Workbench Day 22: Attaching the top!

I didn’t have a lot of time today, maybe an hour and a half.  So, I spent the first hour going at the top again with the #4 plane.  I made the executive decision last night to do what I can and call it.  In theory, given unlimited energy and time, I could get this top to flat-level with the #4.  By the time my kids are in college.

Or, I could do the best I could, get it reasonable (for a first time effort) and bolt the sucker down so it’s not a safety hazard any more, since Sara and I are starting work on the Sky Fort in the garage and the workbench will be used as a…workbench.  And a drying rack, and a tool bench and on and on.  Point is, I wasn’t comfortable with the top merely resting on the base, and I didn’t want to bolt it down until the top was as good as I was willing to make it.  Decision made.

So, after an hour, I got the top within 1/16″ of flat/level.  I took out the little twist that was left using the winding sticks and there was a sudden moment when I just sighed and said, “It’s done.”

Does that rule out getting better or different planes in the future and coming back to completely level this puppy?  No.  In fact, that is probably what will happen.  I will, at some point in the future, be doing something that requires a really flat top and realize that my bench is only 98% there.  At that point, I will likely stop the project I’m on and flatten the bench once and for all.  But, that is then and this is now and I need a stable bench.  Now.

Once I wiped the sweat from my eyes, I measured out where I wanted the bolts to go, taking three measurements for each location to make really sure I wasn’t going to miss the rail underneath but hit it dead center.

Oh I hope I don’t screw this up…

Very quickly, the Black and Decker Woodwrecker showed me why it has that name.   Four holes drilled through the top.   Nice.

The drill just eats this wood up.

I lifted off the top and finished the holes through the rails underneath lickedy-split.  Then it was replace the top and countersink the holes so the 3/8″ bolts I got could sit below the surface of the top.  The paddle bit was messy—I admit it, I didn’t do as nice a job as I should have on the first hole.  It was a little ragged, but nothing a sharp knife or sandpaper couldn’t tidy up real nice.   Hole #2 was just plain ugly.   So ugly, you’ll just have to take my word for it…I’m too embarrassed to photograph it!  The bit wobbled and made a ragged edge.  Hmmm.  The center had no support.  Oops.

So, the light bulb went on over my head and I found one of the 3/8″ bits of dowel from the pegs I sawed off a few days back and put it in the remaining holes.  The paddle bit went right in and I had 2 smooth countersinks.   Why oh why didn’t I think of that before starting out??  Ugh.

In truth, the two ugly holes aren’t all that bad, and in fact, I don’t intend to do anything fancy to fix them—I want to look at them as a reminder to freaking think about stuff like this that I think is simple before I charge ahead.   Next time I’m at the BORG  I will pick up a  7/8″ dowel (and a 1″ just in case) and make plugs, then plane them smooth with the top.

With the 8″ bolts hammered home, I have plenty of space underneath to attach washers and nuts to secure the top nice and tight, and still have room for seasonal expansion (if I (a) notice and (b) care).

And with that, the workshop session is up!  This also marks the point where I have put in 30 hours of work on the bench.  Amazing to think that only 30 hours of work and 24 hours of dry time separated the pile of wood I brought home from Menards and the nearly usable bench in the garage right now.

Tonight, Sara and I are going to officially start the construction of the Sky Fort.  Awesome!


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 22: Attaching the top!

  1. David says:

    Don’t worry. Re-flattening a bench is routine maintenance. You will get it next time. In the normal course of work, it will accumulate nicks and dings that will make it progressively less flat.

    You are really going to love having the bench to work on to get the sky fort put together. Having things up at a comfortable height will make the work so much more pleasurable.

    • I was hoping you’d say something like that! That makes me feel a lot more confident in my decision. Thanks!

      I can’t tell what I’m more excited about—working on the sky fort or having the bench “grunt work” done and ready to the point I start on the leg vise, deadman…you know, FUN stuff.

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