Shaker Bench

Glue up Your Panels Taking some lumber from a friend’s cherry tree, cut down, milled and air dried. I glued up two boards to make the top and ends for this bench. Some scraping of the joint is required after gluing. Try to arrange your boards so the joint between them is invisible.

Glue up Your Panels Taking some lumber from a friend’s cherry tree, cut down, milled and air dried. I glued up two boards to make the top and ends for this bench. Some scraping of the joint is required after gluing. Try to arrange your boards so the joint between them is invisible.

With nothing more than wedged tenons and some good engineering, this is a phenomenally strong bench. The wedged tenons create a splayed dovetail effect that completely locks this bench together. I built this bench using only The Little Shop Mark II, a workshop on wheels that uses only $1,000 in tools. Begin construction by cutting out the four boards according to the Cutting List. The extra length on the stretcher and legs is to accommodate a little extra length on the tenons for trimming. After cutting and cleaning up the tenons, lay out and cut the through-mortises, which are angled to accommodate the wedged tenons.

Cutting Tenons Cut the tenons to the actual width on the table saw. Set the blade to 1" high, defining the length of the tenons. After marking the depth with a gauge, cut the waste out from between the tenons. Set the saw to 7/8" high for cutting the slots that accept the wedges used to hold the table together. See the diagram for the actual size of the outer parts of the tenon. Use a backing board on your miter gauge to hold the boards upright.

Cutting Tenons Cut the tenons to the actual width on the table saw. Set the blade to 1" high, defining the length of the tenons. After marking the depth with a gauge, cut the waste out from between the tenons. Set the saw to 7/8" high for cutting the slots that accept the wedges used to hold the table together. See the diagram for the actual size of the outer parts of the tenon. Use a backing board on your miter gauge to hold the boards upright.

Cut the mortises to fit right over the tenons. To lay out the arc on the stretcher, drive a nail into the top of the arc at the center of the board. Then drive a nail into the starting point of both ends of the arc, as close to the edge of the board as possible. Take a strip of wood approximately 1/8″ x 1/2″ x 36″ and bend it into an arc between the nails and trace a line on the stretcher. Remove the nails, cut out the arc and clean up the edge with a drawknife. Now make the cutouts in the end panels. Lay them out according to the diagram, then cut them out with a coping saw. Make some relief cuts into the waste side to make cutting it out a little easier.

Routing a Shoulder Next, set up the router table with a 1/4" straight bit to clean up the shoulders of the tenons. Mark on the router table fence where you need to stop and start each cut and gently push the tenon ends of the boards against the bit, missing the tenon.

Routing a Shoulder Next, set up the router table with a 1/4" straight bit to clean up the shoulders of the tenons. Mark on the router table fence where you need to stop and start each cut and gently push the tenon ends of the boards against the bit, missing the tenon.

Once you have all the joinery fit, it’s time to get ready to assemble the bench. This is a completely clamp-free glue up. The wedges driven into the tenons act as the “clamps” to hold the entire bench together. The wedges are cut at an angle wider than the 5° of the mortise because the wedge itself becomes compressed when driving into the tenon. This compression takes away some of the wedges’ ability to spread the tenon. That’s why you make wedges with a 7° taper. This yields a good spread on the tenon during assembly. Now is the time to test a set of wedges in a joint. Using no glue, assemble a joint. Tap in a couple of wedges and see if they completely spread a joint apart before bottoming out in the tenon slot. If they leave a little room, cut a little off of the wedge’s narrow end and taper it to fit the top of the slot accordingly. This gives a little more play to spread the tenon apart. Gently disassemble the dry-fit joint and proceed to glue up the bench and drive home the wedges with glue on them. It helps to wait a bit to clean up the squeezed-out glue. This lets it get a “skin” that keeps the mess to a minimum. Clean up with a chisel and a damp rag. After cutting the tenon a little proud, mask off the tenon for sanding by taping around the entire tenon with two widths of masking tape. The tape keeps you from sanding a depression in the top around the tenon. Chisel and plane an angle on all four sides of the tenons and round them over with a sander. Remove the tape and sand the rest of the bench to 150 grit. Apply three coats of clear finish and rub out your finish with some steel wool and wool wax, a lubricant you can find at many woodworking stores. PW

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3 thoughts on “Shaker Bench

  1. Theodore Scott

    Where it says “Click here to download the PDF for this article”, there isn’t a link. Do you have the PDF somewhere and I just don’t see it?

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