So the bench is drawing to a close, and this will more than likely be the end of the road for the string of build posts. True, I do have plans for a some upgrades and additions, like the nesting cabinet that is going to reside under the bench like a happy little troll gobbling up all my hand tools and a whizbang Moxon vise, but those are going going to be built in a more relaxed and off the cuff manor...much like my overall building style; no plans, no directions, only what my mind and heart direct at that given moment. Ok, so that's not totally true...I will probably sketch out the base cabinet and jot down the key measurements, but there will be no true formal design/plan and the Moxon will probably follow the Bench Crafted instructions to ensure proper function, but that'll be it for following plans.
With that said let's put this baby to bed and get on with building something that doesn't weigh hundreds of pounds...
At this point there were 3 tasks left on the to do list before I could really put this puppy to work: 1 - shape a dead man & track, 2 - build the gap stop, and 3 - put a coat of finish on everything.
Lets start at 1:
The dead man was a piece that was throwing me for a design curve, much as the leg vise had. It too was an up front and in your face piece that really needed something that said, "Look at me and my shiny new body", but wasn't over stated and gaudy. I was stumped...stuck in the woodworking equivalent of writers block...So what now? Well, I took a similar step to how I pulled the leg vise together by milling up my blank and propping it up on the bench rail and then hunkered down across the shop staring at the thing like a mad man. The more time I spent staring at the damn thing the more I thought that I really needed to continue with the art deco'ish theme. I also knew that I wanted to keep the base as wide as possible to ensure the piece would always be stable when in use. I also wasn't convinced on tapering the piece as it neared the slabs either...so how do I make this piece interesting and not just a block of wood with holes in it? That's when it hit me...pull the rising sun rays from the leg vise and incorporate them into the deadman as well, but make them more differenty...you heard me...I said differenty...
I ran through a few different options over the next few minutes with the rays originating at the bottom, the middle, the top, the left, and so on, but I always returned to them originating at the bottom but had trouble with them as they neared the top and keeping them clean and inline with the holdfast holes. What to do, what to do? On a whim I mirrored the rays and had them originating at the bottom and the top and meeting in the middle...AH HA! that's it...the clouds parted and mana fell from heaven...ok, that's a bit over dramatic but I had the design and I was satisfied with it. The added bonus to the look was one of a butterfly or dovetail and easily fell into the fit/finish of the bench.
After roughing out the butterfly shape at the band saw I used a large flush trim bit and a strait edge (in this case my woodpeckers bench rule...it does so much more than measure) held in place with some double sided turners tape to smooth and clean up the cuts. With that out of the way it was over to the drill press to put a bazillion and one holes into it. As I laid these out I followed the recommended patter in 1" spacing. The overall effect was more of a 180* mirror image to the piece, but as I finished up I realized that I wanted one more hole closer to the top of the piece to allow for better support with narrower stock and ended up putting one last hole in; effectively screwing up my nice mirror image...
With all that out of the way I turned my attention to shaping the rays; following the same process as I had on the leg vise using a fence (again held in place with double stick tape) and a 1/4" down cut spiral bit; slowly chewing through the material in order to keep it from splitting out the grain as the ray approached the focal points. Once everything was shaped to satisfaction I turned to my trusty chisel plane to bring the ray meeting points to a sharp transition. After some block plane work and a sanding block the dead man was fully zombified and ready for a test run in the bench.
With the dead man out of the way I then turned my attention to step 3...true I totally skipped over step 2, I admit it...I neglected my poor poor gap stop. Actually this was done on purpose simply because of my overall timing and needing to let the finish have a good 24 hours to cure between each coat and my available time fit perfectly to this schedule so that I wasn't losing any potential build time while I waited for the finish to cure. So you see...there really was a method to my madness.
There was a fair amount of discussion throughout the guild as to what the best finish was going to be to put on our benches. After reading through the discussions and hearing the feed back I stuck with my original choice...plain and simple tung oil. It builds a finish easily, is easily repaired and dries quickly and in my 85* shop with very little humidity, it dried VERY quickly at that. For those of you that are interested the official finish is Formby's low gloss. Overall I'm fairly happy with it in function...it's not the best looking finish that I've ever used but it did dry a little rougher than I had expected; so between the 100 grit sanding and the rougher finish the top is not overly slick and should give any pieces I'm working on that extra stickum power. Ultimately I've given the entire bench 3 coats; which should last me quite a while...or so I hope.
With the finish dry and a few more hours on hand to actually do some work I turned back to number 2 on my list. I mulled my options over on the best material for the job as I still had a full stick of 8/4 hard maple, a number of pieces of 8/4 alder and a few 4/4 alder pieces that were left over from prior builds. The thought of re-sawing a piece of 8/4 hard maple down to a few pieces of 1/2" material wasn't too enticing. Nor was the thought of doing the same on the 8/4 alder...although less opposing, was still not sitting well. That's when I turned my attention to a few pieces of 4/4 alder that were in the lumber rack that mostly survived the flood. They were water stained and the ends were checking from the abuse of "disaster shop". They had dried satisfactorily and were still fairly flat (even after they took the full brunt of the flood) and in my mind had earned their place as a part of this bench...they were a part of my history, just as this bench will become a part of it as well.
