Work on the garage finally reached a point where I could start work on assembling my workshop.
As mentioned in the last post, I put together my father’s workbench.
Last Saturday I also purchased the lumber and began work on what will be my principle workbench, ala Mike Siemsen’s Nicholson style bench from his DVD “The Naked Woodworker”.
In part because I’d considered it before, and largely due to the quality of the lumber at the local store, I made some design modifications to the bench. I chose to use 2×8 lumber instead of 1×8 for the ledgers. I also chose to purchase 2×6 lumber for the legs, rather than saw them out of the extra material from the aprons and top. That last decision wasn’t based so much on the quality of the material available, as it was laziness, and telling myself that I’d like to have a bit more scrap left over for odd jobs around the farm. Also, the 2×6 material available at the store was in really good shape.
There’s something you need to watch out for if you decide to go with 2×8 instead of 1×8 material for the ledgers. I’ll touch on that further on in this post.
I also decided I’d buy some No. 10 and No. 9 screws instead of only No. 8, based on what was available at the store that day.
We had guests visiting last Saturday, so I didn’t get around to doing anything with that lumber until Sunday. I’d thought I’d go out and just cut some of the pieces down to size. I wanted to be sure and review the DVD and notes before getting too far ahead of myself.
It’s felt great to be building something again. I’ve done a fair amount of work with wood in the past year, but that’s been in the vein of reattaching old doors to outbuildings, construction on the garage, and the like.
Crosscutting with a sharp saw is so much much different than it used to be, before I learned to sharpen my saws. It’s almost relaxing. Thanks again to Mike Siemsen. I took a saw sharpening class from him last year.
With most of the lumber cut to size, I was feeling good so forged ahead. I’d watched the video many times, and remembered how to lay out the positions of the ledgers on the aprons. Doing that would also allow me to cut much of the rest of the lumber to size. So I dove in and got the aprons and ledgers assembled before taking a break for lunch.
It was while sitting down inside that something kept bugging me. Something didn’t feel quite right. I got out my laptop and reviewed the video, and the sketchup files.
Geez, I wish I hadn’t glued and screwed those pieces together. The ledgers are *not* supposed to be flush with the edge of the aprons. They are supposed to sit the width of a 2×4 down from the top of apron. Looks like I won’t be using 2x4s for my bearers. Going back out to the shop to look this blunder over, I found that I also managed to get the top and bottom, or left and right sides, or some combination of all of these turned around in my head. I attached the shorter of the 4 outside ledgers to the wrong end of the apron. I was going to have to fix that, or learn how to work left-handed.
Luckily, by not reviewing things beforehand I also forgot the bit about drilling clearance holes in the aprons for the screws that hold the ledger pieces in place while the glue dries. Because of this I had a less than perfect glue joint, and was able with the help of a chisel, small pry bar, and patience, to remove the two end ledger pieces from the front apron without too much damage. I was able to remove one ledger piece with little enough damage that I reused it. The other I cut new.
I considered my options with the ledgers being wrongly aligned to the edge of the aprons. I knew I wouldn’t be lucky enough to have done such a poor job on the glue up that I’d successfully remove all the ledger pieces without destroying the aprons, the ledgers, or both. I decided I’d need to cut new wider bearers to replace the 2x4s. That problem would wait until I got caught up to it. For the rest of the time I had left that Sunday I assembled the leg pieces.
I dutifully went about crosscutting the 2×6 material I had for the legs by hand. The lumber wasn’t as dry as I wish. Hand-sawing the first leg gave me grief as my saw kept binding up in the wood. I considered going and finding my old Stanley Sharptooth saw, as I new it had more set in the teeth. However I also have a chop-saw, and weighed my desire to stick to traditional tools to my desire to have this thing square and level when I was done. I opted to use the chop-saw.
This project has been a mix of traditional hand tool and power tool work for me. Where the power tools are better fit for the job, I’ve used them. That included using an impact driver throughout this project for the screws, and a drill for all the clearance holes.
On the other hand, there’s been plenty of opportunity to go traditional. I don’t know what power tool users do in the face of needing these notches cut for the legs. Bandsaw I guess? Much quicker and easier to get out the chisel and the mallet.
With time running out on Sunday, I had my aprons, ledgers, and legs assembled, mistakes and all.
Last week I took small bits of time over lunch and after work to continue work on the bench, 30 minutes or so at a time.
