Building a Bunch of Benches, Day One

Days that begin with moving more than a half-ton of lumber don’t often end up being considered “Great!” but today was an exception. After some introductions and a quick tour of Kelly Mehler’s school, it was time for me and my nine students to get to work. I did my best to postpone the inevitable with my opening remarks, but as the sun took the chill out of the clear Kentucky morning, we headed down the stairs from the bench room and out to the yard. Saw horses were set up and spread out, and gallons of glue and dozens of clamps were made ready.

We’re building versions of the “21st-century Workbench” that I made a couple years ago. The bench features a solid-wood top in two sections of edge-glued 8/4 maple. We started gluing boards in groups of two or three pieces. After letting the glue dry overnight, we’ll run those preliminary assemblies over the jointer and through the planer in order to have nice straight pieces for the final glue-up. My guess going in was that this would take most of the day, but by lunchtime everyone was well on their way.

After lunch, we began milling the previously glued rails that will go between the inner halves of the legs. These will be the first parts we need as we start to work on the bases, and it’s a good warm up for tomorrow’s work on the tops. Once again, the guys surprised me with how much they accomplished and we ended the day going over the layout for the joints in the base assemblies. It doesn’t hurt that Kelly and his assistant, Ben, did a great job of preparing material, or that Kelly’s shop is is equipped with a nice collection of excellent machinery. We were blessed with great weather and a great group of students, and I think tomorrow will be even better.

— Robert W. Lang

Want to build a bench that’s just right for you? Here’s a New Book that will help you plan it.

I made a video of the original build of this bench, and you can get it here. (put on some Bluegrass Music and sip some Bourbon while you watch, and you can pretend you’re at Kelly Mehler’s).

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