terryR's Bench Blog #2: Ugly Mortice and Tenons

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Blog entry by terryR posted 01-16-2013 04:14 PM 2812 reads 1 time favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Cutting and pasting the legs Part 2 of terryR's Bench Blog series Part 3: Putting the Pieces Together »

Welcome back to terryR’s Bench Build Blog…

When I left you guys hanging last time, I had just chiseled the mortises into the legs. The next step was to cut the tenons in each of the rails which attach the legs into an assembly.

No problems…I had been practicing this step…and recently purchased the LN 14” Rip Tenon saw for just this task since my other rippers felt too small in my hand. I know I’m only cutting pine here, but this LN loves to rip! The brass back is so heavy, and the teeth are so sharp, I have trouble slowing this saw down enough to cut a straight line. Ummm…yes…I’m serious.

Unfortunately, Mr. LN lacked about 1/4” of steel underneath his brass for this cut. No problems…

Bring out the Disston-Keystone restored earlier this year…new walnut handle by me…pro-sharp teeth by Second Chance Saw Works. I cannot recommend their services enough if you need a saw straightened, sharpened, whatever…

This panel saw hardly gets used, so it seemed very happy to join in the fun! There’s no way I would attempt to fully cut this tenon using only the panel saw…not enough sawyer skills here. I had a tough enough time making a straight cut with the backsaw. I’ve practiced and practiced…but I keep pointing the toe of the saw to the right for some stupid reason? gotta work on that…

After rough-cutting the tenons, it was time to clean them up quite a bit! I tried my new LN 71, but I’ve had very limited time to play with this router plane, so it never felt comfortable at this task.

For me, this little 18 block plane has become a go-to tool…

It fits nicely in my hand, reaches into small spaces, and always does a nice job…

I also used the lil 18 and a nice rasp to round over the ends of the lower tenons since they protrude slightly from the legs. Somehow, I only managed to round over ONE set of the lower tenons…forgot completely about the other set of legs until after glue up. Ooops!

In case you can’t tell, I’m having lots of fun with this bench build! I get to play with hand tools, spend time in my favorite place (the shop!), and I’m trying out new skills I haven’t used before. Fun, fun, fun…


Until I got my first tenon into the mortise and saw this…

Bummer. I had sure put more effort into the project to expect joints to come out like that. But, as I reflected, there were several factors which led to those gaps:

1. every time I dry fit the tenon, then wiggled it loose, I had compressed the wood fibers at the tip of the tenon and caused the gaps at top and bottom.
2. Any sloppy mishap of the chisel when forming the mortise will leave a gap on the edges.
3. Also, I supposed dry fitting could also lead to the side gaps if the mortise wasn’t perfectly straight. hmmm…a good reason to start a mortise with a drill bit maybe?

Anyhow, I had gaps!

Luckily, after I mentioned my problem to the LJ’s, Yoda and the gang mentioned that I could simply add glue and wedges to fill the gaps. I wasn’t worried about the real strength of the joint since each joint was tightly fitting…and a M/T joint of this size has over 24 square inches of gluing surface. Now, I felt even better to hear that others had experienced the same problem. :)

So, glue and wedges…

Everything looked nice and square, too…

Once out of the clamps, the ugly wedges were cut and sanded flush…now the joints looked much better to me!

After a bit of color goes on the pine, and some WoodEpoxy gets squeezed in those remaining gaps, no one will notice. Especially, considering the coming aprons and top will completely cover these joints!

I still haven’t decided how to color this pine once completed…any ideas wood be appreciated…

At this point, I had a slight delay to the bench build. Santa was nice enough to give me a BIG check for christmas, and my choice of new table saw required much room to suddenly be made in the shop. That meant all my bench building tools and benches had to be moved and abandoned for a week or so. But, the timing was perfect since my next step was to rip long lumber for the aprons and top!

Below, you can see the 64” long pine being ripped into 2 1/8” wide sticks for my apron. I built a quickie out feed table about 1/16” lower than my table top to help deal with the long sticks. Also note the short rip fence added to prevent projectiles in the shop, since it prevents the wood from being pinched between blade and fence.

And, finally, the first apron goes into the clamps! Hopefully the finished size of each apron will be 2×12 1/2×60” if all goes well. I really need a flat assembly table in the shop…looks like Mr. Grizzly has to pull double duty for now…

Then, the 2nd apron gets glued…

The weather has been so cold and damp lately, that I left each apron in the clamps overnight. Then, ran each through the thickness planer to remove the extra 1/8”. Afterwards, I couldn’t help but run a couple of hand planes across each face to remove the planer marks!

