Should I be worried at this point in my project?

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Forum topic by ndtrek07 posted 12-31-2013 08:36 AM 1505 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 2545 days

12-31-2013 08:36 AM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench question newbie maple advice

Being an engineer, I like to take precise measurements and make sure I’m on track. When I started getting into woodworking a couple years ago, I was hoping that being very precise with measurements might help make up for some lack of experience. I’m unsure if I’m being too critical about how some of my work is turning out in the early stages of my project, and would appreciate some feedback from some of you that have more experience than I have.

I’ve been blogging about my workbench project , but due to a basement finishing project and some illness in the family, I’ve basically put that on hold for the past year. Now, I’m finally ready to jump back into it. As noted in my blog post, I’m working on the legs first and now have all the parts together, so they look like this:

And here is a close-up of one of the bases:

I’m about ready to glue these parts together, but despite my attempts to carefully measure and cut everything, it doesn’t all line up. Here are the two areas I’m concerned about.

1) The bases are a little wobbly. Each of the two bases wobbles a little bit side to side. I thought this was due to some glue that had oozed out when I glued the pieces together, so I chiseled some of this out (you see chisel marks along the center of each piece, going from left to right), but that has not completely eliminated the wobble.

2) The height of each of the 4 legs is not the same. :-(
Now, there isn’t too much of a difference, but it’s more than I’m comfortable with. The height difference between the short leg and tall leg is about 1/8”:

So, my big question is: Should I even worry about these right now? I’m thinking I might add some kind of adjustable foot to each of the legs, so I can try to level out the bench if the floor isn’t quite level (a very likely scenario), which probably takes care of item #1 above.

With the 1/8” difference…I’m not even sure where I’d start trying to fix that (maybe the top mortise & tenon), but I don’t how much of a difference the 1/8” with make when it is finished. Maybe I’m worrying to much, but my concern is that little inaccuracies like this will add up over the course of the project, and will eventually compromise the integrity of the final product.

I’d appreciate any thoughts/criticisms/insights you have – thanks!

-- Chris

16 replies so far

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1868 days

#1 posted 12-31-2013 09:18 AM

Don’t worry about it. That is 1/8 over a distance of 32, so not a big problem, especially withe a heavy top going on the top. However well you do the joints after you throw in 50lbs or more of a top, since it is wood it will still move and take time to settle, so you will have to plane the top atleast once in the beginning to perfectly flat and then in 3-6 months or something like that depending on the humidity etc, you are going to need to plane it again.

As you will be “levelling” the top anyway I personally would not worry about it, it is too miniscule of a difference at this point. So as long as legs stay flat on the ground you will be fine.

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View darthford's profile


612 posts in 2161 days

#2 posted 12-31-2013 09:58 AM

Sounds like a tool problem. Incra Miter 5000 and the legs will all be the same length next time…exactly the same length. A jointer and your wobble and glue will vanish in a few passes. Give yourself the best chance for success by using decent quality machines setup very accurately with very accurate measuring devices. The machine will then be capable of cutting square and consistently.

Then you work on you. Even with the best machines money can buy dialed in spot on accurate skill and experience is a factor. For example do you have a death grip on the stock as you feed it through the machine? This can throw off a cut. Too much pressure say against a fence or inconsistent pressure. Feeding too fast or too slow. As an engineer you might find it interesting that even a 15,000 pound cast iron behemoth machine will deflect under tool pressure so take a tip from the metal working world, do a rough cut then come back and take a finish pass of a fraction more material.

View ndtrek07's profile


9 posts in 2545 days

#3 posted 12-31-2013 10:16 AM

Thanks for the recommendations. I’m in agreement about the problem being both inexperience and a tool problem. After carefully lining up my table saw fence, I realized halfway through cutting the tenons that the fence was not as secure as I thought it was, and it had slipped a bit. I tried to compensate after the fact, but I’m pretty sure that is part of the cause of the height difference.

A joiner is on my wish list, but probably won’t be in budget for quite some time…especially with the basement finishing project getting into the final stages.

The Incra fence looks very nice as well, and looks like it is compatible with my table saw (Ridgid R4510 at more than half the cost of my table saw, I wonder if I wouldn’t be better off saving for a better saw first.

The wish list continues to grow…. :)

-- Chris

View Don W's profile

Don W

19045 posts in 2805 days

#4 posted 12-31-2013 12:30 PM

Its wood and a work bench. I never believed that much precision was required. It’s all relative.

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

View Picklehead's profile


1053 posts in 2167 days

#5 posted 12-31-2013 12:44 PM

The good news is that by the time you start on a project where 1/8” WILL matter, you’ll have enough experience to pull it off. I sometimes find myself fussing over trying to get something perfect when, frankly, it just doesn’t matter (think 2×4 stuff). Then I have to either tell myself to back off and get the thing done, or tell myself that I’m practicing a skill, set-up, or process, and that my overthinking will pay off when I need it later. It’s a continual balancing act between: preventing mistakes, fixing mistakes, living with mistakes and hiding mistakes. Each piece you create will be a bastard child of those four.

-- Quote from ebay tool listing: " Has nicks and dings wear and tear dust and dirt rust and pitting but in good working condition"

View Texcaster's profile


1286 posts in 1911 days

#6 posted 12-31-2013 01:15 PM

An 1/8 in is a lot, even for carpenters. The good news is it can be fixed any number of ways. Don’t forget Plumb, Square, and Level.

It’s been said… it’s easier for a carpenter to lift his game and build a violin than for a violin maker to loosen up and build a house.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View wtnhighlander's profile


10 posts in 1863 days

#7 posted 12-31-2013 03:04 PM

Throw away that tape and gage you matching / mating parts against each other for the best accuracy.

