Since I just finished sanding all the vise handles on the lathe, I figured that I might as well put some finish on them. I went with my favorite finish, Red Mahogany Danish Oil.
The vise handles are made out of maple and the color did not take very well. It’s not terrible, but it’s not all that I could have hoped for. I would have liked the handles to look more like the piece of plywood that they are sitting in the photo below.
I completely submerged the end caps in the oil and let them sit for about 5 minutes. I threaded them onto a length of wire and let them drain for about a half hour. Finally, I wiped them off and left them to cure for a few days.
Only a couple more things to do now before I can finally join the top and bottom of my bench together. Since this will be an ambidextrous bench and will essentially have two fronts and no back, I’m going to install a sliding deadman on both sides. This means that a groove will need to be added underneath the bench top. My bench top is currently inverted for the vise installation, so now’s the time to route the grooves.
I have a router that I have always been very happy with. It was one of the first tools I bought when I decided to do more woodworking and put together a more capable shop. My previous router was a ¼” collet Ryobi with a fixed base. This was a pretty good upgrade and gave me plunge ability. I think I bought it in 2006, but I take good care of my tools, and as you can see, it still looks nearly new.
To route the grooves in the bench top, I installed a ¾” spiral end mill bit. I wanted to route a groove ¾” wide by 1″ deep, so I knew I would have to make multiple passes. I set the fence so that the cut would align with the back edge of the sapele bench top edge.
The groove on the first side went really well. I think I made three passes (maybe four) and the cut was done.
When I attempted the route the groove on the other side, things didn’t go so well. I think I was taking too heavy a cut and this caused the router to slow down. I got some burning. I thought that the last pass should clean things up, but the router seemed to loose power and was turning at about 50% of its normal speed. Just as I was finishing the cut, lots of blue and white sparks were visible under the top cover. You can often see tiny, tiny blue sparks on an electric motor if you look right where the brushes meet the armature while the motor is running, but these sparks were huge. Not good! The router sounded bad too.
I took the brushes out and cleaned them, but this didn’t fix anything. I called the local tool repair shop and the owner told me that it sounded like the armature had a short. I asked if it was worth replacing/repairing and he asked how expensive the router was. With a sinking feeling, I said that I’d paid about $80 for it 8 years ago, and as expected, heard that it wasn’t worth repairing. I think that I’ll take it apart and tinker with it at some point. I really liked this one.
I remembered seeing a bunch of adds from Highland Woodworking about the Triton routers that they sell, and a deal for a free belt sander with purchase of the router. I called them up, but the deal is no longer being offered. I’ll wait and see if it comes back.
While planning out these grooves I had an interesting idea. If you remember, when I made the stretchers for the base of the workbench I incorporated the upside-down V on the front of the stretchers. It wasn’t needed on the short, front to back stretchers, but I kept it on them for aesthetic reasons and to keep all the stretchers the same. Obviously a sliding deadman would be useless on the short stretchers, but here’s my idea:
- Route a dado in the underside of the bench top above the short stretchers.
- Design a bench hook and shooting board that could be installed and removed in the same manner as the deadman.
- This way I’ll have a neat and tidy way to store these items on the ends of the workbench base.
- Depending on how much space these take, I could add a plain board at one end for hanging frequently needed bench tools. We’ll see, but it is an interesting possibility.
With my big router out for the count, I turned to my Ridgid trim router. I thought that a ¾” bit might be too much for such a small router, so I installed a ½” bit and made multiple passes. Since this dado goes across the bench, I needed to improvise a fence to guide the router. I jointed a scrap of wood and clamped it to the bench top. The grooves above the long stretchers are 9/16″ in from the edge, so for the sake of consistency, I laid out this cut to be 9/16″ in from the edge of the legs. I carefully drew everything out on the bench top and set the fence to match the distance from the edge of the router bit to the edge of the base plate.
I took it easy with this smaller router and made about 5 or six passes to work my way down to a ¾” depth.
After moving the fence, I reset the bit depth and worked my way down again with multiple passes.
I got done with the cut and was sooooo pleased with my improvised method for making this dado.
And then it dawned on me…. I had cut this dado 9/16″ from the INSIDE edge of the legs. It needs to be 9/16″ from the OUTSIDE edge.
In the immortal words of P.G. Wodehouse, “I felt as if I had stepped onto the place where the last stair ought to have been, but wasn’t.”
This isn’t my first screw-up on this bench. I broke some dovetail pins when adding the breadboard ends. However, I was able to patch those in a way that can’t be seen and all is well. However, this screw-up is here to stay.
I drew out where the dado should have been.
I set up the fence once more, but decided to try using the ¾” bit and cutting the dado without having to move the fence. I just made really light cuts and it all went well.
The vises are already bolted in place and they blocked the router base from completing the cut. I finished the dado with a brace, mallet, and chisel.
To fill the errant dado, I planed some wood to be a tight fit and cut it to length. I applied glue and hammered it in.
I flushed everything up with a jack plane and then a little sandpaper.
The bench is patched but the repair is obvious. There’s no hiding this, but at least it is on the underside of the bench top and only my dogs will ever see it.
Here’s the bench after all the grooves/dados were cut:
Pretty soon I’ll chop the mortises for the through tenons on the top of the legs. I’ve really been putting this off. If I screw those up, I don’t think it will be fixable, so I want to make sure I do it just right.
I have also been doing a little experiment with hot danish oil and hot wax. No… not that sort of hot wax experiment, get your mind out of the gutter!
I’ll post about that shortly.
– Jonathan White