Workbench Build #17: Mortising the legs

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Blog entry by Mark Kornell posted 12-14-2014 05:28 AM 1881 reads 1 time favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 16: Leg Vise Install Part 17 of Workbench Build series Part 18: Odds and Ends »

Before I mortised the legs, I decided to inset the nut for the leg vise. Easier to do it now than later. (Thank you, Sylvain and tsangell!) This gives me another 1 1/4” of vise travel. If I need more, I will invert the nut. That can be easily accomplished later.

The process was to lay out crosshairs on a piece of scrap and mark the center:

The layout lines are needed to line up the template with the center of where the nut goes.

Then drill out a hole with the big Forstner bit – 3 1/2” big. I geared down the drill press.

Line up the template on the leg, using the marks on the template plus layout lines on the leg. Clamp it well and bore into the leg:

I found that waxing the exterior of the bit helped.

And the nut is now inset:

Not knowing how stable my stock would be I milled the stretchers oversize so I can let them sit for a day or two before going to final dimensions. I’m confident the boards are dry, but not so confident they don’t have a lot of internal stresses.

There are a total of 14 mortises for the 7 stretchers. Not wanting to do each by hand, I made a template so I could cut them quickly with a router.

Note the spacer attached to the fence. 6 of the stretchers will have the same offset from the edge of the leg, while the lower front stretcher needs to be inset another 1 1/2” to clear the back of the mortise for the Crisscross. The plan is to use the same template, doing the 2 oddballs last by removing the spacer.

Clamp the template to a piece of scrap:

And the result:

Dimensions and offset both measure correct, so onto the legs. First “real” mortise:

Depth is 2 3/32”. Don’t ask me how I came up with that number, seemed to make sense at the time.

Do another 11 mortises at that spacing, then remove the spacer from the template:

Results in a mortise that is inset another 1 1/2”, like this:

Muttered a few choice words when I realized I’d done this:

Yeah – forgot to remove the clever spacer at the right time. Ah, I can patch that. Or maybe make it a “feature” :-)

Next step was to counterbore and drill for the bolts that will hold the front and rear stretchers to the legs. The bench will be able to be knocked down for moving should the need arise.

First, counterbore about 2 1/4”, then drill through the center of the counterbore:

Does that line up with the center of the mortise on the other side?

The 6” bolt protrudes about 2”

I have started on the tenons and fitting them to the mortises. Haven’t completed the step, but that’ll be the next blog entry.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

2 comments so far

View BigRedKnothead's profile


7864 posts in 1402 days

#1 posted 12-14-2014 01:06 PM

Wow, I’ve never made a mistake like that. How does it feel?;-P

Honestly, I’ve still yet to do mortises this way. Soon I will.

Nice work brother.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View RoadHogg's profile


124 posts in 1347 days

#2 posted 12-14-2014 10:04 PM

It’s not a mistake…it’s a design element!

-- "The difference between school and real life is that in real life the tests come first, and then the lessons" -- Robert Lang,

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