Small Workbench: Part 2

It’s time to finish up the small workbench.  At the end of part one I’d put in the mortises and left them a little undersized.  With the tenons cut out, I can now come back and adjust each individual mortise to fit its tenon.  The easiest way to do that I’ve found is to lay the tenon over the mortise and scribe a line at the edge of the tenon.  Then I can come back and pare to the line.


The result are a bunch of tight fitting flush joints.  If the joints don’t fit well, pull them back apart and continue to adjust until the fit is tight.  If the joints are flush you can do some planing/sanding to fix it depending on how bad it is.


As an aside, here are a few of the chisels I’ve been using.  The top chisel is a 1″ Ashley Iles chisel. Under it is one of my favorite chisels.  It is a stoutly built Two Cherries Nero chisel that is great for pounding in chisels.  The last chisel, on the bottom, I use for cleaning up the walls of the mortise .  Together, they work well.SB23

I made a few passes on the table saw to bevel the edge of the legs.  This will keep the legs from splitting out if the workbench is shoved to move it.SB24

Cutting the top to length is one of the jobs I’m least prepared for.  The only tool I have that will work is a skil saw.  The blade isn’t large enough to cut through the top in one pass.  To deal with this, I have to make one pass and then flip the top over and make a second.  This is a little nerve racking because if your cuts aren’t perfect you’ll be left with a stepped edge.SB25

As you can see my cutting wasn’t perfect but the difference was minimal and I was able to touch the edge up later with a random orbital sander.


To keep everything together, I used a technique called drawboring.  Drawboring uses a wooden peg to mechanically lock the mortise and tenon together.  First, a hole is drilled through the walls of the mortise.SB27

Next, the joint is put together and the tenon is marked.  I used a brad point drill bit to locate the center of the hole on the tenon.SB28

The point that indicates the center of the hole is used to mark another point that is offset closer to the shoulder of the tenon.  This new point is used as the center hole to drill a hole in the tenon.  If you reassemble the joint and look down one of the holes in the mortise wall you’ll see a partial section of the hole in the tenon.  When the pin is inserted into the hole the pin will pull the tenon tighter into the joint. SB30

Here’s all the pins I’m going to use.  The smaller ones are for the stretchers and the larger pins are used to attach the legs to the top.  Putting a bit of a point on the ends of the pins helps them go in easier.  A pencil sharpener makes this easy.SB31

I wanted to have a simple leg vise on this little workbench that didn’t require any special hardware.  I settled on using a 1/2″ carriage bolt and nut.  It’s not as strong as traditional bench hardware with acme threads but it’ll work for this.  I drilled a hole in the back of the left front leg and then chiseled it out to fit the nut.  SB32

To create a shelf between all the stretchers I attached some supports to the bottom sides of the stretchers. SB33

Finally, comes the big moment of assembly.  I assembled the front and back leg assemblies and then joined them together with the side stretchers.  The entire assembly is then joined to the top.  While friction should hold the wood pins in, I used a little glue on them to make sure they weren’t going anywhere.


I changed my mind on how I was going to do the leg vise and decided a lower guide was required.  This meant I had to make a rectangular hole in the left front leg.  If I’d thought of this before assembly it wouldn’t be a problem…but since it is all together that makes it more interesting.  I settled on drilling out the waste and then chiseling all the way though.  I ended up with a pretty tight fitting hole that was straight through the leg.


To make a handle for the vise I turned down a piece of Ash and then drilled a shallow hole in the side for dowel to fit into.


I left the pins a little long and came back with a flush cutting saw to trim them down.  After cutting a few passes with a block plane results in flush pins.


Here’s a view of the leg support piece I previously chiseled a hole for.  The smaller holes in the support piece are for a pin to keep the moving vise jaw from racking when tightened down.  It’s not pictured, but I crossdrilled the carriage bolt inside of the leg vise’s moving jaw so I could insert a pin.  This pin will keep the jaw of the vise moving with the handle.


With the assembly finished up I gave everything a good sanding and then finished it using an equal mix of varnish, boiled linseed oil, and mineral spirits.


That’s it!  This little bench uses all the techniques Christopher Schwartz laid out in his book for a full size Roubo Bench (which I built previously and you’ve seen in pretty much all my pics) but made of lesser materials and hardware.  While the vise doesn’t clamp down as hard as regular leg vise it holds small pieces of wood adequately for sawing and planing.  Unlike my full size bench, this one can easily be picked up and moved about.


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