I’d pretty much run out of excuses for not starting the Big Bench Build. Every week at church I see the kind woman who arranged for me to get all that beautiful lumber for free. I always fear the question, “So have you built it yet?” Don’t ask me why it has been hard to motivate myself to do it. I think maybe it’s because I’ve been planning this workbench for years – literally – and in my head maybe it’s become this grand opus that, despite it being one of my very first projects, must somehow be my best.
I’m past that now.
This isn’t fine furniture; it’s a big rustic wooden table. Once I realized that, I was able to relax. Instead of saying to myself, “I’m building a Roubo-Moxon workbench,” I’m saying, “I’m gluing this board to that board.” And without me even really noticing, I’ve got long stretchers and two of my legs are halfway completed.
But let me back up a bit. Here’s my order of tasks for the build:
- Long stretchers:Done. These are four 1×4s glued together. The inner two are longer and will tenon through the legs.
- Legs: These will be eight 1×6s glued together, alternating two short with two long. The long ones will tenon through the top (with the outer tenons being dovetails).
- Benchtop: I’ll glue up the 1×4s from the inside of the benchtop to the outside. Once I reach the through tenons on the legs I’ll know exactly how long my short stretchers need to be. The mortises in the benchtop will be created by leaving voids in my glueup. The dovetail mortises are the only ones I’m really worried about.
- Short stretchers: I’ll already have cut the mortises in the legs so this should be pretty straightforward.
- Accessories: Leg vise, crochet, double-screw vise (Moxon).
I don’t have any pics of my long stretchers. Not very interesting. So then it was time to figure out the layout of my 32 boards for the 4 legs. Here’s what I was looking at, trying to sort it all out (the long boards are two pieces each):
Some boards are super light, I’m talking balsa light. Why? Dunno. But I have those boards as the load-bearing pieces, always paired with a normal board. I have a few sapwood boards, which will be the interior through tenons – those will be my “anvils” on the benchtop. And the prettiest boards were moved to be the outermost “show” pieces. The colors of my show pieces – the long stretcher, the legs, the benchtop – may not match, but I don’t care. They’ll look nice. :)
So here are the 32 pieces, in the general shape of my legs:
I’m gluing them up from inside to outside. And while most people say that there are two ways to create a mortise – chopping and boring – I am going to see about a third way: sawing. I’m going to test it on scrap but here’s the plan: Once I have the innermost four boards glued up (3”), I will drill a hole in the midpoint of each edge of the mortise, so that the outside of the hole is the outside of the mortise. Then I’ll slide a hacksaw blade in there and saw from the hole to one corner of the mortise. Repeat until you’ve reached all the corners, and bang, instant mortise! I may clamp some metal rulers on each side to guide the saw, not sure yet. This technique would only work because of the way I’m gluing up my legs. Anyway, I’d appreciate your thoughts on this.
So for now, I’m gluing up the innermost four boards of all four legs. Then I’ll get to work on the mortises for the short stretchers, and the mortise for the nut to the leg vise. Then I can glue the rest of the leg pieces together, leaving voids for the long stretcher tenons along the way.
It is all crystal clear in my mind. What about in yours?