My First Workbench #13: Day 13: Dry fit the base!

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Blog entry by RaggedKerf posted 08-25-2012 01:54 AM 1258 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: Day 12: More mortises. Part 13 of My First Workbench series Part 14: Day 14: Trimming Tenons and legs... »

As usual, for the pictures, click here.

Today was very exciting! I decided to finish the base joinery prep once and for all and powered through the last 3 tenons and mortises. I wrapped up with a dry run of the base and I am very happy with the results (though there are a few minor glitches to take care of tomorrow…more on that below).

To begin with, I was not at all thrilled with continuing the tenon cutting. I have been using a makeshift saw horse (2 pieces of offcuts from the 4×4 posts stacked on top of each other on the garage floor) to cut all my tenons and it has been a bear (on my back and my knees…that concrete floor is hard!). I hit on the idea of using my workbench top (duh) and clamping the stretchers to it in order to saw the tenons. It wasn’t quite as hard as doing it hunched over or kneeling on the floor, but it wasn’t as easy as having a nice face vise either.

Speaking of vises, if you’ve been following along the comments, David asked me about my vise plans (if you haven’t read the comments of previous posts, he’s been supplying me with a steady stream of information, advice and encouragement almost from the beginning and has been invaluable to this project! Thanks man!). I have always liked the looks of a leg vise (yup, the Schwarz converted me pretty quick) but if you’ve been following this blog at all you also know this bad boy is definitely considered budget friendly. Put it another way, the $300 Benchcrafted leg vise (okay, maybe not $300 but it may as well be if it’s over about $10) is just right out. Enter the Lumberjocks projects page.

I saw this project by Don Broussard, and knew it was the one for me. While I’m not going to announce I will flat out copy his design, it is going to heavily influence my own. The idea is just genius. I’m still in design phase though, but I should have it wrapped up and ready to start constructing either this weekend or early next week after the base is ready to go (with the exception of the vise, of course). I have the wood. I have the hardware. I have the epoxy. I just need the time. And the design. That might help.

Anyway, back to the base. To get to the vise stage, I realized I had to get the tenons and mortises done on this thing.

So I went at it and clamped the last few stretchers down, hacked out the tenons (I shouldn’t say that, because these were the best tenons I’ve ever made, but it went so much faster that it felt like I was just hacking the wood off!) and grabbed the Black and Decker Woodwrecker. These mortises simply flew by, because they jut up into the other mortises I already drilled, cut, and chopped out. Before my work-time was up today, I had finished all the tenons and all the mortises. That was good sweaty fun, and the garage smells like pine!

So, the last step before the kids got up was…drum roll please…the dry fit of the base! After some gentle persuasion with the rubber mallet (making a proper wooden mallet is one of the first projects on my list to complete when the bench is done), here is what I had:

Right away I noticed why I thought´╗┐ some of the stretchers were twisted (as mentioned in a previous post or two). I didn’t have the silly things seated properly. After getting every joint as tight as they would go, I noticed that the twist was all but gone. I had been worried that my eyeballing the measurements for alignment when I cut the mortises had let me down, but no, my record of near perfection still holds.

What I did notice though, was that at every joint the tenons touched and wouldn’t seat properly. There was about 1/8” gap on the side stretchers from being fully tight in the joint. Turns out I made things a little too tight. So, instead of chopping off 1/8” from the ends of the short stretchers, I did a little half-lap joint inside the mortises so the short stretchers would sit on and around the edges of the long stretchers (which I would rather have the full length embedded in the mortise…why? I don’t know, just seemed right). I only got one side done today and forgot to take pictures, so tomorrow I will do the other and get some photos to show you exactly what I mean.

Once the joints are tight though, things can really get moving. Next up would be prepping the base to receive the top—-measuring the final height of the legs, tracing out the mortise points on the underside of the bench top, and cutting…sigh…more tenons and mortises.

At that point I will work on the vise for a change of pace and hopefully start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (hopefully it’s not the headlights of the truck delivering the Sky Fort, because I’m not done yet!)


-- Steve

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