Workbench: Days 19 and 20

Last night, I marked out the dog hole calculations from the other day to the workbench top.

Then, this morning, feeling tanned, rested, and ready, I started boring the holes. I clamped my drill guide to the bench to drill a small pilot hole. Then I put my 3/4″ auger bit in the brace, and… UHHHH, wow, beech is just a wee bit tougher than that fir! Setting the brace to ratchet made the job much easier.

It took a while, because I was being extra careful to get all of the holes straight, but eventually got all of them done in a day:

I do not think that I would have been able to do those holes if I had not sharpened that auger bit. I also think that I may be able to do a better job sharpening it, but it’s not my primary concern right now.

So what are these things good for, anyway? Well, this:

The thing on the right that’s doing the clamping is a Veritas Wonder Dog™. The dogs on the left and background are the dogs that I originally made for the Workmate®. Not too surprisingly, they actually work a lot better in this bench. I still need to chop a face into the dogs.

Since I clamped that board in there, I thought, “Hmm, I wonder just how much better this is for handplaning?” So I pulled out my jack plane (that I hadn’t sharpened for a while), set for a thin shaving. Okay, I don’t want to ever try handplaning without a stable bench again. It was spiffy, to say the least.

I also bought a vise for the front today. I’ll need to do some measuring for that, but it’s not a pressing concern, and it shouldn’t take much time.

Workbench: Days 17 and 18

Forgive me St. Roy, for I have used a spreadsheet to do woodworking calculations.

I was trying to figure out the dog hole spacing on my workbench. Most guides say that they should be somewhere in the neighborhood of six inches apart, but my main concern was spacing them out in such a way that I’d have them symmetric on both ends of the bench, with a nice distance for each end.

After using “dc” to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations, I got to thinking, well, you know, instead of looking at these numbers one at a time, why don’t I pull up the openoffice spreadsheet and see everything at once?

Column A is the length of the bench, B is the spacing between dog hole centers, C is the number of spaces between dog holes (one less than the total number of dog holes), and D is the distance between the end and the first dog hole center. I wanted about two inches, and row 5, with six and a half inches between dog holes, purports to have exactly that.

So I mocked it up on the bench, and it seems dead on. Drat it. You always want the computer to be wrong, because it’s so stupid.

Oh yeah. And I did the second oil finish application the other day. Looks good now.

Workbench: Day 16

While preparing to apply the initial oil finish on the top yesterday, I got to thinking about how to smooth the surface. I didn’t want the ultra-smooth finish from a handplane because it might cause work to slip around.

Then I remembered how most people smooth stuff: sandpaper. Hey, I happened to have a bit of that, so I lightly hand-sanded with 360, then 600 grit paper. The effect was just what I wanted: a top that’s smooth, but not slick.

Finally, it was time to apply the oil. Looking at the surface made me glad that they had the beech top in stock.

A photo like this doesn’t do justice to how nice this wood looks. The reddish board is the classic steamed beech color. It got me thinking of why I wanted to take up woodworking in the first place. So I feel all encouraged. And stuff.

To bore the dog holes, I picked up a 3/4″ auger bit–new, unfortunately. There were two in stock, and one looked just my 3/8″ bit from the factory: cutting edges that look like sofas. The other one was a little better, so I bought that one and didn’t even bother to try it until I had touched it up with the auger bit file. It seems to work fine, though of course, it requires a lot more muscle to put a hole through wood than the smaller bit.

Incidentally, this test hole (done in a Douglas Fir 2×4) was the first time I used my new bench. I clamped the board to the top, letting part of it overhang.

My improvised Workmate® dogs from several months ago will work for my new workbench, because they are made from 3/4″ dowels. However, I want to cut faces in them for a slightly better grip. Also, several of them may not be optimally long, but that’s no big deal. I still have lots of the dowel stock left.

Workbench: Days 14 and 15

Yesterday evening, I did the second application of Danish oil to the frame pieces. Because the wood had absorbed the first application nicely, I decided that it would only need two applications for the moment. I’ll need to reapply periodically in the coming months anyway, since that is the nature of oil finishes.

Today, I assembled the frame again and decided that the time had come to put the top on. Given how much time everything else had taken, I figured that this would take forever, so I braced for the worst.

But when I opened the Ikea packaging, I found that they had actually included mounting hardware that wouldn’t cause the top or frame to crack, if put on properly, that is. After measuring everything and drilling a few pilot holes, it went on quickly:

The top isn’t really finished right now; I think there’s a light application of oil on there, but it needs more. In addition, whatever they used to surface the top did not exactly leave a smooth surface. I could plane it down to fix this, but I’m considering leaving it mostly as-is if the top is flat enough, because a rougher surface has higher friction, which could be desirable. Not like applying oil, then planing and reapplying is going to hurt, though.

Other than finishing, I need to drill dog holes. I haven’t planned that yet, nor do I have the 3/4″ auger bit required to make the hole. I have a shelf planned for the top of the big stretchers, so that I can bring in a secret weapon for weight. I should get a front vise at some point.

All in good time, though. I’m in no big hurry, it seems.

