Workbench Day 9: Gluing up the sections.

My goal for today was to smooth out the tops of the 4 sections a little (nothing perfect, mind you, that will come later when the top is assembled) and prep them for gluing together.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see how quickly the glued up sections planed with my #4 plane.  About 10 minutes per section and they were all nice and smooth, with the exception of the last section, the one with the big gap from my last post.  That one was also warped pretty good towards the edge.  So, I decided to flip it around (which reversed the direction of the grain of the top for the last 4 billets…but hey, I got 14 others going in the same direction and they’re all towards the front).  It fit muchbetter that way.  There is still that gap to worry about, but I have been getting suggestions from fellow woodworkers and I think I have come up with a solution.  I will try it out in the next couple of days….

Smooth and look at that shaving! Love it…

Then it was on to the sides.  I noticed when I dry fit a few sections together that the joint was no where near as flat as I wanted, so I had to take the plane there and shave off the high spots for a bit.  As a result, I got into some interesting new positions for planing the sections today, including standing it up against a wall stud in the garage and planing vertical-like, reaching straight up…weird but it worked.  Also had to put it on the floor at one point and sit on it in order to plane the end.  The glued up sections were just too tall on edge on top of the saw horses for me to straddle it like before.  Things are definitely getting interesting, but I’ve been able to figure out a way around every problem so far.  Made another pile of shavings for the fire pit today!

Once satisfied with the fit, I glued and clamped the first 2 sections together (man this thing is getting heavy!).  This will dry overnight.  I’m getting a good feeling about this.  It’s looking more and more like a real work piece, not just something I cobbled together!

Man that is one heavy chunk of wood…half way there!

While half the top was drying, I decided to start work on the base.  I figure my first step is to cut the mortise and tenons for the stretchers.  Seeing as how I won’t know the final dimensions of the top until it’s all glued up, I’m not going to work on the short side stretchers.  Instead, I know exactly how wide the front and back stretchers will be, so I can go ahead and cut and fit those.  By tomorrow afternoon if all goes according to plan, I should be gluing up the entire top and can take an accurate measurement of the width.  This way I can ensure that (at least) the front legs will be flush with the top.  The back legs I want to be flush, but if they aren’t, I’m not going to cry.

So, following the excellent advise of Roy Underhill and Christopher Schwarz (again…sorry to anyone who disagrees with these fine gentlemen, but you’re going to see their names referenced a lot in this blog…they are the two bright guiding lights for my woodworking skills going forward) in an episode of the Woodwright’s Shop I watched online (click here to see which one) I tackled my first ever tenon!

It only took me about 40 minutes of measuring and trying different saws to realiaze which one worked better.  I just don’t have the vast array of saws that Roy has in his shop.  I have an Irwin 20″ hand saw (which laughably I got for free from Menards during a rebate promotion a few months back), a Stanley miter box saw (the one that comes with the plastic yellow miter box), and a few hack saws.  Oh, and a door jam saw from Irwin.

Turns out, a hack saw is not the best saw for ripping.  It squealed like a cat giving birth to an armadillo.  I figured the big Irwin saw was just too coarse for a job like this (after all I used it to cut the 4x4s to length and to cut the 2×4 stretchers to length and while it was very smooth cutting, I thought it was a crosscut saw) so I tried the miter saw.  It took forever, but had plenty of teeth to give a fine cut so I was confused (and a little sweaty).  I soldiered on (thought about a cold beer) and got about halfway down the cheek before I decided the hellwith this.   So I tried the big Irwin out of desperation and it ripped the board easy as eating pancakes.  I was amazed, but it left a pretty good cut, actually.

Well, when I went to crosscut the tenon cheek, the miter saw cut through it like a hot knife through butter.  Aha!  This is clearly a crosscut saw.  I had found out a little information about my tools!  (yeah yeah, I’m a noob…go ahead and laugh (I did), because I realized I could have just looked at the teeth of the saws to figure out which one should be used for what…after all, I did just finish watching that episode linked above of Roy’s show)

So, with that all sorted out, I continued cutting with the two saws and eventually got my first ever tenon!

That was a lot of effort to get this. I hope the next ones are easier.

Granted, it probably would have looked a lot better had I used maple, or well, just about anything by Spruce-Pine-Fir 2x4s.  But, I had to remind myself, this project is not only about building an inexpensive, stable, sturdy workbench, but about learning as much as I can along the way.

Right about then, the baby monitors went off.   So I packed it up for the day and cleaned up my wife’s side of the garage.  Tomorrow, I’ll continue gluing up the top and hopefully cut the matching tenon on the rear stretcher that I started today.  Hopefully it won’t take 40 minutes, now that I know (sort of) what I’m doing!

So far this build has been amazingly educational.


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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2 Responses to Workbench Day 9: Gluing up the sections.

  1. David says:

    Just leave some meat on it when ripping the faces of the tenons.Then trim them down to size with chisels. As you get smoother with your sawing, you can cut closer to the line. Eventually you will be able to cut to the line with saw alone. It’s just a matter of practice.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. That is just what I need right now as I walked into the garage, saw that first (rather rough looking in the morning light) tenon sitting there and realized I got a lot more to cut….practice practice practice, that’s what this bench is about. Hopefully by sacrificing itself in the name of practice, the bench will help me produce much higher quality work in the (not so distant!) future.

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