Next, I needed to cut each apron to the correct length. Hmmm…massive chunks I had created…how to crosscut? I ended up cutting apron #1 at each end with the new table saw, but it was sort of a hassle due to the limited infeed space on the saw. On the 2nd apron, I tried my newly acquired circa. 1890 Harvey Peace for the cuts…much quicker since there was no set up time…just draw out a knife wall and go for it!

Although, I DO have to admit, the table saw left a much cleaner cut. That’s what I would expect since the Peace is filed aggressively…but a little clean up work with a No.4 and a cabinet scraper didn’t hurt me any. :)

That’s all for this installment…more to come soon!

Thanks for reading…comments are welcomed…

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

17 comments so far

View Gshepherd's profile


1727 posts in 2254 days

#1 posted 01-16-2013 04:27 PM

Terry, excellent blog here, love the detail and pics. Keep up the good work…........

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3204 days

#2 posted 01-16-2013 04:33 PM

Great pics and tools! Thats going to be a great bench.

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

View chrisstef's profile


17482 posts in 3059 days

#3 posted 01-16-2013 04:48 PM

Im lovin it Terry! You give me inspiration to build a nice bench for myself. Got any spare time i can borrow?

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

View millzit's profile


111 posts in 2355 days

#4 posted 01-16-2013 04:54 PM

gonna look nice…..practice real good so when you get to my cherry work bench…...:)

-- cut that out!

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3204 days

#5 posted 01-16-2013 05:02 PM

Terry are you thinking of staining the bench? I guess that would work, the thought has crossed my mind as well on my bench. I see a lot of old benches that look like they were colored but I don’t know if that is stain or natural ageing. The problem with staining is that you will have to redo the top when you flatten it periodically.

I would just let it darken naturally, maybe a BLO Varnish blend followed by some dark wax? I have a kids chair I made out of pine that has aged and darkened nicely over the last couple of years. I have also read advise that says you should let pine darken a little for a month or two before finishing. Just my armature 2 cents though.

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

View Mosquito's profile


9383 posts in 2345 days

#6 posted 01-16-2013 05:07 PM

Very nice!
Did you just do the knife wall on the top? Could have tried striking a knife line all the way around to help with tear out?

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View AnthonyReed's profile


9797 posts in 2493 days

#7 posted 01-16-2013 05:30 PM

Nice work Terry; it is looking great! Thanks for sharing.

-- ~Tony

View ShaneA's profile


6967 posts in 2651 days

#8 posted 01-16-2013 05:32 PM

Looking good Terry, thanks for the update.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3387 days

#9 posted 01-16-2013 05:51 PM

Very entertaining blog Terry. I can see you are having fun using your hand tools and I think more folks should go that way. The bench seems to be coming along fine too.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2528 days

#10 posted 01-16-2013 06:57 PM

Terry, did you start the mortise from both ends? Whenever I want to make through tenons I make the mortise from one side half way and then from the other. Also, a tip I picked up a while back was to “sharpen” the sides of the mortise chisel.

In any case I think the problem is your tenon saw, you should send it to me so that I can check it…. :-)

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View terryR's profile


7196 posts in 2361 days

#11 posted 01-16-2013 07:39 PM

Thanks, guys, I’m certainly learning as I go…but isn’t that the point? :)

Jorge, I used a plain old bevel chisel…don’t have a mortiser yet. And, no, I started from one side only…will try another way next time.

Mos, I only used a knife wall on 2 edges…tear out wasn’t really a problem…just the torn end grain fibers all the way through the cut. Still, I intend to cut my top to length with the same handsaw! :)

Mauricio, still kicking ideas around on color…maybe just some brown danish oil…maybe I’ll leave it alone for a while as you’ve heard?

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View terryR's profile


7196 posts in 2361 days

#12 posted 01-16-2013 07:41 PM

Chris, my Mom has buckets of spare time over on some faceBook game called Farmville. LOL!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Brit's profile


7396 posts in 2895 days

#13 posted 01-16-2013 08:01 PM

Great blog Terry. Won’t be long now.

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

18789 posts in 2620 days

#14 posted 01-17-2013 02:11 AM

yea baby, its a bench!! What, no turned legs?

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Brit's profile


7396 posts in 2895 days

#15 posted 01-18-2013 02:33 PM

It’s only the heads that are turning Don.

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

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