Workbench Day 19: Base Assembly!

Finally, the day I’ve been working towards for the last three weeks or so has arrived!  I was able to successfully glue up the base and insert the oak pegs.  It is no longer a collection of parts and sawdust…it is now a collection of glued together parts and sawdust!

I started by making 4″ pegs out of the 3 ft long oak dowels that I had purchased with the initial lumber investment.  I haven’t really worked with ok so to speak other than gluing up the guide for the leg vise yesterday and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the dowels cut and the nice dense feeling of the wood.  Completely different than the light SPF, not nearly as dense as the hickory, but nice.

I really like red oak. I cut quite nice. I love trying new (to me) wood!

Once I had the first 8 dowels cut I proceeded to glue up the left side of the bench and hammered in the dowels with a little more glue using the rubber mallet.   Although the mallet let me down after the fifth peg.  It bound up a bit inside the hole and the mallet just bounced off the peg to no effect.  I tried to put a piece of scrap 2×4 over the peg and pound on that with the mallet, but that did nothing but drive peg sized holes into the pine 2×4 (LOL and dammit at the same time).  So, I brought out the big guns—my great-grandfather’s hammer.  He was a blacksmith in Indiana around 1900 and made this hammer, which has since been passed down from father to son until it reached my dad who put a new handle on it back when I was knee high to a grasshopper.   Now it’s in my toolbox and today was the day I had to repair it (at long last—it’s been getting progressively looser on the handle since our first house in Florida, nearly 10 years ago and I kept promising myself I would fix it but never did).  I will be doing a write up on the hammer and it’s story in a seperate blog entry, because while I did get a little sidetracked with that project today, I don’t want to sidetrack this entry…

With the hammer repaired and ready for action, I glued up the right side of the bench.

Look Ma, no stretchers!

I then proceeded to attach the rear stretcher to the left side.  It was at this point that I almost made a fatal mistake.   I was about to attach the right side to the rear stretcher and had the glue in place and the pieces in my hand when I heard a voice in my head say, “If you do this…you won’t be able to attach the front stretcher (well, not easily).”

So I quickly grab the glue and got the two sides ready for the front stretcher and begin to put it all together at once up everything at once.   That’s when the entire right side of the bench (suspended in the air over the left side on the ground) decided it didn’t want to really be attached to the left, stretchers or no stretchers.  That’s right, the glue in the joint was causing the…snug…fit to be downright tight.  I reached for the hammer—only to realize it was behind me resting on the bench top on saw horses…a good 10 feet away.  I could literally see the glue drying on the half fit joint, so I pivoted and grabbed for that hammer and swung back just in time to catch the right side of the bench as it tried to swan dive off the stretchers.  Yeah, that got an enthusiastic visit by the hammer.  I was notpleased with that performance.  It was my own fault—I will remember the next time I’m doing a glue up to have the mallet or hammer within arm’s reach while you are assembling.  That was almost a catastrophic failure on my part.  I had to ignore the fresh sheen of sweat on my palms I developed as a result of my sudden kick into high gear to finish the glue up, but finally everything went together and all the dowels were hammered home.

And there’s the hammer that made it all happen today…

Once the base was finally glued and drying, I put some saran wrap on top of the rails and then placed the top on top of it to make sure that the base dried in the proper position (in my gluing, I got a bit carried away in the moment and there was some…spillage…).And I have to say for those of you keeping score at home that the bench is now literally 200% (that’s right, not 100%, not 150%, not 300%—that’s right out, like the Holy Hand Grenade—but 200%) more stable than it was yesterday when I attempted the dry fit .  The glue and pegs virtually eliminated any racking that is going on…and what little amount of slop that is left I believe will be completely taken care of when I finally bolt the top down to the upper rails.  Once complete this thing is going to be really solid.

Stay tuned for the story of how I fixed Herbie’s Hammer.  In the meantime, bask in the glow of the just born bench!



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 19: Base Assembly!

  1. David says:

    What more could you ask for? Isn’t it strange when all of a sudden it’s a workbench and not a pile of lumber?

    • Yes! So weird that BOOM today that side of the garage that has been overtaken by woodshavings, where once was a stack of lumber, is now occupied by a nearly-complete bench of my own making!

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