Workbench #4: Table Top and bleeding

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Blog entry by VTWoody posted 04-06-2008 05:37 PM 1716 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Base and sundries Part 4 of Workbench series Part 5: Aprons, Vises, and Chisels in Fingers (Sorry, no pics of the injury) »

A couple of you made reference to the empty bandaid wrapper on my bench right next to my old chisels. I have my stuff set up so that I get those emails with your comments when they are made, and to be honest, I was absolutely flummoxed when I read those comments, “Bandaid? that early in the project….I don’t remember that.” I immediately went back and looked at the pictures and the dates that I had taken them and I could not for the life of me remember what I had done to myself. The funny thing is that there is a story about a chisel incident that will be told later on when I get to working on the endcaps, but I was holding that story until the appropriate time. I will give a little background information though.

I have two older brothers and while we nearly drove our mother to distraction with our hijinks, we spent much of our early years beating on each other in some way, shape or form. I was 6 years behind them, so I definitely took the brunt of the beating. At least until I grew taller and stronger than them. I definitely gave back as good as I got, but in the process I learned to ignore a few things. One of those things is the pain from minor injuries. Whenever I am playing sports, doing manual labor, or working in the shop, I find myself with little cuts and scrapes that I have no ideas about where I received them. If I actually notice that I am bleeding, I might put a bandaid on if it is enough that it might get on the work piece, but otherwise I tend to just forget about them. It drives my wife nuts. I walk in from the shop and sit down to talk or do something and I have a cut on my hands or leg and she looks down and sees me oozing and I get the look and the command, “Go wash that off and put a bandage on it!” and I respond, “Huh? What?” and look around and, “Oh, how did I get that?” I guess I just have to do a visual of myself periodically in the shop, but so far, I have been my lucky self. I haven’t lopped anything off (Though I have been close), and I continue to try to be safe. I try to compensate for these tendencies at the power tools, because I know what can happen, but it is the little things that always get to me. Oh well, on to the blog.

The next few pictures are of the top being glued up. The base just made a perfect, well, base to do these clamp and glue ups. You can see the cauls I used to make sure things were even. I had those covered in packing tape on the glue side. This glue up procedure was a little bit of a pain in the ass because of the space constraints in my shop while building this bench. I am in the process of rearranging everything and building things to free up space and of course this was the first major step, so there are all sorts of workstations and old benches and tools and just general junk all over the place. Kaleo’s workshop video about the creation of his workshop makes a funny statement about that. “We should save this box of doodads for the future. Where should we put it? In the garage, of course.” Hopefully I will be able to make order out of chaos and actually please my wife at the same time, but we shall see.

Each of the two glued up sections were small enough to go through the planer and were thus planed down to the same thickness, eliminating any inconsistencies at that point. There were then glued and clamped together. In the next picture, you can see the 3×5 cards that I put under the middle of the cauls to make sure pressure was applied in the middle as well.

After the top was done, I had to square off the ends with my circular saw. At the time, I was using a piece of angle aluminum that was pretty sturdy, but eventually I ended up purchasing one of those clamp straight edges that have a low profile for just that purpose. I like it much better. The blue tape is to control any splintering, which it did.

Here I have the top with its tenon routed out for the eventual endcaps. This was the same process as with the circular saw, but with my router instead and I had to flip the top to do the bottom.

The next picture is the sapele all marked up for the endcaps, front and back aprons, and the tail vise. I originally thought I had enough for the front vise, too, but I miscalculated and didn’t have enough. By the time I realized this mistake, both my Woodcraft and the wholesale lumber yard, Mt. Storm, had no more 8/4 sapele lumber left. I also feel that I should have designed the aprons to be a little wider top to bottom and hence a change in plans happened later when I was taking care of the vises.

This brought me to the point where I would need to put on the tail vise. That scared me, because up until this point, it didn’t matter if I got a measurement slightly wrong, I could go back and fix it somehow, but now I was to a point where I would have to scrap a lot in order to fix a mistake. I didn’t want to do that, so I built a mockup of the tail vise out of scraps and got all the measurements from that. What a good idea that was! In the long run, the tail vise worked out just right, and I can easily say that the mock up was the reason.

The next picture is the jig I made to drill out the holes for the dowel pegs to secure the benchtop to the base. I live in the Bay Area region of California, and while we have humidity swings, they are not nearly as bad as some parts of the US. Still, I put three dowels on the foot sections and three holes in the top. The outside holes were larger to account for wood movement and the center dowel holes were the locating holes.

I think that’s about it for now. I will add more about the aprons, endcaps and vises later. Next weekend I will be building the cabinet for underneath the bench top. It will be somewhat based on the ideas presented in a Fine Woodworking article about the same.

6 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4011 days

#1 posted 04-06-2008 05:38 PM

Looks like you are making great progress. I really like the dark strips you added.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Ad Marketing Guy - Bill's profile

Ad Marketing Guy - Bill

314 posts in 3821 days

#2 posted 04-06-2008 09:23 PM

Nice top – those dark strips look fantastic – curious to what style feet you are planning and the joinery for the feet.
Great Start to what I am sure will be a wonderful bench.

-- Bill - - Ad-Marketing Guy, Ramsey NJ

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3946 days

#3 posted 04-06-2008 11:22 PM

I wish I had room for a bench like that But I am filled to the limit and everything is on wheels and I have to move a lot of things around as I preform different tasks when I do get to build one I will rememer your mock up vice trick.

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3904 days

#4 posted 04-06-2008 11:57 PM

Boy, it’s lookin good. That’s a lot of work.

I had two sisters so they didn’t beat me up much, but I still share your low threshold of pain. It drives the rest of the family nuts when I don’t mind a few cuts and such.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3985 days

#5 posted 04-07-2008 12:00 AM

It’s really coming along

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View jcees's profile


1060 posts in 3821 days

#6 posted 04-07-2008 04:29 AM

Ah, it’s a beautiful thing to see something come together. Thanks for sharing.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

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