After milling all of the lumber for my workbench top, I glued it up into four sections. I blogged about this previously here, Milling the Lumber for my Workbench Top.
After removing all the clamps, I removed the glue squeeze-out with a scraper.
Try as I might, the four pieces were not perfectly flush. Luckily, they were about 7 inches wide so they fit on my jointer, but jointing pieces this large is easier said than done.
I weighed a couple of the boards when I started building the bench and found that they were about 15 -18 lbs each. Milling probably brought them to no more than 15 lbs, but that means that each benchtop quarter (a glued up section of four boards) weighs upwards of 60 lbs. A 60 lbs timber that is 8 feet long is a little tricky to handle, especially when you have to keep the edge tight and flat against the fence to ensure that they don’t go out of square.
Here’s where I made my first screw-up. The fence on my jointer shifted as I was flattening the bottom of the glue ups and I didn’t notice it. It probably shouldn’t be able to do this, but it meant that there was a gap of about 1/64 – 1/32 of an inch between the back of the cutterhead and the fence. This left a small (almost unnoticeable) ridge on one edge of the bottom. When I made subsequent passes over the jointer this ridge kept that side of the beam lifted up and stopped it from engaging with the cutterhead. The short story is that all of this started to taper the benchtop quarters and take them out of square.
Of course, I didn’t notice this until I had done two or three of them. Now I had to get them back to being square. Normally this would be easy, just keep the work piece pushed up tight against the fence, right? As I said, this is not so easy with a 8 foot beam that weighs this much and measures 4 3/4 x 7 inches. It was too awkward to keep the beam pushed up against the fence and lifted up so that only one side of the bottom engaged the cutterhead.
So what to do?
I took some blue painters tape and built up a strip of about 10 layers on the edge of the infeed table furthest from the fence. I set the jointer for a reasonably light cut and covered the bottom of the beam in pencil marks to track my progress. The painters tape served to keep the thinner side of the beam off of the cutter and reverse the taper that I had created earlier. After three light passes most of the pencil marks were gone. I removed the painters tape and took one last light pass. Perfect. I checked it all over, and it was perfectly square. I repeated this and made sure that all four pieces were good.
Once all four were jointed, I fed each one through the planer and made sure that they were all the exact same thickness. The problem was fixed, but the mistake cost me about 3/16 of an inch thickness from the benchtop. Instead of 4 ¾” it is now a little over 4 ½”. Oh well…
With the four benchtop quarters done, I moved on to the sapele.
I bought a 6/4 board that measured 11 ½” by 15 feet. I took 8 feet off of the board and kept the rest for later. This sapele has a fantastic wavy grain but the edge of the board was in need of some serious straightening. This board is heavy and I didn’t feel like making repeated passes over the jointer to straighten the edge. I decided to try it with a circular saw.
I carefully measured the distance from the edge of the circular saw blade to the edge of the base plate, and then set the straight edge back that far from the edge of the board. I made the cut and then made two light passes on the jointer to ensure that it was straight.
Next, I had to rip two pieces a little over 4 ½” wide (the thickness of the benchtop). This left me with a piece about 2″ wide. I’ll use that shortly.
I love the grain in this sapele. Since I had this leftover piece, I decided to use it to accent the benchtop. I figured that resawn, it would add some interesting pin-stripping to the benchtop. Since it was not wide enough to be the full thickness of the top, I laminated it to a piece of Douglas Fir.
After I jointed and planed the extra piece of sapele, I planed a piece of Douglas Fir to the same thickness. I then glued and clamped up the two pieces and left them overnight.
My plan was to re-saw the resulting board (which was about 1 1/4″ thick) into three pieces that I was hoping would be about 3/8″ thick. I clamped a fence to the table of my bandsaw and set it up to divide the board equally in three pieces, or so I thought.
I don’t know how it happened, but I ended up with two thinner pieces and one thick one. Oh well, I’ll make this work.
After cleaning up all the bandsaw cuts on the planer, here’s what I was left with:
Here’s the pieces that will make up the benchtop.
I put them all loosely together to get an idea of how it will look. I put the two thinner pin-striping boards at the 1/4 and 3/4 marks, and put the thicker one in the middle.
Things seem to be going well so far. Gluing up the quarters into halves is going to be interesting. Heavy lifting ahead, I think! I can’t wait to have this bench set up and start being able to use all of these hand tools that I have been collecting for the past two years.
More to come soon.
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