terryR's Bench Blog #3: Putting the Pieces Together

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Blog entry by terryR posted 03-02-2013 09:45 PM 4450 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Ugly Mortice and Tenons Part 3 of terryR's Bench Blog series Part 4: The Finish »

Welcome back to terryR’s Bench Build Blog…

When I left you guys hanging last time, I had just laminated together the aprons, and cut them to length.
Now, it’s time to assemble the legs and the aprons…a step which filled me with much apprehension because of the importance of the joint. The long, beefy aprons on this bench provide the stability and reduce racking when in use since there are no lower stretchers.

According to my instructions, Paul Sellers’ Working Wood 1 & 2, these leg assemblies are morticed into the aprons to a depth of 1/2”. That seemed a bit weak to me, so that’s why I made the aprons oversized, to allow 3/4” depth for these mortices. Seems just a little extra…but I hope the 1/4” will make me feel more secure when banging on the finished bench.

And, wouldn’t ya know it, I goofed the FIRST mortice on the first apron…too deep and an inch too high…I swear I have a minor in Math, and I excel at differential equations, but the simple arithmetic kills me every time! :)

But, after a bit of patch work, everything was going to be OK.

Luckily, the next 3 mortices came out just fine…I’m starting to get the hang of this little LN71. Just using the depth stop and sneaking down on the line has made a ton of difference in the results I get from this tool now! Maybe I should have read the instruction booklet that came with the plane?

Here is how I transferred the layout lines from one apron to the next…remembering each apron is still a bit long so it can be sized to fit the whole bench in the end. I hate to admit I’m still using my little chip carving knife as a layout tool, but I keep putting off the marking knife I wanna build.

And with a bit of glue, a smattering of 4-letter words, and a handful of wood screws…this stack of pine is starting to look like a bench…

I can’t tell you how much I want to get away from the glue and screw joinery, but Mr. Sellers used screws on his build, so I guess I will as well. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’ve noticed some FINE looking benches on LJ’s that had a few wood screws here and there in the hidden crevices.

Next, was the easy job of added the horizontal bearers which allow the top to be secured later. More glue and screws…but it’s all hidden, ya know? :)

Unfortunately, it was now time for more arithmetic…and you guys know I suck at that! Mr. Sellers’ bench top provided 12” of working space, and a 12” tool well. Just not the numbers I had in mind…so that’s an easy change, right? I had 30” of space to divide out between top and well, but how much of each did I want? I dunno, really.

Luckily, a quick post to the Work Bench Smack Down Thread, and others had given me their tool well sizes! I would make mine somewhere in the middle of those sizes. I placed a scrap 2-by in the spot of the well, and added a few tools to see what was what…

Let’s see…a bench plane on edge, a small backsaw, bigger means more shavings, but easier to see small tools before the shop-vac eats ‘em. Around 8” sounds good, subtracted from my 30” of top space, with each stick around 1.4” thick after planing, with extras for mistakes or bow staves that jump out of the 2×10 once ripped…damn, where’s my calculator?

Hmmm…so now I need to cut 14.6 sticks of pine. Oh…plus extras…

One good thing about this whole build is that I’m generating loads of pine chips from the lunch box planer, and lots of shavings from the hand planes…The wife loves them since that means she has to buy fewer for the guineas and goats! I mean, I fill up these 12 gallon shop vacs again…

and again…

Once again, I rigged the short rip fence on the table saw and ripped the above pine into 3 1/8” wide sticks. Once turned on side, and clamped together on the table saw, I could see there was NO way I could lift that much mass! Another pair of hands and the shop crane…maybe. But not alone with my post-op back.

So, I decided to glue the top to the bench frame I had already created. Only about 5 or 6 sticks at a time, so I could caul everything straight, and clamp the mass to the bearers underneath. I sure hope that is an acceptable means of building the top…time will tell I suppose!

The top is also screwed to the bearers from underneath…nice and hidden, thank you.

Somehow, I didn’t manage to get any photos of the top being glued up in 3 steps, except for how it appears in the background here after 2 sessions. In the foreground, you can see the pine panel I glued up for the tool well…very much oversized at this point.

With the tool well clamped in place, I almost had a bench! Truthfully, I needed a few days off from the bench build for some instant gratification projects. So, rigged up a simple jig and went to work sizing arrow shafts…

Those of you who know me, know I love making wood arrow shafts for my flint points…and I’ve made scores of ‘em using a Stanley Sureform plane to reduce saplings and lumber down to size. Why the sureform? The Book recommended the tool. Wow, time for me to write another book…Give me a sharp no.18 and 65 and I knocked out arrow shafts in 1/4 the time of usual. Plus, hardly no sanding required for finish! Awesome!

