SHOP IMPROVEMENTS #5: Progress Update on my Bench Build

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Blog entry by stefang posted 11-05-2013 09:54 AM 3150 reads 0 times favorited 40 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Working On My New Bench Top Part 5 of SHOP IMPROVEMENTS series Part 6: A LICK OF PAINT AND A DASH OF DANISH »

My last post on this project was in mid Sept. before we left for Sweden. We got home in the first days of October and I took a week to rest up after the long drive. Then I got a bad cold and it has kept me out of the shop until late last week. I still have it, but I’m at least able to work a couple of hours a day now.

You might recall that I wanted to hand plane the fir top, and that I first had to get rid of the larger knots before planing. In my last blog I showed how I did that with a hole saw and a Forstner bit. That worked very well and the planes were able to cope well with the small remaining knots.

I used my new #6 fore plane for the main flattening and then the Stanley/Bailey #4 for the smoothing. I put a slight camber on both irons before starting and that really helped a lot. I have never planed such a large piece before, so it was a learning experience for me. My biggest problem was the limited space I had to work in, and I had to flip the board end for end to work the other side. That thing is heavy!! I also tried to use winding sticks to check for twist, but I also found this difficult as I am still having some problems with my eyes. This meant that I had to pretty much wing it. I am happy with the final result. It is pretty darn flat, so it should be a good table for assembling projects, doing my marquetry work and even using it for a planing bench if I wish. Here’s the result after sanding it yesterday starting with 80 grit and working my way up to 180.

I did enjoy the hand planing, but plugging the holes wasn’t too much fun. I cut the plugs with my scroll saw from 2” thick face grain fir. That worked quite well and I got 3 plugs from each cutout. I just hammered the plugs in with glue and cut them off slightly proud of the surface with a sharp chisel. The hard part is that there were around 50 holes to plug, so a lot of scroll sawing.

I think that the most sensible way to flatten a top like this would be with a router planer setup. Then it wouldn’t be necessary to remove the knots. I couldn’t use a router planer due to limited work space, it would be a lot faster and easier, but pretty dusty and noisy.

after finishing the sanding yesterday, I started to clean up the shop in preparation for painting the bench base and the chest of drawers that will occupy the open space to the right under the bench. After that I plan to paint the rest of my shop cabinet doors the same color. I am using green like the little chest of drawers to the right in the next photo. I will be using Danish oil on the bench top. I figure that the resins in the Danish oil mix will give more protection than using just pure oil and it will still be just as easy to renew the top finish from time to time.

I still have a long way to go in my shop improvement projects, but I’m pretty happy about getting this new bench as it will give me a large work surface that I have been lacking thus far. I may have to leave off the improvements for awhile after I get the painting done so I can do some Christmas projects for friends and family.

And lastly, the pumpkin my son in Sweden carved for Halloween. Now if I can just get him carving some of that Linde wood I left with him last year. He said he felt a little guilty using the chip carving knife I gave him to carve the pumpkin with, lol.

Thanks for reading!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

40 comments so far

View hunter71's profile


3558 posts in 4428 days

#1 posted 11-05-2013 11:07 AM

Nice bench build. I like it when there is still sawdust on the floor. Mine seems to ALWAYS have some.

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View Schwieb's profile


1921 posts in 4703 days

#2 posted 11-05-2013 11:16 AM

Wow Mike, Nice bench. I wonder when you are going to get your Festool vacuum attachment for your planes. LOL I too am needing to buckle down and get busy on things for Christmas gifts.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4575 days

#3 posted 11-05-2013 11:49 AM

Thanks Hunter and Ken. Those shavings on the floor are just from the final smoothing. I got a couple of trash bags full of curlies from the flattening part. If I had been smarter I would have glued those top timbers one at a time to get a very flat surface from the beginning, or at least used cauls to keep everything flat. It would have been a pain though with the limited workspace and my long clamps. This is one experience that will be somewhat wasted though as I doubt I will be doing another glue-up of this magnitude in the future.

