Carving out a space inside

The workbench for inside the house is finished. No more freezing my %(#&^@! off when I feel the need to do some WWing in the dead of winter.

The six inch jigsaw blades were just the ticket to trim off some wonky bits on one end of the slab. (Apparently, the slab came from a tree that had been downed by a lightning strike.) It cut through the maple with no problems, leaving a fairly smooth surface, to boot. Aside from getting rid of the bad, unstable wood, I also wanted to create a projection tailor made for working on guitar necks from both sides. There is still a bit of nastiness on the underside, but it should not be a problem.

I started surfacing the slab by tackling the underside with my No. 6 and No. 608 Stanley planes (Sweetheart vintage, of course). That got the underside flat and level enough for the base. It also left my arms a tangled mass of limp spaghetti! So I took the expedient route for the top and brought it up to the Fine Woodworking program‘s wide drum sander at school, and Eric Matson and I fed it through until the top was parallel and flat. Before bringing the top to its final surface, I marked out and bored the dog holes. I decided on three in the back, for holdfasts, and four in the front, to work with bench dogs and Veritas’ wonder dog (in lieu of a bench vise). The holes line up at both ends for planing wide boards like guitar tops and backs. I used a 3/4″ spade bit to get through the maple, and then the laminate trimmer to put a light chamfer on the tops of the holes. Then sanding to 240 grit and two coats of Danish oil to really bring out the curls and figure of the maple, without putting a film finish on top of the wood.

There was one crack (over the punky area) that demanded some long term medicine, so I made, and inlayed, a butterfly out of cocobolo.

In keeping with the live edge of the slab, and the rustic nature of the curly oak legs, I decided to leave the back and sides as they came from the saw(s). The slab is attached to the base with two lag screws. That will allow for any wood movement, and combined with the weight of the slab, is more than enough for a solid unit. It will also make for easy separating for moving, if the need should arrive.

The final piece of the puzzle was to attach two ledger strips for a shelf. I used an orphan board of ash (with some checking) that had just enough board feet, and milled some tongues and grooves. They are laid between the legs with no glue or fasteners.

Under the bench proves to be the perfect spot to park a giant dustpan, a MUST for any in house woodworking.

Now, a funny thing happened when I went to insert the bench dogs into the holes: they didn’t fit! These are commercial made ones that I have used for years, so I know they are sized for 3/4″ holes. So I checked, and, lo and behold, the holes are too small. Checking the spade bit, I found that it was almost 1/16″ shy of the 3/4″ that it claimed to be! Handy and speedy, yes; accurate, No! Thanks to the chamfer, I was able to widen the hole with a (true) 3/4″ forstner bit.

The bench is solid and massive for its small size, with a rustic, yet elegant quality appropriate for fine, modern furniture. Call it Arts & Crafts meets Nakashima.

The only thing that remains is to get some no slip pads for under the legs. While it doesn’t rack on its own, it does tend to move on the bamboo floor when pushed, not good for planing. Now, I just hope the cats approve.

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