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My First Bench: My Learning Experience

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Forum topic by Beams37 posted 04-26-2015 08:28 PM 1273 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Beams37

163 posts in 649 days


04-26-2015 08:28 PM

So, I have decided to build my own bench. I went into this build with 3 expectations:
1. This would be a learning experience.
2. This would not be the bench I work on for the rest of my life (I already have plans to convert it to more of “shop table” in the future).
3. I would make mistakes.

Here is the original idea: Simple and Easy

I bought a maple top from Woodcraft that was already laminated. It is 24”x50”. Came in decent shape (working that out with Woodcraft now). Had a few dings and dents. I will probably have to cut them off. Here is the top:

My plans were to add a hardwood (maybe walnut) apron, hardwood legs (dovetailed in), a shelf below for storage, and an end vise.

I just wanted to post my journey and hopefully get feedback along the way, so that when I do build a more permanent fixture in my shop it will look nice and hold up for a long time. So, feel free to give advice and ask questions.

Thanks in advance !!

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.


25 replies so far

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Beams37

163 posts in 649 days


#1 posted 04-26-2015 08:46 PM

First Weekend of Real Work …

I quickly realized that dovetailing in the legs would be harder than it sounded. So, I decided to do a “box joint” instead. I also realized that without a table saw, making my own stock for legs would be harder than hard. But, my goal was to make legs and get them set up by the end of the weekend.

I consider myself a problem solver, but I may have created some problems that I can only solve with epoxy and glue !! LOL

To solve the table saw problem, I bought a Festool track saw. I can tell you that this things is amazing and cut amazingly accurate and clean stock from 8/4 poplar. I thought this would be the hardest part, but it was actually the most difficult.

To keep the legs simple, I cut 2 pieces of stock (one shorter than the other) and glued them together. Once dried, I did a little planing and everything went pretty smooth.

I hope you can see this in the picture. I then decided to cut the longer section down a bit to provide more area for the top to rest on. This was actually going well, until I realized my saw wasn’t “deep” enough to saw all the way down to the shorter piece. So, I broke out my regular saw and that is when all the cuts went to hell.

Anyways, I made it work. I went to cut the notches out of the table to receive the legs, when I learned a lesson that I know all to well. “Measure twice, cut once”. I knew they would not be perfect, may need some epoxy to fill the gaps, and possibly a small shim. Well, 3 of the 4 will only need a little love. But the last one …

It is going to need a lot of damn love !!

At the end of the weekend, I learned a few things:
1. I am going to have to bring my ideas and plans down to my skill level. I was planning to do the stretchers with a through mortice a tenon. However, I will probably be using a Kreg joint.
2. My saw skills are awful. LOL
3. My joinery skills are worse.
4. I’m going to need more epoxy than I thought.

Any input would be appreciated. Thanks for looking!

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

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NewfieDan

50 posts in 2108 days


#2 posted 04-26-2015 10:19 PM

We’ve all been there. From your last photo, it may be easier to rebuild your leg(s) to match the openings you cut in the table top. If you use full layout lines on both sides of the wood, the hand made cuts will almost always turn out straighter. What type of saw were you using that wouldn’t give you the full depth down to the shoulder?

On plus side, you clamped your work piece. This helps to keep things straighter. IMO you can never have too many clamps.

Keep at it and don’t get discouraged. I self taught myself and quite often make mistakes.

Yesterday I tried to make a drawer for an end table I am making. After 4 (yes 4!) I gave up. Today, everything worked out fine. Sometimes you just to take a break, especially if you are getting frustrated.

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WoodNSawdust

1417 posts in 636 days


#3 posted 04-26-2015 10:26 PM

After you cut either the notch in the workbench top or the tenon in the leg then use that to transfer measurements to the other piece. That way you will have both pieces matching.

