Book Bench #2: Mortises, Tenons & a Finishing Fiasco

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Blog entry by spunwood posted 11-18-2010 03:34 AM 1009 reads 1 time favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The Project & The Legs (profiles) Part 2 of Book Bench series no next part

M & T

With two tenons per leg, I created the dillema of chiseling 8 mortises. I do not yet have sharpening stones and my skills with mortising are a bit lacking, so I decided to simplify and just do two by hand and cut off 6 tenons.

This meant alot of sanding to even up the top of the legs so that the bench top would sit evenly and be supported throughout rather than by just one or two of the leg tops.

But I am so happy that I kept two mortises. They came out well despite some tear-out. Pine is hard to work with, especially with tools that are not that sharp, and hands that are still learning. I am still not marking out the width just right and had way too much clean up. But it was sure fun to wedge the tenons (I forgot to glue them…luckily the top is also attached by nails).

After trimming up the front and back apron, I attached the back with dovetailed lap joints.

I also tightened the middle support beams by driving a wedge of oak between each end. Unfortunatley, I did not use a flush-cut saw and gouged the side and gouged it more with a barrell sander on a hand drill.


Thus began the finishing fiasco. I had a sanding block and thought I would hand sand the bench. But I used 32 grit very agressively & AGAINST the grain.

I sanded it down to 220, and it looked reasonably clean before staining…. but then I added the stain (General Finishes oil based “candlelight”).

Pop went the scratchmarks which made it look like mad cats had just enjoyed a massive brawl across the whole piece.

Here it is (prior to staining) looking all innocent and clean. Who new lurking under that bench was the monster of cross grain and heavy sanding.

You can see one of the through mortises and the wedge in this picture

I had to refinish the whole thing with hand planing, sanding.

I am only now adding the final 2-3 layers of polyurethane.

I never got all the scratches out, I would have sanded the end grain more and watched out for gouging, making low spots, and leaving funny lines from the electric sander but I do believe it is looking good.

Stephanie helped me with the sanding and by putting some tung oil on the end grain and blotchy spots.!

You’ll have to wait until I post it as a project to see the finished product.

-- I came, I was conquered, I was born again. ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν

2 comments so far

View chrisstef's profile


17386 posts in 3006 days

#1 posted 11-18-2010 04:42 PM

The M&T looks good … sorry about the finish. Ive been there and wont make that mistake again. Good luck on the refinishing!

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View TomFran's profile


2957 posts in 3994 days

#2 posted 12-20-2010 07:25 PM

Take heart, my friend, all of us have to “learn” some things the hard way.

I had done a similar thing to a pine project I had completed. It always bothered me that I could see the scratches. One day my wife told me she wanted the shelf I had made painted black. Although I was always against covering up beautiful wood, I agreed that it just might look bettter with a coat of black paint. So, I “compromised” my principles, and guess what, I actually like the way it turned out!

So, cheer up my friend, you learned something, and maybe you will find a “solution” that works for you, like I did.

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

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