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Still waiting on my oil to entirely dry.

Meanwhile, I thought I would fix something that I knew would bug me all the time. My big honkin’ wooden vise jaw is too massive for the few inches of threading in the big wooden nut in the leg vise, and as a result the big wooden screw tilts downwards towards the jaw. See look: here in the very back of the leg you can see the nut:

The nut is actually not glued into the leg at all; it’s merely held in place by those blocks that are screwed into the leg. So anyway, you can see that there are only a few inches of thread, and I suppose that’s why the screw does not remain perfectly horizontal. So I had in mind to glue a handmade wooden washer in the front of the leg’s vise hole to give some support to the screw. My brilliant wife said, “Why do a whole washer? Why not just glue little bits on the bottom since that’s where the support is needed?” She gets it, folks!

So that’s what I did. First step, cut out some little wedges that fit in my screw’s thread and that are rounded to fit in the vise hole:

I decided to go with two wedges. I asked my wife to name this type of piece, since it was her idea, and she named it a sham. Works for me. I figured out the correct distance between the wedges, and with some creative weighting, I glued the two shams in place:

And voila! my big wooden screw definitely is receiving much more support and is much more horizontal when in use.

It’s amazing how close I was to being done the past several months. If you go back and look at my archives (don’t worry about it, I’m about to sum up), I didn’t make ANY progress from May to October because I dreaded the flattening and leveling that I needed to do. Once I got over that hump, I made ginormous strides in no time.

Since my last blog post when I called the bench level (enough), I have flattened it (enough) and planed/sawed the horns off the leg tenons. That was no joke! Last night I got the planing stop done and I bored the hole in the leg vise for the screw. Also no joke:

And you know what I did today? I put my first coat of BLO on it. My bench is literally finished. I still have all the parts (leg vise, planing stop, etc.) separated so it’s not assembled. But tomorrow I will have a fully-functioning workbench.

Final pics to come, but here are a couple of pics from this afternoon:

Phase 1 is complete. The bench is mostly flat, and is mostly level. I could talk about the various parts of the top (and the bench in general) that aren’t great, but then I think,

“If I was reading the blog of some struggling woodworker who rarely gets shop time and builds a Roubo/Moxon workbench and then complains about the various imperfections of what is essentially just a ginormous wooden tool, I’d yell at him to shut up and be content and start making stuff!”

So I’m content. Enough. Next I’ll take my #7 plane over the whole thing and then comes the smoother.

Well the separate paths of motivation and free time finally merged today for a couple of hours, and I was able to get my jack plane out and get busy!

I am about 3/4 of the way through “Phase 1” which involves getting the whole top flattish. Then I’ll drop it back down (you may be able to see it’s “up on blocks” (literally) to keep the top clear of the leg tenons) and see how level it is. If it’s pretty close to level, then I’ll smooth it up! If it’s much off (it was almost 1/4″ high in some places!) then I’ll get back to work on “Phase 2” and reassess.

Hope to do some more tomorrow!

Here’s a quote from my last post:

I am making progress on the bench, but as before, I get hung up mentally when I come to big steps in the process.

Guess when I wrote my last post? About 2 months ago. Yep, got to another big step in the process and got hung up mentally. Well that, and also just lost my motivation entirely for a few weeks there. I’m back!

So gluing four boards onto a 28-board benchtop shouldn’t really be a “big step” in the process, right? Well for me it doesn’t take much. This time it was doing my first glueups around my inner leg tenons. My main concern was that once I put the benchtop on the legs, my measurements will have been so far off that it wouldn’t fit on. You know the fear. Well, no worries, I got it mostly right. Had to pare one “mortise” (they’re all still open on one side) but the other three fit no problem.

So here’s where I’m at (click for larger size):

You can see that I’ve closed up the mortise for the planing stop. And yes, I plan on trimming the tops of my leg tenons! The only “mistake” I made was that I had planned on trimming the length of the inner tenons so that they would have shoulders (only 1/2″ or so) for the benchtop to rest on. I just plain ol’ forgot. Oh well. So the inner tenons are a full 6″ long. When I cut the dovetails on the outer tenons they’ll just be a bit longer as well, no biggie. Here’s another shot:

My next step is to touch up the outer boards a tiny bit where they are a bit proud of the tenon cheek. Then I simply need to glue my next two boards in on each side (will need to plane them down a bit to get them to fit just right in between the tenons). Piece of cake. Then the last two boards on each side will be the ones that fit around the dovetails. That will be another “big step in the process.” Wish me luck!

A lot’s happened lately! I pegged the long stretchers. Funny story. In my mind, the pegs in Schwarz’s Roubo were 5/8″. I didn’t have a 5/8″ bit, but I had a very nice 3/4″ one, so I used that and made 3/4″ pegs. I figure, maybe they’re a touch bigger than the ones Chris used, but hey, no biggie. Just the other day I realized: Chris used 3/8″ pegs!!! Haha, oh well, the Schwarz has said that you can’t overbuild a workbench, right?

The only thing that went wrong is that I drilled the hole in the wrong spot for one of the pegs. In a show piece, that would have ruined my month. But hey, it’s just a workbench. I plugged the hole with a scrap of peg and did it again (you can see it in the front left leg).

Then I glued up my interior 12 boards, which determined the length of my short stretchers. So I glued up my cut-to-length short stretchers and pared the tenons until they fit in the leg mortises.

