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A Dedicated Sharpening Bench
A Dedicated Sharpening Bench – part 3

November 30, 2009

With the bench top work surface squared on six sides I’ll measure and lay out the rabbets for the bread board ends.

Deep scribe lines will help eliminate cross grain tearing and when I clamp the piece into my shoulder vise I’ll again add my thicknessed backer board to help with the spelching. I begin the rabbet with a special purpose rabbet plane but once established I change over to my medium shoulder plane. I find I get a better inside edge with the shoulder plane. I think this may have something to do with the nicker on the rabbet; it’s necessary when getting the rabbet established but I find the small nicker helps the plane to slowly work its way out from the edge. With the shoulder plane this is eliminated and I can create a much cleaner rabbet.

I should mention that the rabbet plane I was using has a small set screw so I could have stopped and retracted the nicker after the first few passes, but having the shoulder plane ready was a little faster.

With the rabbet cut I’ll check for square and flip the board over to cut the bottom edge. This same process is repeated on the opposite end of the surface establishing the thickness of the bread boards. From here I get my apron stock prepared and cut to length making sure I’ve included all of my joinery. I measure and plough out the dado in the end pieces. Once the grooves are complete I change gears to lay out and cut my dovetails for the apron. These dovetails are laid out as you would for any through dovetail except we’re dealing with a larger scale. I scribe the thickness of the aprons to their mating pieces, lay out my dovetails and start sawing. The oak, at 1 1/4″ thick is just about the maximum my small dovetail saw can handle but I get them done and can now lay out the mortises for the bread boards.

I’ve only cut my dovetails into one end of the apron- I’ll wait until I finish and fit the main work surface into the side aprons before I commit to the placement of the opposite front apron.

Bread Board Ends

At this point I can dry fit my dovetails and check my dado is lining up between the pieces. I measure and divide the long tenon I still have rabbeted into the ends into three tenons. The entire length of the side will have a small shoulder plus these three tenons. I mark out the cuts and the mortise position inside the dado. For 90% of the mortises I cut I follow this procedure. Once properly laid out I begin with a brace and bit and remove the bulk of the waste.

I then follow with a mortise chisel and clean up the ends as well as determining the final depth. With the mortises chopped, the tenons cut I’ll try a dry fit. Now I can establish the opposite end of the front apron and I lay out and cut the through dovetails.

The back apron is laid out and the dovetails are also cut at this point.

I follow with my plough plane and plane out another dado into the top of the rear apron. This groove will become a channel for a work holding tray later in the build.
From here I cross cut, plane and glue up some pieces to create the back splash which also serves dual duty as the front panel on the tool tray.

This also gets a matching groove opposite the rear apron we just finished. I’ll bevel the inside of these grooves to make the sliding tool holder a little easier to move.

I have my work surface and apron joinery complete; in the reading and research on work benches I’ve done I decide to incorporate a through bridal joint for the front legs where they meet the apron. This will create a very strong frame as well as making the front legs of the workbench flush with the front apron- a real benefit when I add some other work holding features to the piece. This being a small work space I try to make the most of my workshop projects and have them serve dual duty.
I lay out and rip down the deep leg joinery; this is sawn down and then the bulk of the waste is removed with a fret saw and cleaned up with a chisel. The corresponding tongue of the slip joint is cut into the front apron.

With a good dry fit I’ll measure and mark the small shoulder that needs to be cut into the back of each leg. Since the leg stock is 1 1/2″ thick and my apron stock is only 1 1/4″ thick, I have 1/4″ of material that needs to be removed so the work surface can sit up tight to the apron. I could cut out a small section of the work surface, leaving the full depth of the legs but I decide to remove the material off of the legs creating a small shoulder the surface will rest on. I can do another dry fit with the front legs attached and really get a sense of the bench dimensions. I begin with the two apron ends and then dry fit the front into the dovetails. I insert the rear apron and flip the piece over on my bench top. Now I can slide in the front legs and see how I’m doing…so far so good! Here are some shots of the dry fit assembly thus far~

Top surface with side and front apron attached.

Rear apron dovetails

Tool tray framed with rabbets

That completes the top joinery and front legs for now; I’ll get my stock ready for the rest of the frame and start the mortise and tenons next time…

Additional content-
Had a comment on how I cut the half lap in the legs- here are a few additional shots. The half lap or bridal joint is laid out and the legs are ripped down in my shoulder vise. I then remove most of the waste with a fret saw and clean up the bottom with a chisel. The small rear shoulder that will sit under the table top is cut on my bench hook- hope that explains it more clearly…thanks for the comments.


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