Home > Woodworking > Building Jeff Miller’s – “A Benchtop Bench” – Part 2

Building Jeff Miller’s – “A Benchtop Bench” – Part 2

I am blessed. Last weekend I was able to squeeze in a few hours in the shop between a class I’m taking on Saturday and celebrating Father’s Day on Sunday. I am blessed. My middle daughter wanted to take me out on Sunday so my preference was to go to the movies. We went to see “Jurassic World” and as I mentioned on Facebook, “Nothing screams family like dinosaurs eating humans!”. I am blessed. My oldest daughter doesn’t really acknowledge holidays but she was around and decided to go with us and treat me to frozen yogurt. Doubly blessed.

This weekend I had the last installment of my class and was asked to spend some quality time with Callie (middle daughter) again on Sunday. She was building a computer from parts and really needed my help. If you knew me, you’d know that I work with computers all week long and have done so for 35 years. As you might imagine, this wasn’t on the top of my “favorite things to do on Sunday” list. I have to admit however, between the two of us we got the thing in service AND I still managed a little shop time as well. And the result was some memorable time together with my daughter. Did I mention that I was blessed?

Art's Work

Last weekend I was able to cut the mortise and tenon joinery for the trestle legs which was no small feat considering how badly I botched the mortises. My thinking was that I would setup my drill press fence and some stop blocks and hog out most of the wood. Unfortunately I didn’t set the fence up carefully enough and all my mortises were not only off center, they were slanted. The result was that I couldn’t really use the table saw or even the bandsaw to help me cut the tenons. I cut the first tenon with my saw and it came out pretty acceptable. I decided that I could speed the process using the band saw and although the tenons looked fine, the fit wasn’t so good because the mortises weren’t symmetrical and the tenons were. So I cut the last tenon by hand again and found it was the best fit of the lot. I don’t think there was any harm in experimenting. I did observe that my Veritas rip backsaw cut through that pine 2×4 material “like butter”. I finished up the weekend by gluing up the trestle legs.

The next step to tackle over this last weekend was to cut the mortise and tenons for the stretchers and install the bolts that would hold them in place. I was a little nervous over both tasks but into the wilderness I went. I began by cutting the quarter inch tenons on the table saw using my cross cut sled. The work progressed easily and the result would have been without incident had I been a bit more careful. In my zeal I nicked up one of the ends. Opps, oh well it is entirely serviceable for a work bench.

To cut the mortises I first agonized over the layout. Clearly I haven’t done this sort of think enough times to have method. I could measure the tenons accurately with my calipers, but how do I center the mortise. I can locate the center of board, but this I have to divide the caliper reading in half and layout each side, resulting in obvious error. It was madness I say. I could eyball it, but then I noticed I could never keep the stretcher perfectly verticle. Finally some sanity prevailed. Ultimately I could lucky. I measured up from the bottom of the trestle on all four riser pieces. This would be the bottom of the mortise. I drew a center line down the center of the board and using my calipers, I measured where the top of the motise would fall and drew a line. Were I got lucky was having a drill bit the exact width of the mortise. All I needed to do was to set my DP fence so that my drill bit tip was dead on the center line and I could hog out the wood. The work went quickly and surprisingly, very accurately. I used a ruler to draw a straight line on both outer edges of the drill holes and cleaned up with chisels. Did I mention I was surprised things went quickly?

So the next step was to lay out the bolt holes that would attach the stretchers to the trestle legs. Placing the bolt on top of the two pieces I made a mark on the wood were the bolt tip ended. This would be the center of the nut access hole. Using my largest Forstner bit 1″ 3/8″, I drilled to within about 1/4″ of the outside face. I was nervous about making a rookie mistake and drilling through so I double checked my DP depth stop several times before starting the task.

Next I dry fit the trestle assembly and hel and drill the bolt holes. I started by drilling a smaller hole from inside the mortise, then flipped the pieces over and used the small hole to locate where to drill with the larger bit (sized for the bolt). The plans called for hex bolts but I had purchased carriage bolts which I felt would be suitable so I decided to go ahead and used them.

Drilling through

Drilling through to the access holes

I was now ready to mock up the assembly and using the trestle holes as a guide, to carefully drill through the end of the stretchers into (hopefully) the center of the nut recesses.

Stretcher Nut Recesses

Stretcher Nut Recesses

The first one was easy, so I got careless and one of the holes was just a bit off center. This made access to feed the nut on the bolt a bit challenging. Well they were all difficult but all very manageable save that one.

Be careful and drill staight!

Be careful and drill straight!

Other than cleaning up my laminated vise jaws, time had run out for the weekend. Next up I’ll attach the bench top to the completed trestle and then begin work to fit the vise. Admiring my vise jaws I now realize that I might have “over achieved” as they are a bit beefy. I may decide to downsize the bench side face and use just one of these big guys.

Attaching the top, then the vise is next.

Attaching the top, then the vise is next.

Perhaps I’ll save one of these for another vise and just use 3/4″ face on the bench side?

Beefy laminated oak chucks.

Beefy laminated oak chucks.

Thanks for stopping by Turtlecove, until next time……




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