Workbench #2: Chunky legs, chunky joinery


Late last year I put in a few days labouring work for a friend who was demolishing an old timber house so that he could build on the site. A lot of the timber was rotten, and he was saving most of the good stuff for his wood burner, but he let me have a couple of pieces and I earmarked them for my bench legs.

20160710_160601The plan was to get three legs out of one of the pieces, and one leg out of the other.
With t20160710_174456he legs roughly cut to length I began by planing reference faces and edges and increasing the thickness by laminating them with some old pine boards I had kicking around.

I20160711_145827 finally came to the shorter piece, for the final leg, but as soon as I cleaned the crap off it I saw lots of wormholes. I don’t think that there was any worm still living in it but the wood was crumbly in places and so I had to chuck it and resort to laminating three lengths of 2″x4″ for the final leg.20160711_145838




Once all the legs were planed down to their final dimensions (approx. 5½”x4″) It was time to move onto the joinery. The Roubo bench legs are joined to the bench top with two through tenons, one of which is a sliding dovetail, open on one side.

I looked at The Plans and they stipulated that the tenons should be cut first and then the mortises. This made me a tad uncomfortable because I have always done things the other way round, on the understanding that it is easier to cut something20160714_130656 to fit a hole than it is to cut a hole to fit something. I decided to ignore the expert advice and cut each mortise first, then cut the tenons to fit.

I remember this as a nerve-wracking time. The chances of me happening upon the right sized timber to make another bench top were vanishingly small, so I knew that I couldn’t screw this up. I agonised over these joints for an embarrassingly long time, but in the end I just had to grit my teeth and bloody well get on with it!

I marked out the bench top and began by boring out for the regular tenon, cleaning up with a mortise chisel.

I then cut the sides of the dovetail at an angle of 45º and made a series of 90º cuts to make chopping out the waste easier. Next, a clean up of the cuts with a paring chisel and router plane, and I could move on to the tenons.

The first one went quite well, and I was pleased with the result – one down, three more to go.

Presto! All four legs done and dry fitted. Some of the joints were better than others, but all of them were better than I had expected, given that I hadn’t done anything like this before.20160719_125716

The next job was to mark out for the stretchers. The Plans called for timber in dimensions I just didn’t have, so I was forced to make do with some more 2″x4″‘s. But that is for the next post. See you then.





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