Workbench: Day 13

I put the first application of Danish oil on the stretcher components today. This is not terribly exciting; it’s actually very easy to do and doesn’t take much time. Depending on how well this sinks in, I’ll do one or two more tomorrow. Then I’ll be able to assemble the frame again and attach the top.

Workbench: Day 12

Today’s work was preparing the frame surface for its oil finish. This mostly means taking a very light shaving off the surface to remove the lumberyard chalk, pencil marks, blood, dirt, and so on that got on the boards as I was working them.

This is a pain in the ass to do with a handplane on a Workmate®, having to put your foot down on the damn step to keep the thing from shifting all over the place. But I did it, and did it with a lot less effort than sanding, and much less sawdust. So yay. The final result is not a perfect job, but it’s a little better than the lumberyard surfacing.

More importantly, I hope that this is the last time I ever have to do handplaning on a Workmate®.

Workbench: Day 11

I put the bolt holes in the big lengthwise stretchers today. Those were the final holes to drill.

There was this hunch that I had that the 3/8″ holes I was drilling would be a little too tight for the 3/8″ bolts I was using. This turned out to be correct; the bolts fit, but were not always straight. That was fine; I pulled out the 27/64″ twist drill bit that I bought for just this occasion, chucked it in a brace, and enlarged every hole.

Then there was nothing left to do but test-fit the frame:

Wow, it’s actually starting to look like something now. I tested it for load and everything. Solid. Awesome. There is no discernable lateral racking; you’d hope so due to the extra-wide stretchers.

The next step, I guess, is either to take it apart and prep the surfaces for finishing, or test-fit the top.

PS: Bonus question: What part of this photo is something you wouldn’t usually find in California?

Workbench: Day 10

I drilled six holes for the bolts that fasten the stretchers tonight. The first step is to put the doweling jig on the end of the board like this:

Then I drill a small pilot hole with the hand drill on the left there. The new brad-point bits I got are great.

Finally, after the pilot hole is all the way through, I take the brace with the auger bit (on the right in that photo) and bore the hole proper. Like my experience the other day, the newly-sharpened bit is about a million times better. I’d done two holes like this a while ago, and they took forever. Now it’s very quick, and the bit doesn’t heat up as much.

I have four more of these to go–the ones for the big stretchers. I will probably need to redrill/enlarge/(or something) some of the leg holes that I made a long time ago. No big deal.

After this, I can assemble the frame and attach the top.

Workbench: Day 9

Working from yesterday’s prep for the final four square holes, I finished cutting them today. Recall that I had pared off the outlines of the holes yesterday. The first task for today was to drill some holes through like this:

Despite there being much more tough latewood in these boards than the previous ones, this went much faster today because I shaped and sharpened the auger bit. It’s a remarkable difference.

With the holes in place, I put the coping saw in place. Mine is a little tough to assemble with the blade through a hole; I used a band clamp to hold the frame tight during the process.

I found that it’s easier to remove a big chunk between the holes before cutting the holes flush (that chunk on top is the removed waste):

With that piece out of the way, it’s much easier to move the saw around and get flush to the edges. Then, all you need to do is finish it off with a chisel for the more-or-less final hole:

It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly better than the first few I did (which I’m not even showing because they’re so bad).

Next, I need to drill the holes into the sides to accept the bolts that will hold the frame together. Probably not today, though.

Workbench: Day 8

I prepared the front and rear stretchers in the frame for the square holes. What this means is that I cut the hole outline with a knife into the wood, then pare to that line with a chisel. This process is repeated several times for both sides of each hole, because this wood is more prone to tearout than a typical hardwood.

When ready to start drilling the holes, it looks like this:

The hole is on the right side of the board here. When I’m ready to start again, I drill four holes through to the other side in each corner of the rectangle, then put a coping saw blade through one and saw around. Here’s a close-up of the other end (ignore that circle in the center of the hole; I was playing around with one of my new brad-point bits):

The board is a 2×8. The tree that this board came from is a little different than the one that the 2x4s came from. There is a lot more latewood in this guy, making it quite a bit more difficult to slice through. However, it is also nice and heavy.

That try square is an item that I found in the toolkit at my mom’s place in October. It was made by Stanley, and had a lot more rust on it until Thursday, when I decided that I’d had enough of not being able to see the markings and numbers on there. I just did the usual mineral spirits / sandpaper / wax treatment that you’d do to a handsaw.

I don’t know the origin of the square. It has BPS15 stamped into the handle, which probably means Baltimore Public Schools 15. That wouldn’t be the current BPS15. I asked my mom about that today; she doesn’t recall anything about it, and speculated that it may have belonged to my grandfather (my father’s father, that is).

Also, a much-anticipated package from Lee Valley Tools arrived today with my brad-point bits, my “Wonder Dog,” and perhaps most importantly, my auger bit file (couldn’t find one anywhere around here, of course…). Naturally, I had to see if I could get my 3/8″ auger bit into some sort of more useful shape. That bit is definitely one of those “sheesh, quality control these days” cases, but with a little work, the cutting edges actually look like cutting edges, rather than sofas. I tried it out and it seems to work… but the real test comes when I start to put the fastener holes in the stretchers.