But here’s where I had problems. Somehow, the front and back leg mortises on the right were just misaligned enough that the stretcher was not wanting to go in all the way. I did everything. I laid the base on its back and jumped up and down on the joint. Literally, it was just like you’d picture a cartoon character jumping up and down on something, like a suitcase getting it to close. I squeezed all four of my 48″ clamps on it hoping to get it in. Finally I whittled a severe one-sided taper on a peg and hoped for the best. It worked! So while that joint might not be the best, it’s pegged and not going anywhere. If I’d used 3/8″ pegs, it would have never worked.

And so now I have a base! Next step is to glue the next two boards on each side of the 12 you see in the picture. Then the benchtop, as it were, will be able to sit up on the legs. You can already see on the benchtop (far left of the pic) the start of the void mortise for the planing stop.

It gets a little tricky here, as I need to figure out how to glue up the rest of the boards around the tenons. I only have 4 big clamps, and they’re not very good, so I don’t really want to just glue them up while the benchtop is in place on the base. So far I’ve been gluing up the benchtop on its side, with the newly-glued piece at the bottom, so the weight of all the other boards serves as a “5th clamp.” But this gets harder and harder as the top gets heavier and heavier, and it also involves constantly removing and replacing the benchtop on the base to check for fit.

Light at the end of the tunnel, but it still may be a while until I’m out of it! (Absolutely must be done by year’s end.)

So I followed Gye’s advice and followed Kari’s advice and whipped out my block plane to fashion me some pegs for drawboring the tenons on my stretchers. I originally was considering making a dowel plate, but Kari in her post suggests that this works best for short dowels. All of mine are at least 6″ long.

So anyway, the block plane was a bit slow at first, on the corners, but it quickly picked up. I just started at one end until it fit in my test hole and wherever it hung up, I kept at it from that point. It took about 20 minutes to do that one dowel, which will serve to make 3 or 4 pegs. After this picture was taken I “doweled” the other piece, and I figure I’ll do two more of this length to be safe.

When it was all said and done, I was surrounded by thin ribbons of wood, and was happy I didn’t have a lathe. This was fun.

Wow, that was tedious. Sawing through a 6″ x 6 1/2″ with a ryoba was no joke.

Then I had to flatten the bottom. Not too bad. Creating the chamfers on the bottom of the legs was fun, though.

Then I weighed the leg with my luggage scale just for kicks.

All four legs are done. Next: fitting the long stretchers!

P.S. The post title is my general feeling after seeing my legs lying horizontally on the ground for such a long time. It’s good to see them upright!

What do you make of this?

It seems to only happen on my last board of each leg, and when I have the glued-up board on the bottom of the stack (with gravity and the other 7 boards helping my clamps out).

On a related note, I have also seen glue squeeze out from the middle of the edge of a board above the glued-up board. Not in a glue line. From the middle of the board. Maybe all this is normal and I’m just a newbie to gluing. A gluebie.

So in my last post, I mentioned the difficulty I was having boring the overlapping holes for the mortises that will receive the short stretchers of my bench. I was tired, but wasn’t gonna let it breaka my stride.

This past Thursday was a federal holiday, and my wife graciously gave me the space and time to get in a lot of shop time. So I started with the flip side of the first mortise (from the last post) and was able to complete that and the mortises in two other legs. But when I was halfway through the last mortise, my expansive bit snapped under the immense power of my massive arms. Well, either that, or it got tired of being overextended beyond its intended range. Anyway, the screw head just snapped right off the shaft. Cool.

Or not cool. Because now what? I tested some of my other bits and they were entirely unsatisfactory in their cutting ability. Not only did I have this one last short stretcher mortise to finish, but I still had to do my big honkin’ mortise for the nut to my wooden screw (the nut is 6″ x 3 1/2″, and 3″ or so thick). So I did what I thought I’d never do – I reached for a power tool: specifically, our office’s electric drill.

Even as I was taking this thing home, I felt kinda dirty. Here I am, building a workbench in the style of the 18th-century, and I can’t even do it without plugging something in. But you know, once I plugged it in and gave it a spin (or a twist, I suppose), it wasn’t so bad. The speed of boring was quite nice.

So anyway, in no time I finished that last leg and was ready to move on to the big mortise for the honkin’ nut. Got some pics. First off I marked the four corners.

Then it was a simple matter of drilling holes with one hole space in between them. Then I followed up with drilling out those spaces until I had a perimeter of nearly-overlapping holes. Then the fun: drilling in at angles along the perimeter to hog out the thin walls of wood in between the holes. In no time the block in the middle dropped onto the floor, without a chisel being struck. Of course, then the chisel came out to clean up the walls.

I was surprised at how easy this was, considering how much I’d been dreading this mortise. While my holes were not drill-press vertical, they were pretty darn close. And with this mortise it really doesn’t matter what it looks like, nor does it have to be perfect in respect to the nut that goes into it. Standards may be very low and it will still function exactly as it should. Still, I was very very pleased that the nut went into the mortise with the gentlest of mallet taps. In the picture below, you’re looking at the inside of the leg, where the screw will come out. To fill in the space behind the nut, I’ll insert a couple little blocks and hold them against the nut with a thin strip of wood screwed onto the leg. Not a drop of glue needed. And in case you weren’t sure, the back side of this “through mortise” will be closed up with the remaining boards that need to be glued on to complete the leg (and then a hole drilled through to receive the screw).

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