My 18th Century Workbench in progress 6


During the latter stages of last week I consulted Deneb Puchalski who is my go-to man when I need solid advise. I realised over the past few weeks, since reading up on the characteristics of the PVA wood glue that is readily available to me (a company by the name of Alcolin), that it will be impossible to assemble and clamp the whole bench in one go with the short open-time of these products. I therefore started thinking of using slow-setting epoxy for this task. As far as I can gather it will be at least as strong as the PVA type white and yellow glue (which is anyway quite a bit stronger than the wood), and might have an edge as far as shock resistance. Deneb advised me to consider Tite Bond III (which is a real mission to access in Namibia) or slow-setting epoxy.

The next step was to try and find a good quality epoxy for the job. I spoke to my friend Sigmund Mengerssen who told me about IBS. They stock ABE products. I spoke to a gentlemen by the name of Wolfgang who seemed to know what he was talking about. I explained the whole situation and he recommended OBE’s Epidermix 372 Epoxy Adhesive. It turns out it is the exact same product as what I have been using in small amounts for the past few years, especially for the hand tools I’ve built. This time I bought a bigger supply (1 liter) than the 90 ml I used before. Wolfgang advised me that I will have around 2 hours of assembly time with this product and I gather from the data sheet that it takes 6 hours to become ‘touch dry’, 24 hours to set for ‘practical use’ and a week until it is ‘fully cured’.


I also sent an e-mail to Attila Hoth of Southern Wood Trading requesting two beech boards in the order of 50 x 130 x 2700 that is quarter sawn and not too recent immigrants to this fair land. This should hopefully become the leg vise chop, twin screw chop and two sliding deadmans (or should that be deadmen??).


Finally I got stuck into the joinery phase during the Easter weekend. I took the age-old advise of “measure twice, cut once” quite serious and therefore spent a good bit of time on this particular task before cutting the male parts of the sliding dovetail and mortise at the top of the legs. You can see the carpenters triangle which will help me to locate the legs to their correct positions after they inevitably get mixed up during all the joinery processes.



I used the exact measurements for the sliding dovetail and mortise, which Chris Schwarz deducted from the plate in Andre Roubo’s landmark five-volume 18th century book  “L’Art Du Menuisier”. As I mentioned earlier in this opus, the two books on bench building by Chris is definitely worth buying if you are contemplating a project like this. The plate below I found on the Lost Art Press blog site. You will notice the leg with the mentioned joinery in the bottom left corner (first picture).

plate11_fullPlate 11_bench

Speaking of Chris Schwarz, he advocates that one should, and I quote:

“You don’t need to invent anything, patent anything or manufacture anything to create a workbench that’s better than what’s lurking in the aisles of many stores today. Workbench designs evolved into their highest form more than 300 years ago. And they are just waiting to be rediscovered by anyone who can under- stand that though things are always changing, that doesn’t mean they are always improving.”

Despite his advice, I designed my assembly table with the quick release vise in the middle of the end of it with a removable pipe clamp on either side. The pictures below will hopefully show that this design has at least some merit, during the few years that the assembly table doubled up as a workbench.

Anyway, after a few test/warm-up cuts in a scrap piece of Rhodesian Teak, I found a very first task for my 16″ Lie-Nielsen tenon saw. The effective cutting depth of the saw was found wanting, as you can see, but I guess it is unlikely that I would ever cut tenons of this size again.


To deal to the untouched waste left over on the sliding dovetail tenon, I devised the setup below. A combination of bench dog’s, clamps and handy beams created a very stable slot for the leg to rest while presenting it’s edge for me to go mental on it with my Lie-Nielsen carcass saw. Two kerfs in each of the triangular pieces of waste would make it much easier to later chop it away with a chisel.


Finally, some proper woodwork.


Next I had to set up my bandsaw to make accurate square cuts. As you can see in the second picture, it somehow found it’s way significantly out of square since the previous tune-up. After sorting that out I cut the necessary kerfs, to create the tenon and the back of the dovetail.


In order to cut the shoulder at the back of the leg, I found a very first job for the set of bench hooks I made more than a year ago. You can see how they performed admirably in fixing the leg while I used the carcass saw to cut the mentioned shoulder.


I just realised that there are a lot of firsts (in terms of tools being used for the first time) in this phase so far. Here you can see how I used my shop made so called Brace Bit Birdcage Awl


for the first time to make holes were the Irwin Auger bit can take hold. I decided to use the brace and bit to drill out waste before attacking the area between the two tenons with a mortise chisel. I first sharpened the bit carefully, as it probably last saw action during the Great War. It was actually surprising to see how enthusiastically it munched away the mentioned waste.


Speaking of firsts, this next task also became the first ever performed on my bench-to-be’s top. I clamped the legs to the top where it was resting on my Darwinian saw horses. The pictures show the sequence of destruction I followed to get rid of the waste.


A quick change in clamping position and I could go ape-shit on the triangular section of waste left over at the bottom of the sliding dovetail.


… x 4 and so far so good …



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