The Super Saw Bench finale….

So the Super Saw Bench is finally finished…..it was quite the project, but well worth it…I’m very pleased with the results.

I’ll walk you through the final construction details and then a couple money shots. ūüôā

So if you read my last post ARecipeForBetterSawing then you got a peek at the supports that I cut for the leg assemblies. I realized as I was trestling up the bench, that I was going to have a hell of a time attaching the legs to the two top pieces, so I devised these side supports. The idea was, I could glue them to the cross members of the leg assemblies and drill through them to attach the top pieces with lag screws.

Take a look….you can see the side supports glued on. I used some yellow pine I had that fit the bill nicely…

This was my first time working with yellow pine…I pulled this sweet quarter sawn piece out of the trash somewhere. (Yes, I rescue wood from the trash. Doesn’t everyone?) ūüėČ

After I¬†glued on the side supports, I had to true up the two top pieces. I hadn’t touched these since cross cutting them way back when after I ripped the original 6 x 8 beam in half. Planing rough white oak is tough enough, but spotted with knots and reversing grain like these two beasts were, was no fun at all…

With the tops trued up I could lay up the legs and top and mark out the lag bolt holes. I went back and forth a lot about how to join these two together…I could have used massive oak dowels, ala timber framing, or cut dados into the cross members and just glued them. I voted down this last method because of concern for cross grain movement. In the end, I stayed true to my simple values and went with lag screws. Quick, tough, and easy.

Yes, I broke down here and used power tools…the only time in the whole project. Oh well….my arms and shoulders were killing from all that planing and I told myself it didn’t count as a power tool ’cause it doesn’t have a cord. ūüôā

Anyway, the impact driver made quick work of the 6 inch lag screws…four in each leg assembly. And here she is….

As soon as she was done, I flipped her¬†on her feet¬†and grabbed the closest board at hand, slapped her on the top, and had at ‘er with my favorite crosscut #7.

All I can say is…..WOAH…she is STURDY!!!! Like a well bred¬†Bavarian beer maid, this lil¬†lady took all of my weight bearing¬†down on her with nary¬†a squeak!!! ūüėČ

Say goodbye to my old saw bench (Sorry Chris!!!)…the Super Saw Bench is HERE!!!!

I’d say she weighs a good 125 to 150 lbs…hard to tell given the size. The bench is touch over 4 feet long and 12 inches wide. I left a space in between the two top beams to allow ripping down the center. The only thing left to do is bore the holes for the hold fasts…

Oh, and once I had the final assembly together, I did true up the top with my jointer plane. I started with diagonal strokes across the ripping trench, and finished up with the grain….just like truing up a bench top.

In an up-coming post, I’ll bore the holes for the hold fasts and show her in action.

Oh, and since this post was a little light on gratuitous saw action shots, I figured I share some pics of my latest saw rehab…I finally finished the handle on that Disston #12 from the¬†¬†GramercyToolsSawHandleMakersRasp¬† post a little while back.

Here she is reunited with her other half….

I stained the patch with some red mahogany stain and finished with amber shellac rubbed out and waxed. I think the repair went well. I actually had to carve some wheat leaves in the bottom of the handle to blend the patch appropriately…that was a first! (Look Marv!!!)

Once I get her sharpened up, maybe I’ll break her in on my new saw bench. ūüôā

-Matt

Published in: on January 27, 2011 at 10:09 pm  Comments (17)  

A recipe for better sawing…

I’ve been having an¬†on going¬†conversation with Mark Harrell of¬†BadAxeToolworks¬†over email, and Mark has graciously shared with me some of his experiences and insights as a saw maker. One¬†particular insight¬†that struck me was how many times he sees woodworkers approach his table at a show, pick up a saw and bench hook, and be completely unable to saw square despite the exceptional function of his tools.

This got me thinking about what a revelation making and using a bench hook for the first time was for me. It truly changed my work over night.

