Bowling Alley Workbench #13: The Top #3: Putting it Together with an Inverted Dovetail

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 08-02-2009 10:56 PM 6416 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: All is not lost... or is it? HELP!!!!!!! Part 13 of Bowling Alley Workbench series Part 14: Chop Chop Laddie. (the leg vise) »

Didn’t have much shoptime lately, which made me try to squeeze every moment I got to try and make the most of it, which lead to rushing, which lead to screw up – but I’ll write more about that in a following installment and leave this one a bit more on the positive side.

Last time I ran into the issue of having a not-square top part to work with. I fixed that by routing the edge at a 0.1 degree angle to straighten the front of the slab and make it parallel to the front 2 legs. I then jointed a strip of maple (2 short pieces) and glued it to the skirt, and took that through the planer to mill it to final size so that it’ll match the main tabletop slab and sit flush with the front legs.

Next I drilled 2 holes in the endcap, counterbored them, and drilled maching holes in the benchtop to take bolts which will secure the endcap to the table and counteract the vise forces when in use. the front of the endcap is not bolted in but is dovetailed into the skirt.

I chose to use a 2 inverted dovetail mainly for design and look – although they have more angled faces that in effect can withstand better pressure – in this case- I don’t think that extra strength is really needed, but I do like the look of it.

to make the tails, I used my bandsaw, and the dovetail jig I made for it based on The Bandsaw Book:

I used the jig because the skirt is 80” long and was hard for me to clamp in a way to allow me to cut those tails by hand square and cleanly.

I then transferred the lines to the endcap, and handcut the sockets. and started chopping off the waste. what I found was an easy way to do so, was to chop the top half of the socket off – staying true to the edge of the small embedded tail. then use the side walls as reference and chop off the extra material from the 2 smaller sockets:

Here is where I started pressing for time, and ran into several issues, one was that I originally had left the endcap oversized in length by an extra 2” so that I can trim it to length, but forgot to do it – so I had to chop 4” deep dovetail socket to accommodate for that (noticed it too late – again). also the endcap grain was running against me, so I had some tearouts in the middle of the socket – no big deal, but when I trimmed the endcap to length (roughly) those tearouts are now visible. I also have an issue with oversized dovetails (only did 2 so far) and find it hard to stay to the lines when the sockets are bigger than the size of the chisel… overlapping those cuts seems to be something I need to work more closely on.

excuses excuses excuses – bottom line, the DT although doing it’s job, leaves quite a bit to be desired when it comes to visual. there are gaps, and the bottom of the socket is being pushed out by the tails…. I was really stressed in time and glued it too soon before taking the time to finesse it some more. I will fill it with some endgrain to minimize the visual, and plane it all to final length, so it will look a bit better. the good thing is, it showed me my weak spots, and what I need to focus on in the future when attempting similar joinery.

EDIT: Here is the Screwup, and the Fix

so this is what the bench looks like:

Another part is (somewhat) behind me (only some light trimming), and next would be the vises to finish this off.

Thanks for reading,

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

14 comments so far

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 4874 days

#1 posted 08-03-2009 12:13 AM

It seems that you have bumped into problems with details! Isn’t that always the case. I look these as opportunities to show your true wood worker skills!

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 4562 days

#2 posted 08-03-2009 12:48 AM

Did you assemble your bench inside the mess or did you assemble the mess around your bench?:-) HeHe

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View a1Jim's profile


118162 posts in 4698 days

#3 posted 08-03-2009 12:57 AM

Hey Sharon
Cool joinery and Jig makes for and outstanding bench great work


View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4769 days

#4 posted 08-03-2009 01:02 AM

sIKE- very true. generally speaking- this is not something I would have wanted to post, but would try and hide it… but in the spirit of LJ I figured, others might benefit from knowing they are not the only one to screw up.

kiwi – I just bring all the mess for each picture, then clean it again ;). it’s actually part of my training: step 1. get to the workbench in 1 piece… step 2. woodworking. but seriously – this lumber used to be where the bench is now – so as soon as I’m done with the bench, it’s cleanup time (finally).

Jim – Thanks, but although the tails came out great, the sockets are far from it… if I’m brave enough, I’ll post it soon (hopefully I can also get an “after” shot of a cleaned up and fixed solution)

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

View Karson's profile


35276 posts in 5521 days

#5 posted 08-03-2009 03:18 AM

Looking great Sharon. Nice recovery.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Don K.'s profile

Don K.

1075 posts in 4447 days

#6 posted 08-03-2009 03:24 AM

Still enjoying the update Sharon….the bench is turning out great !!!

-- Don S.E. OK

View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 4469 days

#7 posted 08-03-2009 05:47 AM

Mess? What mess? I hate it when I can’t understand what everyone is talking about in these blogs.

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4502 days

#8 posted 08-03-2009 09:06 AM

Those are some pretty fancy dovetails. I like the multiple lengths.

I see you have puzzle mats. I had those, too. They’re stacked up on a trash can outside (not trash, though). They were just too much hassle. So much work to sweep and vacuum around them, or to roll tools. Are you still enjoying them, or are they pulled up because you’ve had enough, too?

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4769 days

#9 posted 08-03-2009 03:35 PM

Gary – like you’ve experienced – these interlocking mats are hard to vacuum, and roll tools/others on top. I do however place them strategically in front of the workbench, or other work areas where I’ll be standing for a while. I keep them in small parts (1-3 interlocks) so that worst case, they can be picked up and put aside. I also use them to elevate things off of the concrete floors (lumber) – not sure if it really helps much, but for my piece of mind thats good enough.

they used to carry them in Costco Burbank. I picked 1 pack, and after that I never saw it again there… when we moved to Boston, I saw that Costco here still carries it, and was so excited I picked up 5 packs… a bit much, but I use it around for different things. also used it on the hardwood floors when our daughter was learning to walk to cushion the falls..

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

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6875 posts in 5100 days

#10 posted 08-03-2009 04:25 PM

Hi Sharon;

Great band saw jig.

This bench will be a masterpiece.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Dave's profile


6 posts in 4168 days

#11 posted 03-10-2010 05:59 AM

I love the table and am looking forward to seeing the finishing touches. I realize the piece is intended for a work bench, however I really think it would be great as a piece of bohemian, rustic or even industrialist table for a warehouse home or trendy apartment. I also visualize this as an outdoor table with fashionable contemporary chairs. I adore the ability to fuse different themes and pieces together to make a unique look. Sorry to all you carpenters who build for practical uses. I adore what you do, though, I like to use everything as a decorating and or artistic use in and around the home.

Love the site too! It is a firm favorite.

-- Dave | Tool Shed |

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4769 days

#12 posted 03-10-2010 06:31 AM

Thanks Dave, you can actually see the finished workbench here:

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

View joeblack's profile


3 posts in 3798 days

#13 posted 01-26-2011 06:55 AM

Looks like a solid piece of work. My grandfather had a garage full of homemade work tables and benches similar to this and they lasted him 50+ years! I wish you the same luck!

-- Joe Black -

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4769 days

#14 posted 01-26-2011 04:23 PM

Thanks Joe. it feels like it will

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

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