Well, it’s been a disheartening day. My lifelong family friend and mentor in both woodworking and science recently died, and his funeral was held this morning. He ended up taking his own life, completely out of the blue without any warning or reasons that could be seen. Recovering from the shock has involved a lot of appreciation for the things I love in life, including woodworking. Thus, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the shop on this project and thought I would take the time to post the build here.
After doing a number of lathe projects and using more hand tools in my other work, I started to get frustrated with sharpening. Moving the large heavy grinder from the floor to the workbench, having it vibrate all over the place, and cleaning up the abrasive debris was all really annoying. Also dealing with the mess made by water stone sharpening of chisels / plane irons was getting old. So I searched around lumberjocks and found this incredible sharpening bench project by kw193:
It was very inspiring, so I set off to make my own. Being a novice at making workbench-like structures and not wanting to buy an expensive pile of hardwood, I decided to make the whole thing from some odd construction lumber I already had in the shop. I started by jointing and planing some SPF 2×4 stock then gluing them up in pairs to make the thick legs of the bench. I then cut out rail members and started cutting tenons on the table saw with a MacGyvered tenoning jig made from my crosscut sled inserted backwards and a few clamps:
Here is the stack of milled bench pieces:
I chopped the mortises by hand after removing some waste with forstner bits. I learned the hard way that SPF lumber doesn’t behave nicely while chiseling… it compresses and splinters more often than not, but I got them made eventually:
One slight slip-up in planning was that the tenons overlapped in each rail, essentially making me remove wood from the area twice… oh well:
I cut dados in the lower set of rails to hold a plywood shelf. After making the shelf I noticed a critical flaw during the dry fit:
I somehow screwed up only one of the dimensions… damn. After remaking the shelf I proceeded with the glue-up (love the bessy clamps):
After the glue dried, I scraped and planed everything flush and somewhat smooth. Then a bit of final sanding and edge rounding (still pretty course since it’s just shop equipment) before making the top. The top is some fir plywood for rigidity screwed to a sheet of MDF for flatness and compression resistance. It looks ugly as heck but works very well. I drilled, countersunk, and drove screws to attach the top to the base, then plugged the screw holes. I did this from the top so I would know where the screws are for later routing (though I ended up routing through one anyways in another step… my stupidity sometimes defeats my foresight). Finally, I coated the whole thing with some old tung oil / polyurethane finish that I’m trying to use up. The MDF top sucked up lots of finish before it was finally sealed well enough.
One design oddity: I have an annoying ~3” square concrete “shelf” running around the bottom edge of my garage, and I wanted to butt the bench directly against the wall, so I had to cut the rear legs shorter. I also bought some nice leveling feet from woodcraft and attached them since the concrete is far from flat. I was able to get the top very close to level and the entire bench sits rock solid without any wobble.
Next I planned out where I wanted my grinder to sit, and attached some t-track for jig use before bolting the grinder in place:
I thought about buying the full Wolverine jig for sharpening gouges, etc, but the price seemed too much for a stick with a V on it. So I proceeded to build one myself based off a few similar lumberjocks projects. The first try didn’t work very well, so here is the second revision:
The horizontal piece is just pine strips laminated together. I had bought some steel bar to reinforce it, but I didn’t use it since the wood is remarkably resistant to any deflection even when fully extended… maybe because I laminated several pine strips to meet my desired 3/4” thickness. I routed a 1/4” slot through the center for easy sliding. I’m just using regular 1/4-20 hex bolts and some wing nuts I made into knobs for t-track attachment. Someday I’ll buy the nicer t-track jig hardware, but these work for now.
Here is a picture of the back of the t-track and one of my hand-made knobs. I chiseled out some of the MDF top so I could slide in/out bolts from that end of the track as well (should have just extended the t-track across the top… not sure why I bothered stopping it short):
I did end up buying the Wolverine jig’s variable grind accessory… it looked far too difficult to make myself. Since building this I successfully re-ground my sorby bowl gouge to have a side grind and it works really well, cutting through dry hardwoods like butter.
The next step is to make a normal tool rest for scraper/skew sharpening, get my waterstones mounted to the bench, and make some other random accessories. I wish my old friend was still around to see this project to completion.
-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)