Legs Complete, Aprons in Glue

Apron glued up

Despite the lack of updates, I’ve been working on the new bench pretty consistently. Since last time, I’ve finished up both leg assemblies, drilled a hole for the vise clamp and drilled out the mortise for the parallel guide. All that took about a week of two hour nights.

A few nights ago, I took on flattening the inside of both aprons. They’re 11″ x 7 1/2′ boards, so it’s no small task.

Pretty cross grain shavings

Lots and lots and lots of cross grain shavings later, I had a great workout and I had a couple flattish aprons. There’s a bit of cup in one apron that I’m not going to pull out, it would thin out the board too much, and I had a hunch I could clamp it out when I attached the aprons to the leg assemblies. Which, brings us to the last couple nights. Now that the last apron is in glue, I can look forward to ripping the top pieces down to width, flattening them out and attaching them to the bench.

Oh, and I have to figure out how to get the new bench off my current bench. It’s … heavy.

A celebratory beverage

Second set of legs dimensioned


Love that little vacuum you get between two boards when they’re really flat. I think I’m getting the hang of milling lumber. It’s going much faster now, only an hour and a half for these four. It took me an hour each the first time.


Measure Twice, Cut Once

Leg mortise drilled out

Angles are hard. Especially if you don’t have a protractor.

Tonight, I realized I’d made my First Major Blunder on the bench build. From Chris Schwarz plan for the Nicholson bench, I’m using legs that sit at a twenty degree angle off vertical, seventy to the floor. Well, I thought I was. I don’t currently have a protractor, even a dumb cheap one, so when I need an angle, I lay it out on my bench. I still remember my trig from high school and I’ve got a pretty good square, so it’s pretty easy to just lay out the line off my current bench side and then set up a bevel gauge to match.

Leg mortise cleaned up

A seventy degree angle happens to be really close to a 4 in 11 run. That is, measure over 4 units, then up 11 units, and you’ve got the seventy / twenty pairing. I set my bevel gauge, locked it down tight, and saved the line on my bench just in case. I cut the ends of the legs and the apron support using the bevel gauge and all was happy with the world.

Except, somehow, I measured over 5 and up 11. So all my angles are closer to the 65 / 25 pairing. So my legs lean a little more than five degrees more than they should, and they end up being about 3/4 of an inch short, relative to the floor. Happily, when I marked the width of the apron rabbet on the leg, I used the actual apron, not a measurement, so that all still fits.

After playing with it for a bit, I’ve decided to just live with the slightly shorter bench. If it really bugs me, I figure shimming up 3/4 of an inch shouldn’t be too rough. It does mean that I’ve got to refigure how long the vise chop is going to need to be in square wood, but I’ve got 7′ of 8/4 Ash. I’m sure I can find a chop in there somewhere.

So after deciding to live with it, I trimmed up the saw marks and a “squared” up the bottom of the legs to get everything happy at 25 / 65.

Lessons learned:

  1. When measuring angles out by hand, triple check your work. Ideally walk away and come back.
  2. Get a damn protractor
  3. Trimming end grain sliced at 20 degrees is a lot like trimming pure end grain. It’s tough on a blade. Make sure it’s sharp sharp sharp sharp and take it slow.

Starting a new bench

A trunkful of poplar

I’ve been uphappy with my laminated plywood bench for a while now, so I’ve decided to build a new bench. It’s based on a Nicholson design, featured by Chris Schwarz in his original tome on benches, with an angled leg vise and wide apron sides. Unlike his depiction, I’m going with a soft hardwood, poplar, for the bench material and I’m going with 12/4 stock (~2.75″) for the top. I’m also going to add a split in the top, closer to the back of the bench, for planing stops and such. I’m hoping to get away without installing a tail vise of any sort, but we’ll see.