Some readers seemed confused by my description of assembling a benchtop with the help of a “loose tenon.”
The expression doesn’t mean that the tenon rattles loose in the mortise. Rather it means that the tenon is not integral to either piece being joined. It is like a Domino or a biscuit. It enters mortises in both pieces.
I drew up two illustrations to show how this works. The drawing at the top illustrates the joint when it is apart. The loose tenon is shown floating between the two components of the benchtop.
The second illustration is an “X-ray” view of the assembled joint with 1/2”-diameter pegs piercing the benchtop pieces and the loose tenon.
“Loose tenons” have many other names, including “slip tenons” or “floating tenons.” All these terms are accepted in woodworking journalism.
We think of loose tenons as a modern joint, but it is far from it. Early Greek and Roman boats were made with loose tenons that were pegged to keep the hulls together.
I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that Richard Maguire also used this same technology to glue up his benchtops (read all about that here). I’ll be honest, I’ve always relied on glue alone (when I didn’t have a monumental one-piece slab top).
But my view changed a couple years ago when we got a bad batch of epoxy and several benchtops delaminated. If I ever have to glue up a slab benchtop again, I’m adding loose tenons.
Interestingly, Maguire doesn’t drawbore the loose tenons in his tops. He states: “a draw bored peg here would have been much weaker than this straight through approach.” I do believe I will be experimenting with this joint – both drawbored and not – to see for myself.=
Maguire wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of loose tenons in a benchtop (though I heard it from him first). Recently I got to inspect an early 20th-century French workbench from La Forge Royale that used the technology.
This commercial workbench was surprisingly rough in manufacture. Joints were deliberately overcut throughout to make the bench easy to assemble. The “breadboard” ends were merely nailed or screwed on. No tongue. I could go on and on. It’s still a great workbench (and still standing after 100 years), so I’m not knocking it. But I was surprised.
Despite the rough construction, the builders took the extra time to add loose tenons in the benchtop’s joint. That fact says a lot to me as to how important a detail they thought it was.
After 10 weeks of waiting for my number to come up, Brian the Roofer called to say his crew will begin the job Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.
Barring rain or a visit from the Angel of Death, I’ll have a new roof by the end of the week and will then set up my machines. That should take a day at most. I don’t have a lot of machines, and they (with one exception) are easy to move.
The only thing left to do is install the mini-split to control the climate in the workshop. The wiring for it is ready – so it’s a one-day job. (And until the mini-split gets installed, I’ll simply freeze my butt off when I work.)
Ever since moving my workbench to the storefront almost two years ago, I’ve been slowed down by having two shops. Though I don’t do a lot of machine work, there were times that I had to drive home to use the drill press for a very particular hole and then had to drive right back to the storefront to continue working.
Though I don’t live far from the storefront (4.2 miles), the route always has a chance of jackknifed semis or cornholed motorists on the stretch that locals call “Death Hill.”
When I was planning out my new shop, I half-considered writing a series of articles about the process. Then I realized that I think most people make it a lot more difficult than necessary. And by putting a lot of effort into the shop, they actually make it more of a pain to use in the long-term.
If you’d like to read my brief thoughts on setting up shop, check out my entry at my other blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine. Here’s the link. (Side note: I’d like to offer a huge thank-you to all the people who read my blog there – the monthly pay I receive is an important part of our family budget. And according to the traffic numbers, 2017 was a good one for my blog there.)