill presses to show up, but they still haven’t arrived at the local woodworking shop. Not sure if I will try and hack out the mortise by hand or not prior to the arrival of the drill press. Will see how it goes cleaning up the rest of the tenons. Thanks for stopping by and checking it out. Looking forward to your comments and suggestions.

-- Michael, Seattle, WA

8 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4958 days

#1 posted 05-06-2008 04:02 AM

Well, thanks for the dedication, Michael. My heart couldn’t take that much hand planing! If I had to do it by hand, it just wouldn’t get done.

Looks like you are doing one heck of a good job! Keep it up.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 5064 days

#2 posted 05-06-2008 04:30 AM

Lookin’ good Michael! Thanks for the detailed account of the progress and your reasons for design changes.

Are you going to bore holes at the interior ends of the keyhole slots? I’m guessing you just haven’t gotten there yet. As for using them in the secondary legs, I guess it comes down to whether or not you thing there is enough movement going on in the boards to justify trying to counteract the potential for splits. I think it’s generally a technique used for wider boards though (assumption really).

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 5064 days

#3 posted 05-06-2008 04:30 AM

By the way, great hand work. Nice bags o’ shavings

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4967 days

#4 posted 05-06-2008 08:14 AM

This is cool to see – do you have a brace and bits to hog out the waste for the mortises in the interim?

What size drill press are you getting?

What saw did you use to cut the tenon waste? Was it that little guy on the bench?

So many questions…

Those ECE planes do look comfortable – especially for the extended use your putting into them!

Your baby come yet?

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4792 days

#5 posted 05-06-2008 11:15 AM

Great job so far, Michael. You put a wonderful effort in your hand tooling of the bench. This is a skill that, for most of us, is sadly lacking.

Keep the post coming. I am enjoying this.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View MichaelW's profile


30 posts in 4718 days

#6 posted 05-06-2008 04:47 PM

Thanks for the comments.

Jeff, yes the hole part of the keyhole slot will be at the interior, on the fourth picture from the bottom you can barely make out where I have drawn the circle with a quarter for a place holder.

Dorje, I have a brace and bits my father in law passed along from a garage sale, but the bits are not straight, though that is a thought as I could get a new bit from the hardware store for this purpose.

Steel City only makes one drill press. It has a 17” swing which is great for guitar building to be able to drill a center hole in larger guitar tops. It also has a 6” plunge which is twice as much as most drill presses in its class. I did some reading on this board and others and it has received very good reviews. Part of the reason they are on backorder I guess.

For the tenon waste, I used the bandsaw for the majority and then the little razor saw for the tag ends and a chisel to clean them up.

Wagers have been laid that the baby arrives in 2-5 days by those professionals that have been taking care of us so any day now, just waiting for nature to take its course.

-- Michael, Seattle, WA

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4967 days

#7 posted 05-07-2008 01:57 AM

Thanks for the follow up!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View jjohn's profile


390 posts in 4684 days

#8 posted 05-07-2008 04:44 AM

You know…My bags of shavings can not compare to yours. I have chips and sawdust mixed in with even actual pieces of wood. I am very impressed and I know that Gary also must be. (Seeing he has already admitting he wouldn’t do that much planing). I too will be unable to compete with your planning because I have found that in the past my arms would go numb and shoulders would almost come out of joint with so much work. So… Great pile of shavings and hope to see many more of same type coming from your shop in a short time. L. O. R. L.

No, really, you are doing a great job on your project. I really enjoyed viewing the details on the pictures and explaining. Looking forward to more.

-- JJohn

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