Sunday, January 25, 2009


One thing that becomes painfully obvious very quickly when woodworking is how much the lack of a good work surface can hinder your work. Back when I started this blog I was taking a class at the Arlington Adult Education center to get some access to the machinery. I had planned on building a traditional cabinet maker's workbench. I quickly realized that finishing even the base to it would be a daunting task within the time I had there. So like many of my projects it was partially finished after two semesters. During the class I had screwed up the dimensions of the stretchers while milling them out of maple. Since I did not want to spend that much I bought some hem-fir 2x6's to build what I told myself would be temporary stretchers until I got around to buying the material for the top. I milled them and glued them up in my shop in PA.

The first thing I did when I got back to DC was to glue up the second trestle.

Then I got busy cutting the tenons into the stretchers. Cutting these massive tenons by hand was a real workout. It took me about a week of cutting one a night after I got home from work.

I'm still trying to improve my hand saw skills, and these tenons provided lots of practice. The cheeks of the tenons required a lot of clean up with a shoulder plane to get them to fit properly. I knew using 2x6 material, bought, glued and milled in PA then brought to DC could cause some problems. Of course after acclimating to my apartment one stretcher got a slight twist in it. It was enough to cause problems getting the tenons in the through mortises, however after some coercion it all came together. This resulted in one of the feet not touching the ground, which won't matter once I get a real top onto this thing and the weight will keep it level. For now a small shim at one foot works.

I then finished the base by chopping out the mortises for the wedges. I had a nice sample of some teak from work that I fashioned into the wedges. The oily nature of the wood worked well and helped the wedges slide into their homes with ease.

This is the first time I've used this form of wedged through mortise. I wanted the ability for the bench base to be disassembled so that you can move it easily. In most workbenches this is done with some bolts but I don't like how bolts look. I know its just a workbench but this joint is able to hold the base together with surprising strength.

The 3/4" plywood bench top, which used to be my drawing table, is only temporary. Which I'm sure will mean a few years. With the help of a friend I also installed my tool cabinet up on the wall. It's starting to look like a shop in here!


Rachel said...

I am seeking beginner carpentry or woodworking classes as a gift for my
husband for his upcoming birthday. I've found several options in the
Virginia and MD suburbs, but very little in Washington, DC -- and we live in
DC and do not own a car. Can you recommend any Metro-accessible classes for
my husband, or help point me in the right direction?

Thank you so much in advance for your help!

Rachel D.

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