Sapele Breadboard Ends for the Workbench Top

I’m continuing with my workbench build.  You can read my previous post here, Gluing-up the Workbench Top.

I decided to add “breadboard” ends to the bench.  I’m using the term loosely, since they are not intended to function as typical breadboard ends.  They’re not going to hold the benchtop flat, as it’s 4 ½” thick.  I wanted to wrap my benchtop in a harder wood than the Douglas Fir that I am using as my primary wood.  I figure that the edge of the bench is going to take the most knocks, and will also serve as the inner jaw on the vises.  Using a hard wood here, just seems to make sense to me.  It will also add some contrast to the bench and hopefully look nice.  I got a good deal on a big 6/4 Sapele board so that’s what I went with.

I have read several books on workbench building (some more than once) and I spent some time doing image searches online to get some inspiration.   On most of the benches that have an end board, the end piece is attached with lag bolts.  I didn’t want to do this for aesthetic reasons.  The ends also couldn’t be glued on, as I would be gluing end grain to long grain. My idea is to cut tongues on the ends of the bench and fit rather chunky bread-board ends over them.  I can then dovetail the sides of the bench into the breadboard end to hold everything in place.  I know… it sounds complicated, and it really isn’t needed, but its what I want to do, so I’m going for it.

My one concern was seasonal wood movement, and I’ve thought about this a lot.  If the benchtop expands or contracts significantly, the dovetails/pins on the breadboard ends will either be recessed or proud.  However, I live in the coastal Pacific Northwest and the humidity is fairly high here year round.  This workbench is going to remain in my garage and my supposition is that I wont see a lot of wood movement.  We’ll see… perhaps in January I’ll be eating those words.

I had a 6/4 board of Sapele that I wanted to use for the breadboard ends.  I really wanted 12/4, but it was not what I had.  So initially, I planned to laminate two pieces together and then route out the slot for the tongue.  I got to thinking about it, and it seemed like a huge waste of wood to route out the middle.  Why not cut smaller pieces and create the groove as part of the glue-up?  The end grain on the breadboard ends won’t look as good, but I can live with that, as it saves enough Sapele for another use I have in mind.

Enough about the plans.  Here’s how I made the ends:

Cross-cutting the Sapele to make the breadboard ends.

Cross-cutting the Sapele to make the breadboard ends.

I made the long rip cut on my bandsaw and cross-cut with a Copley backsaw that I restored last year.

A Copley Backsaw that I restored.

A Copley Backsaw that I restored.

The backsaw is nice and sharp and it cut beautifully.  Of course, the saw bottomed out in the cut and I had to switch to a regular handsaw to finish it.  I used a Disston that I have cleaned up and refinished the tote, but I have not sharpened it yet.   It got the job done though!

I finished the cut with a disston handsaw that needs sharpening.

I finished the cut with a Disston handsaw that needs sharpening.

I milled all the rough cut pieces using my jointer and planer, and then ripped them to final width on the table saw.  Here’s what I was left with:

Milled pieces ready for glue-up.

Milled pieces ready for glue-up.

I spent some time trying out all of the pieces to get the best grain match and then got ready to glue-up the first end.

Propped up on scrap-wood to make room for the clamps.

Propped up on scrap-wood to make room for the clamps.

I applied the glue and started to clamp it up.  The problem that I was running into was that when I tightened the clamps, the pieces would move.

Glued, clamped, and left to dry overnight.

Glued, clamped, and left to dry overnight.

I found that the best way was to apply very little clamping pressure to each clamp, while making sure that the parts were perfectly aligned.  Then I slowly added pressure to each clamp a little at a time.  Done this way, I got good clamping pressure but was still left with a surface that did not need leveling later.  Also, having a consistent gap to fit the tongue was critical.

Sapele Benchtop Ends-7

I used a small putty knife and a wet cloth to remove all the squeeze out and left it over night to dry.

Sapele Benchtop Ends-8

I repeated the process the next day for the other end.

Fitting pieces to fill the gaps.

Fitting pieces to fill the gaps.

The next step was to fill the gap in between the smaller pieces on each end.  I will be cutting the pins into these ends and they need to appear solid.  I cut the pieces slightly over-sized and fine tuned them with a hand plane to fit the gap.

I attempted to match the end-grain pattern as best as possible.

I attempted to match the end-grain pattern as best as possible.

Once they were sized, I tried to match the end-grain as best I could.  It’s not bad, but there’s no hiding the fact that the ends aren’t one solid piece.

The pieces ready to be glued in.

The pieces ready to be glued in.

Sapele Benchtop Ends-12

I glued and clamped the pieces in place and left them overnight.

Glued and clamps removed.

Glued and clamps removed.

With the clamps removed, I trimmed the ends flush using a mitre gauge and my table saw.  I checked them with my machinist’s square and they were perfect all around.

Trimming the end flush.

Trimming the end flush.

There's no hiding the fact that it is not one solid piece, but not bad!

There’s no hiding the fact that it is not one solid piece, but not bad!

So now I am left with two breadboard ends that are the same thickness as my benchtop.

Finished ends.

Finished ends.

The one on the right looks better.

The one on the right looks better.

I wish they had both come out like the one on the right, but I think that they will work. Next, I have to route the tongues onto the ends of the benchtop and size them to fit the dados in the Sapele ends.  I also need to cut the dovetails on the Sapele boards that make up the long edges of the bench.  I’ll need these to transfer the shoulder lines to the benchtop and determine my final length.

More to come.

 

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don't build enough - I need help!
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One Response to Sapele Breadboard Ends for the Workbench Top

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