After letting the lumber acclimate for a couple of weeks, I rough cut all the pieces, leaving them all slightly oversized so I can cut, joint and plane them down to final dimensions along the way. I have a 12” miter saw, but it is not a slider. Therefore, I’m not able to cross cut 12” wide dimensional lumber on it. So I made a basic little cross cut sled to make all the cross cuts on my table saw.
Since the top of the bench is the most important – functionally and visually – I first cut each of the pieces I need for the top, using what I thought were the best boards. I’m going to be laminating 18 strips together. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get EVERY single top piece to be completely clear and free from all imperfections, but I wasn’t planning on there being as many hidden imperfections as there were. There were a few pieces that looked completely clear on both faces, but once I ripped it to size, there were little knots right at the cut line, buried inside the board. Jerks. I tried my best to make sure my final top is as clear as possible. I even cut a few more top pieces than I needed, hoping to get as many clear ones as I can. But I still ended up having some sort of knot showing in probably about a third of my top boards. They aren’t horrible looking by any means, but nonetheless, I’m let down that I won’t have a pristine and flawlessly clear top. Oh well. Since I cut more top pieces than I needed, I sacrificed pieces from elsewhere in the bench. I originally bought eight 12’ 2×12s, but I now have to get one more. I have all of the rough pieces cut for everything but one leg. I need more wood for that. But my extra top pieces won’t be wasted – the stretchers are going to be made from those pieces.
After making all the cuts, I again carefully examined the approximately 24 pieces that could be used for the top. I picked the 18 best, and laid them out as I want them ordered in the final product.
After internally debating the square-vs-round bench dog hole issue some more, I finally decided that I’m going to use round holes. All said and done, I feel they are more versatile in that they allow you more options of dogs and other accessories. I took the strip of wood from the top that I wanted the row of dog holes in, and I used my drill press and a 3/4” forstner bit to drill holes 4” on center.
I didn’t think about this beforehand, but my pieces for the top are over 4” high, and I need the dog holes to go all the way through. It wasn’t until I took out my forstner bit last week that I realized its length and that I’ll only be able to drill about 3” deep. I tried using a 3/4” spade bit (on a test piece) to finish the hole depth. But my spade bit is actually slightly larger in diameter than the forstner bit. As such, I couldn’t get it inside my existing forstner holes. So I went online and ordered a forstner extension bit. It was only $8, and arrived within a few days from MLCS. Not bad. Gotta love the Internet. But anyway, I drilled all the holes as deep as I could with the forstner bit, and left them at that for the time being. I planned on just finishing them later after the extension arrived.
Next step was to start gluing up the top. I decided I’d first glue up the three strips that would be the rows that make up the wagon vise. I jointed and planed those strips, and then set out to glue. I bought a gallon of Titebond Extend, and was ready to make a mess. I laid out the first strip, poured a line of glue down the center of whole piece, and then used a scrap piece of wood to spread it, making sure I covered the ENTIRE surface of the board.
I layered together all the strips, and clamped it with Bessey K-bodies about every eight inches. There was a ridiculous amount of squeeze out, but at least I’m confident that everything is sufficiently glued.
After the first glue up was done and clamped, It felt good to start to see some progress on the bench. It was only a small amount of progress, but it was a big moral victory. Since I’m doing a wagon vise, I only drilled dog holes in the part that will be the stationary section of the bench. The undrilled section will later be cut off to make the wagon block and the end block.
Since I only have eight K-body clamps (and some Irwin quick grips and some wooden screw vises, but I wouldn’t want to use either of those on a glue up this big or important) I can only do one glue up at a time. And since I want each glue up to be less than 6” wide so I can run it through the jointer when its done, I need to do multiple glue ups for the top, and then glue up those glue ups… I actually spent some time each night during the last week doing a glue up. At about 9 or 9:30, after the kids were asleep, the garbage was taken out, etc., I’d joint, plane, glue, clamp and then go to bed. I’ve since gotten all the smaller sections of the top glued up. After planning further, I realized the wagon vise is going to be trickier than I originally thought. Because of the length of the Lie-Nielsen Scandinavian vise screw I bought, and the length of the wagon vise opening I’m going to have, I physically won’t be able to put the screw in after the top is finished. So I’m actually going to have to build the vise into the bench during the laminating process. This means that once the top is done, the vise screw won’t be able to come out without cutting the top apart. Anyway, the next blog entry will be dedicated just to the wagon vise, so I’ll talk about that more next time. For now, it is time to soak in the satisfaction of having actually made some progress on this project.
-- Andy Panko, Edison NJ, www.pankowoodworks.com