My First Workbench #20: Day 20: Leveling the top is a full body workout.

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Blog entry by RaggedKerf posted 09-04-2012 11:53 AM 6272 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 19: Day 19: Assembling the base! Part 20 of My First Workbench series Part 21: Day 21: More planing...more sweating. »

For the dramatic (or not so dramatic) before and after pictures, please click here.

A busy weekend with the kiddos and my wife happily trumped all other activities (except cutting the grass) for the weekend. But today is Labor Day so…what better way to celebrate than by doing some labor!
I had just enough time to squeeze in some work on the still unfinished bench today. It has been sitting, base assembled and dry, with the top merely resting in place now for 3 days. Time to get back to work.

First up, I used the coping saw to trim all 24 oak pegs just proud of the legs and stretchers.Then I used my 1/4” bench chisel (and sometimes the rubber mallet…can’t wait to make a wooden one—-the bounce back on this thing is heinous) to trim those pegs flush, or as close as I could get without too much damage to the surrounding wood!Next up, I intend to drill holes for bolts to attach the top to the base, then it’s time to level the top! Or maybe level the top first, then bolt it down…hmmm, at any rate, I figured I better sharpen my planes again.

So I did. It was so easy to sharpen them on the bench. Didn’t need to clamp the tray at all…friction held it in place! Once the #4 was nice and sharp, I started to shave off the high spots on left side of the bench. It was ugly.

Wow…that’s a big gap and a good workout.

That’s after 15 minutes of sweaty planing. You can see I have hardly made a dent in the cupping on this half of the bench. Luckily the right side of the bench, where the leg vise will be and where I—being left handed—will do the majority of my work, is pretty flat already! But the left side…whew!

So I kept at it, and kept at it, and kept at it. The shavings and the sweat really flew when I got into a rhythm. A few times the plane struck a knot or the grain reversed on me and the bench actually jumped (the right side began walking around behind me in a semi-circle as a I pushed towards the left side). I was really worried at first that the bench wouldn’t work—-then I realized two things: (1) the top isn’t bolted down yet, so even though it seemed pretty stable, it’s not…yet. And (2) when I hit those knots I had a lot of force and momentum behind that hand plane—-not nearly the level of of force I will have on a single peice of wood being planed (plus, the bench will be the clamp, not the thing being planed). Hopefully those two theories will come true….but for the time being, they calmed my fears and let me continue the grind.

An hour and a half later….there is a huge pile of shavings on the floor. My hands, shirt, pants, everything is sweaty. Normally I shrug off this kind of drenching because I’m working outside (or I’m working out) and it’s just to be expected. But when the tools and the brand new bench-to-be are involved, it’s dangerous and disgusting (‘cause then I think, “Great, now everything’s gonna rust…”). The plane is very difficult to keep straight because my grip is so slippery. I’m getting frustrated. The crazy thing is adjusting itself mid-pass. Halfway down a section of the top, the thing starts to dig in on one side or the other, leaving real ugly gashes that I then have to go back and smooth out after fiddling with the controls. The left-right adjustment arm has always been loose on this plane and I figured it was just a price to pay with Groz—-after all, I got two planes for the price of a Hock blade! But it seems when in use for more than about 10 minutes or so of constant planing, the thing just slowly creeps one way or the other, letting the iron turn on itself. Then the chipbreaker started clogging (it’s not the best in the world—-it’s angled instead of straight across where it follows the tip of the iron…I don’t know enough to know if that’s bad, but my instinct says yes it is…). Instead of continuing to fight the plane and get more and more frustrated, I decide to go zen on this thing and calm down and throw in the towel today. Time for a shower, a beer, air conditioning and one final picture of my so-called progress. That’swhen my spirits rose!

Okay, so I have a long way to go, but that there is starting to get flat!!!

I looked at the before and after pictures…progress! Real progress! Woohoo! Luckily, the right half of the bench already is flatter than what you see here. So, I’m about a quarter of the way across (I just happened to put the winding stick at the end in this picture). Love that smooth-as-glass feel to the wood! But man this is hard work. A better reminder to do a better job of jointing and gluing your wood I don’t think I could find…next time…next time.

For the pictures version, please click here.

-- Steve

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