For the bearers, I used the leftover 3′ pieces of 2×12 from the top and aprons to cut 4″ wide bearers that fit right. Used the contractor’s saw for that, as time is short and I didn’t care to rip all 6 of those out. It would have been a good project to get better at ripping. When done, the bearers are invisible, and they don’t have to look good or be cut perfectly to do their job. Then again, I’m even less experienced using the contractor’s saw, so I got in some good practice with it.
Here’s a couple photos showing the issue with the bearers, and why 2×4’s wouldn’t work, in case it wasn’t clear above:
After that first blunder with the aprons and ledgers I’ve re-watched the different segments of video for each step along the way, making sure I remember what it is I’m doing. I’ve worried about the imperfections I’ve introduced along the way. That first leg I cut had an uneven shoulder. Took my large shoulder plane to it and corrected it some. Ended up also jointing that side of the bench more aggressively to get it level with the other side. Will the small issues in this build add up and result in my cussing this bench, rather than enjoying it?
The other afternoon while reviewing the video I spotted something, and it’s reassured me quite a bit.
Notice the shim Mike’s got under that back leg? Yeah. Imperfections happen. I suspect that bench later got it’s leg heights adjusted. There’s things to fix, and other things that you just work around. As one of you told me once: “It’s just wood.”
By Wednesday I had the jointing done, the legs and aprons assembled, the bearers installed and everything planed down flat.
Thursday I got the mortise for the planing stop cut, and the top glued and screwed in place. I also got the crochet cut to size.
Friday morning I attached the crochet, determined the location of the holes for the top and got those drilled.
Over lunch on Friday I laid out the location of the holes on the apron and the legs, and after work I drilled those as well.
Next time I build this bench, I’m going to hold off on drilling the lowest holes on the legs. Will I ever need that lowest one? Time will tell. They’re close enough to the edge and the end of the leg, that there’s a real risk of splitting a chunk out. Don’t think that would likely impact the functionality of the bench, but why risk it?
Alternatively, if I decide that final low hole is really worth having, I could secure the bottom of the leg with a clamp so it doesn’t risk splitting, and then drill the hole.
Here I’ve got a very small split that developed on one leg:
Here’s the bench with all the holes drilled. Close to complete:
There is one issue anyone choosing to use 2×8 material for their ledgers should watch out for. My holdfasts are just touching the tops of the ledgers. I’ll get that fixed with little work. I examined the Sketchup plans, and located my dog holes 3″ from the edge of the bench without thinking about the fact that I’ve got a 1 1/2″ apron and a 1 1/2″ ledger piece down below.
Anyone who chooses to go with 2×8 material I’d advise to locate those dog holes 3 1/8″ off the edge of the bench.
Saturday morning I went into town and picked out a board to use for the center stick. Ended up buying an 8 foot 1×3″ of oak. The design suggest a 1×2, but the pieces of 1×2 were milled down to 1 1/2″, so I went with the wider piece (which was milled to 2 1/2″).
Fitting this stick seems like it will be a pretty easy thing to do watching the video and reviewing the plans. I advise folks to make sure the lumber they choose for this is dead straight. My center stick is fighting me some. It’s not a dead straight piece of wood. I have to use the mallet to knock it up and out, and down and back in. With time I think it’ll tame out.
And here’s a tip for anyone else building this bench. It dawned on me while cutting the notches. Once you’ve got your notches laid out and you’re ready to start cutting them out, take some of those extra nuts you’ve got on hand that you use to attach the carriage bolts, and drop them down on top of the bearers.
That’ll raise your stick just high enough that you can cut the verticals with the stick inserted into the bench, without much risk of leaving deep saw marks in your bench top.
On Sunday morning I went and picked up a couple 3/4″ oak dowels, and cut them down to use as pegs. They’re really tight in places. We’ll see how things stand once the wood reaches some equilibrium with my garage.
I haven’t installed any blocking underneath the dog holes yet. I’ve tested my Gramercy holdfasts on the bench. They seem to grab a half-inch thick piece of wood fine. If I start encountering issues, I’ll experiment with installing some blocking.
And here we are. It’s more stout that I thought it would be. It isn’t going to move around on me much. With the bench built, I’m excited to be putting my workshop together, and looking forward to doing some woodworking!
I don’t know what I can add to reviews of “The Naked Woodworker” that haven’t already been stated elsewhere.
It is as of today THE purchase anyone wanting to get started woodworking should make. I do think this bench could be built in a day, if you’ve got a full day to devote to it. First time beginner, make it 2 days, as you figure out which tool does what and how best to use it. But what’s the hurry? Enjoy building the bench. Using construction grade lumber really takes the pressure off. Screw up a cut? You’re out at worst a 2×12 board. The design is robust enough small errors won’t impact the functionality of this bench, either.