And a recent post on WoodNet from a woodworker looking for pointers on sawing plumb and square to a line, prompted me to respond with some points that have been especially helpful to me, as well.

So, as I was cutting the final joinery for my super saw bench I figured I would share my thoughts on accurately sawing up on a workbench. And the following is my recipe for sawing square and plumb….now, mind you, none of these pointers are my own ideas….they were collected¬†from great WW minds, both past and present. Each one was a giant revelation in how to saw better. Add them together and you’ve got a winning combination…

1) Use a bench hook. If you don’t have a bench hook, make one. You will be AMAZED!!!¬† Here’s some plans for bench hooks: http://www.ehow.com/how_4689202_make-bench-hook.html

2) Track your saw in two dimensions. Mark your cut on the face, and the edge of the board and learn how to watch both lines as you stroke. This will make you line up your saw, arm, and body with the cut line. Learn to track both lines, and you’re gauranteed better cuts…

 

3) Another way to track in two (or three dimensions)…try kerfing¬†in the cut on two or three sides before making the full cut. Kerf in the face, and both edges of the board 1/16th to 1/8th deep and then use those to track the saw. This will automatically guide that saw as the teeth will naturally follow the path of least resistance, i.e. the existing kerf.

4) Slow down! No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to cut a board as fast as your power miter saw. This, for me, was one of the most important lessons in hand tool wood working. I had to force myself to let go of the desire to work as quickly as with power tools. I don’t make furniture in a factory. I don’t work in a cabinet shop. Time is not money. Money is money, and time in my shop should be fun. Now, when I work in my shop, I actually enjoy the WORK!!! I like planing, I like chiseling, and I LOVE sawing! I don’t even care when I finish something…its the process I enjoy now.

5) Lighten up! Loosen your grip and don’t force the saw, either forward, or downward. Just like in golf when you learn to drive the ball..let the club do the work like¬†my dad always says. The same principle applies here….let the saw do the work. This was one of the things that Mark mentioned that most WW get wrong…the death grip!!!! When you eventually learn how to control the subtle nature of the saw stroke, then you can apply gentle force in just the right time parts of the stroke. How loose should you hold the saw? So loose that if the work and bench suddenly disappeared beneath you, it might fall to the floor. Seriously….(almost) that loose. You want to just wrap your fingers around the tote and hold it oh so gently enough that you feel the back curve of the tote pushing the¬†inside of your palm when you stroke forward. You want to ruin the accuracy of your cuts when learning to saw? Grip it like you’re swinging an axe: certain disaster.

6) Finally, if you’re not getting accurate results, don’t keep cutting the same way. Remember the definition of foolishness: taking the same action over and over and expecting a different result. So change it up. Saw in a different position. Try it in a vise, try it on the bench hook. Try it with a back saw, try it with a hand saw. Eat them in a house, eat them with a mouse. Eat them in a box, eat them with a fox. (Sorry…who doesn’t like green eggs and ham?!?!?)

Add these up and what do you get? Table saw accuracy without the envigorating threat of losing a thumb…

And for the truly bold and courageous of you, you can do what I did and¬†FORCE yourself to become a better sawyer: sell your table saw and give your compound miter saw to your dad so he can cut kindling with it. ūüôā

Happy sawin’!

-Matt

Published in: on January 19, 2011 at 9:01 pm  Comments (11)  

The super saw bench joinery…

It’s funny how life throws things at you sometimes….one minute you think you’re alright, and then SMACK…you’re knee deep in pucker-hole debris. This past Saturday was one such day….it began innocent enough…

After my ritual of morning coffee and saw literature review, I made my way down to the shop all ready to start chopping mortises for the super saw bench leg assemblies. A little while in, my mallet, which has served me well for 6 or 7 years, decided to spontaneously disintegrate. I spent the next three hours clawing through my scrap pile to find a chunk of suitable species, cut and dimension it, chop a mortise through it for the handle, shape said handle, assemble and wait for the glue to dry.

