Monday, January 6, 2014

The Workbench (Part 1)

If I'm going to be a woodworker, I need a Workbench!

That's the impression one gets from many of the online woodworking resources. I mean, it's common sense, to some degree; in order to work wood, one needs a surface on which to work it. Add to that the obvious need for holding work in place and the stability, resistance, and longevity afforded by a beefy workbench -- not to mention the learning experience and the rite of passage the project represents -- and it's a no-brainer: the Woodworker must build a workbench.

Of course, as I began to research workbenches, I quickly started to fret about whether I'd ever be able to build one that wouldn't embarrass me given that I can't afford a huge pile of 8/4 maple. Much to my relief, though, I came to find plenty of skilled woodworkers who had built their workbenches from construction-grade lumber, so I was able to assuage my self consciousness.

Pieces cut to rough length and width
I based the design off of the Roubo style, mainly because I like the stability afforded by four thick legs, but also because the Roubo benches I've seen are very pleasing to the eye. In order to get that classic Roubo heft, I decided to borrow from a design I'd seen in which the legs were made from laminated 2x4s. I had acquired a stack of three- to four-foot cut offs of 2x6, which enabled me to "mill" my parts somewhat. I ripped the leg pieces to just over 4" and cut everything to length, then laminated the parts.

The bench design I mentioned above also cut a crucial corner: instead of cutting mortises for each joint, the second layer of lumber was cut into shorter segments in order to create notches in the legs to accept the stretchers. Rather than cut a dozen mortises, I decided to use that technique. In the picture, you can see what I mean.
Gluing up a leg
After the legs were glued up successfully, I ripped them to final width, making them a substantial 3" x 4". On a side note, I was pleased to see how cleanly my table saw cut these pieces. It's always nice to have a glue line virtually disappear when laminating construction lumber that hasn't been thicknessed or jointed.

Once the legs were completed, I discovered that I had, oddly, neglected to make the final crosscut on the long pieces of two legs (below, marked with blue tape). Good thing I decided to stand them up together!

Next up: the four mortise-and-tenon joints I decided must happen.

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