Sat, 2012-02-18 11:20 - Bryan White
I've read that what separates a beginner woodworker from an experience woodworker is their ability to fix their mistakes. With that in mind this project is testing my woodworking abilities. It seems as though this bench top wants to fight me every now and then.
At the end of the my last post I had just finished gluing the tops. After the clamps were all removed I inspected that tops and was fairly pleased with the results. Working on the bottom sides I did some checking for flatness, and thankfully my previous efforts paid off and only minor cleanup was required. Both tops went through the planer and were brought to a final thickness. The vise top half had a slight crook to it, so it required some passes over the jointer to ensure straight edges. Thankfully this was an easy fix and the only side effect was a slightly narrower top.
In order the cut the slabs to length I made a jig to ensure square and accurate cuts with my circular saw. More details can be found here. I did a few practice cuts before performing the final incisions. That same practicing prepared me for the initial shoulder cuts for the tenon and some hand saw work finished it off. The groove for the vise screw was created using a router and a straight bit. I was happy with the results!
The end cap was next on the hit list and after gluing some 8/4 Cherry together I machined the blank to final dimensions. Off to the router table to create the mortise and after many passes I decided to check how close I was on the fit. My heart almost stopped when the end cap slipped nicely over the tenon... it wasn't supposed to fit yet! Thankfully proper measuring created an acceptable joint. Following the plan I laid out and drilled all the required holes to secure the end cap. The corresponding holes in the bench top were put in as well. This task was a friendly reminder that drilling into end grain can be tricky and the bit will tend to wander.
I started out this post by talking about mistakes and yet everything has seemed to go so smoothly. This is where things started to go a little sideways. The holes I drilled in the top were less than perfect and a chisel was required to perform the proper tweaking - minor issue. The next day when I came back in the shop and notice a huge crack had formed in the end cap. Time to start that piece over! When making the replacement piece I incorrectly measured a hole location and didn't realize it until I was mid way through drilling the hole. After some expletives, I determined I had enough material to trim off an end and reuse one of the holes.
It was around this time that I notice some gaps in the top. It appeared as though the top was separating, but with the gluing method I used how could this be true? After some investigation I was still confused but felt it unlikely the top was going to fall apart any time soon. I decided to put some wood filler in the gaps for two reasons. One, I wouldn't be able to see the gaps so they wouldn't bother me as much. Two, if the top was moving at all the gaps would reappear and I would know I've got bigger problems.
Lastly on my agenda was making the bench dog strip. The first step was making the jig for the router. The jig is simple to make and using the jig is a two step process. Step one is to remove the bulk of the material with a 1/2" straight bit and a bushing in the router. Step two is using a pattern bit to finish the dog hole flush with the jig. A problem arose quickly. The pattern bit required the use of 1/2" thick plywood to ensure it could comfortably reach the bottom of the hole while the bushing required 5/8" thick plywood to have proper clearance. The solution was simply making two different templates. After some practice dog holes, I started on the final dog hole strip. While routing the final pass on the first dog hole I noticed the template shifting. I panicked and instead of just releasing the pressure off the router I pulled it out of the hole... and of course I took out a chunk of the template on the way by. Not wanting to build a new one, and grabbed some body filler to correct the issue. It now sits waiting to be sanded back smooth for a second chance at life.