View Tooch's profile


1856 posts in 2113 days

#8 posted 12-31-2013 03:24 PM

I wouldn’t worry about it. Floors are NEVER perfect, so the wobble that you think will be on the feet may be non-existent. As far as the height difference, I always mount legs to tabletops with the table upside-down, so your only worry would be, again, where the feet meet the floors. assuming your floors are perfectly even, all you’d have to do is shim the bottom of the feet.

Good Luck!

-- "Well, the world needs ditch-diggers too..." - Judge Smails

View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3814 days

#9 posted 12-31-2013 04:54 PM

Hi Chris
I think you have approached this in an intelligent manner trying to make you projects measurements very exact,but things don’t always turn out that way. The best approach in woodworking in my opinion is to shoot for perfection but learn how to make adjusts to make your project visually pleasing and functionally useful. In my thought 1/8” is a fair amount off for fine woodworking. The next question is a work bench fine woodworking? In construction many times an 1’8” is not an issue that’s why they call that part of carpentry rough carpentry. As a woodworking instructor I get questions like yours quite often ,and my answer is that each student has to set their own standards for each project they make. A Big part of woodworking is learning how to adjust projects so that they are pleasing to the eye and function as designed,this come with time and experience. Regarding your project ,I believe as a previous person brought up that many floors are out of level an 1/8” or more. This is why benches have feet to span lumps and bumps in floors. You can add adjustable feet but for a bench your better off having more contact with the floor with the size feet you already have. Many times it’s a bigger issue to have projects out of square rather than worry about a 32nd here or there.If your bench is truly off an 1/8” you could use a belt sander to take a 1/16th off the feet and a 1/16th off the top,just draw a line and sand to it to keep from getting out of level . A good thing to remember is that your woodworking for fun,so every project does not have to be built as if it’s going to be built for Nasa with tolerances of .000001

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View pintodeluxe's profile


5816 posts in 3051 days

#10 posted 12-31-2013 05:44 PM

When building chairs, I sand the 4 legs perfectly flat on a cast iron tablesaw (the only known flat surface in my shop). Once the chair sits perfectly flat on the tablesaw, I set it on the shop floor and it rocks because the floor isn’t flat.

My point is, even if your bench is dead perfect, it will probably wobble on a concrete floor. You can use shims, feet levelers, or dabs of hot glue to even the feet out.

As far as the leg length, I think a flat workbench is more important than a level workbench. As long as it gives you a flat stable surface, you should be fine.
I use a repeater on my miter saw for consistent leg cuts. I really recommend something like that, because measuring multiple times can introduce errors.

Question for you – were the leg assemblies clamped up tight when you measured? If you measured when the legs were loose fit, it may look worse than it is. The cross members will warp and move a bit, but should straighten out once the assembly is glued up.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 3468 days

#11 posted 12-31-2013 05:56 PM

If the floor is not dead flat, you may still need to add a shim under the legs to make the bench solid. I say carry on.
My shop floor is very uneven so that is what I have to do.Good luck.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View fuigb's profile


541 posts in 3195 days

#12 posted 12-31-2013 06:03 PM

@ndtrek – let go of your inner engineer! :) I believe as a rule those guys are all a little OCD which is great for design but not so much for actual manufacturing unless you have tools and material on par with your vision. As noted, too many variables in your equation here to hatch a plan and then stick to it. Let your inner social scientist or poet come out and have a say about adaptation and rolling with the elements that are too varied to completely control. Your work looks fine, btw, and I stand with the earlier replies re: “the fix.”

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View bbc557ci's profile


595 posts in 2311 days

#13 posted 12-31-2013 06:23 PM

ndtrek07 – I had a small construction business for 24-25 years, gave it up after back surgery…. Anyways, my forte was finish carpentry. We built a couple of houses, lots of additions, and did tons of remodeling/renovations, including allot of fire/insurance related repairs. We also did custom finish work. And I was always preaching to my employees about accuracy from the get go and on to the finished product. And that old BS line about “it’s just rough framing” did NOT cut it with me at all. So, I can sympathize with the OP’s opening post LOL. That said, a1Jim and pintodeluxe have given you some great feed back. I’d get the existing parts/pieces to match and as square as best as reasonably possible, and move on. As mentioned the floor surface the bench will be set on probably isn’t perfectly flat or level, so you’d likely end up tweaking the bench to level anyways, even if it were perfect.

-- Bill, central where near the "big apple"

View bbc557ci's profile


595 posts in 2311 days

#14 posted 12-31-2013 06:27 PM

btw….my older brother was an engineer (Civil) and more than once told me I was too over build, too over kill, and too damn fussy. But hey, old habits are hard to break!! :o)

-- Bill, central where near the "big apple"

View ndtrek07's profile


9 posts in 2545 days

#15 posted 12-31-2013 09:17 PM

Thanks for the feedback everyone!

As many of you have noted, this workbench is not “fine woodworking”, and I’m definitely doing this for fun. Considering that and that floors are not level, I’ll stop worrying too much about my 1/8” for the time being, and concentrate on making sure that everything is square when I glue it up.

@Picklehead: Love the quote. Definitely my quote of the week…probably of the project:
”It’s a continual balancing act between: preventing mistakes, fixing mistakes, living with mistakes and hiding mistakes. Each piece you create will be a bastard child of those four.”

@pintodeluxe: No, the leg assemblies were not clamped tight when I did that measurement, so to your point, it may not be as far off as I thought. Regardless, I’m not going to worry about it much more at the moment.

Well, back to the project. Thanks again for your comments! As some of you suggested, this project is really for the experience, so I’ll learn enough to be able to tackle something a little more difficult next time—and have a nice bench to use when I do it!

-- Chris

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