Wednesday 3 February 2016

Workbench Build Diaries (Pt.1)

Beside spending time on doing investigations on Mid Century chairs I made some progress on the bench build.

And I've started to get rid of some stuff.

The Bench Top

Other then written in my first post about my new workbench, I've decided to laminate a bench top from studs respectively framing lumber. I am using studs with the dimension 54 x 74 mm (that's somewhere between 2x3 and 2x4).
Currently I already regret my decision. But too late. I have spent too much money already, so I will go down that road.
Let me give you some explanations why I'm regretting my decision.

First things first. I have started to cut all bars to length. The only challenge is to cut it square.
One of Richard Maguire's videos helped me to find a good way to do it. In his workbench series he explained how to cut thick material square.
He made a knife line all around the bar. A deep one. Then he deepened that knife line with a chisel.
If you will do that properly then you will have a deep kerf to guide your saw.

Deep v-kerf

Then he started sawing at one edge until you have sawed a fair amount and the saw has contact to two sides.
Now turn the stud and start sawing at the next edge of the kerf and so forth, until you have sawed from all four edges and suddenly you are down. Actually pretty square. Okay in my case I've got a hump in the middle of the end. But that can be planed down easily.

Sawing from every edge of the v-kerf

Alright, the first hurdle had been cleared.

Now then, the next hurdle is in front of me. Framing material that you can buy in Germany has got chamfered edges. If you are a lucky guy then the chamfer is about 2 mm. That can be planed down with a jack and a jointer.
I had to buy material from different big box stores to find the quality I need for a bench top.
So it was that I had some studs with a 5 mm chamfer. If I would have planed down this amount from the small face of the studs then the resulting height would be less then the other parts I already had prepared.
So I had to plane down from all sides. And that was pretty much amount of work. It took me around an hour to plane it down and make it square again.
It made it even more difficult as I haven't got enough space to handle such big pieces. Finally I managed it somehow. But it was a tiring job.

Jointing after removing the chamfer

The final result made me happy again. Clamping the first two pieces together made me think "wow, that will be your working surface in the future. Cool".

Clamping the first two workbench pieces

That feeling last until I started the first glue up.
My strategy for gluing up the bench top is to glue two pieces at the same time. I believe that I can reduce complexity with this strategy.
I will need approx. 12 studs. I will glue up four workbench pieces out of three individual parts. Then glue together two pieces out of four and finally one out of two. Make sense?

Zig zag glue lines

Gluing up the first two studs was easy peasy. I could align the studs pretty well.

Clamping the first two pieces

But already at the second step I was in trouble. I have used too much glue I think. It was squeezing out in masses and the stud was sliding around like on soap.

First portion out of 3 studs

Finally the first portion was done. The three pieces are together and I guess the resulting surface is somehow manageable.
That was the point when I was thinking about Richard's idea to use some massive planks. Would have been cheaper and easier to handle. Yes, I would not have achieved the same bench top thickness.
So, I will go down this road.

The Face Frame

The second task which keeps me busy the last days, was the face frame for the whole cabinet construction.
The face frame has got two purposes. It shall give the cabinets a nicer look. But more important it will give the complete construction more rigidity.

All used joints are half lap joints. Narrow or wider, longer and shorter ones.
Even if I'm not building an English workbench I'm watching Richard Maguire's video series about his work bench build and I've tried to learn something.
One thing that impresses me all the time when watching his videos is how simple he is doing his joinery.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying he is doing simple joinery. But it looks so easy, naturally and unhesitatingly when he is doing it. Without being sophisticated. Hope you got my point. If not have a look at his videos.
He is doing a knife line, grabbing a hammer and a chisel and off you go.
I have tried to adopt this attitude and started to do some half laps.

Splitting the half tenon

Starting with marking the shoulder line, sawing down and making some stop cuts.
Then I've splitted the material with a chisel, from stop cut to stop cut. That went well so far.

Chiseling the high spots

Chiseling away some of the high spots.

Paring to the scribe line

And finally paring down to the scribe lines. That's the point, with which I have the most trouble.
But I'm willing to get better.
Is that the nicest looking joint in the world? No, of course not. But it's square and will do it's job.
And nobody will see it ever again.

Alright, the corresponding part next.
Once again I scribed deep lines and started chopping.

Chopping out the other half

A few repeating passages and I was down, close to my line.