So after bringing the alder strips into flat and milling them to 9/16" I was ready to build the stop. If you've been following along from the start of my build you'll remember that I've changed a number of dimensions over the entire bench. One of those dimensions was the overall width of the bench which in turn widened the gap between the two slabs to just over 2-5/8" wide. I know it sounds like a lot of room between the slabs, but when it really comes down to it, it's not that much. However this did pose a problem for the gap stop...even with the strips being 9/16" thick, I was left with about 1-1/2" of open space. I, like many of the others building the bench was drawn to the bench by it's ability to hold tools nicely in the gap stop and work as a pseudo tool caddy; but with over an inch of open space, this was not going to be possible. In order to remedy this I milled up two fillers that I fit into the two center most openings of the gap stop, which brought the open dimension down to just under 1"...just right for catching the handles of the majority of all my hand tools.
I will admit that I do have 2 additional tasks that still need to be completed before I can officially declare the bench done. I still need to apply some finish to the gap stop and to the bench dogs, but in all honesty this is so minor that I'm not worried about it.
So that's basically it...
You're still here? It's over! Go home...
Ok, how about some pictures then, will that make you happy?
And with that...all I can say is: This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end...
Was it worth the time, effort and monetary cost? Absolutely...as a wise man (boy in this case) once said..."It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up!"
Total Build Time:
- 1.5 hours (lumber selection, transport & stacking)
-4 hours (Top Slab milling)
- 1.5 hours (slab prep and glue up*)
-0.5 hours (preliminary flattening of both slabs)
-0.5 hours (Final rough slab milling)
-0.5 hours (trimming end and bringing into flat & square)
-1 hour (cutting and finishing tenon)
-0.5 hours (milling and laminating end cap)
-2.5 hours (milling screw cavity support & routing screw cavity includes markup/layout)
-0.5 hours (routing mortise in end cap)
-0.5 hours (fine tune end cap fit)
-2 hours (drilling and installing end cap includes markup/layout)
-1 hour (milling rough stock for dog hole strip and laminate cap)
-2 hours (production of dog hole template & routing of dog holes)
-0.5 hours (glue up of dog hole strip and laminate cap)*
- 0.5 hour (glue up and alignment of dog hole strip to front slab)*
-0.5 hour (milling of front slab dovetail strip)
-1 hour (set up and layout of End Cap Dovetail)
-1.5 hours (milling and fine tuning of End Cap Dovetail)
-0.5 hour (front strip/dovetail glue up)
-3 hours (routing front slab & installing tail vise)
-22 hours (cleaning, coating, baking and cooling of Vise hardware)**
-1 hour (initial milling of legs)
-1 hour (leg glue up)*
-2 hours (milling base rails to final dimensions)
-1 hour (milling of legs to final dimensions)
-2 hours (setup and cutting leg tenons includes Mr. Cock Up)
-2 hours (layout & cutting of mortises in legs, drilling dog hole access & hold fast holes)
-1 hour (cutting rail tenons)
-2.5 hours (fine tuning mortise & tenons & dry fitting base)
-1.5 hours (cutting and dimensioning bench dog stock)
-1 hour (routing bench dogs to profile)
-0.5 hour (fine tuning bench dogs to shape)
-1.5 hours (bench dog assembly & fit-n-finish)
-0.5 hour (dimensioning & laminating chop stock)*
-3 hours (dimensioning & carving parallel guide)
-1 hour (fit & finish of parallel guide)
-2.5 hours (design & shaping of chop)
-0.5 hour (drawboring parallel guide & chop)
-2 hours (shaping & finish of parallel guides)
-4 hours (installation of nut block, parallel guides, phenolic bushing & fine tuning vice operation)
-0.5 hour (marking drawbore locations & drilling them out)
-1.5 hours (making dowel plate and dowels)
-1 hour (assembling the base)
-2 hours (leveling the base & mortising slabs)
-1 hour (fine tuning slab placement & attaching slabs to the base)
-1 hour (milling router sled rails, positioning the rails & building the router sled)
-2 hours (flattening top with router)***
-1.5 hours (drilling out inclusions & filling with epoxy)
-0.5 hours (fine tuning top with RO disc sander)
-3 hours (milling, routing & fine tuning dead man)
-0.5 hour (milling dead man track)
-1.5 hours (milling & assembling gap stop)
-3 hours (finishing bench with tung oil)****
-3 hours (finishing gap stop & dogs with tung oil - completion date TBD)****
-100.5 hours total
*I havent included my clamp time in these figures if you want to add those figures in, each glue up sat for 24 hours
** Im including the baking of my vise hardware into my build. If you dont want to include this reduce the total by 22 hours
*** With a heavier duty router this process would have been about an hour
**** Drying time of tung oil not added into total. If you want to add it in you will need to add an additional 96 hours to the total.