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.