Making the Boards for the Workbench Shelf

In my last post, I assembled the workbench base.  I decided to cut the boards for the bottom shelf and install them as the next step.  I chose this as the next step for a few reasons:

  1. The plan was already well formulated in my head.
  2. It will be easier to fit the boards into the workbench base now, while it is standing on the benchtop than later on the ground.
  3. I’m chicken to cut the through mortises into my benchtop for the legs.

I was going to show this whole process start to finish in one post, but it turns out I have over 50 images in it.  I’ll split it in two and post the second half tomorrow.

To find some wood suitable for making the bottom boards, I pulled apart my ever shrinking pile of Douglas Fir.  I found two rough sawn boards that measured a hair over 2″ x 6″. When they were sawn on the mill they were 2 1/8″ x 6 1/8″, but have shrunk a little as they dried.

Picking through my wood stack for some suitable lumber.

Picking through my wood stack for some suitable lumber.

Since the workbench base is sitting atop the benchtop, I didn’t have much room to work. I clamped the boards to the front rail of my table saw and crosscut them in to 32″ pieces.  I was careful not to cut into anything on the table saw.  You know, like the power cord.

Crosscutting prior to jointing.

Crosscutting prior to jointing.

I got the 5 boards that I needed.  I’ll re-saw them into 10.

Rough lumber ready for jointing, re-sawing, and planing.

Rough lumber ready for jointing, re-sawing, and planing.

Before I can do any resawing, I need to mill the rough lumber and joint at least one edge. As always, I started this process on the jointer.

I jointed one face and then one edge.

I jointed one face and then one edge.

I flattened one face, and then with that face against the fence, jointed one edge square to the face.

The face and edge jointed.

The face and edge jointed.

The boards were then run through the planer with the flattened face down.  This cleaned up the opposing face.

I fed all the boards through the planer to clean up the other face.

I fed all the boards through the planer to clean up the other face.

I got out my bandsaw and raised the guard arm to its highest setting.

The bandsaw guard lifted all the way.

The bandsaw guard lifted all the way.

It was just to snug to comfortably proceed, so I took the boards to the tablesaw and trimmed 1/16″ off the remaining rough edge.

Too tight a fit. I'll trim it down.

Too tight a fit. I’ll trim it down.

I adjusted a marking gauge to find the center line of the board.

Marking the center-line.

Marking the center-line.

I marked the line down the center of the board.  Since I’m setting up a fence on the bandsaw, this isn’t necessarily needed, but it will provide a visual reference to show me if I start to drift off my intended cut.

I'll use this as a visual guide while using the bandsaw.

I’ll use this as a visual guide while using the bandsaw.

My bandsaw doesn’t have a fence, so I usually clamp a jointed board to it.  Someday I’ll get around to building a proper fence system, but for now this will have to do.  The other problem with my bandsaw is it has a serious blade drift.  I have gone through the saw top to bottom and tuned it as well as I can, but look at the picture below.  If I don’t remember to allow for this drift when I clamp on a fence, the cut will drift off line.

Re-sawing the board in two.

Re-sawing the board in two.

I didn’t get the cut right on the line but I have enough wood that I will still be able to plane it to my intended thickness of ¾”.

Not quite on the line, but I've got wiggle room.

Not quite on the line, but I’ve got wiggle room.

So here’s my 10 resawn boards.

10 boards ready for planing.

10 boards ready for planing.

To clean up the bandsaw marks and make all the boards the same thickness, I sent them back through the planer.  The boards all ended up at ¾”.  When I made the stretchers, I cut a 3/8″ groove in the bottom of the inside face.  This grove is 3/8″ from the bottom. This means that a ¾” board with a 3/8″ rabbet should fit perfectly into the groove.

All the boards went through the planer.

All the boards went through the planer.

They cleaned up quite well.

They cleaned up quite well.

All of my boards are longer than needed and I will fit them one by one and cut them to final length by marking them directly from the workbench base.

Even with my crappy re-sawing, I was able to get all the boards finished at my target thickness of 3/4".

Even with my crappy re-sawing, I was able to get all the boards finished at my target thickness of 3/4″.

To add some strength and rigidity to the shelf, I planned to tongue and groove all of the boards.  This is better done now before cutting to length.

Earlier this summer I bought and restored a Union No. 41 Tongue and Grooving plane. At the time I bought it, I had this shelf in mind as the project that I would need it for.  Since I don’t have any vises installed on the benchtop yet, I clamped two hand screws to the benchtop to hold the shelf boards on edge

I'll attempt to use my Union No. 41 Tongue and Groove plane.

