Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Workbench Part IV - Short Rail Tenons and Legs

Happy holidays!  What better way to celebrate Christmas then to sneak off into the shop for a bit and do some woodworking.  I left last time with the short rails a little wonky after the first milling.  Each rail had two faces still flat and square so I started the final milling with those.  I ran them through the planer and then finally the table saw which thankfully resulted in four perfectly square short rails.   I cut these to length (21-1/2") on the miter fence and went about laying out the tenons. 

Now the tenons can be really any dimension you want as long as it mechanically makes sense.  I already decided to deviate from the downloaded plan by making the short rails beefier but I stuck with the plan dimensions in making the tenons two inches long.  The structural shoulders ended up 1/2" deep while the cosmetic top shoulders I set at 1/4".  I used a marking gauge to scribe a 2" line all along the rail  from both ends.  After that I set up the dado stack in the table saw which allows for a wider continuous cut.  At 3/4" it still took three passes for each face...3 x 4 x 8 = 96 passes.  Let's just say it took a little while.  The wife stopped in while I was cutting these tenons and took a couple of action shots.  I'm wearing my most festive red and white checkered shirt.  Kind of a ginger Santa Claus look going when you get down to it...

After the tenons had been cut on the table saw the faces were a little rough so I took them over to the bench hook and used my shoulder plane to flatten them. 

With all of these finished up I thought it fitting to stack everything together as a small sense of accomplishment.  Note the wooden mallet behind the shoulder plane...a most excellent Christmas gift from the wife.

The last thing I did for the day was cut the workbench legs to length and put a nice chamfer on the bottom.  This will prevent the workbench from catching if I ever need to scoot it around on the floor.  The daughter and I leave for a trip to Kansas tomorrow to see the folks so I plan to start milling the mortises in the legs when we get back.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Workbench Part III - Milling the Short Rails

As I mentioned in the last post, I pulled a couple of old Siberian Spruce beams from outside into the garage that I plan to use for the upper and lower short rails on the workbench base.  You can see the short rails highlighted in the 3D drawing of the bench which is available as a free download from Benchcrafted.  These short rails are fit into the bench legs using mortise and tenon joinery.  To add even more strength, the tenons are drawbored (pegged in layman terms) which helps keep the joint tight during seasonal wood movement.

I left the straighter beam to use for the long base rails on the bench and started breaking down the other beam for the four rails.  I cut each to a rough length of 23" and started milling them up.

  I ran the beams over the jointer, then the planar and got them to the table saw before I realized
something was amiss.  Either through user error or the wood "springing" as I milled it, only one of the pieces ran truly square to the table saw fence.  I have often read that it is best to do a first phase of milling where you let the wood acclimate a little more before finishing it off to final dimensions.  After seeing what happened here, I decided to stop with most of the material removed and let the rails sit for a few days before doing anything else.  I want to make sure the wood has stopped moving before I get into cutting the joinery.  

Recently I added a cast iron extension wing onto the new table saw to provide a more stable surface for crosscutting, etc.   With the wing installed I thought that a good test would be to trim the ends of the milled legs.  The result was pretty cool when the legs were placed in a way that created a annular ring "circle" so to speak.  This add-on to the table saw will definitely help when it comes to cutting the tenons in the base.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Workbench Part II - Milling the Legs

After rough cutting the legs to length last weekend, it was time to start milling them down to final dimensions.  I learned early on that to get a piece of lumber flat and square for woodworking there is a certain order that will produce the best results.  I started by flattening the widest face on the jointer bed.  You can see one of the legs on the jointer bed in the first picture to the right.  My jointer has a 6" wide bed so it's always nice if the rough lumber doesn't exceed that dimension.  From this post you might think that I'm sponsored by Ridgid tools, but alas they haven't come calling yet.  Once you have one wide face of your piece flat, you can rotate it 90ยบ and run that flat face up against the jointer fence to get the other face square to it.  Then it's time to move to the planer which will mill the other wide face parallel to the first face.  I ran a couple legs through the planer and it was struggling mightily.  I decided to take it apart to look at the knives and sure enough they had lost their edge.  The nice thing about the Ridgid knives is that they have a sharpened edge on both sides, so it was just a matter of rotating them to get a fresh edge.  I also set the planer right on the garage floor to minimize vibrations.  In little time I had three faces flat and square.  Then I took the legs over to the table saw and ripped them to final width.  The finished dimensions of the legs are 5" wide by 3-1/4" wide and they have some pretty good heft.  Not as massive or heavy as maple or oak but a great reuse of a discarded beam.  There are still some pretty good checks and other defects but I think I can work around most of them.  I also pulled a couple of old Siberian spruce beams into the garage to acclimate that I picked up locally years ago from Salvage Works (  If you live in the area and haven't been to their store yet then make the trip.  Preston and crew have an amazing assortment of salvaged wood, hardware, shop made furniture and other unique odds and ends.  Tune in next time when I will work on milling the spruce beams into what will serve as the lower and upper rails of the bench.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Workbench Part I - Rough Cutting the Legs

We moved into a new house back in August and for the first time I have my own woodshop space.  After taking some time to get the tools set up (including a new Saw Stop table saw from my wife Lola) I'm ready to start my first major project.  And what better first project for the new woodshop then a genuine workbench.  For the design I've chosen a modification of 18th century French cabinetmaker Andre Roubo's classic design which pairs beefy legs with a massive top and plenty of work holding capability. 

There are many different blogs on building one of these benches which have become very popular so I figure I'll have plenty of resources.  My ultimate dream is to pair the bench with some of the amazing woodworking vises made by the Benchcrafted company( but for now I'll just start working on the foundation.

I had inherited a couple old wood beams from my brother years ago and used one to build the chicken coop at our old house.  The other one came over in the move and it is the perfect length for the legs.  I started by rough cutting the beam into (4) 36" lengths, not worrying too much about the ends being straight as this will all be fine tuned later.  There are some pretty decent checks, random cuts, etc in the beam so I'll need to think about patching some areas or cutting around them.  For now it's cool to see the tight end grain in the Douglas Fir legs and think of what will be.  More later...