Workbench Build - Splayed leg French Bench #8: Splayed Back Legs and Stretcher

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Blog entry by Mauricio posted 645 days ago 5076 reads 5 times favorited 44 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Finishing the top and M&T on Front Legs. Part 8 of Workbench Build - Splayed leg French Bench series Part 9: Deadman, Cut Legs, Drill Screw and Holdfast Holes »

Hello Friends,

I’m long overdue for an update so there are a lot of pictures. I’ve made quite a bit of progress but the ending is not so happy I’m afraid, after reassembling the parts last night I discovered an error I will have to fix. The great thing about woodworking is that almost anything is fixable, it’s just frustrating. You’ll see what I mean at the end.

As usual, I’ll let the pictures do most of the explaining:

Cut the shoulders on the angled tenons. (Baby Monitor in the background, another good reason to use hand tools as much as possible) ;-)

This time I decided I needed to move things along a little faster so I used the band saw instead of my hand saws.

There was some discussion about the strength of angled tenons, you can see in the pic that almost all of the grain runs the full length of the tenon.

With the band saw, what you save in sawing time you give back in tune up afterwards. But, it did give me a chance to play with my new #92.

So here are all my leg tenons together.

Now to rout the mortises. On this bench I’ve done pretty much every possible way to cut a mortise. For these I nailed down a template and used that to guide my router. I left some extra wood to pair by hand later for a tight fit. This can be pretty tedious. On the stretcher tenons I got wise and set the router to give me a good fit right from the start with little pairing needed.

So here is the bench taking shape.

Then to joint one face of the short stretchers. I tried the Paul Sellers vise in the clamp trick, It worked great but I can’t wait to have a wagon vise. To make faster progress I just took any twist out of one face with the jack plane, once it didn’t rock anymore I ran them through the power planer.

Cut the tenons on the band saw, these came out pretty nice. Since these stretchers were short and manageable I cut the shoulders on my table saw. All the other shoulders are sawn by hand.

I then clamp the stretcher in position and mark out the angle for the angled shoulder.

I came up with this contraption to use the cut off from the stretcher double stick taped to the stretcher to hold the piece at the proper angle to cut the tenons. The whole thing rides on a piece of plywood.

This didn’t go well, for some reason I got a lot of drift on the bottom of the cut. You can see how there is a lot of wood left outside the line, On the other side of the tenon too much was taken off, about the same amount of error on both sides.

But it gave me a chance to try out my new #71! I love this tool. I haven’t even sharpened it, too impatient, but for working across the grain it worked fine. Luckily I always leave a lot of extra length when I rough cut my pieces so I had a nice cut off to use to hold up the other side of the router plane.

Here are the cleaned up tenons, I did cut off the ends so that I had a 1/2” shoulder all around but I don’t have a pic of that.

For the angled mortises I drill out the ends of the mortise with brace and bit, then use a forstner bit on the drill press to take out the rest.

And here is the first stretcher in place.

Now with both short stretchers

Here is my stock for the long stretchers with some Mineral Spirits on them, I scored some cheap QTWO for these.

The cool thing is that I’m already getting to use my bench to work on the stretchers.

Here I position the stretcher to mark out the location of the mortise.

I made a makeshift edge guide to rout out all the mortises for the stretchers. It worked just fine.

And here is the reassembled bench but there is a problem…..

Tragically there is a gap on each of the shoulders.

It took me a while to figure out what the problem was. The legs were perfectly square to the top, and I knew for sure that the shoulders on the stretcher were perfectly square. Turns out that the mortises on the right leg are a full 1 inch higher than the left leg!!! :-( How did I mess that up? I don’t know, but the worst part is that all 4 mortises on that right side of the bench are also off.

On the long stretchers all I have to do is cut the mortise 1” longer but then it will stick out above the stretcher so I will have to glue in a filler piece. But what about the short stretcher? If I slide that one down then the angel changes in relation to the back leg and the stretcher will be too short…

So I’m planning on fixing the mortises on the long stretchers and leaving the short stretcher as is. when I get around to putting in a shelf that stretcher will be an inch proud of the shelf. This doesn’t bother me too much, also if I put in a cabinet that won’t be noticeable at all.

So that’s the plan going forward. Let me know if you guys have any better ideas.

Thanks for watching,


-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

44 comments so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


15540 posts in 2716 days

#1 posted 645 days ago

That is going to be one impressive piece of woodworking when all is said and done. Heck, it already is!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Brandon's profile


4134 posts in 1450 days

#2 posted 645 days ago

So much progress, Mauricio! It’s unfortunate about you stretcher mortises, but I don’t think it’d be too hard to fix and it shouldn’t set you back that much. Good luck on the rest of the build.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View blackcherry's profile


3130 posts in 2321 days

#3 posted 645 days ago

Mauricio this is one for the favorite files, very unique in design. With all the angles and cutting its not hard to get twisted around but you made due and in the long run you’ll have a workmate second to none. I will be keeping a eye out for the finish bench great work and thanks for posting …Blkcherry

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


9105 posts in 1117 days

#4 posted 645 days ago

I say lower the side mortise too, and cut a new short stretcher. (yeah, I know. I would suggest the hard way.) You’ve got a chance to make it right all the way around, so you should take the opportunity.