Have you ever chopped a three inch deep mortise in canary wood? without a mallet to drive your chisel???¬† Not Fun. Yup…that was about it for the day!

Anyway, on Sunday, with the mallet ready for action it was back to work. Finally!

So now that the stock is dimensioned, I set about laying out the leg joinery. The leg assemblies will each have two legs joined by a massive open mortise and tenon joint to the cross beam that the top will bear upon.

So at this point you’re probably wondering if I’m working from plans, or sketches, or some kind of visual guide, and the short answer to that question is, well, no. I don’t like plans, drafts, mock-ups, drawings and the like. I prefer to have a specific idea in my head and build to that….any changes I make along the way are a result of the process. Back to the bench…

Since the legs of the bench will splay out slightly to add stability, I start by making the angled cuts on the bottoms of the legs. I mark the cuts with a bevel gauge and use my trusty bench hook to make the cuts…

Next I stand the legs up and mark the finished height of the leg for the top cuts…

Once again to the bench hook, and here are the four legs at their finished dimensions…

Are you starting to get a visual? I am!

Next up, I lay out the shoulders of the tenons on the legs using the cross member as a guide. You can see how I lay set the legs upside down and against the cross beam…

Now its a simple matter of marking the width of the tenons. I don’t use any special formula here….I go for a tenon a little over an inch thick. Here’s a pic of the first leg tenon marked and ready for the saw…

…and the first cut…

…the results…

You can see my scribble lines to mark the waste area. Believe me…always mark your waste area!!! You don’t want to get halfway through cutting all of your tenons only to realize you’ve been cutting on the wrong side of a line. (DAMHIKT!!!)

Things are really getting exciting now! Cutting tenons this deep and thick in white oak is definitely work, but it is truly a pleasure. I absolutely LOVE my new tenon saw….I couldn’t even imagine sawing these monsters with a 12 inch saw. You can read all about my newest 16 inch spring steel companion here.

So, on with the work. Lots of tenon cheeks to cut….

If you’re very astute, you’ll notice that I changed the orientation of this leg in the vise…that’s because this is the first project I’ve done since I installed¬†the leg vise in my Roubo¬†workbench. I quickly realized that you should always clamp the work so that your thrust pushes directly perpendicular to the bench. Its funny how you read something somewhere and it doesn’t really stick until you learn it¬†while working.

Anyway, I won’t go into the details of cutting all the cheeks. If you want the particulars, check out last weeks post on HowToSawATenon.

Here’s the first two finished…

After a break to re-fuel and hydrate, I polished off the last two leg tenons. I next use the tenons to mark out the open mortises on the cross members…

Rinse and repeat x4, and more sawing (this IS called the Saw Blog after all!)…

These cuts are a lot like the tenon cheek cuts because the mortises are open on the back, so its just like sawing a negative of the tenon. I do have to finish off the cut with a panel saw due to the depth…

And now for something completely different….chisels!!!! ūüôā

After the cuts are made to define the width of the open mortises, I have to chisel out the waste. And for those of you following along at home, take my advise and don’t bother making four inch deep and one inch wide mortising cuts with a firmer or bevel edge chisel. Use a mortise chisel. And a big mallet…

Here’s a look inside…

Once again, repeat x4 and the hard part is over with!

At this point I could hardly wait to get the legs together…and I was surprised at how well they did fit. Here’s the first one dry fit…

I hope you can start to see what the final bench will look like. When I got this first assembly together it took my breath away….its pretty cool to take an idea in your head and just saw and chisel away until you reveal it in the wood…..Damn this is fun!

I dry fit the other assembly, tweaked one of the cheeks, and it was out with the glue bottle! I painted the cheeks of the tenons and inside the mortises and voila….

There’s nothing I hate in the world more than clamps, and I avoid them like the plague. Thankfully, these went together just snug enough to not need any extra security. Call me crazy.

