I had previously finished laminating the two halves that would make up the top. I made two 12” wide sections, ran each through the planer to smooth and true up the tops and bottoms, and ran each mating edge across the jointer. And as I wrote in the previous blog entry, one of the halves already has the finished wagon vise built into it. The two halves were now all done and ready to be glued.
It was tricky maneuvering the two parts in the final glue up, as each section was heavy and somewhat awkward given their size. But with a little help from my wife, I was able to situate, glue and clamp the two parts together. Here is the top prior to trimming the ends.
In order to cut the ends to final length, I used a clamped straightedge and a circular saw.
I set the blade as deep as I could (the motor of the saw was virtually resting on the top of the straightedge), and made the first cut.
I then flipped it over, and cut the other side. Unfortunately, the depth of the cut was just a hair shy of reaching the halfway point of the 3 7/8” thick top. So there was a thin fin of remaining material.
So I chiseled off the rest, and hit it with a block plane to smooth it all out. It ended up pretty flush and smooth in the end. Plus, I plan on doing a final touch up and smoothing after the whole bench is assembled and done. So this particular cut is good enough for now.
Next was to cut the wagon vise end. As I mentioned in the previous post, the end block of the wagon vise WAS already cut to final dimensions. Since the vise screw is sticking through the end, I didn’t want to attempt to have to cut neatly all around the screw. So I just have to try to line up the cut so that it is flush with the end of wagon vise’s end block.
As with the other end of the top, the cuts weren’t able to go all the way through. After some chiseling and block planing, this end was done too.
And here’s the final top. 23 1/2” wide, 61 1/2” long and 3 7/8” thick.
After the bench is complete, I’m going to flatten the top. There is a bit of a cup across the width. So all said and done, the final top will probably be more like 3 3/4” thick when it is complete. And unfortunately, some minor checking and splitting has started happening along the grain of some of the pieces of the top. I thought everything was sufficiently dry – the lumber was already kiln dried, and it all sat in my shop and aired out for a few weeks before I started using any of it. I don’t have a moisture meter, but I figured it was all dry enough. Apparently not. Anyway, the checks don’t go all the way through the top, so I’m not concerned about the top splitting in half or anything. But I will try to fill the cracks with glue, or a glue/sawdust mix to fill them in before I do the final finishing of the top surface. I also plan on putting in a few more 3/4” dog holes in the top, toward the back side of the bench, for holdfasts. I’m not going to do a full row 4” on-center like the existing row. I’ll probably just do three or four holes in a row, evenly spaced across the length of the bench.
So that’s it for now. It is a great feeling to see the top done. I’m at about the halfway point in the project, and feeling good. Other than the checks that developed in the top after the final glue-up, there haven’t been any real surprises or problems so far. Yay.
-- Andy Panko, Edison NJ