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Signing up for a woodworking class, like the one I’m teaching this week at Kelly Mehler’s School in Berea, Ky., is a lot like going on a cruise. When you tackle a big project at home, it’s easy to stick with the things you know, and put off the next big step. The energy of the class pulls everyone along. Wednesday morning we needed to complete the surfacing on the tops, and move on to joinery for the bases. The ship was sailing and everyone was on board. Or so it seemed.

To carry the seafaring analogy one step further, I thought I had a mutiny on my hands when I announced we would be surfacing the tops with hand planes. Then I explained that we weren’t about to jump down some Schwarzian rabbit hole; we were going to knock of the high spots on the bottoms and run them through the 20″ planer. In a couple hours, nine tops were surfaced and cut to length, and we moved on.

I designed my bench to be useful for both hand- and power-tool work, and we’re using a combination of methods to produce these; the tenon shoulders are cut by hand and the cheeks are cut on the band saw. The large through-mortises had most of the waste removed at the drill press, and the edges are cleaned up with chisels and floats.

By the end of the day, this became a common sight, and by noon on Thursday we should be ready to move on to the next step.

The 21st-Century Bench we’re building was originally the cover project for the October 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. You can get the back issue by clicking here. You can get a free SketchUp model of the bench by clicking here. We also made a video of the original project, and you can see a preview by clicking here.

– Robert W. Lang

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