I have not posted for some weeks now and my momentum seemed to have been lost. Work and family obligations have been keeping me quite busy, so I have been working on the bench as time allows. The other reason that I hadn’t posted was that I was of the opinion that I hadn’t progressed very far and thought I did not have much to show here. However, I hooked the camera up to the computer today and realized I had over 150 photos ready for editing. I guess I am now going from not having enough to post, to having enough for three posts. This might get a little picture heavy.
When I left off in my last post, the stretchers were done and the tenons on the ends of them were cut. Now I have to start on the legs. I have already milled them to their final thickness of 5½” square, but they have not been cut to length. To start, I needed to cut one good square end on each leg that would serve as the bottom.
I took a look at each leg a decided which ends would be up or down primarily for aesthetic reasons. With the leg bottom identified, I marked a line that allowed me to cut of a few defects near the end of the leg. No measuring is needed here, I’m just squaring one end.
I like this inexpensive Veritas marking knife, it is comfortable to use, but I find the steel is a little soft and I have had to sharpen it a few times already.
I squared the line all the way around the leg and made sure that the line was fairly deep.
With a wide chisel, I lifted a small section of the waste and then deepened the knife line.
I did this on all four corners of the leg so that I would have a good place to start the saw.
When cutting large timbers like this it is easy to mess it up if you attempt to saw all the way through from one starting point. I cut diagonally on each corner and did my best to follow the knife lines on both faces.
I then cut the opposite corner until this second cut intersected with the first.
At this point you can take out some of the hump that is in the middle of the two angled cuts.
I flipped the leg over and repeated this process on the other side. Once I had cut in from all four corners and all the cuts were connected, I switched to my panel saw to complete the cut.
The surface left by the saw wasn’t bad, but I wanted to finish it up with a block plane. I didn’t do this for appearance, it is after all the bottom of the leg, but I wanted to make sure that everything is dead square.
To immobilize the leg to work on it, I clamped it to the edge of the workbench.
I took a few chamfering passes on each edge to prevent spelching, and then evened out the end with the block plane. I kept checking with the square until I was satisfied that it was dead on.
I repeated this whole process on the other three legs. One of the legs had a large pocket of sap that was brought to the surface during milling. There was loads of sap in it, and no matter how much I wiped out, more kept coming. I figured that I would cut it out and fit a patch. You can just see in the below picture where I have traced the patch with the marking knife.
Cutting out the out the sap pocket with a chisel and router plane was a messy job. Sap went everywhere and I wasn’t about to touch my camera with sap all over my hands, so I don’t have any pictures of the process.
This is how it looked after the glue dried but before I planed it. It looks better now, but it still is not as good as I would have liked.
With all four legs squared at one end, I arranged them for best appearance. I used some blue painters tape to give me a sense of proportion for locating the stretchers and benchtop.
When the legs were arranged as I wanted, I marked all the locations where mortises were needed.
I positioned the stretchers to figure out which would go where. When I was satisfied, I labeled each of the stretchers, 1 through 4 and each tenon A or B. I then marked the mortise locations with the corresponding label.
Since all of the stretchers and tenons may not be exactly the same, I have to lay out the mortise locations by taking measurement directly off the corresponding tenon. Also, the front of the stretcher and the front of the leg need to be flush so this will be the reference surface and all measurements will be made from there.
To make sure that I accurately marked the back of the mortise, I pushed a square up against the back of the tenon and held it flush
I then marked this position on the leg.
To mark the top and bottom of the mortise locations, I measured up from the bottom of the legs. Since the bottoms have been planed dead square, this should be a good reference. I laid out the mortises to allow for a 4 ¼” toe space under the stretchers. As there is a slight chamfer on the bottom of the legs, I used the square again and held it up against the bottom to ensure an accurate measurement
I marked all four sides of the mortise and darkened the knife line with pencil.
I continued with this process for all eight mortises. Since all of the measurements were taken from the corresponding tenons, this took some time. I was going to continue this post with how I cut the mortises, but I think this is getting a little long, so I’ll save that for the next one.
– Jonathan White
Pingback: Cutting the Mortises in the Workbench Legs | The Bench Blog