Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bench Legs and First Fit Up

The legs for this bench are obviously one of the unique design ideas. They are made from laminated pieces of maple and my intention all along was to apply some sort of painted and aged finish. But of course first the legs and stretchers would have to be glued up into assemblies.

These leg assemblies are the foundation for the bench and therefore they really need to be square.

While the leg assemblies were in the clamps on the bench they were at the optimal height to allow me to break all the sharp corners with a small plane.

The finishing process was laborious but the steps were actually quite simple.  I first applied a coat of Potting Bench Green solid exterior stain. This material looks a lot like milk paint. I lightly sanded all the surfaces after the first coat dried and applied another coat. The next day I rubbed the painted surfaces down with a maroon ScotchBrite pad. I then applied an oil pigments stain and wiped it lightly leaving enough color to give the paint an aged appearance. I then placed them in the garden house to let all the applied finish dry quite thoroughly and so the tacky finish wouldn't be exposed to the dust created while working on the other components of the bench. I let them be for nearly a week. I then brought them back into the shop and applied a thorough coat of finishing wax.

With the apron boards prepped, and with the leg vise details and holes drilled for assembly and work holding I was ready to do a first assembly fit up. 

Note, there are some wood movement issues in this design that have to be considered. There is a gap between the bottom of the apron boards and the bottom of the notch in the legs. The boards for the top of the bench will be glued to the edge of the apron boards so any expansion has to go downward. If this is the way you want it to move you've got to allow space. If the apron boards were against the bottom of the notch in the legs the apron board would lever upward when it expands and this would wreck havoc on the shape of the bench top.

Everything lined up as it should and so I turned my attention to processing the boards for the top of the bench. This meant hoisting more 8/4 maple timbers. I am once again reminded of why they call this "woodWORKING"


 "If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember,  this whole thing was started with a
dream and a mouse."
– Walt Disney

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Back to the Bench

After Christmas I decided to turn my attention to the workbench project. The legs and the 8/4 soft maple lumber I had acquired for this project have been in the way and taking up a lot of space in the shop. Best possible solution was to go ahead and turn them into a bench that would be a usable tool in lieu of dealing with the clutter on a daily basis.

If you would like to refer to the first blog post on this bench build here is a link.


It explains the scope of the project and the reason I chose the Nicholson design. But now back to the build.

First off I needed to shorten the legs. Legs that are 5" square present a problem. I guess if you had a 12" mitre/chop saw you could use that to cut them to length. I even considered loading them up and taking a trip to Wyatt Childs Inc. (site of the FORP events) and cutting them to length on Bo's large sliding saw. After closer inspection and giving some thought to the problem, I decided that the legs were all quite accurate in length the way I received them from Osborne wood products, so all I really needed to do was accurately remove the part I didn't need in order to make them 32" long. I set a fence on my bandsaw, installed a new blade and an operation I thought would be a challenge turned out to be quite simple and easy.

The next order of operations was to cut the mortises for the stretchers. There are a myriad of ways to do this but frankly this bench project was between me and some other projects I have in the cue so I needed to do this quick and accurately. Besides when you're 63 years old you don't have as large an energy reserve as you did when you were 40, so my milling machine was a quick and easy to way quickly setup and cut these mortises.

I won't bore you with pictures or video of cutting tenons. If you're reading this you've probably cut a few and in many different ways. I made the shoulder cuts on the table saw and cut the cheeks on the bandsaw. Once again, "easy peasy!" The fit was exception and this allowed me to move the project forward at a quick pace.

The next order of operations was to process the 8/4 boards for the apron boards. I needed to notch the legs to accept these boards and I needed to know the final thickness of these components before notching the legs to accept the apron boards.

7 foot long 8/4 maple boards are not easy to handle and present a challenge just hefting them thru jointer operations and the like. I found it much easier to take the tool to the board in lieu of the board to the tool. I did work one surface of these boards thru my 12" jointer after knocking the high spots down with a hand plane. Thick timbers always seem to have a certain amount of twist and if it's not removed in the early stages of process it will remain a problem thru out the build.

The video below is an overview of several of the operations needed to prepare the apron boards.

After the legs were cut to length and the apron boards were processed I could proceed with the work on the legs.

You can see in the picture above, the legs are mortised, the thru hole for the BenchCrafted Classic leg vise is drilled and the mortise for the BenchCrafted CrissCross is milled. I made both cuts for the notch to received the apron boards on the bandsaw.

Many will wonder why I purchased the legs already turned from Osborne Wood Products. Frankly the blanks to turn the legs would have cost as much as the already turned pieces. Like I said I have other projects in the cue and a bench project is already a large task. Ready turned legs sent the project forward at a much faster pace.


"When you're dead you won't even know you're dead. It's a pain only felt by others.

Same thing when you're stupid."      (unknown)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Last two planes of 2016

I completed the last two planes of 2016 in December. A Willie Davis style Winter Smoother with Olive wood. One of my favorite combination of materials.

The Olive wood in this plane is finished with a couple coats of shellac polish and then several coats of True Oil Finish. The Olive benefits color wise from the garnet shellac finish. It enhances the amber color of the wood. Olive being an oily wood needs to be sealed before the application of an oil finish, so the shellac serves a two fold purpose.

Hopefully the Tru Oil will help the durability of the finish. In a hand tool situation shellac has a reputation of not being very durable. Hopefully the addition of the oil will increase durability.

The final plane was a Winter Panel plane with a 440c stainless steel body and Macassar Ebony tote and knob.

In the past when I've combined Macassar Ebony with stainless or a steel bodied plane I've applied a patina'd finish to the brass. In this case the customer wanted the brass left to a satin sheen and finished with oil.

The finish on the wooden bits is True Oil. Macassar Ebony is not as oily as many exotics and therefore it takes the oil finish quite favorably and dries quite readily.

In preparation for the oil finish the surfaces are sanded to 400 grit and the first coats of oil are wet sanded into the material with the same 400 grit. The next coat is wet sanded with 600 grit. Subsequent coats are then steeled wooled between coats of finish. Once cured the surfaces are buffed to a nice satin sheen. The end results feels very nice in the hand.

This was the year in which we get all the kids and grandkids for Christmas celebrations. As soon as the last plane was completed I busied myself with preparations for their arrival. Fun and mayhem all at once. It was great?

January of 2017 has me turning my attention back to the bench project that I mentioned a couple post back.