Wednesday 6 July 2016

Workbench Build Diaries (Pt.5)

I'm working at my new workbench for a while now and I still love it.

Time to move on....

Actually I am in vacation. That's the reason for no post last week and no comments the last couple of days. A lot of free time for woodworking you will think. Na na na....wait....the management had got different plans. So it came that we spent a couple of days in Austria. Enjoying the silence, the view, great food and of of course the vine.

Have been here

Since we are back at home there are a lot of other activities planned for me. Anyway I found a few hours to continue with some work for the workbench.

When the skeletal structure of my new workbench was ready, frankly spoken I was a bit tired of the build.
I wanted to do something different.
So it came that I've started to build a stool. In between I've mounted the face frame to the cabinets. And I've started to build the first drawer.

The drawer is a simple box construction. Nothing special, through dovetails at the front, rabbets at the back.
I haven't done dovetails for a while and the first cuts have been somehow exciting. It took a moment to come into a good flow. I have been better in the past. It didn't felt smooth this time. The hand was uptight. The saw did not flew smoothly through the wood. Finally I managed to cut the dovetails somehow.

I couldn't chop out the waste part at that time so I decided to dimension the front part. Every thing went smooth. I planed a face side,  squared an edge to it, planed it to final thickness, cut it near to final width.

Somehow I didn't pay enough attention while planing the edge. Damn, maybe two or three strokes too much and the board was out of measurement.

Front piece out of measurement

Unfortunately I couldn't fit the other boards because the dovetails had been cut already. So, same player shoots again. I had to start from the beginning.
And this was exactly the point where I stopped the project for a while. As a famous movie character said "I'll be back!".

And here I am. Back at the bench and the workbench project.
I have prepared a new front piece for the first drawer and can go on with the dovetailing process.
That said I've started to chop the dovetails first. Matt McGrane from the Tiny Shop Woodwork Blog has written some nice posts about his cutting dovetails experiences. That inspired me to pay my full attention to the dovetails.

Chopping out the first dovetail

I've prepared the used chisels to pretty sharp and it went well so far. The second point I've watched this time was to start a millimeter or two away from the knife line.

First row of dovetails done

This went even better than sawing this time.

Cutting the edge with a knife

Before I have pared the ground of the dovetail I've cut the inside edges with a knife. I find that reduce the resistance while paring a bit (Matt, that's what I meant in one of my last comments. Hope it's clearer now). 

Not bad I think

Chopped out the waste and pared the ground the board was ready to transfer the lines to the pin board.

Transferring the lines for the pins

I like to use a knife for this and afterwards to darken the knife lines with a pencil.

Pins and waste marked

Usually I'm chopping the waste for the pins too. So I have done this time.

Chopping out the waste

And that is the result....

Pins direct after chopping

Matt inspired me with his post about dovetailing to try once more to saw out the waste.

Waste sawn out

It ended with the result above. And left a lot material to pare. At the end this was more effort than chopping directly. It will not be my preferred method in the future I think.

Dry fit

This is the first dry fit after chopping and sawing and some paring.

Both sides done

And here is the first box (partly).
For the rear side of the box I decide not to go the dovetail way. Instead of that I've made some housings to insert the back board.
That was straight forward. Laying out a housing, chopping out the waste and finishing the joint with the router plane.

Removing the waste with the router plane

All this work resulted in an inserted back board.

Backside piece inserted in a housing joint

Although I trust the strength of white glue I was searching for a method to reinforce the joint a bit more. So dowels came into my mind.  I have cut a couple of 6 mm dowels to length and sharpened them to a point.

Prepared dowels

In the next step I have drilled some holes at an angle into side and back pieces.

Drilling angled holes

And finally I have glued in these dowels.

Driving the dowels home...

That's it already. As mentioned above, nothing fancy.

Things I have forgotten to mention. I made some grooves in the front and the two side pieces for the bottom panel.
Yes, I have made the grooves through the dovetails of the front side. In my case it doesn't matter because the whole drawer will receive an additional front face.
The back piece is a few millimeters shorter than the other pieces, so I can insert the bottom panel from the back.
And last but not least the bottom panel is out of (Pine) plywood.

So then, the first drawer is done. I just have to plane the outsides flush and to finish the whole box.
One done, 5 or 6 to go (I will decide that on my way).

Stay tuned!


  1. Hi Stefan. Those dovetails look really nice. When I sawed out the waste on my dovetails I had a lot of paring to do, too. It was hard to do with the alternating soft and hard growth rings of the pine. Maybe my chisels are not as sharp as they should be. I'm still not certain if I'll stay with sawing or go back to chopping.

    1. Hi Matt,
      thanks. Personally I think they could be better. But as mentioned I've got some more drawers to build and can train it.
      One thing I've learned doing dovetails in softwood is to keep your chisels sharp. Even if you think you can use them for a few chops more, one should interrupt the work and sharpen the chisel which is used for this task.

  2. I have done both methods for years, started with Dovetail a drawer with Frank Klauz, so for years I chopped my dovetails, lately I have taken to saw out the waste with my fret saw. Both method works for me, but I've come to appreciate the saving in wear and tear on my chisel edges. Chopping is harder on our edges than paring. The small thing I do in between is to use my all time favourite knife, German chip carving knife No 8 from LV (it is not really a chip carving knife BTW) for initial clean up, then finish with paring.
    But to each his own, there are more ways to do this. Use whatever works for you and your tools. And Yes, I agreed with you, Matt did a nice job on his blog on it.



    1. Hi Bob,
      you are right. Everyone should find his own way. Sometimes I feel that I have to try out something different. Just to align the way :-)