Editor’s note: Below is the first post from Will Myers, a woodworker who teaches at Roy Underhill’s school and specializes in teaching a class on building a Moravian workbench and researching and reproducing Shaker pieces. Both John and I are huge fans of Will and are very excited to welcome him to our blog.
I am back at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Mass. I came up last fall for a quick visit and figured out that this was not a “quick visit” type of place.
There is so much to see; around most every corner are rooms and furniture pieces that give me a bit of déjà vu. Perhaps the feeling comes from seeing so much of this stuff in furniture books and articles over the years. Even so, the genuine articles are so much better than the photos.
On this trip I am attending the annual woodworkers and iron workers weekend. I will be doing demos on making one of the candlestands in Hancock’s collection all day on Aug. 6-7. I brought along a Moravian workbench as well (they have not kicked me out…yet!).
If you are in the area stop in and have a look around and experience the only genuine Southern hillbilly accent in Massachusetts!
Building this bench has been a lot more like building a daybed for a giant snake than a typical workbench.
After drilling the mortises last Thursday, I got some time yesterday to cut the wedges for the legs, to kerf the tenons (to make it easier for the wedges to do their job) and assemble the entire thing with hide glue.
The wedges are made from an ash plank I’ve kept around since 2007, believe it or not. It’s an offcut from making the benchtop to my first Holtzapffel workbench that year. It is the most springy and resilient ash I’ve ever worked with. And as I wanted to wail on these wedges, that ash was just the ticket.
After getting all the mortises and tenons painted with glue, I put all the joints together and flipped the bench onto its feet. Then came the fun part with a small sledgehammer.
When building chairs, I have to be careful not to split the seat when driving in the legs or wedges. I try to stop beating the parts exactly one blow before splitting the seat.
With these enormous 1-3/4”-diameter tenons and the 3-1/2”-thick oak top, however, splitting was not going to be a problem. So I knocked the wedges in like I was playing Whack-a-Mole, Deathmatch Edition. When each wedge seated fully, it made a Biblical thunk.
Today I’ll clean up the assembled benchtop, level the legs and start drilling the holes for holdfasts and wooden stakes.