Down to line with remaining waste

This middle part can easily be knocked out with hammer and chisel. The remaining waste I have removed with the router plane. In this case it will work because you have got two contact points.

The first half lap joint

And here you are. That is the first half lap joint. It is pretty tight, but that was the goal. The complete face frame should stay together with out any glue. I'm still unsure how I will mount the frame.
Assembling the complete frame and then mounting to the case. Or mounting the single parts to the cabinets and assembling while mounting.

First dry fit

I could not resist. After the first joints had been done, I had a dry fit.
And as I was doing this already I could have a look at the complete assembly too.

First impression of cabinets, side panels and face frame

Even if the complete frame is not glued yet, it feels very sturdy already. I strongly believe it will add some strength to the cabinets.

Guys, honestly I'm excited. I had concerns if I'm doing the right thing.
The more complete it becomes, the more I can't wait to work on it.

What Else?

The new workbench comes closer. So it is time to get rid of some stuff.
The sooner I clean up my mess, the sooner I can move on with life (work in this case).
That said the first decision was to get rid of my router "table" (yeah, not a table. More a workbench router table addition).
Since I've got a router and a rabbet plane I haven't used it anymore. This will go south.

Self made router table

Second decision - the power router will be sold for the same reason (and I haven't got a router table any longer :-) ).

And last but not least I will offer my Irwin Record 778 rabbet plane. It is in good condition and seldom used.

That was my woodworking week. A lot of wood preparation and I still have some studs to work on.
Ah, I almost forgot to mention that I have found a use for the cut offs of the bench top parts. But that's another story.

That's all folks!

Stay tuned!


  1. Hi Stefan,
    for the glue up of the bench top you could put a nail in one end on an inside surface, clip the head and that will stop that end from moving as you clamp it. It helps to have one end not moving as you clamp the rest.
    Richard makes building that aircraft carrier sized bench look so damn easy. He does throw out a ton of interesting tips. I especially like the ones on flattening.
    Question - why are you selling the rabbet plane? I can see the others going south but this?

    1. Hi Ralph,
      thanks. That's a good hint. Although I wanted to avoid metal in the bench top I think a small nail at the end won't hurt.
      "Aircraft carrier" is the right term for it :-)
      But you are completely right. It looks so easy and carefree when he is building. The tips about flattening are interesting for me too. I will try to follow his advise as soon as the bench top is glued up.
      Last but not least I was generous to me sometime last year and made me a gift from Veritas and asked myself if I will need two rebate planes.

  2. Agreed with Ralph. unless you happens to have another rabbet plane you prefer, that 778 is a better tool than the original 78, its one of my go to plane for lots of operation.

    Your bench is coming along just fine, don't sweat it, it will be fine :-)

    Bob, about to start prep work for a big supper tonite. Expect a full house :-)

    1. Hi Bob,
      hmm. You make me thinking about my decision again.
      As mentioned above I but a Veritas rebate plane last year. So I thought I can make some space.
      On the other hand it somehow hurts to get rid of tools ;-)
      I hope you had a nice supper.

  3. Looks like the bench is coming along reaaly well. It won't be too much longer and you can put it to work. :)

    1. Hi Greg,
      thanks. Yeah, I think I'm coming closer. Only 4 beams to go.

  4. Stefan,

    Good on you for moving on from using a router. If I were a "production" shop there would be a place for a router or shaper but not in my make 'em for pleasure shop.

    As for the hand tools, a tough call. My shop is over run with too many tools and with many duplicates. I make noise about selling, giving away, or whatever all the time. It hasn't happened yet, if you can do it you are a better man than I am.


    1. Hi Ken,
      the router is from the beginnings of my woodworking.
      Using it, for me, is far from a relaxing job.
      I try to follow the minimalism trend. Getting rid of things which aren't used. That's what the intellect tells me. My heart is telling me something different.

  5. LOL Ken, that sound like my shop :-)

    Stefan, since you have a better one, you dont REALLY need the 778, but....
    It is also a bullnose plane ( i rarely use that feature) and it cut straight (versus the Veritas which is a skew plane (better)) So yeah, you need it. Comme on I need someone else will a tool "problem" he he :-)

    My name is Bob, and I have a tool problem...

    1. :-)
      Bob, you are so courageous. Thanks for your coming out ;-)
      Maybe we can found a support group. "The professing hand tool collectors"