Blood, Sweat, and Sawdust

Going against the grain

Tag: roubo bench

The Best Laid Plans…

What is it that they say about the best laid plans?

Completing the Roubo workbench base had me on a high.  That all came crashing down Sunday afternoon.  While marking out the location for the draw-bore pins, I noticed that something was a little off.  Upon closer inspection, I realized that the pins for the short stretchers would come too close to the mortise walls for the long stretchers.  This is a result of moving the tenons back on the front stretcher.  I did this so that they wouldn’t interfere with the mortise for the vise hardware.

Stretcher Mortises

The pins for the mortise on the right would come too close to the mortise walls on the left.

If only I had included the draw-bore pins in my Sketchup model.  I would have known of the issue, and been able to plan around it.  Fortunately, this isn’t a huge setback.  It just means that I will have to drop the pins for the base and glue the tenons in place.  I can still draw-bore the base to the top.

I took it all in stride.  I finished a few details while I worked out what I was going to do about the base.

Sliding Deadman Notch

Sliding Deadman Notch

I completed the notch in the front stretcher for the sliding dead-man.  I marked it out with a pencil and cut the chamfer with a block plane.  You can see how thick I made the front stretcher.  The Bench Crafted criss-cross mortise is 1 7/16″ deep, so I made the tenon 2″ back from the front of the stretcher to avoid issues.

Sliding Deadman Grove

Sliding Deadman Grove

I also cut the grove for the sliding dead-man in the bottom-side of the top.  I made quick work of this with a plunge router and fence.  A spiral up-bit kept everything clean.  It’s wise to do this in several passes.

I was also able to start milling the boards for the vise chop.  I’m using some old-growth pine boards I scored from work.  They aren’t hardwood, but they are incredibly dense.  Once I finish the chop, I can install the vise hardware.  I need to complete this before I permanently attach the base to the top.

Stay tuned.

You can find links to my other Roubo posts here:  Project Index

Roubo Workbench Build: Leg Tenons the Hybrid Way – Video

I intended to demonstrate cutting the large leg tenons for the Roubo workbench build two different ways: by hand and with the aid of a band saw.  Unfortunately, my camera shifted while I was cutting the tenon cheeks.  Consequently, you’ll only get to see my poor cross-cutting skills today.

Marking Out

I like to start by marking out my shoulders.  I prefer to do this using a square against the long grain, as opposed to using a cutting gauge against the end grain.  I get more consistent results.  I hold the square using my thumb against the stock and one or two fingers on the blade.  Make sure that you draw straight back with your knife.  Start with one or two light cuts, and gradually increase pressure.  Flip your piece, place your knife in your previous line, reference your square off of your knife, and repeat.  Always make sure that you are referencing your square off of your face or face edge.

Once I have my shoulders marked out, I move on to the cheeks.  I use a simple wheel gauge for the cheeks.  I set the fence and give it a couple of quick passes for each side.  There really isn’t much to describe here.  When I’m finished, I like to darken all of my lines with a mechanical pencil.

Cutting the Shoulders

With the marking out-of-the-way, I move on to the shoulders.  In the video above, I am using a small backsaw.  Before I start sawing, I make a little trench on the waste side of my work piece with a chisel.  This gives my saw a little groove in which to ride.

I start by drawing the saw back a few times.  This deepens the groove, and helps ensure I stay on track.  Next, I take a few light passes on the far corner, and lower the saw plate until I’m taking cuts across the entire width of the leg.  At this point, I saw down to the baselines at the corners to make sure that my cut stays square.  I finish the cut by removing the triangle left in the center.

Cutting the Cheeks

This is the easy part.  I believe this is the best way to cut tenons.  If you have a band saw and haven’t given it a try, what are you waiting for?  Simply line up the fence to the waste side of your line, and go.  Cut down to your shoulder line, flip and repeat.  It’s fast, easy, and produces a nice square cut (assuming you set up your band saw properly).

Cleaning Up

With the waste removed it’s time to start cleaning up the shoulders.  The band saw produces square cheeks right off the saw.  I will mark the mortises directly from the tenons.  There is no need for them to be identical, only need square.

Use a chisel and deepen your knife line on all three sides of your shoulder.  Then, take over-lapping passes from on side to the other using your knife line as a reference.  If you’ve left too much waste, you might have to take a couple of passes.  It’s easier than trying to remove 1/16 or more in a single pass.  Check your work with a small square.  I undercut mine by a few thousandths.

Stay tuned.  Mortises are next.

You can find links to my other Roubo posts here:  Project Index

Music: Good Old War – My Own Sinking Ship

Roubo Legs: Squaring End-Grain

There’s a bit of stigma when it comes to squaring end-grain.  It really isn’t all that difficult.  Just follow the same rules you do for long-grain and make sure you have a sharp plane iron.  The real trick is ensuring exact, crisp layout.

