a 21st century bench with engineered wood #3: forming legs and standing it up

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Blog entry by metolius posted 07-02-2020 05:51 PM 308 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: restarting after a long pause Part 3 of a 21st century bench with engineered wood series Part 4: forming rails and solid wood diversions »

While gluing up sections of boards for the benchtop, I started working on the legs. The legs are to be 3 layers of 1.5 inch ply on the sides with the lower long rail tailed into the middle layer and the upper long rail tailed into the outer layer.

The inner most layer of the leg is mortised for the the short rails. After marking out each per tenon, I drilled out the centers and chiseled to fit.

A chisel and ply don’t mate for a satisfying experience.

I soon found my most comfortable tact was to treat each layer as its own mortise to follow how the grain direction changes with depth. Stropping the chisel ever few minutes also helps.

I chose to use one of my older butt chisels because its ground to 30 deg and seemed to hold up to the pounding through ply a bit better.

The sides are cut straight. The upper and lower ends are cut at about 5 deg to accept wedge expansion. Each came out really well !

For wedges, I used an oak flooring remnant and this hastily crafted jig on the bandsaw to get a uniform 5 deg cut.

A bowl full of wedges ! I ended up with about 30 , but only needing 16.

Assembly didn’t escalate an issue …

... everything lined up with symmetry

Through all of the leg work, 6 sections of the bench top were glued up. For the top, 4 sections are 3 layers thick; 2 are 2 layers thick.

The longs rails are glued as 2 layers thick each will be flush with the outer layer of the legs when complete.

Right now, there are enough raw parts to put it together with gravity and get a feel for it.

Next steps are to work on tailing the rails and building out the legs further. From my experience with hand chiseling mortises in this plywood, for the consistency of tails, I may be inclined to make a template for a router.

-- derek / oregon

2 comments so far

View Sylvain's profile


1055 posts in 3309 days

#1 posted 07-04-2020 02:08 PM

Using plywood is not a bad idea.
It seems you made your life more complicated by the way you choose to orient the boards.
To see what I mean, look at the Paul Sellers plywood workbench.
six episodes.
Sorry I didn’t catch your first post.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View metolius's profile


179 posts in 1540 days

#2 posted 07-05-2020 02:46 PM

Thank you for commenting.

This is an adaptation of using plywood for Bob Lang's 21st century workbench .

Bob Lang does the leg with ash using 2 layers. The first layer receives mortise for the leg stretchers. The second layer has mortises for the rails that are oriented 90 degrees from the first. Because of the variation of orientation, there are battles to choose from.

For a plywood variation, I am doing the legs in 3 layers. The outer two layers will have sandwich mortises similar to Sellers.

PWWs original sketchup illustrates the next steps in the legs better than my words.

-- derek / oregon

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