Now, feel free to not do this. It’ll be an awesome bench – truly unique – regardless of choice! Thanks for the update, good work!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View Don W's profile

Don W

13923 posts in 1066 days

#5 posted 645 days ago

another good reason to use hand tools as much as possible.
I don’t think the router and band saw qualify :-)

great blog. Its going to be magnificent.

-- There is nothing like the sound of a well tuned hand plane. - (timetestedtools at hotmail dot c0m)

View Mauricio's profile


6691 posts in 1650 days

#6 posted 644 days ago

Thanks Charlie and Brandon.

Blackcherry, thanks and I’m honored to be added to your favorites!

Smitty, your messing with my head now. I had my mind all made up. The problem is that I’m all out of quarter sawn oak, so I would have to go out and buy some more, and it aint going to cost me $10 this time. Either that or use some regular old 8/4 Red Oak I have.
Another option I just thought of is to trim an inch off the top of that stretcher, and shorten the mortise accordingly? The only drawback is that the bottom of all the stretchers would not align perfectly but they really do that now. My pieces are all different thickness and widths. I just run them all through the planer until they are flat and parallel and then stop. I kind of like the asymmetry that no one can notice.

Thanks Don. I didnt say only, I was careful to say as much as possible. :-). If I were doing this gain I would buy a bigger more aggressive tenon saw and cut them all by hand, it would have been much more accurate and faster! I hope to master band saw tune up one day though.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Mauricio's profile


6691 posts in 1650 days

#7 posted 644 days ago

P.S. the bandsaw is the quitest tool in my shop!

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Brit's profile


4912 posts in 1341 days

#8 posted 644 days ago

Great progress Mauricio. I second what Smitty said. If you have enough wood to make another side stretcher, I say lower that one as well. It is going to be a great bench either way though.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View Mauricio's profile


6691 posts in 1650 days

#9 posted 644 days ago

Thanks Andy, but I dont have any more of that Oak? Would you throw a piece of flat sawn Red Oak in there or go get some more QTWO so it matches the rest of the stretchers? I mean, the QTWO is kind of wasted there really, you wont hardly see it either way.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


9105 posts in 1117 days

#10 posted 644 days ago

I like your ’Another option I just thought of’ just fine! That’s the ticket! And the adder can be red oak for character, no issues! If you ever do a shelf below, of some sort, add crips alongside the stretchers at a uniform ‘height’ and carry one. Even hide the red oak at or below said shelfline. :-)

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View Mosquito's profile


4094 posts in 790 days

#11 posted 644 days ago

My thought was to raise the short stretcher that is lower… that way you could have it match the other short stretcher in height, and wouldn’t have to cut a new one; just shorten the existing one. You’d also have to raise the left mortices for the long stretches too. I’m not sure if the stretcher height was set where it was for a specific reason or not, so I’m not sure if this solution would be workable or not.

Either way the progress looks great! It’s fun watching this come together since I want to make one similar in the future :-)

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN -- Stanley #45 Evangelist -

View PurpLev's profile


8473 posts in 2147 days

#12 posted 644 days ago

oooh. starts to come together nicely! looks ready for some work

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

View Mauricio's profile


6691 posts in 1650 days

#13 posted 644 days ago

Thanks Mos and Purp. Thanks for watching.

Purp I should be getting my screw this week to make my wagon vise a la PurpLev!

Smitty, I’m leaning towards just replacing with with Red oak at the uniform height. I just have to make sure I have enough for the stretcher and my two end caps (the original intent for that wood).

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View ShaneA's profile


4957 posts in 1097 days

#14 posted 644 days ago

I think it is looking good. You will get it all worked out, but I think you should go the extra mile, if possible. I mean this is your bench. You are going to spend a lot of time using. You dont want to second guess it. Thanks for the update. Looking forward to the finished project.

View CartersWhittling's profile


450 posts in 1172 days

#15 posted 644 days ago

Perhaps you “burnt an inch” when using a measuring tape. That one always gets me.

You could cut the shoulders on the left tenons going into the bench top an inch lower, therefore bringing the left side up to the right. Then cut an inch off the bottoms of the right legs. The only problem with that is the bench is an inch lower. Although generally speaking most benches are never too low if you do hand planing.

Although that will only work depending on the short stretchers. Are both short stretchers the exact same length currently? If one short stretcher is higher than the other then one would be longer than the other. If the left short stretcher is an inch lower than the right side then you can proceed with my idea, you will also need to trim the left short stretcher as well.

Get what I am saying?

-- And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord... Colossians 3:23

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