Knifing in the line

Knifing in the line

Start by knifing in your line using an accurate square.  Assuming your board is 4-square, your line will be perfectly perpendicular.  Here are some tips to ensure your layout lines meet perfectly as you move around your board:

  1. Always reference your square against your true face or true edge.
  2. Ensure that you’re holding your square securely against your stock.  I like to place my thumb in the center of the square stock and a finger on the blade.
  3. Start your knife line with two very light passes, followed by one or two heavy passes.  This will ensure that you establish your line without applying too much lateral pressure to your square.
  4. Ensure that the bevel of your knife is towards the waste side of your board.
  5. As you move from one face to another, place your knife in the previous line and slide the blade of your square up to the knife.
Increase visibility with a mechanical pencil

Increase visibility with a mechanical pencil

Create a trench using a chisel

Create a trench using a chisel

Once I’ve established my knife line, I like to go back over it with a fine mechanical pencil.  The effect is subtle, but makes the line more visible.  I then follow up by chiseling out a small grove on the waste side of my line.  This will give my saw a small groove in which to ride, and makes the cut easier.

Kerf in your line with a small back saw

Kerf in your line with a small back saw

Once, I’ve chiseled out a groove, I establish a saw kerf all the way around the stock with a fine backsaw.  This will help keep the cut square when I move to a more aggressive panel saw.  From there, I complete the cut on my sawbench with a panel saw.

Squaring the end-grain with a low-angle jack

Squaring the end-grain with a low-angle jack

With the waste removed, I start truing up the end-grain with a low-angle jack plane.  I work in from the outsides to avoid tear out.  I approach this exactly like I would long-grain.  I check everything with a square, mark the low spots, and plane the high spots.  I repeat until satisfied.  Once I’ve squared up one end, I mark the leg to final length, and repeat on the other end.

A good glue joint should break along the grain, not the glue line

A good glue joint should break along the grain, not the glue line

I like to test my offcuts for a good glue-joint.  The offcut should never break at the glue-line.

Next up, I will cut the tenons for the legs.  I will show you how to do this two different ways.

You can find links to my other Roubo posts here:  Project Index

Roubo Build: One Stout Bench Top

One Stout Roubo Bench Top

One Stout Bench Top

Everything I’ve done for the past 6 weeks has built to this bench top completion.  It isn’t easy milling up 8 ft long sub assemblies that weigh over 50 lbs apiece.  However, the wisdom gained was worth the effort invested, and the rest of the Roubo build to should go more quickly.

I can’t believe the stability of the Roubo bench top.  There’s zero flex, even with my 190 lb frame down bearing directly over the center.  It don’t think it would have a problem with a Buick parked on top.  At nearly 200 lbs and 4 1/2 inch thick, it shouldn’t have any problems with the modest amounts of abuse it will see over its lifetime.  Overall, the build has gone smoothly, but it hasn’t been without its lessons.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to take your time. I sped through the early stages and ended up with some small gaps in the sub assemblies.  This is likely due to small amounts of snipe from the planer, which I didn’t initially notice.   I don’t expect this to affect bench top durability, but it is a constant reminder of my impatience. The seams between the sub assemblies are virtually gap-less. I will mask the gaps with some epoxy, unless anyone can give me a better solution.

Roubo Bench top clamped web

Bench top clamped web

If you attempt a build like this take your time, plan, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.  The legs are already in progress.  I have already ripped, jointed, and stickered the boards.  With any luck, I will have the blanks glued up by the end of the weekend.  Stay tuned…

You can find links to my other Roubo Build posts here:  Project Index

 

The Importance of Planning

Failure to Plan

Failure to Plan

I’ve heard it said that, “failure to plan, is planning to fail”.  This is how I felt yesterday afternoon as I prepared to glue the two halves of my bench top together.  I quickly discovered that I had forgotten to purchase more paint rollers to spread the glue.  I didn’t have a sufficient alternative, so the glue-up will have to wait.  Fortunately, another warm day is right around the corner.

I didn’t let this hiccup set me back.  Instead, I started working on the legs.  I rough cut all of my boards and set them aside.  Today,  I will joint and edge and rip to width.  With any luck, I will be gluing up the blanks this weekend.   The important thing is to keep moving.

Stay tuned.

You can find links to my other Roubo posts here:  Project Index

When Things Come Together

Roubo Benchtop Clamped Up

Roubo Benchtop Clamped Up

Sometimes you just get lucky. That’s what happened to me when I went to test fit the two halves of my bench top. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better fit.

Prior to fitting, I gave the two matting edges a quick touch up as they were each out of square by a few thousandths. Somehow I managed to get one of the 100 lb halves on to the other by myself. I lined up the edges, and then gave it a quick once over. Each edge was slightly concave, giving me about 1/64th gap in the middle. I checked for cupping along the width and found very little. Needless to say, I am both surprised and relieved.

Checking the Roubo Top for Cupping

Checking the Roubo Top for Cupping

A perfectly sprung joint

A perfectly sprung joint

Unfortunately, the weather is still too cold for the final glue-up. That will have to wait until Monday when the temperatures are supposed to rise into the low 60’s. Stay tuned.

You can find links to my other Roubo posts here:  Project Index