Bench Class Day 2 – Tricks Up Our Sleeves

Woodworking is a solitary pursuit, and one of the benefits of taking a class (or teaching one, for that matter) is the interaction and sharing of ideas that takes place. Good ideas and techniques bounce around and stick with you long after the class is over. Here are a couple cool tricks from today.

Gluing up big laminations can be anxious hours, especially if all those pieces that looked nice and straight shift out of alignment when glue and clamps enter the picture. See the square piece of stock running across the glue-up? It’s just a thick, stiff piece clamped on but it makes the difference between “nice and easy” and “nervous breakdown.” It keeps the edges of the parts aligned as the other clamps squeeze things together. We put one on each end, and at any obvious high or low spots in between, right after gluing. When the other clamps squeeze, the only direction the parts can go in is together. We were done with our tops by mid-afternoon, and tomorrow, the final leveling will be easy. This, I am told, is a new record for top assembly in a workbench class – at least at Kelly Mehler’s school.

The next idea came from Kelly, and it’s so good I think I’m going to submit it as a trick to a woodworking magazine. We were talking about using a Forstner bit to remove the bulk of the waste in the mortises in the legs of the bench base. A fence to keep a consistent distance from the edges was obvious, but the clever part was to put some small blocks in between the drill press table and the fence. This keeps chips from building up in the corner where the fence and table meet. Simple and it works.

If you’re keeping score at home, we had the benchtops all glued together and were starting in on the joinery by Tuesday afternoon. Tomorrow we’ll do the final surfacing of the tops and continue work on the bases.

— Robert W. Lang

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