Soft Maple Cobbler's Bench - AKA Cat's Bench

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Project by HorizontalMike posted 09-26-2013 02:11 PM 5823 views 1 time favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

OK, I’ve gotten a bit behind posting my latest projects, so I am trying to catch up… ;-) I finished this mid-June and it is already late September… I found this in one of my “gifted-to-me” WW books, and at this time I have misplaced which book it was but it is a fairly common and widely used design for more current reproductions.

When I first saw the article/plans, I knew I wanted to build this. When researching a bit more I started to get second thoughts, remembering all of the 1960s “Colonial Maple” knock-offs of the cobbler’s bench design. I almost nixed this project because I didn’t want one of those clunky designs in my house. This brought me a lot of grief thinking about this, though I finally decided to move forward building this thing. I just wanted it to be “different” than my memories of the 1960s examples.

The original plans called for tapered rough handcut legs. Since I had just purchased a lathe 6-months earlier, I nixed that feature and decided to make these legs my “first” longer leg turnings (I had made several 3in knob legs but nothing longer). That part ended up much easier than I had anticipated. I was worried that I would not be able to match all 4-legs with my novice lathe skills. While not identical, I came closer than I thought I could, and from a distance the differences are not noticeable, IMO.

BEFORE – I pencil marked where I wanted my beads and balls and basically winged the first one.

AFTER – After the first I refined where the pencil lines were and repeated the process. Some beads were better than others. I also made the dowel ends a beefier full 1in instead of 3/4in.

Other changes I made included making the top lamination 1 1/4in thick instead of 1in and did the same for the leg spanners. The plans called for the legs to be angled out in two directions and instructed me how to make a hardwood template to accomplish this task. You first drill a pilot hole on your DP in one simple angle. If I remember correctly it was something like 12-13 degrees. Then you align the template over your leg spanner at a rotated 45-degrees to drill your leg dowel holes. This gives you the splayed legs in both directions.

I had been experimenting with antiquing and wanted to show some wear on this bench as well, so I used square cut nails in building the toolbox/nail-cubby area of the bench. Where the grain aligned I also glue-joined the sides. Notice that I was being closely supervised (below).

I modified the sliding lid of the toolbox to be flush instead of recessed and I feel that came out well. I also added full mortise locks to this and the drawer area under the top.

When it came to finishing, I chose to spray Zinnser Clear Shellac over the entire thing and I think that I did a bang-up job on it. THEN, when I went back to the shop to clean my sprayer, my Gray cat decided to jump up on top of the freshly sprayed shellac and leave dirty sandy paw prints all over the top. You can read more about this fiasco HERE.



As you can see, trying to correct for all the tracks without removing all of the shellac, created a boatload of extra work “French Polishing” the top. That meant thinning the shellac with Denatured Alcohol, and when that did not appear to going well additional alcohol WAS REQUIRED… ;-)

I swear THIS WAS NOT easy to accomplish, even WITH the supervision! Also note that I antiqued the nail heads so that they would stain the surrounding area, for an older look.

Well… after I got everything completed and moved the cobbler’s bench into the house, I found out that this whole thing was a lost cause… 8^(

*ALL I KNOW IS THAT NO HUMAN OWNS THIS COBBLER’S BENCH ! And watch out for those green laser eyes!

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

18 comments so far

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3634 days

#1 posted 09-26-2013 02:48 PM

Cats are smart and have a good appreciation for fine woodwork. Nice table Mike.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19132 posts in 2893 days

#2 posted 09-26-2013 02:54 PM

excellent work Mike. I’m glad to see that lathe getting its use.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View NickyP's profile


179 posts in 2049 days

#3 posted 09-26-2013 04:59 PM

I really like this FlatMi . . . I mean HorizontalMike. I love projects that use allot of tools in the shop. My wood-creating (I prefer this term better then woodworking because after all . . . if it becomes work . . . who wants to do it?) schedule has just received an intermission . . . you wouldn’t mind if I took a few notes, wood you?

-- -- "Never underestimate the power of a kind word, a good deed, or a table saw."

View WayneC's profile


14349 posts in 4423 days

#4 posted 09-26-2013 07:08 PM

Nice table. I agree with Greg. Cats have good taste.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1264 posts in 2039 days

#5 posted 09-26-2013 07:10 PM

Neat. What is a cobbler´s bench used for?

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1896 posts in 2295 days

#6 posted 09-26-2013 07:15 PM

Great work Mr. Mike. This looks like a very cool project with a lot of different steps. I like how you showed all of the elements of the process.
Cats are great. Every time I open my guitar case to play my cat gets inside it. Whenever I get a new box from a shipment, he gets inside it too, regardless of how small. And then sometimes they do things like step on newly finished work, or a piano that the little wife and I got for free that I refinished, and refinished again…

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View Surfside's profile


3389 posts in 2499 days

#7 posted 09-26-2013 09:09 PM

This is way too cool. Great idea and construction. As usual.

-- "someone has to be wounded for others to be saved, someone has to sacrifice for others to feel happiness, someone has to die so others could live"

View Randy_ATX's profile


881 posts in 2768 days

#8 posted 09-26-2013 09:14 PM

Nice work and nice documentation of the project. It looks like you were well supervised during the shop glue-up part of the project. I see some nice figure in that maple.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View HorizontalMike's profile


7781 posts in 3240 days

#9 posted 09-26-2013 09:24 PM

Thanks guys, and over all this was a fun project even with the cat’s help.

BTW, a “Cobbler’s Bench” is a workbench for the old town’s cobbler, or shoemaker and/or shoe repairer. If you needed something related to your shoes/boots you went to him.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View HorizontalMike's profile


7781 posts in 3240 days

#10 posted 09-26-2013 09:44 PM

Here is another image that shows the figure. I took this just after finishing the first series of coats. Some of the shellac is still milky. It was a warm humid morning and I used Isopropyl alcohol instead of DNA, so that I would have a bit longer working time before the shellac set up. The two boards on the lower left formed a design like a compass, that would change as you walked around it. Elsewhere there is a bit of curly maple going on in spots.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View AandCstyle's profile


3202 posts in 2583 days

#11 posted 09-26-2013 11:00 PM

Mike, that bench is the cat’s meow!

-- Art

View aussiedave's profile


3114 posts in 2150 days

#12 posted 09-27-2013 12:09 AM

A very nice bench Mike and it looks like the cats agree too…great job.

-- Dave.......If at first you don’t succeed redefine success....

View HorizontalMike's profile


7781 posts in 3240 days

#13 posted 09-27-2013 12:14 AM

Yeah Art and Dave. Do notice in the last image of the OP, the cats have their own effigy of a Roadrunner mounted, AND they have stuck their cat “flea comb” in the tool storage area on the side of the Cobbler’s Bench! I even checked the drawer “under” the top, and sure enough, MORE cat brushes!

Geez!... We humans never get a break!... ;-)

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Randy_ATX's profile


881 posts in 2768 days

#14 posted 09-27-2013 01:19 AM

I see a lot of curl in pic #1 inside the compartment. Curly maple is in my top two or three favorites.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 2473 days

#15 posted 09-27-2013 02:41 AM

Nice cat table.

A lathe….. That’s one tool I’ve stayed away from. Afraid I’ll want one. :)

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