They dried over night last night and look great today. I’ve got a few sharpening projects I need to do for a customer this week, but i should be able to finish up the bench this weekend and take her for her maiden rip!

Stay tuned!

-Matt

P.S…..and in case you’re interested, I added a pick of my new mallet. Its a canary wood head (reeeaally dense and heavy!) with a beefy cherry handle…

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 11:41 pm  Comments (6)  

How to saw a tenon…

A few years ago, when¬†I was still a young buck, I decided to make a bedside table and wanted to cut all the joinery by hand. I remember after¬†cutting the tenons for the table skirt to leg joint, I was left with an overwhelming feeling of wanting to slit my wrists out of frustration. I should note that at that time I probably couldn’t have told the difference between a tenon saw and a roast beef saw.

Well, some years have passed since then and I’m only slightly wiser and about 50 lbs heavier…go figure. I do, however, finally have the proper tool for making such joinery cuts…a 16 inch tenon saw filed 10 points rip. You can read about the re-birth of my new saw here in my last post.

There was a method to my madness when I decided to take this old saw down the other day and tune it up finally…I knew that my new super saw bench that I’ve been working on was going to have some pretty honkin’ big tenons, and thusly need a pretty honkin’ big saw.

So I was in the shop today sawing the joinery for said bench, and while I won’t be posting the next installment of the bench build until I finish the leg assemblies, I figured this would be a good chance to share just how I go about cutting a tenon by hand. Besides having the right tool, a couple of tricks can help.

After marking out the tenon cheeks and shoulders, I chuck the work in my leg vise so that the cheek is perpendicular to the length of the bench. This allows unobstructed sawing and provides the most secure clamping of the work, as the saw strokes thrust against the mass of the bench, as opposed to clamping the work so that my stroke would be parallel with the length and could loosen in process.

Now that the work is secure, I go about kerfing in the cut on¬†two sides. I start with the end grain on top of the tenon. Its important here to use a light stroke starting with the toe resting on the far edge away from you and slowly lowering your stroke until level. I aim for about a 1/16 to and 1/8 inch of depth…just get a good kerf established…

Next I kerf in the cheek facing me by placing the saw heel along the cheek line and lightly stroking upwards…

Now, I’ve created a two-dimensional kerf guide for my saw and can begin sawing the cheek. The trick, however, is to cut the tenon in two separate actions…in essence, dividing the tenon cheek into two equal triangles, or corners as Adam Cherubini says.

I begin with the saw teeth buried¬†in the top kerf and apply pressure in my stroke on the heel. This way, the toe doesn’t start to cut on the far cheek line…

With each stroke the corner gets cut away. You can see how I don’t cut into the far cheek line…

When I reach the base of the cheek, I’ve cut out the first “triangle”¬†and¬†can flip the work around in the vise and kerf in the opposite cheek line…

…and then saw out the remaining triangle…

And finish by bringing the cut to just a hair shy of the shoulder line.

By using this two stage approach to sawing a tenon cheek, I’ve found that it eliminates¬†the two biggest frustrations in hand sawing: 1) By using the two kerfed¬†in lines as a multidimensional guide it ensures an accurate and plumb cheek¬†cut, and 2) By keeping the saw teeth at¬†an angle¬†to the face grain¬†(by¬†keeping the toe higher than the heel) it ensures the most efficient action of the teeth and a swift cut.

Making these two changes to my tenon sawing routine turned me from wanting to throw myself onto a spinning table saw blade, to wanting to saw tenons for no reason what so ever ’cause it’s so damn fun!

And after the cheeks are done, it’s a quick trip to the bench hook to saw the shoulders…

And voila…

Repeat for the other cheek and shoulder, and we’re done!

A few swipes of the shoulder plane and she’ll be ready for fitting to the mortise.

Tune in next time and I’ll be putting the legs together on this saw bench so I can get back to working on my tools….enough of this silly woodworking already!!!!!!

ūüôā

-Matt

Published in: on January 1, 2011 at 10:52 pm  Comments (5)