This week life intervened and I didn’t get much work done on the bench. Just before I left on my trip I started to drill the holes in the side rails. I started by using a 3/4” auger bit in my drill press. Unfortunately I didn’t plan this step quite as thoroughly as I have done for the rest of this project. Mistake #1 not trying this technique on a pice of scrap first and instead drilling into the bottom rail of the workbench. Mistake #2: Not clamping the rail down to the table of my drill press. The auger bit I’m using has a small screw tip before the drill flutes start. I’ve used this bit before to drill holes in my fixed bench for holdfasts and it worked like a charm. As soon as the bit touched the Ash though, it screwed in started to lift the entire rail. Since I was drilling near one end of the rail the weight caused one end to sag and I ended up with a hole that was less than round with a big auger bit stuck in it. Plan B: After extracting the bit I decided to use a 3/4 inch forstner bit on my drill press. The forstner bits I own are a middle of the road set. It soon became obvious that this bit simply wasn’t going to hack drilling thru 2” of Ash. This was a perfect example of why I live by my tool adage: Buy the best, you’ll always be happy with it. I bought those Forsner bits years ago and I’ve never been happy with them. I wasted $65 on that set. In order to recover I decided to try to find one of the new Colt MaxiCut forstner bits. I managed to locate a 3/4” bit in-stock at The Best Things. I ordered the bit and the 155mm extension. They arrived two days later, just before I got home from mytrip – perfect timing. I chucked the extension and put the bit in the extension. These bits are quite interesting. Where the shaft goes into the chuck it is not quite round. It has a slight edge on it that keeps it from spinning. The extension also has the same feature, and when the bit is placed into the extension and turned slightly, the pressure locks it in place. Really nice. The difference betwen this bit and my old forstner bits is night and day. I remember Christopher Schwarz saying that they were unable to over-feed this bit. I didn’t have quite the same experience. I was able to over-feed the bit, but 3/4” is relatively small for a forstner. I think that a larger bit would be less likely to clog. However if I sowed down the feed rate just a bit then it bored incredibly well. The bit sends up tiny little ribbons of wood rather than the thick shavings of normal forstner bits. Even with the long extension on there was not perceptible run-out with this bit. They’re not cheap (this one was $30), but if you need some really nice clean holes, you can’t go wrong with these bits. After boring a few holes in scrap to become familiar with the operating characteristics it was time to bore some holes in the bench rails. That went without a hitch.
After that was done I reassembled the base and went about doing some flattening of the top. I’ve got it pretty flat and now I wil wait until the slabs are fastened to the bench before I go any further. The next step is to route out the grooves for the sliding deadman, attach the cleats for the slats that go between the bottom rails and begin the vise installation.
I’m nearing the end of having my basement finished so progress on the bench will probably slow a bit over the next few weeks.