Chris Schwarz's Blog

Bench Progress Report (In Case my Boss is Checking)

In between editing stories, answering calls and e-mail, and trying to tie up a few loose ends for Woodworking in America (the Toolmakers’ Dinner is two weeks from today – yikes!), I’ve managed to sneak into the shop to cut the leg mortises for what I’m calling the “Petite Roubo.” Actually, it’s going to end up a little bit larger than Chris’s 18th-century Bench, but will likely weigh less. This one is out of Eastern white pine, and his latest bench has a thick cherry slab on top (we don’t definitively know what species the legs are). Chris says a workbench simply can’t be too heavy. The one I’m working on right now is, after the conference, destined for the study on my second floor. I’m guessing that after helping to haul it up a flight of stairs, he might change his tune on that weight statement. (Or maybe he’s planning to be out of town on moving day.) Anyway, I’m faithfully following his directions. The joinery in this bench is exactly the same as in the 18th-century Bench , but mine isn’t cut wholly by hand. I’m not a masochist (nor have I eaten enough Wheaties), and there’s simply not enough time. I used the 17″ band saw to cut the extents of the mortises, and, after a less-than-satisfying experience with mortise chisel waste removal on the first leg (I need to regrind and sharpen my mortise chisel; not enough slice, too much tear), I removed most of the waste on the remaining three legs with the 14″ band saw. I then chiseled out the remaining waste…and still got a little tear out (but it won’t show, and it won’t matter). And yes Chris, I first chiseled a V-notch, and worked in from both sides. I still need to cut the corners off to make the four massive dovetails, but they’re marked and ready to go. Now I simply must screw my courage to the sticking-place, and make those handsaw cuts. I should probably cut some wedges now, just so they’re ready. - Megan Fitzpatrick – If you want complete instructions, a video, tons of photos and plans for building the 18th-Century Bench (you can use tailed tools – I won’t tell!), check out Chris’s DVD. – The 18th-century Bench is also included in our newest book, “The Workbench Design Book” (along with complete plans for eight other benches,Ã?  “before-and-after” drawings for 10 more, the latest info on vises and workholding, and more). This book arrives in the warehouse on Sept. 22 , until then, it’s on pre-order sale for 20 percent off (it goes to full price once the book is in).

9 thoughts on “Bench Progress Report (In Case my Boss is Checking)

  1. James Watriss

    That’s the hassle of working with white pine… no fault of your mortise chisel. It’s easier to cut into a surface that’s rigid without tearout. Less so when the wood supporting it is spongy and springy, like pine, instead of rigid like cherry. When the chisel goes into cherry, the fibers are kept more or less in place, and lacking the ability or inclination to move when pushed by the chisel, they can shear. When the chisel goes into pine, the fibers are softer, and they get pushed around, they deform, and the wood supporting them deforms, and it will eventally catch and tear off, but not as cleanly. It’s not worth regrinding a mortise chisel to an angle steep enough that it would slice through before the pine could react.

  2. Peter Baines

    I understand now – didn’t factor in the lazy element – there wasn’t so much of it around in the 18th C so I guess it wouldn’t have been applied too much.

    I’m all for it if your making anything using 20th C techniques. There’s laziness just lying around for anyone to grab so we may as well employ it in our work.

    Take me for instance. Here I am just typing away while looking at pictures of bevel edge chisels and wondering why James Krenov: Worker in Wood is so expensive. It can’t be that good can it?

  3. Megan

    But Peter, I’m lazy! The band saw is faster than me with a brace and bit (though I’ve had some practice with them).

    Guy, Glen’s a monster – I have no doubt he’ll get the machine set up in time…even if it’s just minutes before ;-) And of course, we’ll all help out.

    Gye, if we weren’t needing this bench at the conference, I’d do exactly as you suggested. But, I don’t want a knockdown bench, and it has to be fully operational for a few day before we haul it up my stairs (and who am I kidding – I’m hoping to "direct" as the big, burly guys do the lifting…we’ll see how that works out!)

  4. Guy Forthofer

    You’ll certainly be busy getting that bench finished in the next two weeks, but I’m more concerned abount Glen. I noticed the unopened boxes of the General table saws in the top photo. Somebody better snap those bands and start putting those things together.

  5. Peter Baines

    Too late now, but a brace and bit still falls within the 18th C limit of tool usage. A sharp augar bit in there used to remove the waste upto the shoulder line of the mortise will remove a good portion of that waste.

    Is’nt hindisght a b1tch

  6. Chris F

    For a quick-and-dirty sharpening on your mortise chisel you could always just use a power sharpener. (Blasphemy, I know.)

    A 1×42 belt sander with 6-micron abrasive works well, as does a hard felt wheel with honing compound. I’m sure you guys have one or the other in the shop there…

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