Well the bench is all done. I am really happy the way it has turned out. A few mistakes here and there but it’s just a workbench so in time it will be beaten to pieces anyway.
I finished up the base cutting through mortise and tenons through the front and back legs for the side stretchers. The front and back stretchers I cut slot dovetail joints so it won’t rack from front to back. No where on the bench (other than the top) did I use any glue. If and when I move out of my house, I need to be able to disassemble it and carry it out of my basement.
After the base was built I had to focus my attention back onto the legs. A couple of the legs split down the sides as they were drying in my basement. I cut some 3/4″ thick butterfly keys out of red oak and pounded them into place. I then took some polyurethane glue and poured into the cracks to help stabilize the material. Honestly, I don’t think the poly glue did anything other than make me feel better as I hear polyurethane glue doesn’t have any gap filling properties anyway.
On the bench leg that I installed my leg vise on, I needed to cut out and insert a southern yellow pine wedge. ACQ lumber is very corrosive to metal and because my leg vise hardware is made out of cast iron, I needed to insert a wedge so it wouldn’t corrode. I attached the wedge to the leg with wax coated screws designed for the ACQ lumber.
Once the bench was put together, I applied some deck stain to the base and then worked on the accessories like the crochet, the deadman, leg vise jaw and the drawer. On the curves of the crochet and deadman, I used my Stanley #113 circular plane. The plane’s bed can flex to a concave as well as a convex shape with the turning of a screw on top of the plane. I planed both sides of the crochet with ease however, you could also do this with an oscillating spindle sander if you don’t own one of these planes.
When I originally drew the bench, I didn’t incorporate a drawer. My old bench had a tool tray where I laid my bench dogs and hold fasts in. The tray worked fine but every time I planed or sawed something, the bench would rack and the tools in the tray would vibrate annoying me. It was only after I built the bench, that I realized that there was no way for this bench to rack, so I quickly built a drawer 12″ long x 3″ tall x 16″ deep. Even though in the picture the drawer looks like it’s in the way of the deadman, it can be pushed back so that the deadman can slide by.
I drilled 3/4″ holes down the front of the bench top for my bench dogs. In the back I drilled four 5/8″ holes to accommodate my hold fasts. I made they hold fasts while taking a blacksmith class from Don Weber in Paint Lick, KY in January. He showed me how to take an old car spring, heat it up, hammer it straight, then pound the pad and bend the curve to make a hold fast with incredible holding power. Spring steel hold fasts work far better than the cheap cast iron ones you find in woodworking stores because the steel has the ability to flex. The class was a lot of fun and Don is an honory gentleman filled with Welsh chair bodging and blacksmithing knowledge. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back to take his Tool Making for Woodworkers class in April.
After the bench was complete, I applied a coat of shellac to the top. It gave it some protection but also it raised the grain a little bit so that the top wouldn’t be so slick. Having a top with a little bit of grip is a good thing so tools won’t slide off.
Using the Emmert Pattermakers Vise
Some people say that owning a pattermaker vise for cabinet work is a little over kill as you will never really need all the versatility that the vise offers. I say, “it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”. Actually I have found one major advantage of using the vise.
Often the biggest disadvantage of building a bench that is designed low enough for planing is that when it comes to cutting joinery, the work piece is too low making it uncomfortable. Some woodworkers build a smaller bench that sits on top of the bench or simply switch over to a taller work bench when cutting joinery. Because the Emmert vise face can turn 360 degrees, I swing the jaws up making the the top of the jaws 38″ from the floor. Now it’s a lot easier on my back cutting dovetails.
I’m sure there is a lot more useful things I can do with this vise but I’ll need some more time to experiment to find out what they are. I plan on making chairs some day and the jaws ability to angle 10 degrees will come in handy when I’m working with tapered legs.