Workbench Day 18: The big dry fit!

Very excited today because I got a lot accomplished!  I ended with a dry fit of the entire bench and started work on the leg vise.

To get started, I finished sawing the bridle joint on the last leg…best cuts to date!

Straight as an arrow!

When the last legs were cut, I grabbed the rubber mallet and chisels and hacked out the joints in about 10 minutes.  So much faster than before!

Sharp chisels are a joy to work with…I can’t believe I did all that work on the house a few months back without sharpening…

Once I was satisfied with the last bridle joints and the right rail was trimmed for a nice fit, I took a deep breath and began to assemble the entire base.  A little grunting and some gentle persuasion by the mallet and first one side…

Then the other….

Then the entire base was assembled in the garage!

And I was feeling so good about how well everything fit together, I couldn’t resist putting the top (man that thing is heavy!) on for a dry run.  I figured it would be the most difficult part, trying to align the slots cut for the rails underneath and all, but it clunked together with a satisfying thud in seconds!  I all but did a jig right there in the garage!

My vision takes form for the first time!

I really like the way the right front bridle joint came out (the last one I cut)…looks awesome to me!

I did that!??

The other joints don’t look this nice, but I kind of like the rougher look too—it is a reminder that I can do great work in the future.

I noticed as well that the bench has a bit of rake side to side (front to back this thing is rock solid) and it kind of made me nervous.  Then I realized that none of the joints were glued or pegged, so of course it’s going to wobble a bit.  Then I slapped my forehead in a “Coulda had a V-8” moment when I realized that the top wasn’t bolted on yet and that will add a lot of stability.  I think, therefore, that it will be sufficiently stable…but if it’s not, I’m already getting plans in my head to add some stretchers lengthwise under the top between the legs.  They will be about 3.5″ under the edge and probably hidden from view most of the time.  That’s if they’re needed…

Once I celebrated for a few minutes I began to drill holes in the legs to secure everything with oak pegs during the glue up. I really didn’t have time to do the final glue up today so rather than rush the process I decided (with a mighty effort) to be patient and take everything apart to be prepared for tomorrow.  Something told me to just call it quits for today (it may have been the cold beer in the fridge).   I knew I would be pressing my luck with the napping kids if I decided to press on.   But man, I really wanted to glue up…oh well, I guess I’d rather grit my teeth and wait than be called away in the middle of the process.   I’ll just relax tonight and assemble and glue tomorrow.

However I did have a few more minutes left so I decided to figure out how to attach the leg vise.  While I haven’t quite settled on a final design yet,  I do know the position where it’s going to be.  With that knowledge, I made some measurements and set about cutting a slot for the parallel guide that will live at the bottom of the right front leg.

I made the slot 3.25″ long by 5/8″ wide and hogged out the space with a 1/4″ paddle bit and the Black and Decker Woodwrecker. I then used a combination of chisels and small modeling files (which I acquired during my wooden model ship building days) to smooth out the slides and make everything shipshape, so to speak.

With that accomplished I said about finding wood for the parallel guide itself.  I had some half inch cutoff of the oak trim that I made when my wife and I were remodeling bathrooms when we moved in to our new house in June:

There’s still some finishing nail holes in these strips…I think it gives them character. And I love re-tasking the wood.  One side is finished, the other isn’t.  When it’s dry, I will plane it all down smooth anyway and strip the finish.

Conveniently enough I had 4 of these strips and realized if I glued them together lengthwise I would have a perfectly sized parallel guide made out of oak.

This became the last act of the day.  When they were glued, though, I noticed they were a little cupped, so I applied extra clamps and scrap 2×4 pieces.   I think they straightened out nicely!  They will still need to be planed for uniformity, but I think I’ll have a nice little oak plank tomorrow.As a bonus, the Saran Wrap stuff that you see there was actually from 2 huge roles of the stuff that the movers left behind when they packed up all of our belongings at the old house.   I realized (only today!) that this stuff is great for gluing wood because the glue will not stick to it and it keeps everything clean.

Also I pulled down the wood that will become the leg vise chop from the overhead lumber storage and noticed the sticker on it says that it was made in Sweden…   Since I have the same wood (just a wider plank) for the sliding Deadman, I’m thinking of calling it the sliding DeadSven….

Tomorrow is the big day, then!  I will have the entire time the kids are napping to glue up the base!!  I will, however, have to go out tomorrow or Friday to pick up hardware to attach the top to the base and then on Friday hopefully this thing will be finally put together…then the real fun can begin.

With that in mind, I think it’s time for making a list of the future tasks connected to the bench that need to be done for it to be 100 percent complete:

1.  level the top with the hand plane

2.  make and attach the leg vise

3.  make and attach the sliding DeadSven (ha!)

4.  cut notches in the top to attach the Hickory planing stops

5.  make said Hickory planing stops

6.  drill holes for bench dogs

7.  make said bench dogs from dowels and blocks of wood

8.  cut the top to final length by trimming the ends

9. finishing (this one I haven’t quite figured out exactly how I’m going to proceed…still researching what type of finish–if at all–I’m going to apply to the bench when all is said and done)

Obviously, this list is subject to change and is not in any particular order.   And all of these things are secondary to actually assembling the bench because once the Sky Fort has arrived that will take up the majority of my shop time for the forseeable future!


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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