First Workbench

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Blog entry by Greg9Strat posted 08-24-2010 11:26 PM 1043 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Began working on a workbench for the garage so I don’t have to keep cutting on the floor or my makeshift horses (2 bar stools and the first board I can reach). My plan is to have a laminated top out of whatever wood is available and affordable. A quick run to the local hardware store resulted in the purchase of 30 2×4x10 boards for $60.

I’ve cut and glued the legs down (36” pieces of 2×4 laminated) and spent the day today cutting tenons with a plunge router. That was interesting – and I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as using a table saw (but I can’t afford one right now).

I’d seen my grandfather cut tenons on a table saw before, but never saw anyone use a router for this task. Now I know why. :-) I had 5 boards which both ends needed tenons, making it a total of 10 tenons to cut – 1/2” deep. I wonder if cutting these by hand (with a good saw) would have been faster and easier…..

All-in-all, it took me about 5 hours to cut all 10 tenons. Using a 1/2” router bit I put the fence at 1.5”. I know… this just makes it sound like cutting by hand would have been easier, doesn’t it….

I will say I learned a few things though:

- ALWAYS use safety gear when using a router (ear plugs – I would have ended up with mounds of sawdust in my ears…, good fitting safety glasses, and a respirator)
- using the router wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be
- ALWAYS secure the piece to be cut
- you can never have enough clamps!!

I had difficulties getting the correct sizes on the tenons, but hoping that glue will make up for the difference. Tomorrow: cutting mortises and prepping the tenons for assembly.

5 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3649 days

#1 posted 08-24-2010 11:43 PM

sounds like you’re on the right track.

a few tips:

1. you could quicken making the tenons with the router if you cut most of the material off with a handsaw/ circular saw/ jigsaw

2. glue will not ‘fix’ your tenons – however, the good news, since you didn’t cut the mortises yet – you can custom cut them to perfectly fit the tenons. OR (maybe easier) – glue a piece of scrap wood to the undersized tenon, and recut it to be as planned.

good luck! making a workbench is always a fun challenge

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3486 days

#2 posted 08-25-2010 12:15 AM

If you feel your tenons will be a bit wobbly, you can drill a couple of holes through each tenon and glue in some dowels. Cheap easy fix.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View Will Stokes's profile

Will Stokes

267 posts in 3354 days

#3 posted 08-25-2010 12:16 AM

-Next time cut your mortisers first, then cut your tenons to fit. Cut the tenons over size, then slowly creep up on the correct size for a nice tight fit

-Until I made a table saw sled I used to cut all my tenons with a router and router table. it’s pretty fast, you just have a clamp a backer board to your stock to prevent tear-out as the bit leaves the piece.

Once you have your router table and fence all setup you should be able to bang out as many tenons as you want very quickly. The only drawback is clamping the backer board on each time. It also helps to have a miter slot and attachment on your router table to make this all go easier. If you can’t afford a table saw for a while I strongly recommend getting a cheap router table and mounting your router to it. I think you’ll find this is also quite a bit safer feeling then trying the rout tenons by free hand with the router top-side.

View nmkidd's profile


758 posts in 3173 days

#4 posted 08-25-2010 12:44 AM

Looking forward to seeing the finished project….......

and Welcome to LJs!

-- Doug, New Mexico.......the only stupid question is one that is never asked!........don't fix it, if it ain't broke!

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 2880 days

#5 posted 08-25-2010 01:21 AM

...and leave room for the glue in the mortise/tenon joint! I learned that the hard way after gluing some tight fitting joints. Try pulling them apart after the glue swells the wood – yet the joint won’t quite close tight because the glue is taking up the space! Oh brother! What a mess!!

Now, I make some grooves for the glue to rise up and out….

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

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