Another New Fangled Workbench #7: Lessons and adaptations along the way

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Blog entry by MichaelW posted 08-14-2008 06:34 PM 3434 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: The workbench grows legs. Part 7 of Another New Fangled Workbench series Part 8: End in Sight »

Got a chance to push the workbench a little farther along last weekend so a quick update on my progress. When I last left off, I had dry fit the mortise and tennon joints for the legs together having primarily hand cut them with chisels. I was awaiting the arrival of my steel city drill press which finally showed up mid June or so and that lay in my garage for another couple of weeks in its box. Had a party with some guitar buidling friends and they got it up out of the box and together realtively quickly, helped that I plied them with good food and homebrew :) and of course we were all enjoying the smiles of Forest.

So picking up I was glad to have the drill press to use my larger forstner bits with to cut away the bulk of the mortise joints in the legs for the stretchers, that worked well, but I found its limitations when trying to bore out the beam for the face clamps. More on that in a moment. First here are the legs clamped up to drill dowel holes through the mortise and tennon joints:

And a look a little later down the road at the one of the legs with the dowels inserted:

I was going to drill the hole in the tennon a little lower than the one through the mortise to draw the joint up tight, but then decided instead to fit them together well with pipeclamps and was able to get that whole assembly on my drill press table with a little help from one of those portable roller stands. Some of the joints were a little loose on the dry fit, but between doweling them and gluing up the mating surfaces, I was satisfied with the snugness of their fit and they felt solid and sturdy when out of the clamps.

Next I bored the holes for the front clamps or front vise in the two boards that make up the sides of the well. I carefully oriented them as they would go together and clamped them together drilling through both boards at the same time hoping that this would enhance the alingment of the bar clamp when inserted. The drill press worked great in this application and drilling went smooth:

Again here I used a portable roller stand to help support the piece off the end of the drill press table and that worked well (npi).

The beam that will add mass to the table presented many challenges and in hindsight, many lessons in trying to bore holes that the pipeclamps would slide through beyond the well space. A simple theory was to use the board from the closest side of the well as a template to inicate where all the holes would go and just drill right on through those established holes into the beam, pull the template board off and finish boring out the holes… a simple plan…

However, the distance between the lowest reach of the drill press table and the length of shaft (extension plus forstner bit) and the width of the beam (13”) were simply not compatable. I ended up swinging the table out of the way and using chairs and boxes to try and prop the beam up square to the bit, then moving the beam six inches for all the holes was a real pain and trying to reestablish square to the bit, very, very time consuming, lots of movement, not much drilling.

The depth of the bore also proved to be difficult for the forstner to handle even with lots of dipping in and out to clear the chips. Then the length of the bit and extension were not enough to get all the way through so I learned an important lesson: even with being very careful to make everything square, a new drill press etc. it is very difficult, if possible at all to get holes bored from opposite sides of a beam to line up so a pipe will slide through them. They ended up being off, substantialy in some situations. I ended up trekking over to Hardwicks eventually and getting a ship boring bit to bore out the holes and even that was challenged by the task:

When I finally could see daylight through all the holes, I needed to do a lot of work with a coarse rat tail rasp to begin to get the holes near alingment. I felt more like a miner than a woodworker through those many hours. Even after getting the pipes through all the holes, I know there will be more work ahead in the final assembly to get them to work smoothly.

The well assembly went smoothly and I made great use of some framing clamps my mother-in-law gifted me with for my birthday. The dry-fit with the clamps is pictured here

I then again used the drill press to bore holes for 1/2” dowels for the two small boards so I would be screwing through the endgrain into them with the decking screws. However, I waited to screw together the entire assmbly because I wanted to mount the board on the side of the well to the beam before having the entire well screwed together so I would have good access with my drill and screwdriver. I did attach the two spacer blocks to the well board on that side before I attached it to the beam. Sorry I didn’t stop to take time to photograph those steps, but it is a good thing to think through before completing this step. Here is a picture fitting the well to the beam

I spent a considerable amount of time cutting the tennons for the two stretchers with a Ryoba Handsaw, and then cutting out the mortise holes for the tennon tusks with chisels. I also considered how I would attach the top to the sled and decided I would try bolting it together with 3 1/2” bolts above the two legs so I bored holes to accomodate the bolts and washers on the top and nuts, washers and lock nuts on the bottom. It is my hope that the lock washers will provide enough tension so that if I ever want to unbolt it to move it, the nut will turn without the bolt, at least to break the initial turns. There should be enough bolt exposed on the bottom to hold it still while I turn the nut in that scenario. Here is a picture of the bored piece with one of the bolts laying next to it.

You can also see I was fitting the tennons for the stretchers at this point along the way in the above picture. There was also a little bit of a greater depth to the beam than the two boards comprising the sides of the well so I used my bandsaw to resaw some extra stock to thicken up the supports and was extremely pleased with how well they turned out. They will cover part of the bolts, you may get a better idea of the concept from these pictures.

One of the most pleasing parts of this project so far was to take John Whites initial idea and then take some risks and throw my own creativity into the process. I was very happy with how the tusked mortise and tennon joints turned out for the stretchers and adding the second stretcher both made the sled extra solid, and will provide an easy way to mount a shelf down there to hold planes, hand tools, and my tool chest.

Here is another shot of fitting the joints with the top of the bench in view. It was a great pleasure after many months of thinking about it and aquring tools and materials to see the bench coming together.

Finally a series of shots of the tusked mortise and tennon joints as well as the joinery of the legs in view. They are not worthy of the pages of Fine Woodworking, but I am pleased with my first effort at their functionality and their appearance isn’t that bad if you don’t look too closely at the places where I chipped out some stock etc. I guess that is what trim is for eh?

That about wraps up as far as I was able to push the plow this time around. Hopefully I will be able to put together a little more time in the workshop soon as I am pretty close to getting the top on and will post again after that point. In the meantime, thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

-- Michael, Seattle, WA

3 comments so far

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4807 days

#1 posted 08-14-2008 08:19 PM

You were able to accomplish quite a bit of work here! Good to see a post from you on this…

Look forward to the next one!

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

View Callum Kendall's profile

Callum Kendall

1918 posts in 4513 days

#2 posted 08-14-2008 10:22 PM

Looking good!

Thanks for the post


-- For wood working podcasts with a twist check out

View jeanmarc's profile


1899 posts in 4526 days

#3 posted 08-15-2008 02:30 PM


-- jeanmarc manosque france

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