'Ol Dave's Woodshop - Where woodworkers are not all Pros  

'Ol Dave's Woodshop - Where woodworkers are not all Pros
                                                                   "Where woodworkers are not all Pros"
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Traditional Workbench Logo
I guess I'm a glutton for punishment. When I got into woodworking,  my first project was large by most standards.  I made my wife a  sewing and hobby hutch with a $98 Delta big box store purchased table saw.  It has never stopped from there.  To date, most of my projects have been large like the sideboard and kitchen cabinets I made for our kitchen, etc.  Well, let me just say this .... I could have used a workbench during all of those projects!  In fact, that has been the single most "wanted" thing that I had desired for the wood shop from the very beginning.

Five years after starting woodworking, I finally decided to make that desire come true.... and again it was a big project.  What sparked it all was when I received my copy of Woodsmith Magazine for October/November 2007 (Volume 29, No 173) and saw the featured project for that issue. 

In that issue there was a complete set of plans for building a traditional workbench and it was the greatest looking bench that I had seen that encumbered all the features that I wanted.  It didn't have drawers underneath to get in my way, it didn't have many of the other features that were more specialized to cabinet makers, etc.  It was a sleek looking, simple appearing hardwood bench with both a massive front vice and a handy tail vice.  It was a bench with bulk that just so happened to look good, too!  That's all I wanted and the image of that bench stuck in my mind until I finally decided to try to build it. 

I started the project in the 2nd week of January,2009 and just completed it during the last week of February, 2009 - (I had roughly 108 - 110 hours in the project).  Below is a picture of the end result and the story that follows along its progress.  In the left photo below is the front cover of Woodsmith's Issue Number 173 and the photo on the right is my completed workbench.  Check out some of the other photos later in this article of some of the steps along the way and let me know what you think!
Link To Woodsmith Magazine's Website
Completed Hard Maple Work Bench

Project Details

The whole project started with a load of hard maple that I purchased from Johnson's Workbench, a South Bend, Indiana outlet for this fine company.
The photo below shows the lumber stacked on a bench in my shop after unloading it.  This lumber is roughly 100 board feet of 8 quarter and 24 feet of 4 quarter hard maple sitting there!  Can you say ouch to the pocketbook?
Stack of Hard Maple in the shop.
Rough cut base pieces with dado cut made prior to glue up.I started out by cutting to rough size the pieces for the bases (and the top supports).  These parts were finally planed down to 1 3/4" thickness and then taken to the table saw to get the dado cuts for the mortises made prior to glue up.  As is stated in the plans from the magazine, it was much easier to cut the mortises into two halves and then gluing them together than it would be to try and cut them into fully glued up pieces with chisels.  I agree!  The photo on the right is how the parts looked after the initial dado cuts were made.

Bench base showing mortise after the glue ups.The photo on the left shows how the mortises in the bench bases looked after the glue up.  This was not a very difficult task (cutting dados and glue ups), but it was still very fun for me.  The thing is, having wanted to build this bench every since first seeing this article in Woodsmith Magazine, I couldn't hardly wait each day to get home from the day job and get into the shop ( I was not retired during the buiding of this bench).  I know..... none of you have ever felt like that.  Right?

After the bases and top supports were completed, I moved on to the band saw to cut the bevels on Cutting reliefs on bottom of the bases with the band saw.the ends and to cut the reliefs on the bottom of the base pieces.  The reliefs were cut on the underside of the bases to help the bench to be more stable and to prevent rocking on an uneven floor.  This too, was not all that difficult but for me was kind of a tedious operation.  I didn't want to cut over my marked lines causing an ugly relief.  You can see me here making the relief cuts on my recently acquired Ridgid band saw.

After the base pieces and top supports were completed, I moved on to making the leg posts.  The mortises in these leg posts were also done on the table saw with the same methods that I used on the bases.  You can see in the left photo below that I placed all four of the legs together after applying the glue and clamped them all at once.  The bottom photo on the right shows all four legs after the glue up.   When the parts were unclamped, and while the dado set was installed on the saw, I cut the tenons on the ends of the leg posts.  After the leg parts were removed from the clamps, I cut tenons in the sides opposite the leg tenons of the parts to accommodate the stretchers.  I also drilled and counter bored holes on the opposite sides (and in alignment with) these tenons so that the side pieces could be bolted to the stretcher system. 

All four leg posts clamped up after glue was applied.
Leg posts showing mortises after removing from clamps.

After the tenons were cut on both ends of the legs it was time for gluing them into the base and top support pieces.  The tenons were cut shorter at the top of the legs to accommodate the lesser thickness of the top supports than the thickness of the bases.  (The plan called for these tenon lengths to be about 1/8" shorter than the mortise depths at both ends so that there would be no protrusions to interfere with mating components).

The photo on the left (below) shows one completed end of the bases and top supports after insertion into the legs and being clamped after the glue up.  The photo on the right (below) shows both of the assembled and glued up end pieces.  When these were done, they were laid aside to await the completion of the stretchers.  You can faintly see the mortises for the stretchers mentioned above in the right photo below.

Clamped up end piece with both legs and bases.
Glued up ends showing completed bases, legs and top supports.
One of the neatest features of this bench design (I think) is the method of attaching the stretchers to the legs, base and top support assemblies.  The stretchers were made up from two 3/4" thick X 5 1/2" width hard maple boards.  Prior to gluing them up, I cut a 3/4" wide X 3/8" deep dado on both pieces inward from both ends of each piece to about 18".  This was to accommodate the bolts that attach the legs to the stretchers.  I also cut dados across the width of each end of the boards about 6 inches in from their ends.  When the two halves of the stretchers were glued together, the cross cut dados formed a 3/4" X 3/4" slot completely through the stretchers. 

Here is what I think was the neat part:  I cut a 3/4" X 3/4" piece of maple and routed a 9/16" slot half way through the thickness at about the center of the piece.  I created a bevel on all four edges of each end of these pieces to give them an attractive look.  Then I cut tenons on each end of the stretchers after the glue up to match the mortises in the legs.  The neat part to me is that all you had to do to Glued up and clamped stretchers.attach the bases to the stretchers was to insert a 9/16" nut for the 3/8-16 bolts into the little slot in these "pins", slide them into the slot in the stretchers and the nut could not go anywhere.  With the nut captive in the slots, the bolts are inserted through the holes in the legs and tightened.  This would make it fairly simple to take apart if ever you would have to do it.

Although you can't see any of this in the photo here on the right, this is what the stretchers looked like after I glued them up and clamped them.

With the stretchers made, the only thing else left to do was to assemble them to both of the base and top support assemblies.  You can see a couple of views of these assemblies below.
Assembled base (View from the left side).
Assembled base (View from the Right side).

At this stage of the game, I was at the point where I needed to begin making the top of the bench.  In the sake of keeping this story going about my work bench project, let's just call this point along the progress as the end of part 1 of the project.  To get the rest of the story (if you're still with me), Click here!


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