Workbench Day 7: Big progress

Got a lot done today.  My wonderful wife got up with the kids this morning to allow me to get down early to the garage and continue work on the workbench.

My first task was to rip the 2x4s for the top by about 1/2″ to make nice flat edges, which will (in theory) make a nice smooth, sharp edged top.

First step was to set up the jig I imagined weeks ago, using scrap poplar and clamp it down:

This is gonna make one tiny slice…I hope…

The poplar strips were just the exact width neccessary to put the circular saw base on it and have the blade land exactly 1/2″ from the edge.  No measuring, no fuss.  Awesome.  And…even better, after getting all safe with glasses, ear plugs and a dust mask, it worked!

Now, what am I gonna do with this little scrap piece…?

It sure made a helluva lot of sawdust!  And 14 boards later, there was even moresawdust (I know, shocking, right?)!

Biggest pile of sawdust I’ve ever made, and there were 2 of these! What fun!

So yeah, about an hour or so later, and two massive piles of sawdust (and dusting myself off) I had all the boards ripped.  Luckily for me it was pretty mundane.  Nothing crazy happened, no accidents, just the tedious clamp, rip, clean, replace board, clamp, rip, clean, etc…

But…I got it done.

Oooooh, even more pretty now!

So I lined everything up on the temporary workbench and got what you could call a dry fit going.  I noticed right off the bat that while the top of the bench may have a nice uniform surface, the underside of said top will be all kinds of fugly.  The boards that I had hand planed flat on the edge are about 1/2″ too thick compared to the others, and even the ones that were cut with the circular saw are not exactly uniform.  Oh well, that’s how the cookie crumbles.  I’ll deal with that soon enough!

Hmm, something looks a little…off.

I figure that as long as the top is nice and flat, the underside of the top can have a bit of play in it.  This may give me some issues when mounting the through tenons for the legs, but I’ll see what magic I can work then.  First up, I had to get the top glued up in sections before the poor little plastic workbench they’re on breaks.

So I busted out the Titebond and got my sawhorses level in the garage to each other, covered the ground in newspaper and following methods I’ve seen in my research, put out a lot of glue and used scrap wood to spread it out.  A few nerve racking moments later I had all the boards glued and stacked.  I put one f-clamp in the middle, rotated the suddenly heavy mass flat onto the sawhorses, lined up the boards on end and clamped it further from the middle.  I worked my way up and down the length, quickly adjusting and clamping until I had this:

This is coming together nicely!

I checked and everything from the right side (in the picture above) all the way to within a foot of the left side was nearly perfectly square…then I got to the other end and saw that one of the boards had really warped since I cut it.


Well, that jacked up the first piece nicely.  I knew things were going too smooth!  After a few moments of cussing and realizng there was nothing that could be done at this point (the glue was already setting up tight), I decided to accept fate and my mistake and just plane it when all is said and done.  So, that will be a bit of elbow grease later…but the rest of it looked great!

All is not lost!

So, while that first section was drying, I moved on to cut the legs and stretchers (two short for the bottom sides, and two long for the front and back…I’m going topless in the stretcher department and using the Roubo design in Schwarz’s book as a guide here…).

Using Roy Underhill’s sawing methodI was quickly able to reduce two 8′ 4x4s into four 3′ 4x4s.

Four on the floor, ready to go.

Actually they were about 38″ to give me some wiggle room when mounting the top because I know there’s going to be issues with the uneven bottom…of the top.

Then I followed suit with the stretchers, and taking another bit of inspiration from The Schwarz, I angled the bed on my circular saw and cut a nice 45* angle on the top of the front stretcher for….wait for it…a sliding deadman!

This was the trickiest cut of all.

And to top it all off, before I went to bed, I went back out into the garage, removed the clamps (that had held the first glue up for roughly 5 hours) and glued up section number two of the top—which came out even better than the first (shocker).

I am immensely satisfied with the amount of progress I made and really look forward to cutting some tenons and mortises and getting down to the nuts and bolts (not really) of this project!!!


About Steven M. Vaught

A native son of Delaware, now living in Illinois, Steven is a writer, family historian, amateur astronomer, sometimes-gardener, woodworker, father to three wonderful children, husband to a wonderful wife, and caretaker of one cheeky vizsla.
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