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!!!! 🙂

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!


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)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow! How much does that weight?

    • It certainly ain’t light…and that was the whole idea! I’d say each leg assembly maybe weighs around 20 lbs? About as much as my cocker spaniel anyway 🙂

  2. I know this is the saw blog and all, but how about a picture of the new mallet?

    • You know I was just thinking to myself that it is conspicuously absent from the post, given that it ended up being a part of the project! I’ll snap a shot and get it up tonight.

  3. I like your saw bench. Is the splay about 20 degrees?

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