^Flint Ridge Flint from Ohio. Beautiful. Deadly on that hickory shaft.
And how about the ‘feather thin’ shavings?!

But, I digress…back to the bench…

The more I looked at this photo:

…the more I thought my bench looked top-heavy. I had beefed up the aprons, thickened the top, but made small increases in the sizes of the legs. Hmmm. Time to beef up the legs.

I simply attached more pine with glue and clamps. Now, both aprons were supported by legs instead of just a mortice, and were flush with the legs…an important factor since I’ve decided to build a leg vise! Why? Cost. Strength.

I also turned a few walnut pins to serve as fake drawbore pins and add a little bling to this poor beater of a bench…Maybe I’ll use them to cover up screws as well?

I decided I wanted to add end caps to my tool well, so now was the time to cut the top to length. Skill saw? Heck no! Saw with skill. :)

I literally bumped against this old Atkins saw a few days prior to this, and got a small cut on my hand! Huh? What was this saw doing on the rusty tool wall? Straight to work for you my old friend…

I’ll have to research about the model of this saw since it has a slight etch and a lovely handle I’ll need to copy. But, now I can see how the tips on the toe end of these old saws get broken off.

So, how to attach an end wall for the tool well? Dovetail? Yeah, sure, after another year of practice…this bench was designed so I can practice dovetails and learn to use hand tools more on a stable platform. That means simple joints for now…how about another haunched M/T?

Oooooh…that’s what I call a bases-clearing gapper! Not my best attempt…but since you guys are like family, you can take the good with the bad, I hope! I also hope some shims and glue will make that look better or I’ll have to cover it with something…

Both end walls also have a rabbet in the base to accept the floor of the tool wall. More work for the 71…loving this tool. Wish I had a nice shoulder plane to help clean up, but it’s on backorder. bummer…

And that is where progress stands as of today. The bench is taking much longer than I thought, due to several factors:
-making room for the new table saw
-building and making room for the new wood stove
-building version 2.0 of a goat feeder
-temps below 40 in the shop…fugetaboutit…
-ME making changes as I want
A few more random shots…
mortices for the tool well side wall:

smoothing the tool well:

Next update soon, I hope. Comments and suggestions are always welcomed.

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

9 comments so far

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2595 days

#1 posted 03-02-2013 09:51 PM

Nice work Terry. Its going to be a nice bench. You’re gonna love it once its done.

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

View ShaneA's profile


6956 posts in 2625 days

#2 posted 03-02-2013 09:58 PM

It is looking good Terry. What had you been using for a bench? This is construction lumber, no? Looking forward to more. Thanks for sharing.

View terryR's profile


7168 posts in 2335 days

#3 posted 03-02-2013 10:08 PM

Thanks, guys!

Shane, yeah, it’s all 2×10’s from Home Depot. Boring, but cheap. Previously I’ve been using 2×4 shop ‘tables’. Not very sturdy when it comes to hand tools, though…

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

View Brit's profile


7387 posts in 2870 days

#4 posted 03-02-2013 11:28 PM

Great blog Terry. Looking forward to see how this turns out.

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

View Ron Harper's profile

Ron Harper

133 posts in 1944 days

#5 posted 03-03-2013 12:52 AM

You are getting there. I am taking Paul Sellers on line class. He is a great teacher

-- Ron in Kokomo

View Don Broussard's profile (online now)

Don Broussard

3575 posts in 2279 days

#6 posted 03-03-2013 04:07 AM

@terryR—Nice build and nice writing. No need to provide excuses for the length of time it’s taking for the construction. Take your time—it’ll be done when it’s done! Enjoyed the trouble with simple math. I’m a civil engineer and I have that same issue!

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3179 days

#7 posted 03-03-2013 07:51 PM

Wow Terry that’s turning out to be a beast! Keep at it, hand tool work is a night and day difference with a good bench.

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

View AnthonyReed's profile


9759 posts in 2467 days

#8 posted 03-04-2013 08:19 PM

It is looking great Terry. Excellent blog. You will have your bench to thank for your new found familiarity with your #71; that is the good stuff. Thanks for bringing us along; i’m really enjoying your build.

Your flint points and their tying are gorgeous.

-- ~Tony

View chrisstef's profile


17428 posts in 3033 days

#9 posted 03-04-2013 08:26 PM

Im pretty sure that you have acquired more tools and skills during this bench build than i have in the last 4 years. Youre killin it Terry! I love the bench. I cant wait until you start pumping out work completed using your new bench.

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

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