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Roubo-Moxon Bench Build #1: Building a Workbench Is Easy, and Lazy Mortises

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Blog entry by Eric posted 08-20-2010 04:43 PM 6272 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Roubo-Moxon Bench Build series Part 2: No Such Thing As a Lazy Mortise »

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:

  1. Long stretchers:Done. These are four 1×4s glued together. The inner two are longer and will tenon through the legs.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. Short stretchers: I’ll already have cut the mortises in the legs so this should be pretty straightforward.
  5. 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?

-- Eric at http://adventuresinwoodworking.com



8 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2315 days


#1 posted 08-20-2010 05:23 PM

sounds like a good plan Eric.

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

View Beginningwoodworker's profile

Beginningwoodworker

13342 posts in 2339 days


#2 posted 08-20-2010 07:15 PM

You is off to a good start, Eric.

-- CJIII Future cabinetmaker

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1781 days


#3 posted 08-20-2010 09:03 PM

at least you have started out with some niiice TIMBER …..LOL
I realy look forward to see how this is going with your tecnic
not sure I have understand it correct, as I read it you will saw diogonal from a hole in the mittle
and out to the corners = no mortisse
well anyway good luck with it

Dennis

View Eric's profile

Eric

873 posts in 2450 days


#4 posted 08-21-2010 06:54 AM

Thanks guys! And Dennis, I don’t think I described it well. I’m drilling 4 holes per mortise – one in the midpoint of each of the edges. Then I’ll saw from that hole to the corner, so I’ll be sawing along the outer line or perimeter of the mortise. Hope that makes sense!

-- Eric at http://adventuresinwoodworking.com

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1781 days


#5 posted 08-21-2010 12:36 PM

:—) Eric
I thought this was what you had in your mind, just had to have you verifi it

have you thought on that you can make the mortisse even with out boring and sawing
well nearly not sawing
under your glue up you you just cut one or two of your mittleboards
and use a cut of pieces from your strecher ( tennon) as a ruler
that way you make the mortisse under the glue up , I did that
years ago when I needed to build a utility table for my sister I used 2×4 to make 4×6 legs
and 2×4 as stretchers the tennons was 2×3 so I had a ½inch shoulder on top and bottom

View Eric's profile

Eric

873 posts in 2450 days


#6 posted 08-23-2010 03:11 AM

Hmm….I wish I’d thought of that before I did all the glueups, that sounds like that might have worked!!! :)

P.S. My system won’t exactly work as planned. It’s too hard to cut through 6” of wood with a hacksaw and have a clean even mortise. Looks like I’ll do the boring method. However, I’ll be able to use my small flushcut saw I think so I won’t have so much to clean up with the chisel. More on that in the next post…

-- Eric at http://adventuresinwoodworking.com

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1781 days


#7 posted 08-23-2010 01:51 PM

hey Eric
I don´t know what you have deside about your top
round or square holes , but if you deside for sqare you don´t have to mortisse them
make them under the glue up

good luck
Dennis

View Eric's profile

Eric

873 posts in 2450 days


#8 posted 08-24-2010 09:38 AM

Regarding the top, I’ll be using exclusively round holes since I won’t have a tail vise and don’t need bench dogs. I may make some dogs for my round holes solely for use as planing stops, but that’s about it. At least with dog holes it’s easy whether square or round!

-- Eric at http://adventuresinwoodworking.com

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