The Workbench #3: This is NOT super simple

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Blog entry by debianlinux posted 07-29-2013 03:18 PM 1261 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: A comedy of errors Part 3 of The Workbench series Part 4: Warp Drive »

Armed with the requisite cut list of pieces I finally found a free weekend to start doing some assembly. Here in North Carolina we have had a record amount of rainfall in the past 3 months or so and my basement which is really a glorified sump pit hasn’t been the driest place in the state. As I started hauling the lumber back up to the car port I noted quite a bit of it was twisting and skewing. I think maybe pine lumber still grows after having been felled because I found out shortly some of the boards had also managed to gain an extra 1/16” to 1/8” from the least time we had been talking with one another.

My goal for this weekend was to get step 1 of 8 done for sure and hopefully move onto maybe steps 3 or 4. I will let the reader know that in the 7 hours I labored non-stop that I did achieve step 1 which was to assemble the frames for lower workshelf and the main work surface. It should be noted that the plans state that this workbench is simple enough to be completed in am morning. I exceeded this timeframe just to cut the wood to length.

My interim workbench consists of a couple saw horses and the shelf plywood laid over them. Since the lumber has grown into various new directions a great deal of time was spent clamping each joint flush to the plywood, squaring the member and clamping the member flush before drilling some pilot holes and running in screws. Layout was a matter of dividing the length of shelf to fit each member equally, marking these location on the rim pieces, marking the center of each member to align with that line and marking centered and equally spaced screw locations. It took “a morning” just to perform the layout.

I assembled the lower shelf frame first hoping that lessons learned there could be carried to the main work surface frame where mistakes would be more critical. Unfortunately(?) the lower shelf frame went together without incident. Having found a working procedure and pace I began the next frame in a state of near wood working nirvana fueled by the pride of seeing my already assembled frame next to me.

The 2nd frame is where I discovered that my wood had grown some length on me. The interior members must be the same lengths or else it is impossible to square the frame or not have bulges that extend past the edge of the shelving. I decided to employ a sabre saw to remove the 1/8” or 1/6” extra length which promptly ruined those members for further use. I am not sure what purpose a sabre saw has for existing but it is not to produce any sort of straight cut. While the top line of the cut was straight the end of the board looked like the surface of the ocean with at least 1/2” of disparity in the minimum and maximum lengths.

With my nirvana dissipated a I made the unplanned trip to the store to get another 8’ 2×4. A little lightbulb faintly glowed that if I got 2 pieces of lumber then the next time such an incident occurred I’d not have to make this sort of unplanned trip. This particular load goes into a 4 door Honda Accord which I have successfully placed 8’ lumber and it is a sight to behold.

When I got back to the house I put into practice my newfound skill of not cutting on the line only to discover my boards being sawn entirely too short. You see, when not cutting on a line one must decide which part of the wood is the “waste” side and cut into that side. If one assumes, as I did, that the right hand side of the line is the waste side and it is not then one is likely to disappointed with the results as I was. thus my spare 2×4 got used and the next time I have an emergency I’ll be 3 more than I need. That said, I do have a nice pile of 23 7/8” boards should the need arise.

Step 1, therefore, is complete. I have 2 sturdy, square and flush frames for my shelving. Next is to attach the legs and then the shelving. I expect the leg attachment to be complicated primarily because the floor is not level and I have leveling feet to add to them. Also, I am unsure if I should complete assembly in the basement because I am not sure the assembled frame can be safely or even dimensionally carried down the basement stairs.

3 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3647 days

#1 posted 07-29-2013 03:34 PM

I think this is one of the most valuable lessons in woodworking – saw kerf calculations (cutting 24” board into 2 does NOT yield 2×12” boards… ), and cutting on the outside of the line to keep that 24” measured board at 24” (andn ot 23 15/16” or worse…)

takes practice and the good thing is that you are not backing out – consider this a lesson that will keep on giving, one best done on ‘cheap’ 2×4s as opposed to that exotic 1-off board that cannot be regrown to full size.

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

View debianlinux's profile


53 posts in 1763 days

#2 posted 07-29-2013 04:01 PM

Haha, I forgot to include that the plywood got cut at the store and the cuts were two 1’ widths off the 8’ end. The guy who did the cutting apparently assumed it was more important that the 1’ widths be correct and not the 6’ length. So my table ended up being 5’ 11 5/8” (no telling where that other 1/8” went). So I had a an exercise of trimming my boards once I realized the problem (thankfully before fastening things up).

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3647 days

#3 posted 07-29-2013 04:07 PM

FWIW – I never trust any 3rd-party for precise cuts. thats why I always have the guys at the lumber yard have my parts cut 1/4”-1/2” longer than my planned part size so that I can trim it to exact precise width/length in the shop (the 1/4” – 1/2” varies based on the lumber yard). if I plan on a “no waste” cuts from a full sheet, I’ll make sure I get the entire sheet to the shop in one piece (have to rent a truck for that myself) and make those cuts myself on the floor with a circular saw.

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

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