- the bench was built with material that was available at my local home store. Only the vises and the last few board feet of wood for the vise chops came from woodcraft.
- I did not have access to a planer or jointer, only a cheap tablesaw, a circular saw, a hand drill, a router, a handplane (cheap but well tuned, with 1 blade for scrub planing and another for flatteneng/smoothing), and a handsaw were necessary. (I have a bandsaw and a drill press too, but didn’t make meaningful use of them for this project.)
The base (image 1) was 4 legs arranged in 2 arrays of 2 legs tenoned into mortised sled feet & a top. (Image 2)
These arrays were then joined to one another using rails/stretchers. (image 3)
The lumber for the base was 2×4 material from home depot. In my area this is usually some variant of pine or aspen.
I chose the flattest, best boards I could. I also flattened them some with my hand plane before laminating them face to face to create thicker boards.
A lot of the joinery, however, needed to be cut separately—prior to laminating the pieces. Here is an example of a finished mortise pair ready to receive the legs with their tenons.
Notice the unsightly butt-crack caused by joining the faces of two 2×4 boards together. This had to be fixed later with a simple inlay technique.
Each half of the mortise was cut on a separate 2×4 using my table saw & the two halves were later married. First I defined each edge of the mortise, then nibbled away the middle area.
After that, I cleaned up the bottom of the mortise with a chisel. This half-mortise is now ready to be married to its mirror image.
Here I am cutting a tenon by hand. Like the mortise, these were done by cutting a half tenon on each 2×4, then marrying mirrored pairs together as a lamination to make a complete piece.
To join the two leg arrays together to form the base, I needed some stretchers. For these I decided to use 2×4 lumber without laminating them into larger pieces. I didn’t feel like chopping mortises in the legs the hard way, so I went with a large dovetail arrangement, then added pins as a decorative and structural (I hope) element.
Here is the end result.
You can also see in the above picture how I handled the butt-crack problem mentioned earlier. I discovered that the 1/4 inch diameter red oak dowels at my home store matched a little round router bit that I had, and so cleaned out the butt crack with the router, then dropped in the dowels. After the glue dried I planed the dowel to the surface of the leg. Instead of butt-crack I had a decorative inlay that matched the detail wood used elsewhere on the bench.
Here is how I finished the joinery:
I used a template made out of hardboard, and then a pattern router bit to form each tail. A chisel cleaned up the corners and eased the fit. The same template, carefully laid upon the leg faces was used to lay out the socket (integral pins, perhaps?). I cleaned out the socket by defining the edges with a handsaw, nibbling away the middle with a tablesaw, and then cleaning up with a chisel. It went by pretty quickly.
In the end, the bench wasn’t quite as heavy as I wanted, so I built a box sized to straddle the two sled feet across the length of the bench, and then filled the box with sand. It added another 70 pounds to the bench.
Thank you for reading! I hope that this information will be either entertaining or helpful to you. Even better, I hope that someone gets inspired to bite the bullet and try building a bench. You don’t need thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Most entry level woodworkers have the tools I used for this bench. This bench isn’t the best bench in the world, but it looks pretty good, is stable, & holds my work pretty well so far, so I am pleased.
The bench has some flaws. Notably, I will build my next bench with legs flush to the face. Also, I will use heavier wood. Even southern yellow pine, which is cheap where I live, is much heavier than the white pine I made the base out of. So far the bench has been super stable, but I do worry if the white pine is strong enough to make it through years of use. We’ll see, I guess.
Sometime later this weekend a second post will follow, showing the steps I went through to make the benchtop.
-- Richard B, Birmingham Alabama