I’ll attempt to use my Union No. 41 Tongue and Groove plane.

Here’s the problem… I’m left-handed.  So in the above picture, I had to push the plane from left to right.  This means that instead of pushing the plane fence against the board with my right hand, I have to reach over the plane and pull the fence towards the board.  I had a real hard time stopping the plane from rocking left to right as I tried to plow the grove.  The end result was a grove that looked as though it had been cut with a camp axe. Not my best woodworking moment to be sure.

Yikes... What a mess.

Yikes… What a mess.

I had a hard time trying to photograph the mess I made.  Due to light, I was shooting at f/1.8, so the depth of field is very shallow.

I made a real pigs ear out of this edge.

I made a real pigs ear out of this edge.

Just to humor myself, I flipped the fence around and attempted to cut the tongue on a second board.  This went much better than the groove.

The tongue came out OK, but the groove is unusable.

The tongue came out OK, but the groove is unusable.

This joint is way to sloppy to even consider using it.  I ripped the tongue and the groove off the boards at the table saw.  I debated a second attempt with the Union 41, but I could easily see my self slowly planing the boards away to nothing before getting a usable joint. I had made just enough boards for what I needed and I didn’t have enough extra to experiment.  I didn’t want to have to mill and resaw more boards if I screwed these up.

I'm sure the problem is a combination of my poor technique and using the plane left handed.

I’m sure the problem is a combination of my poor technique and using the plane left handed.

An alternate tongue and groove method was needed.  Enter the Grizzly model number G0651 tongue and grooving plane, er… I mean table saw.  I installed the stacked dado head in the table saw and mounted a sacrificial fence.  A few feather boards and a little fine tuning and I was in business.

My other tongue and grooving plane.

My other tongue and grooving plane.

To ensure that the groove was centered, I ran the board through on both faces.

I ran the boards through, flipped them around, and ran them through again.

I ran the boards through, flipped them around, and ran them through again.

Once all of the boards had their grooves, I changed the setup to create the tongues.  This time the boards went through flat.  I adjusted the fence and the blade height until I had a tight fit.  I’d rather it be a little too tight at this point than too loose as I can always adjust things with a shoulder plane later during final fitting.

Cutting the tongue.

Cutting the tongue.

A test fit of the joint showed success.

A much better fit.

A much better fit.

I guess that I should point out that I did all of this in a single session in the shop.  Normally when re-sawing boards like this, they should be given some time (days) to rest and allow any cupping to take place before running them through the jointer and planer for final dimensions.  Since these boards are going to be held trapped in the grove along the stretchers, I just wanted to get them put into the grove as soon as possible.  The combination of the tongue and groove edges along with the boards being housed in a grove in the stretchers should hold them moderately flat.

I would have liked to continue until done, but it was getting late in the day and the wife was calling me in.  I put all of the boards together and left them like this overnight hoping that this might help to reduce any overnight cupping.

All the tongue and grooves cut.

All the tongue and grooves cut.

There was a little cupping overnight, but it was very minor.  I think if left un-stickered for a few weeks it would have been significant.

The next day I cut all the rabbets and fitted the boards in the base.  I’ll write about that tomorrow.  So on that cliffhanger, I’ll leave you until then.

More soon.

 

– Jonathan White

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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3 Responses to Making the Boards for the Workbench Shelf

  1. Bob Demers says:

    If you tuned up your bandsaw and its still drifting, REPLACE the blade, its set is uneven.
    Happen frequently by not setting the side blocks and or the thrust bearing correctly, if the blade teeth contact the blocks, bye bye set in a NY minute.

    Bob

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Bob,

      I have read “The Bandsaw Book” by Lonnie Bird and feel that I have tuned the saw as good as it is ever going to get. I did a complete restoration of this saw and took every possible piece apart. Before I started this blog I wrote about it on lumberjocks and you can see before and after pictures there. The metal guide blocks were replaced with composite “cool blocks”. The saw has a brand new Timberwolf 3/4″ resawing blade with a 2-3 variable tooth pattern.

      I really think that the drift angle is something that I’m just going to have to live with. The saw does not wander off of the intended cut path, so long as you have the drift angle on the fence set properly. When I finally get around to building a rail and fence system for the saw, I’ll have to design something that allows me to lock in the drift angle and still adjust the fence.

      Thanks for posting your comments, I really appreciate them.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

  2. Pingback: Fitting the Boards for the Workbench Shelf | The Bench Blog

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