I think we have all made mistakes measuring or cutting something wrong. My solution is to say that every woodworker needs a fireplace. Fireplaces cover up a lot of mistakes. On second thought maybe Norm or Tommy Mac never made a mistake ;-) but the rest of us mear mortals do it all the time.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

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Beams37

163 posts in 649 days


#4 posted 04-26-2015 10:42 PM

Dan:

This is the saw: http://www.woodcraft.com/Product/153372/Veritas-Small-Crosscut-Saw-16-tpi.aspx
Made smooth wonderful cuts. Just not deep enough, as the tenon was about 2.5” tall. Had to switch to the Dewalt saw, which does not make clean cuts.

Luckily, only 1 of the joints was really jacked p. I think it was a case of too many marks on the piece. I cut to a line that I drew when I was in the “design” phase. Instead of new legs, I am going to fill with shims, epoxy, and then add additional support from the bottom.

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

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Beams37

163 posts in 649 days


#5 posted 04-26-2015 10:45 PM

WNS:

I was able to save the other joints by measuring multiple times. I’m just mad at myself.

At this point, I think it may be too early for the fireplace !! LOL

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

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Beams37

163 posts in 649 days


#6 posted 04-26-2015 11:04 PM

Can anyone recommend a good handsaw for jobs like this?

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

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TheFridge

5764 posts in 945 days


#7 posted 04-26-2015 11:57 PM

I’d suggest buying a wheel marking gauge. I had a cheap one then bought a veritas dual marking gauge and it has made a huge difference as far as ease of layout and the transfer of measurements. Veritas makes some good saws.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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Beams37

163 posts in 649 days


#8 posted 04-27-2015 12:04 AM

Fridge: The saw cut like a dream. But my tenon was deemed than the saw blade and it hit the “backbone”. Thanks for the input.

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

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TheFridge

5764 posts in 945 days


#9 posted 04-27-2015 12:15 AM

I use a cheap Irwin dovetail saw on a lot of things. 15$ or so at lowes. You want to cut the mortise first then use a marking gauge to transfer the measurements to the tenon, because it’s easier to shave to tenon down than the mortise.

My first workbench. Goin on 3-4 months I guess but you can’t get in a rush. Patience and a few choice tools will help You get it done.

Edit: good chisels never hurt.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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rwe2156

2187 posts in 940 days


#10 posted 04-27-2015 12:20 AM

I know you’ve already done the legs, but I wonder, do you have a set of chisels?
If so, use the hand saw to get it close.

(IOW NEVER EVER try to cut right to the line, grasshopper!! This is a secret of the masters)

Then you fine tune the tenon with chisels and/or shoulder plane for that perfect fit…..
(Read my signature ;-)

As for a saw, any sharp handsaw will do, even one of those Shark saws (or whatever) HD carries.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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Beams37

163 posts in 649 days


#11 posted 04-27-2015 12:36 AM

Fridge: I’ve been following your build. I love the look of your bench so far. Good call on cutting the mortise first.

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

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Beams37

163 posts in 649 days


#12 posted 04-27-2015 12:39 AM

Robert:

First off, I can tell you I was trying to cut right to the line. I clearly have much to learn sensei.

I have A chisel. I keep it sharp and it did well today. Any errors were operator error.

Maybe the saw fits into the “operator error” bucket too.

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

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TheFridge

5764 posts in 945 days


#13 posted 04-27-2015 01:00 AM

Want to guess where I finally learned to cut the mortise first :) nothing a little glue and sawdust wouldn’t fix. Ivebeen using this bench to learn things too.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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Texcaster

1138 posts in 1133 days


#14 posted 04-27-2015 10:42 PM



I use a cheap Irwin dovetail saw on a lot of things. 15$ or so at lowes. You want to cut the mortise first then use a marking gauge to transfer the measurements to the tenon, because it s easier to shave to tenon down than the mortise.

My first workbench. Goin on 3-4 months I guess but you can t get in a rush. Patience and a few choice tools will help You get it done.

Edit: good chisels never hurt.

- TheFridge

Nice leg detail.

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

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Beams37

163 posts in 649 days


#15 posted 04-28-2015 12:38 AM

So after work, I decided to glue up the legs. They are actually pretty damn square. I should be able to get them fully square when I add my stretchers.

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

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