I debated for a while about how I would cut the tenons on the end of the workbench stretchers. I thought about laying them out and cutting them by hand, but I’m not much of a sawyer yet and I felt that this was not the time to risk screwing things up. I don’t have any spare stretcher material.
In short, I chickened out and stuck to the way I felt most comfortable.
I had to get a feel for the best way to approach this process and tried to takes loads of photos as I went. I cut a tenon on one end of each stretcher and at the end of the day, I copied all of the photos to the computer and reviewed them. It was not good. I didn’t get photos of each step as I had wanted and thought it best not to use any of the photos.
So, the next day is where we start here. Tenons have been cut only on one end of each stretcher. In showing you how I cut the second tenon, you’ll get the gist of how I started. This post will be heavy on pictures, but I hope they’re worth the load time.
First thing I did was to set-up my cross-cut sled on the table-saw and raise the blade to 2 inches. Using a marking knife, I laid out the location for the second shoulder to ensure that the base (allowing for the legs) will be the exact same width and the benchtop.
I took the two short stretchers, turned them upside down on the sled, and lightly clamped them together
I flushed up the existing shoulders to make sure that the stretchers come out the same length and then tightened the clamps.
I lined up the layout line with the kerf in the cross-cut sled.
And then checked the edge of the tooth to make sure it just touched the line.
One last check of everything before I commit and make the cut.
By gang cutting both stretchers at once, I can make sure that they are the exact same length from shoulder to shoulder.
As soon as the first cut was made, I removed the clamps and one of the stretchers.
Everything that I do from this point, is on only one stretcher at a time.
With out making any changes to the setup, I continued to make repeated cuts towards the end of the tenon. Stay well away from the initial shoulder cut.
Next, I lowered the blade to a height that matches the depth of the dado.
I made a test cut at the end of the stretcher to make sure I have the height set correctly.
Yep, that’s got it.
With the height properly set, I carefully aligned the tablesaw blade in the kerf made when I first cut the shoulder. I adjusted the stretcher until the blade would turn freely in the kerf without catching on either side. It’s important to take your time and get this shoulder cut right. The rest of the cuts are just to remove material and the spacing of those doesn’t matter and can be made quickly.
After cutting the shoulder, I made a bunch more cuts to get rid of the waste.
I should point out that the bottom of the stretcher is the reference surface. This is important to remember. The shoulder cuts are 90° to the bottom. If I rotated the stretcher at this point to cut the other side, and I put the top of the stretcher against the cross-cut sled fence, the shoulder cuts might not end up square. So, instead of rotating the stretcher, I flipped it end for end to keep the stretcher bottom against the sled fence. Again, I took the time to make sure the blade aligns perfectly with the original shoulder cut.
With the shoulder cut, repeat as before to remove the waste.
The bottom of the tenon was the last part to be cut.
I lowered the blade to align with the bottom of the dado. If my initial set-up was correct, this should be 3/8 inch.
I made a test cut in the end of the stretcher to make sure that the set-up is correct.
One more time, carefully align the blade with the shoulder kerf. I cut the shoulder line and made the repeated cuts to remove the waste.
The results of all these cuts look like a mess, but I assure you there is a nice tenon hidden within.
I took a wide chisel and began to chop away the majority of the waste wood. I was careful to not dig into the tenon, as you can’t put it back.
After the initial chopping, this was left:
I used the same large chisel to pare across the rough remaining ribs. Because I cut all the kerfs with an Alternating Top Bevel (ATB) blade, the tips of the teeth left little scoring marks in the wood. These are very helpful as they allow me to pare to a consistent level all over the tenon. I pared until all of the ribs were gone, but some of the scoring lines remained. This should help me get a better fit in the mortise.
I used the chisel to break the sharp edges on the tenon.
The other extra step that I took was to undercut the shoulders. This isn’t necessarily needed, but it should help to ensure that the joint pulls together tightly when I draw bore it together.
I start with the chisel a little way in from the edge of the shoulder and pare towards the tenon. I’m not looking to remove much material, maybe only a 1/64th of an inch. This should be just enough to make the edge of the shoulder pull up tight to the leg.
To show you where the wood is being removed, I added some pencil lines.
After paring, you can see that the pencil lines remain at the edge of the shoulder but towards the tenon, they are gone.
I pared the end-grain to undercut the shoulder line all the way around the tenon.
The tenon on this end of the stretcher is way too long. This is because I made the stretchers longer than needed and cut the shoulder to shoulder distance exactly as needed. I will trim the tenons to final length once I have cut and fitted the mortises. Depending on how the mortising process goes, I may miter the ends of the tenons to meet inside of the legs.
It took some time, but I cut all eight tenons and undercut all of the shoulders. Paring the end-grain of this wood with a very sharp chisel leaves it shiny and really shows what the grain looks like. There are a lot of nice ,wide, latewood rings. That’s the darker part that you can see in the photo above. Latewood (or autumn wood) is much denser and stronger than earlywood (the light bands) and the large amount of latewood in this lumber indicates it will be very strong.
Well, next I’ll have to move on to mortising the legs. But first I think I’d better soak my table saw blade in some cleaning solution. All these cuts have gunked it up pretty well.
– Jonathan White