Q: I read through the book (“The Anarchist’s Workbench“) once in its entirety, but I have reread the construction chapters a couple of times, and something was nagging at me that I finally figured out.
As described, the top is laminated, then you go back and mark the mortise locations, then drill and chisel out the holes to receive the mortises from the legs. But one of the steps in laminating the top is to cut out a section beforehand for the planing stop, using a spacer that gets knocked out once it’s glued up. That makes sense, instead of having to cut out clean, square holes in the top.
Couldn’t you also leave voids for the mortises? Then you’d have the mortises all ready for the legs, without needing to chisel and drill the mortises.
A: Chris builds the top first, then the base. So if you lay out your mortises and laminate the top with the requisite voids, you then have to be dead-on when making the base so that it fits. That’s tricky to do.
Also tricky: While making the lamination you have to ensure the mortises are perfectly aligned across the entire top.
So, Chris decided it was less risky to simply glue up the top, then bash out the four mortises, with their locations marked out from the completed base. He says it took about an hour to drill and pare those mortises.
If you want to create mortises in the top beforehand, here’s a method to consider. Make the mortises about 1/4″ undersized on both ends, thereby giving yourself a little wiggle room if things slip a bit during the top’s glue-up. Then mark the final mortise locations from the assembled base and pare the excess away to fit.
8 thoughts on “Workbench Question #55”
Chris, I love that you shared your bench building techniques with us readers of wood. And it’s always great to hear about “another way to skin a cat”. I like to smaller starter hole idea when building the top; thanks for this tip.
I built my bench from the first workbench book more than ten years ago. Instead of mortising the kegs to the top, I added a second stretcher to the two leg assemblies and then through-bolted (lag screwed) the frames into the top. I did this primarily because I knew I would be moving my ash bench to another home eventually, which happened two years ago. I have never felt that my choice compromised the bench in any way. and it meant that I didn’t have to leave behind when I moved.
I’m hoping that isn’t a typo and you had the worlds best idea: add kegs to your workbench. But remember, don’t drink and plane!
Michael I did the same thing. I have not had any problems at all.
Fitz one way I cut the mortises into the top ahead was to have matching dowel holes on the face of the laminated boards. Put the boards together without glue – dowels keep things in place (I used 4 dowels with two being right where the legs will join to avoid sagging if the area). Transfer the joinery from the legs to the top, pull the boards apart, cut the joinery in the top, then put it back together with glue. The dowels realign everything in the same spot and you can then fit the legs in and tune the joint. It’s much easier to manage this alone, than flipping a top too.
Flipping a massively heavy top can be difficult. I found that after installing my Record vise, I couldn’t manage it alone without a friend to help. Then I realized the friend was already present. I clamped a sturdy 30 inch stick in Mr. Record and gained the leverage I needed to accomplish the flip.
I did it the hard way and all by myself. Wish I would have had this then. Literally no one else but me (from the lumber yard to finished bench) lifted one piece of wood. I’m not gonna lie. Kinda sucked. But the bench is totally worth it. Ruobo that’s over 5” thick, 23” wide and 7’ long. Benchcrafted leg vice and rockler quick release tail vise. Don’t use the tail vice at all. Ever. Found u don’t need it. The thing is a beast. The best thing about it is you never have to ever wonder how to constrain or restrain your work. I never think about it. That means it’s perfect. The bench was based from your red bench book, Chris. Awesome stuff. All the best.
SYP from menards was the material. Totally perfect. Used 2x12s that were 16’ long and cut the ends off to fit into my space. Selected the ones that have the pith and cut that out leaving quartersawn stock for the bench. Touch cut it when I got it and stacked and sticker Ed it for 4 months before milling. Made it in 2015, re-flattened it in 2018, pretty darn close to dead flat still.
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