Joints, Pass; Arm Strength, Fail.
I walked in to work Monday morning with trepidation. After cutting the massive tails and tenons for my new “Petite Roubo” bench over the weekend, it was time to find out what kind of grade I’d earned for my work. My bench instructor was back from Germany, and I was more than a little anxious.
Too scared of splitting the top piece by too-tight joints, I’d not even tried to pound the legs home after my weekend fitting, so while my cuts looked OK to my untutored eye, I had no empirical proof thereof.
But I think I passed. We had to take a few shavings off two of the mortise walls with a shoulder plane, and I had humps in the bottom of two mortises that were quickly removed with a little bit of chisel work. Then, with some encouragement from Chris’s heavy brass mallet, the legs all seated. There are a few small gaps that will be easily shimmed (though mostly for aesthetics , thus you’ll be able to easily identify them and tease me about it at the Woodworking in America conference). All told, the final fitting took about 45 minutes.
So all in all, I didn’t do too badly on the cuts. Where I failed was in arm strength and height. We had the top piece upside down on Chris’s bench as we seated the legs, and I was unable to get my arm high enough above the work to make the weight of the mallet work for me. I might as well have been using a plane-adjusting hammer for the wussy tap tap tap I was able to effect. So I put in my earplugs and watched Chris whack away.
Had I climbed atop the bench to get above the work, I’d like to think I’d have been able to pound the legs home. But, in the picture above, I’m trying to knock out one of the legs so we could move on to fitting the next , and I am above the work. I think I moved it 1/8″ or so.
My goal for today is to get the top glued up so the thing stops looking like a Japanese planing bench. After that, I’d best head to the weight room.
– See where this whole bench obsession started: Plate 11 from AndrÃ?Â© Roubo’s “L’Art de Menuisier.” (Warning: It’s contagious.)
– Want to build a Roubo-style bench? Check out Chris’s “Build an 18th-century Workbench” DVD. He shows you how to build the bench I’ve been working on, using only hand tools. (But I won’t tell if you, too, use the table saw and band saw.)