Chris Schwarz's Blog

You Have Got to Meet Jack

I’m to the point with this workbench that I cannot see the concrete floor any more because of the shavings. I hate that floor, but I am starting to feel a bit like a hamster.

Today I took the clamps off the Roubo benchtop we glued up Thursday and I scraped off the excess hide glue squeeze-out. The seam is tight. Nice.

Then I dressed the front edge of the benchtop. It was straight from the sawmill, so it was as rough as a cob. So I started out planing the edge with a jack plane to get it straight and square to the bench’s top surface. Then I dressed the front edge with a jointer plane with a 50Ã?° pitch , the reversing grain is a bear on this piece because of the knots.

With the front edge in shape I marked out the final length of the benchtop. I was going for 72″, but by settling on 67″ I was able to remove a nasty low spot, a knot and some big checks. This bench won’t be as long as I prefer, but sometimes you have to let the material dictate the design.

Then I sawed off the ends (yes, I did it by hand). I used a standard crosscutting stroke to make an accurate kerf. Then I used an overhand stroke (as shown) so I could bring the saw almost vertical. This is fast. And it uses different muscles. By switching back and forth between these two positions I was able to cut off the two ends without a break (except for one glug of water).

Then it was back to the jack plane to dress the benchtop and make it true. To do this, I put the benchtop on some risers on my sawhorses to lift it up to a comfortable working height. I clamped four f-style clamps to the risers in order to fence in the top and prevent it from moving.

Traversing the top with the jack was quick work , about 15 minutes worth to remove the rough-sawn fur. Then I went to lunch and started typing this. And I’m still typing, as you can see. Now it’s time to stop typing.

– Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Next week I’ll be filling the checks in with tinted epoxy. Might look good. Might look like holes filled with black snot.

25 thoughts on “You Have Got to Meet Jack

  1. adrian

    I’ve used epoxy for various small repairs and never had any problems with cutting it with edged tools.

    Note, however, that epoxy does not have an unlimited shelf life. The 3M epoxies have an 18 month shelf life according to the manufacturer. I asked what "goes wrong" with old epoxy and was told that it will be basically less sticky

  2. Gordon Conrad

    Chris,
    Had a pin hole knot in the first piece of furniture I made of cherry. I used black epoxy to fill the void. Epoxy didn’t bother edge tools and after 3 years most think it is part of the wood. Used clear epoxy on the checks in my front 30 inch chop on my bench and to this daymost folks don’t even question them Again, no problem with edge tools. I say go for it and see how many notice.
    R/ Gordon

  3. Christopher Schwarz

    Brian,

    1) What is your plan for the dogs on this bench, round or square?

    Round. Easier to add. Traditional. And there are more accessories available for them.

    2) What kind of glue did you use for the top? I remember you talking about some brown turd substance that you had to heat up. What in the world is that? I was gonna use titebond, but should i use something else? (that was kind of a combination twofer question there)

    Liquid hide glue. I like it for its long open time and reversibility. Titebond makes some that is liquid at room temperature. Old Brown Glue is the other brand. It is solid at room temp. You also can make your own (which we wrote about in the Spring issue).

    Hope this helps.

  4. Bradford Joinery

    Thanks some great tips here, I was recently made redundant from my set making job and I’m now working self employed, your website is a great resource in helping me.

    cheers

  5. Brian S

    I’m really curious how the epoxy will turn out. I’m in the painful process of waiting for my doug fir beams to acclimate to my garage and will have to deal with similar checking issues.
    Since I’ve had the timber on hand, I thought I’d use it. I’m gluing two 6×8’s and one 6×12 together for the top. My other hurtle that’s been keeping me up at night, is square or round dog holes.

    2 Questions for Christopher;
    1) What is your plan for the dogs on this bench, round or square?
    2) What kind of glue did you use for the top? I remember you talking about some brown turd substance that you had to heat up. What in the world is that? I was gonna use titebond, but should i use something else? (that was kind of a combination twofer question there)

    Thanks!

