Building this workbench has made me rethink a lot of things. Joinery on this scale is completely different from a jewelry box, cutting board, or a bookcase, and calls for different techniques.
I can hear the timber framers howling with laughter and shouting,”Duhhh!!!!”
Well, it’s new to me.
A case in point is the tenons joining the legs to the feet (see the plan in Episode 6). The center leg elements are composed of three 2×4’s glued together with a final dimension of 4 1/8” x 3 1/4”. This width will allow a 2” tenon to be inserted from either side, but caused tenon-cutting problems.
My usual practice is to cut my tenons on the router table (no tablesaw, don’t forget), but the sheer size and mass of these pieces made this impossible. So, I went back to the old way—more or less.
I decided to cut the tenon shoulders by hand, and then cut the cheeks on the bandsaw (hence “more or less”). I had seen Norm do this once or twice, and decided to give it a try. After all: If I messed up, all I had to do was go back to the lumber yard for more wood, skip-plane it, cut to rough length, glue it up, plane it down to matching dimensions, and continue as if nothing had happened. So, what the heck?
I just got a new dozuki, which is a great saw for precision joinery. The only problem I have with them is that it can be difficult to start a long cut in soft wood. So, I hit on the following solution.
I took a piece of scrap stock with a 90 degree face and clamped it across the line for the tenon shoulder, leaving just a smidgen (is that more or less than a hair?) of space to plane down later:
This gave me a good bearing surface to start my shoulder cut without having my blade wander around and make a mess:
I keep the guide block in place as I cut until the spine of the dozuki reaches it. At this point you’ve got plenty of kerf to guide you onwards and the block can be removed.
f you’re not familiar with the dozuki, it’s important to keep the cutting edge level. The wedge-shaped blade and FAST cutting action make it easy to overshoot your depth on the back side of the cut, so practice this technique on scrap wood first. Oh yes, and keep pressure on the saw to a minimum. These saws do their best with a light touch, and pressing down doesn’t make them cut better – it just breaks saw teeth. Watch the edge, ignore the spine of the blade, and sneak up on your depth:
The completed cut shows why I love the dozuki – a thin kerf and precise cuts with minimal effort:
Next stop, the bandsaw. The width of this stock makes it perfect for bandsawing the tenon cheeks. In the previous picture you can see my tenon layout lines. I use the bandsaw to cut a little outside the lines (yes, more than a smidgen – the bandsaw cuts much faster):
The reason for cutting the shoulders first becomes apparent. When the cheek cut is completed, the waste simply falls off and makes an excellent “stop cutting” indicator. I suppose you COULD cut the shoulders this way as well, but I think the handsawn method gives more control. Many will suggest cutting the cheeks by hand as well, and I may give that a shot on the narrower pieces later. In any event, we’re left with a tenon that’s ready for a little final fitting with the shoulder plane:
One down, 27 to go!
-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog: http://littlegoodpieces.wordpress.com