Building my workbench – Part I (Half of the top)

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This post form part of the Building my workbench series.

As I’ve been using more and more hand tools, it became evident that my outfeed table with its 36mm top really isn’t suitable to chopping dovetails and mortices. so I’m building something with a whole lot more mass.

I’m using kiln dried construction framing in 45×90 mm from a local building supply outlet. All in all I purchased 38 lm of stock, which I expect sould suffice.

I puschased the stock a month ago, so that it would have time to settle in my workshop before using. Whilst I don’t have a moisture meter, I assume being kiln dried, and it only travelled about 15 km to my house, a month would suffice. (plus it is only a bench).

As an aside, that load was heavy, so was suitably impressed that my racking system proved more than adequate.

First things first, I selected the lengths with the cleanest edges to be my top. then set about cutting them into 1900 mm lengths. I plan for the top to be just under 600 mm deep, so needed twelve lengths.

After each length was cut, I wanted to ensure they were all laid out with their grain running the same way. I’ve been caught out before on projects were simply eyeing the timber led me astray. Therefore any piece that wasn’t obvious got a confirmatory pass with the plane.

For some reason my fat soft pencils had all gone astray, and my stock of 2H simply weren’t allowing me to mark the grain direction with clarity.

One advantage of living in a cul-de-sac is that our kids used to play a lot on the street when they were young, and it was often covered in chalk drawings and game markings. We used to go through a large box of chalk every month or so. So I wondered if there was still some lying hiden somewhere that I could use to mark my timber.

A while ago I built a large “box” which lives in the workshop where the kids could put all their paraphernalia to stop it spreading all over the place. After a bit of digging, I hit the jackpot. There beneath the ripsticks, rollerblades, and soccer balls, fishing spears, ballance boards and unicycle, I found a couple of long discarded boxes of the kids’ chalk!

Now I could draw the grain arrows in lovely white chalk that stands out perfectly.

Whoops, perhaps I should arrange them to get a better colour gradient rather than looking like they were ordered by a group of preschoolers too short to see what they were doing.

That’s better.

I wanted to use biscuits to help with the allignment diring the glue up. I’ve not done a glueup with so many faces at once before, so was a little concerned about the timber slipping and sliding around as I tried to get it all clamped.

My only hicccup was that I don’t have an adapter for the dust extractor to hook only the biscuit joiner, and normally just hold the hose onto the end. While it works when only doing a couple of slots, I needed to do five lots of eleven, which would no dougt get tiring. Lately I’ve been making custom adapters by simply heating a piece of PVC pipe, puting it over the receptical it needs to fit, and cinch it closed with a strap. A dunk in freezing cold water (we call it tap water in Tasmania) sets the new profile.

With that I was off, cutting biscuit slots for all the joint edges, bar one which needs square dog holes cut. I’ll do the biscuit joints afterwards for that one to ensure they’re between the dog holes.

Now the really exciting part, the glue-up. I planned on gluing the top up in halves, so that they would fit through my thicknesser, then join up the two halves once they’re all done. I tackled the back half first (the front needs dog holes cut). Whilst setting up for the try test fit, I took time to admire my stunted porcupine, or should it be wonky stegosaurus?

Another advantage of the test fit, is I could mark all my clamp placements. Oh, and having a range of coloured chalk on hand is a very usefull thing!

Then there was nothing left to do but take a large breath and crack on with the glueing.

Time to clean up the workshop to ensure a fresh start on a new day. And that was it. Time to head indoors to make a hot cup of tea.

Aug 2019

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