Bowling Alley Workbench #4: Look at them Legs...

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 06-29-2009 02:06 AM 6845 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Back to Square1... Committed to new Design - legs are ready. Part 4 of Bowling Alley Workbench series Part 5: Rain Rain go Away - Rail Rail Done Today »

Picking up where I last left off (each leg glued, and hand planed to clean out the glue lines), It was now time to get some assembly done.

First thing First – gotta trim all legs to same length/height since during glue up some boards decided to move about. I decided to use a reference point that I could use on all legs that would match them all up – since different legs had different boards that moved around – the only reference point that I could use (and the best one of them all) was the longer board protruding from the top of each leg – those I can easily register my fence against.

I bolted an AUX plywood fence to my incra miter gauge (so easy to do – gotta love those T-slots) and set a stop that the tenon on each leg would register against, and trim ~1/16” off the base of the leg, this way I know that all the bases are exactly the same length from the top of the tenon.

Next I rotated the leg end to end, and positioned the stop on the miter gauge fence so that the saw will trim ~1/16” off the shoulder of the tenon – and trimeed both shoulders on each tenon – now, I have 2 shoulder on each tenon that are exactly the same distance from the base of the leg, making them on an even plane.

At this point, my legs were all identical, and ready for some boring.

I registered all the legs against the table saw fence. this put all the legs on the same plane (TS table top) and the bases were all aligned with one another (against the TS fence):

Yes – the legs completely cover the TS table top.

No – my TS table top is not small

Yes – the legs are THAT big.

After the legs are aligned to one another, I marked the lines for the lower rail, and it’s corresponding mortise on 1 leg, and transfered the markings to the rest of the legs. This way I can actually mark once, and cut twice (or 4 times in this case):

After that I used the drill press to bore the mortises. I used a 5/8” drill bit and overlapping holes. Then I used the TS, and Bandsaw to cut tenons on the rails that would match those mortises. the tenons were cut slightly thicker, and then final fitting was done with a block plane and a 2 1/2” chisel (don’t have a shoulder plane, so had to be creative).

on a normal Roubo bench, this would be sufficient to hold the legs together. however , since I’m going to utilize the Bowling Alley nailed-together top, I decided to add another support that would keep the top aligned and flat. I did notice that since the top is not glued, it can bow and cup if held only on the edges. the solution? a 2nd rail installed flush with the top of the legs for the top to sit on.

I decided to join the top rail using a sliding dovetail since it’ll make sligning the rail with the leg top easy, and add structural support:

The tails on the rails were cut on the bandsaw. the rail does not go all the way to the bottom of the rail, but stops ~1/2” short – this was done because my drill bits are only 2 1/2” long, and I was planning to use the drill press to get rid of most of the material for the sockets. This actually proved to also help with the next step I was facing – transferring the tail to the legs.

I placed the rails on the legs and because they had the shoulder on the bottom, it helped aligned them with both the inside of the leg as well as the tenon on top. I transferred the tail to the tenon only. then used a handsaw to cut the sides of the socket- this in effect transfered the lines to the rest of the leg.

I chiselsed the socket part that was on the top-tenon to have an even plane on top of the leg for the drill press to plunge into. Then, most of the material in the socket was removed with the drill press. leaving me with the sides of the sockets, and it’s bottom to chisel out, and fit to each tail:

Leaving me with these legs:

the legs and lower rails are Hemlock-FIR (aka “what-homedepot-carries”) and the top rails are Douglas Fir. interesting enough, HD only carries douglas-fir in 4”x”4, but the 2×12 are hemlock-fir. the top rails are actually the lumber I was originally planning to use for the actual legs (original design) – look how small they look compared to the new legs. lol. I ran out of hemlock-fir material, and didn’t want to get a full board, just for these 2 rails… and since they will not be seen anyway, I figured I might as well put the douglas fir to use. at least some of it.

Before I can glue this up, I need to get the vise screws from LV so that I can bore the legs to take the vise screw, and it’s nut. of course – before I can do that, I need to actually place the order with LV… (I think that’s how it usually work).

Next step? mill and join the front+back stretchers to the legs.

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

7 comments so far

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3716 days

#1 posted 06-29-2009 02:14 AM

How funny, I was just looking to see if you had made any progress…I am getting bench envy again! Your making nice progress can’t wait to see the stetchers next!

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4363 days

#2 posted 06-29-2009 02:27 AM

Nice job on the legs and getting the ends assembled. It’s looking great.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Bureaucrat's profile


18339 posts in 3614 days

#3 posted 06-29-2009 02:55 AM

Great looking legs! Looking like this will be a real nice build.

-- Gary D. Stoughton, WI

View ellen35's profile


2734 posts in 3395 days

#4 posted 06-29-2009 12:35 PM

That bench is not going to move once you build it!
I am so impressed with your legs (the ones you built, I cannot comment on YOUR legs!!! :o)! )

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3611 days

#5 posted 06-29-2009 04:50 PM

Thanks everyone.

ellen – the secret is squats and shaving… err… squares and planing that is…

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

View ryno101's profile


388 posts in 3627 days

#6 posted 06-29-2009 06:48 PM

That’s some progress! I’m getting inspired… I’m planning on using some leftover Mahogany 4×4 stock I have for the legs on mine, and thinking about getting some Mahogany 2×4s for the rails…

I really like the dovetailed rails, I might incorporate that into my design as well… I too noted the need for cross-grain support for the top, and was planning on simply attaching something to the top of the leg assembly with mortise/tenon… Not sure if I have enough 4×4 to make the legs go all the way up (as they say…), but I think your design is superior, and will provide a better support framework for the rediculously heavy top.

I’ve been also thinking about a method to be able to incorporate bench dogs perpindicular to the long edge of the top, and have come up with an idea of cutting the top and using hardwood cross pieces that I can glue in, kinda like this:

whaddya think?

-- Ryno

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3611 days

#7 posted 06-29-2009 07:46 PM

Ryan, I originally (look at the first/second post of this blog) was going to use as similar design for the legs as you mention – 2 posts running vertical, and a horizontal support on the top (and bottom). for functional purpose I changed the legs so that they are (will be) now flush with the side of the table for clamping applications, and for cosmetic purposes moved the horizontal rails in between the legs so as not to have long/end grain showing on the sides. structurally speaking though – both should be just as strong and capable.

As for the cross grain idea – this would work if you do it right – I would strongly suggest AGAINST gluing this up though – as you’ll have lumber trying to expand/contract in different direction which will work against the glue lines, and might in the long run break this apart (most likely). A different approach might be necessary here (bolts, half glued tenons…and the likes to let the wood some room for movement).

yes, it’s a tricky situation, and a tricky material to use. but hopefully we’ll make the most of it with little sacrified.

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

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