  6. Rick Lapp

    Chris,
    Allow me to add my second (third?) to the cries to eschew the epoxy. The wood will always move but the epoxy won’t; it will eventually loosen. Those of us who frequent the WoodenBoat forum have seen this issue just short of a million times. Epoxy does not work well in applications involving thick timbers. It really excells when doing thin laminations. I’m sure the company will have some outdoor projects in the future for your epoxy since it’s shelf life is, essentially, unlimited.
    BTW, I just laminated 6 layers of 4/4 Quercus Alba for the legs of my Roubo. Thanks for all you do.
    Rick

  7. Bradford Joinery

    Thanks some great tips here, I was recently made redundant from my set making job and I’m now working self employed, your website is a great resource in helping me.

    cheers

  8. Jonas Jensen

    I would sure like to stand in a room that was filled with the sweet odour of freshly planed cherry chips.
    Do you have a plan regarding the actual filling? I was considering if adding a bit of vacuum to the opposite side of the crack would enable you to fill it completely, and thereby making a really strong connection.
    By the way, what is the width of the bench going to be? It looks narrower than your SYP Roubo.
    Brgds

  9. Brian K. Ogilvie

    I recently used some black tinted epoxy on a cherry table top. It was a little harder than the wood, but not more than a big knot would be. The scraper seemed to work it well.

    I am curious what you are dying it black with? I used India ink, because that is what I had. Surprisingly, it took exactly one drop to make the epoxy very black for the small amount that I mixed up.

    -Brian

  10. Christopher Schwarz

    Some of these cracks are already running through the thickness. Though not all. We’ll see what happens. I don’t think the epoxy will make things worse.

    And so many people have been asking about this stuff, I feel I need to give it a try.

    Chris

  11. gdblake

    Chris:

    The checking looks like it is deep enough to eventually its way through the slab. I know you want as few glue joints as possible, but I can’t help thinking you may have been better off ripping these slabs up into narrower boards prior to gluing up your top. I do want to add that I admire your openess and courage by taking us along for the ride on what is clearly a tough project. I just hope all of us back seat drivers don’t drive you nuts in the process. Thanks for coming to Atlanta. The workbench presentation was great.

    gdblake

  12. Bear

    I agree with Mike. Cracks add character, and we all like character! Plus, I like the suggestion that they could provide a potential anchor point for a planing stop. Epoxy ‘filler’ has no place in a traditional work.

    Butterflies would also add character …why is it, again, that are you building this bench?

  13. david levine

    I’m curious – why don’t you insert "butterfiles" to keep the checks under control ? When I made my 9′ bench-top, it was glued together from one piece of hard maple that was 3.5" thick (9" wide) and another that was 2" thick (13" wide, at the back). These two huge slabs were glued together but also held tight by three of those "countertop connectors" which meant that there was a space for three butterfiles in contrasting pieces of bird’s eye maple. No problems yet – seven or eight years later.

  14. Christopher Schwarz

    Dean,

    Because if I don’t fill the checks then people will give me crap. And it will look better (I think) with the cracks filled.

    And I bought $158 of epoxy on the company’s dime. Better use it!

    Chris

  15. David Chidester

    I sure enjoy reading about this new bench you’re building. Especially since I just started your Work Bench book (a gift from the girlfriend, she’s awesome!!)and plan to make my first bench. Keep the blogs coming!

    By the way, how wide is this top going to be?

  16. Dean Jansa

    I’ll bite —

    why are you going to fill the checks? I don’t see how they are going to change the way the bench works. In fact, you may be able to shove a little wedge into one to serve as planing stop from time to time!

    They don’t look to pose a structural risk, though it is hard to tell from a photo…

  17. David Gendron

    Chris, it look good! One question, how is the epoxy you will use to fill the cracks on the edge of hand tools? I’m thinking of this, since you will have to flatten the top periodicly!
    Thank you!
    David

  18. Jon Spelbring

    Nice! (except for the black snot – reminds me of a day spend grinding/sanding walnut – ewww)

  19. Randy

    Curious to know if you might be developing a different handle for the backsaw with all the use of the overhand stroke.

  20. Brian S

    Nice work! Looks awesome! Maybe I missed it, but how wide is the bench?

    Brian
    Seattle, WA

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