I finally get to see the top of the bench! That 3″ maple slab is
a bit really difficult to maneuver. To get it onto the base, I have to do it in stages: lift one end on to something, lift the other, etc; but once up there, it is easy to move around and pop onto the pegs, which seem to work really well.
I had flattened the top with a router sled, then used a #7 to get most of the machining marks out and leveled. There is a lot of nasty grain and the #7 left lots of tear out. Here, I’m using three smoothers, set for varying depths of cut to do the final smoothing (kind of like using different grits of sandpaper). The Gordon (right) is taking the “deep” cuts because, at 60°, it has no desire to tear out.
The base is a putty and paint job, which meant that, as long as the joinery was tight, assembly was pretty much anything goes. Which I took a bit too literally. Off the top of my head:
- I do glue ups like a baby does food. But glue everywhere is easy to paint over.
- I decided to drawbore the base. I’ve done this with four hardwood joint stools, I’ve got it wired, fir (a softwood) would be easy. Yeah, you guessed it: two broken pegs and two blowouts out of 24 pegs (that I remember). I think I [only] made two mistakes: softwood has a lot more friction than hardwoods (even with wax) and 3″ is a lot longer than 1 1/2″. What seemed to really help was drilling the tenon hole a bit oversize (but still offset, oversize in that I could push the peg only a ways into the tenon). Pegs really don’t like glancing hammer blows. The pegs that broke flush I drove in with a pin punch, which worked fine as there was lots of room on each side of the tenon (ie the peg holes were longer than they needed to be). Then glued in the broken peg end.
The peg holes are blind (don’t need the length and fir is going to blowout) but were too deep. I was trying to leave 1/4″ at the ends but drilled deeper and that may have not been enough anyway. Think big, large chucks caving off a glacier. But, with glue, putty and paint, I can’t find them.
- On the other hand, I do like the process of draw boring and the extra mechanical lock. Benches see big racking forces so that is nice insurance, even though I doubt it helps all that much if the tenons are long and a good fit in the mortises.
- I was able to glue up and peg the base one or two joints at time. Great for peace of mind and a measured pace. Slather on the glue, clamp, peg, unclamp, move to the next set.
- Clamping on top of a mortise (the solid [blind] side you can’t see): Don’t do that, the top of the mortise may be a lot thinner than it should be, the tenon may not bottom out and the mortise makes a horrible sound when it collapses.
The paint is apple red with a royal blue dry brushed topcoat. Which makes purple. Didn’t think of that (was going to use black but thought that would be too dark). The splotchy look is intentional (a riff on the “antique” rubbed through look). With time, I might like it.