So my last glue-up was a bit of a disaster and I broke the center pins on my dovetails. They aren’t completely missing, but they broke off and are recessed in between the tails. I’ll have to fix these later.
The next day, I took all the clamps off and got ready to glue on the other side. I went into this second glue-up with the full expectation that I would likely break the center pins on these dovetails too, thinking that the breakage was primarily due to my design flaw rather that how I assembled it.
I got everything staged and started applying the glue.
I use a small roller to cover the large flat surfaces and a brush to “paint in” the dovetails and sockets.
I pushed the joint together lightly to make sure that the tails on both ends were engaged.
At this point on the other side, I used a mallet to drive the tails into the joint. This time, I decided to try pulling them together with a pipe clamp.
I can’t believe how easy this was. Why didn’t I do this on the other side? I slowly tightened the clamp, and the tails slid into the pins as easily as doing up a zipper. Best of all, nothing broke. Yeay!
I added a little bit of clamping pressure. I hope I got enough.
I went round with a wet rag and cleaned up all the squeeze-out.
With all the excess glue removed, I waited until the following day to remove the clamps.
With the clamps removed, it was time to start leveling all of the surfaces and flattening the benchtop. I trimmed the oak draw bore pegs.
It was time to break out the hand planes. I did a lot of the work with my No. 6, but I also used my Nos. 7 & 8. I sharpened all three prior to beginning. I also took the time to polish the chip breakers up to 8000 grit and made sure that they mated perfectly with the cutting irons. I set the chip breakers as close to the cutting edge as I could with the naked eye. The results were amazing. The mouth opening is irrelevant. I got no tear-out even in the wavy grained sapele.
I didn’t do a complete job of flattening the top surface, as I will do this last, once the bench is finished. I just wanted to do an initial pass to level the douglas fir and sapele parts.
Once the top side was done (at least as far as I wanted to go), I got some help to flip the bench top over. Have I mentioned before how heavy this thing is? I can’t stand it up on its edge on my own. It has to be 200-300 lbs. I don’t know how I will turn it right side up once the base is built and attached and all the vises are installed. I guess I’ll figure that out when the time comes.
Once the benchtop was flipped over, I discovered that not all of the newspaper that I put down to catch the glue squeeze out had been removed. Some of it got trapped in between the pieces and has now become part of the bench
I spent a couple of hours planing the underside of the benchtop flat. First, I traversed across to level the different parts of the glue up. I discovered that the No. 6 worked well for this. Then I took passes all the way up the bench at a 45° angle followed by passes back down the bench at a perpendicular 45° angle. My No. 7 worked well here. Finally, I took passes along the bench with the grain using my No. 8.
I checked the bench top for any twist or wind and it was perfect. I think that the extra time I took in the glue up stage has paid off. I was very careful to use a flat and level base when I glued the benchtop sections together, and it seems to have worked.
It was a hot day while I was doing this. In fact I think it was the hottest day of the year so far. It hit 85° and that is rare for here, it doesn’t go above 80° very often. I sure got a work out doing this and you might ask why I would even bother flattening the underside of the benchtop. There are a couple of reasons.
The main reason is that I have never flattened a benchtop before and I thought that this would be a good way to practice the skill without fear of screwing up the appearance of the good side. Also, all of the vise hardware will mount to the underside of the bench and having a decent flat surface should help to prevent alignment problems. Lastly, the shoulders of the legs will be mating up with the underside of the bench and having it flat should make for a tighter, cleaner joint. All in all, I’m glad I did it.
Here’s the underside when I was finished for the day:
The next thing that I need to do it fix/patch the broken dovetail pins on one side of the bench. Then I can get started building the base.