I’ve been trying to motivate myself into going out to the shop today. I have gotten most of the floor cleaned and now I have to put stuff away and clean up all my work areas to get rid of any dust and debris so I can paint tomorrow. It’s unbelievable how much stuff piles up while doing a project. I guess it is because I don’t want to use the time to keep putting things away while I’m working. I get too focused on the project. Not really a good work habit.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5123 days

#4 posted 11-05-2013 12:07 PM

Hey Mike,
I must admit that I used a router on rails to flatten my bench top. It only took a hour and was really kind of fun.

And I know how life gets in the way of projects. Here is hoping that we all stay healthy and happy.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26782 posts in 4347 days

#5 posted 11-05-2013 12:31 PM

Nice bench in the making, Mike That came out super! My bench always has chips around it that the broom can’t reach. I feel that if there are no chips, nothing is being done there or there is one very efficient dust collector.
Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4575 days

#6 posted 11-05-2013 12:31 PM

A more rational approach Steve, but think about all the cardiovascular exercise you missed out on!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4575 days

#7 posted 11-05-2013 12:34 PM

Thanks Jim. Same here. I usually have to resort to compressed air to get at everything.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View a1Jim's profile


118253 posts in 4818 days

#8 posted 11-05-2013 02:49 PM

Super job on the bench Mike . This will be a nice upgrade maybe the next upgrade can be a corless drill with a keyless chuck :) I sure hope your son didn’t model that pumkin after any one he knows. LOL
I always enjoy your post and projects.


View sras's profile


6345 posts in 4370 days

#9 posted 11-05-2013 03:13 PM

The bench is looking great Mike! I’m looking forward to the next update.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4575 days

#10 posted 11-05-2013 03:59 PM

Thanks Jim and Steve. I think he modeled the pumpkin after me Jim. I took the chest that goes under the bench down from the loft. My measuring must be improving because it actually fits just like it was supposed to, whew. I might have a glass of wine to celebrate! Once painted, the chest will be storing a lot of marquetry stuff I don’t have a place for yet.

I’ve been mainly cleaning up again today putting away a lot of tools and accumulated bits and pieces, this and that and of course cleaning out the tool well that I hate on my other bench.

I just can’t understand why I get so tired after just a couple of hours of cleaning work when I can work 8 hours on a project and not even notice the time go by (sarcasm).

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


22379 posts in 4917 days

#11 posted 11-05-2013 04:16 PM

Nice work! At least he is getting good use making chips withe knife;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View shipwright's profile


8751 posts in 4039 days

#12 posted 11-05-2013 04:42 PM

That looks like a lot of dedicated work Mike. You are doing a great job from the look of it and I’m thinking that it will make a really stable base for one of the bench mount chevalets I’ve seen around. I’ll try to dig up some plans. I know that they were published in a magazine at least once. You may not have room for the full size model but it is now my project to get you into a “compact” chevy. If I accomplish this I guess I may have to post you on the projects page.
How are my chances?

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4545 days

#13 posted 11-05-2013 05:05 PM

really wonderful mike, sorry you have had your cold, not what you needed when you were ready to work on the bench…but now your able to push along some and make some progress, the bench looks fabulous…nice and flat, no knots, a true workmans bench…good luck with moving forward..

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17529 posts in 3860 days

#14 posted 11-05-2013 05:22 PM

Mike, Ditto on All the Above!

It looks fabulous and reflects a true workman’s dedication to quality. I certainly understand the ‘not wanting to flatten by hand again’ sentiment. :-) But in this case it was certainly worth it.

What you did to address knots is inspirational. Love it.

Congrats on progress, hope you’re feeling 100% soon!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4575 days

#15 posted 11-05-2013 05:49 PM

Thanks for the kind remarks Bob, Bob, Paul and Smitty. This bench is meant to be practical and it doesn’t hold a candle to most of the bench builds I’ve seen on LJ, but I think it is well suited to the use it will be put to.

Paul Yes, I have thought a lot about the Chevalet and it would be fun to make one, even it were just a bench model. My main concern is being able to see those fine cuts with my old eyes. I’ve grown pretty dependent on my magnifying light which is attached to my scroll saw. Can one can be used with the Chevalet? Nevertheless, I want to test the limits of my scroll saw before I make a decision.

BTW I took your advice and put those knot hole plugs in across the grain, except for a few that I forgot to turn in the right direction before banging them in. Short term memory loss? They are not pretty either way. At least if there is a flood and I have to use the table as a raft I know the plugs will stay put.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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