Tuesday, December 18, 2012


As mentioned previously, I started my learning process with hand woodworking using the Paul Sellers book Working Wood 1 & 2.  In a traditional sense, I thought it was a great project to build my bench.  Ideally, this would also make my future projects a lot easier since I don't have a bench to work upon.

It starts with laminating the benchtop after planing and laying out the wood.  I took his advice that softwoods can still make a good bench, and this is primarily pine studs with douglas fir legs and will likely have some radiata pine for the skirts depending on what wood I have available to me.  Though I was careful with my wood selection, I am already learning quite a bit about which woods behave which ways and what makes for good joinery vs. poor.

Laminating and doing some initial planing of the benchtop was my introduction to sharpening and setting up the plane to work well.  This is a standard Stanley No. 4 (newly made with the plastic handles) which I initially have sharpened and honed using wet/dry paper on flat hard-maple boards, and a leather strop charged with abrasive.  After fiddling around with the adjustements, etc. it seems to take nice shavings, though I have little to compare it to.

It was time to set the top aside, and work on the legs.  First step was to chop mortises.  I did this using a regular chisel (I do not have a mortising chisel).  There was much to be learned with this step: first is to watch one of the many videos of chopping a mortise with a chisel between wood and plate glass to see what the chopping is doing (Roy Underhill, Paul Sellers, and Peter Follansebee all have videos on this)  A few tweaks to my technique took me from about 2 hours on my first mortise, to finishing two mortises and a haunch in about 1 hour.

If you look closely, my sizing on the first leg (far right) is not perfect, and there is some serious tear-out / blow-out at the superior edge.  This will be glued and reinforced with the top and skirts, so I am not going to go back and waste the wood at this point.    

Now, the tenons.  I decided to try the saw the shoulder, chop the cheeks method.  My first ones were very poor, and poor fitting, so I did re-cut new ones.  I did, however, break the rule and for some reason the second time around I only measured once, not twice, and accidentally added 1.66" to my length, which means the nice tenon ends did not protrude through the mortise holes, and my bench is now a little wider.  I decided this was ok, and will add width to either the bench-top or tool well to compensate.  Is this high level joinery?  Not by a long-shot, but I'm trying to learn here and I really need a bench, so we are accepting these errors as correctable.

Next: gluing up the legs, and preparing the skirts / dadoes.

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