I finally seem to have some momentum going and the sawdust and wood chips are flying. With the top of the workbench complete, I got started on making the base. In my last post, I had milled all the rough lumber and left it stickered.
I’m trying to build a very beefy workbench. The top is 4½” thick and the legs are 5½” square. In keeping with this heftiness, I am making the stretchers 5 7/8″ tall by 3½” thick. The stretchers will be mortise and tenoned into the legs and I’ll draw-bore the joints to keep everything tight.
I spent some time looking at all of the freshly milled pieces and determined which faces would be in or out and which edges would be up or down. I also had to determine which boards would be the front half of the stretcher glue-up and which would be the rear. I was pretty lucky and was able to plan out 4 stretchers that looked almost perfectly clear and free of defects. This really has turned out to be nice wood (except for all the sap).
When I first blogged about this bench, I explained many of my crazy ideas about what I was going to do. Since I am making this an ambidextrous bench with vises on both sides, I am going to put a sliding deadman on each side as well. The sliding deadmen will ride in between a V that will be on the top of the stretcher and a groove that I will cut in the underside of the benchtop. Nothing new there, it’s pretty standard (other than there being two).
So, with all my parts identified, I tilted my tablesaw blade to 45° and cut the V so that it would start 4″ up from the bottom of the stretcher. I did this only on the pieces that will make up the front half of each stretcher.
The tablesaw left some saw marks (hardly any really) on the Vs, so I set my spiral head jointer to a very, very light cut, and with the fence tilted to 45° took a pass on each side.
The jointer cleaned everything up nicely and none of the slight marks were left. Below you can see how the stretcher will go together.
I was thinking the other night about how I was going to build the shelving on the bottom of the workbench. I went and got out my copy of The Workbench Design Book by Christopher Schwarz for a little review. This book is fantastic. If you’re going to build a bench, you really should read this one. I also read his other workbench book, Workbenches, but I digress. Click on the above link and look at the cover. I’d have put an image of the book here, but I don’t know if that’s allowed or not.
See the bench on the cover? The shelf at the bottom appears to be a frame and panel door that acts as a shelf. In the section of the book where Chris details the construction of the bench, the shelf is not addressed. I can only assume that it is something he added later on. In any case, I think it looks great and I think that something similar will work well on my bench. I can’t tell from the image if his is fixed or not, but I plan to hinge mine to open like a lid. I will also put a bottom on the stretchers and create a 4½” storage compartment in what would otherwise be wasted space. What will I store there? I don’t know yet, I’ll have to search my shop for 4″ stuff.
To create the rabbet that the frame and panel door/shelf will sit in, I mounted my stacked dado head in the tablesaw.
I cut each rabbet twice. I always do this when using the dado set as the second pass invariably trues up the cut. You can tell just by listening. If the second pass goes over the blade with no change in sound, then the first pass must have removed everything. I find however, that the second pass usually cuts off a few highs or lows that the first pass didn’t get quite right.
I plan to make the frame and panel door/shelf out of 1″ stock, so, I cut the rabbet ¾” deep. This will leave me with a ¼” reveal.
Here you can see how the rabbet sits on the top inside edge of the stretcher.
Next, I need to cut a dado for the shelving that will go at the bottom of the stretchers. To do this I reconfigured the dado head to cut a 3/8″ dado and set the fence 3/8″ away from the blade. This should make for a good fit for ¾” bottom shelving:
I set the height just a little less than ¾”.
So, the back halves of all the stretchers are done.
Some of the parts still had the green paint on them that I used to seal the end grain when drying the lumber. I used my cross-cut sled on the table saw to cut all of the part to a rough oversized length.
Here’s all of the parts once cut:
I think I got really lucky with this lumber. The parts have all come out looking great and there hasn’t been many defects to contend with. Most of the wood is quite clear.
So… you may be thinking. What the…? Why are there Vs for sliding deadmen on the short stretchers that go front to back? If so, good catch, you’re paying attention, or I haven’t bored you to sleep yet. Here’s the thing, I am going to have a deadman on each side of the bench, so the front and back (long) stretchers have to have the V. The side (short) stretchers certainly don’t need them, but I decided to go ahead and add them. This way the stretchers will look continuous and consistent all around the bench. Also, it allowed me to cut all of the pieces with each setup of the table saw. The Vs on the short stretchers will be purely decorative.
The ¾” rabbet however will be used. Since the 3½” thick stretcher is narrower than the 5½” legs there will be a gap between the short stretchers and the frame and panel door/shelf. I can use the ¾” rabbet to create a rabbeted butt joint by glueing in some ¾” doug fir to fill this gap.
As for the 3/8″ dado at the bottom of the short stretchers, I don’t know if I will be able to use these or not. But, they won’t be visible after construction, and they’d be a pain to add later if I need them, so I cut these also. Here’s the final cross section:
With all of the parts cut, it was time to glue them together. I was concerned about getting glue squeeze-out at the top to the stretchers as it would be a little tricky to remove it from the bottom of the V. I set my combination square so that I could mark a line about ¼” away from the top of the stretcher.
Using this same setting, I also drew the line on the back half of the stretcher.
I covered my tablesaw/assembly table with newspaper and used two aluminum bar clamps to elevate the stretchers off the paper. I applied the glue, making sure to keep it away from the pencil line.
I was having a good morning with a fresh mug of coffee and Wood Talk playing on my iPhone. I used a handy little glue brush that I bought from Rockler a couple of years ago. It works great and I think I prefer it to the regular acid brushes. I just wash it out after use and it is ready to go next time.
I spread out the glue on both surfaces, again keeping well away from the line.
When I put the two parts together, the first clamps I added were high on the sides. I only put them on very lightly and then checked that the bottoms were flush. I then added clamps along the top edge also starting with light pressure. I rechecked to make sure that the bottoms were still flush and then added some pressure to the top clamps. My goal here was to make sure that any glue squeeze-out went down and not up.
With these clamps in place, I added some 4″ C-clamps along the centerline of the glue-up. Having the parts up on the bar clamps, gave me enough clearance to easily add the C-clamps. The bar clamps were still loose at this point. I added a little pressure to the C-clamps and waited periodically before adding more. Last, I tightened the bar clamps at the bottom. Doing it this way allows any squeeze-out to escape downwards.
Thanks to the ample coating of glue that I applied to both parts, I got a lot of squeeze-out on the bottom. You can see it on the newspaper. That’s fine by me, glue is relatively cheap, and I know that I got proper coverage for a strong joint.
I left each stretcher in the clamps for 6-8 hours before removing it and gluing up the next one. I often wait longer, but I wasn’t planning on stressing the joint, and I didn’t want this process to take 4 days. I know that you can supposedly remove the clamps after half an hour, but I’d rather be sure the glue has set.
Next up will be to cut the tenons on the ends of the stretchers.
– Jonathan White