My 18th Century Workbench in progress 7


After removing the bulk of the waste from the male parts of the joinery, I used my shop made marking knife to mark out the exact lines to work to. In the pictures you can see how I used a whole range of tools to do the precise cleanup work.



In these pictures you can see how I used a very simple jig to get the shoulders of the tenon exactly 90º.


Again the assembly table came in handy to set up the leg for some precision pairing.


I then used the setup as illustrated below (referencing off the shoulder lines of all the legs) to identify the final length of the legs. The bench will be 82,5cm high (32.48″). Replaced the carpenter’s triangle at the bottom of the the legs after chopping off the waste with the bandsaw.



Here I took on another arduous planing task by preparing the two reference surfaces of the two sets of stretchers. After lots of deliberation, rereading Chris Schwarz’s book and even the translation of the first chapter Andre Roubo’s 18th century book  “L’Art Du Menuisier” (on the Lost Art website), I decided that my stretchers might be a bit of an overkill at 170 mm (about 6½”). Therefore I shaved off 40 mm to bring it back to 130 mm. The final product will in the end be back at 150 mm after adding some Witpeer to make the stretcher appear as if it consists of only Witpeer, but we will get back to that later.



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 …



My 18th century Workbench in progress 5


Today I received the long-awaited Lie-Nielsen hardware for my bench and two new tools that will make it so much easier to build it. As you will see the shipment includes a large closed throat router plane, a large tongue and grove plane, a single screw vise (for the leg vise) and a chain drive twin screw vise (for the twin screw face vise with 24″ between screws). As you might remember, I am planning to put a twin screw vise in one of the face vise positions (as per the classic Holtzapffel design) and a leg vise in the other, as my bench will be accessible from both sides (rather than being braced against a wall). You will have to be patient in order to see the hardware liberated from the safety of it’s packaging. For now it will stay snug in it’s LN travel gear.


The Marking All-rounder


I have a few of these Marples & sons cast steel centre bits that lost it’s centre pin (for the lack of a better term) somewhere between the late 1800’s and the present day. You might remember a post where I fashioned a so called Brace Bit Birdcage Awl from one of these bits some months ago. In the photos below you will see a centre bit that is still completely functional and one that I converted into a marking all-rounder. By this I mean a tool that is compact (can be carried around in my custom made leather shop apron) and functions as a marking knife as well as a birdcage awl. If you click on the pictures they will open up in a larger format, which should help to explain how the shape of the cutting end would accomplish the all-rounder status. I wrapped some leather around the shank for a comfortable grip.



Stanley Bedrock no. 607 Jointer rehab

24/7/2014 This #607 Bedrock arrived today after an arduous journey across the Atlantic Ocean and the Equator. It left Ashby (Massachusetts) in the US of A on 7/2/2014 as carefully packaged by Patrick Leach. I cannot say enough good things about my dealings with Patrick so far. You can find his details on the library page of this site.

I first thought that the plane only needs it’s blade to be sharpened, but eventually succumbed to my obsession to redo it completely. I have to warn you once again that it might not be a good idea if you want to sell the plane in future, but I am not a collector and do not plan to part from this plane. The only tools that I have been forced to part with are those that got stolen over the years. TIA as they say, this is Africa.


Here are some photos of the plane as I took it apart.





The frog screws and frog adjusting screw were a bit difficult to unscrew due to gunk and rust, but after a soaking in Q20 it could be persuaded to vacate it’s cosy abode.




Today I received the frog and blades back from Kenney at the Prop Shop who bead-blasted all the gunk and japanning to Kingdom come. You will notice the blade and chip breaker of a #10 in the picture, but I am writing a separate post on that process.




This what the main casting looks like when cleaned by a professional.



Masking tape before makeup.



The rust converter coat.



The anti-rust undercoat.



The frog with it’s enamel paint finish.



Main casting after painting.



Japanning finished … now for the bits of metal work … flattening surfaces, sharpening blade and prep chip breaker.



On Friday I managed to sharpen the blades of both the #607 and #10 that I am currently working on. Then on Saturday morning it was time to reassemble the #607. Interestingly I had to shorten the frog adjusting screw in order to set a fine mouth opening. I am not sure whether this is a common issue, as it was not the case with the #606 I restored previously. The blade had a bevel angle of roughly 30º, which I hollow ground back to 25º with a very slight camber. I used a honing angle (1000 grid Ohishi waterstone) of 33º and a polishing angle (10 000 grid Ohishi waterstone) of 35º as I work mostly with exceptionally hard wood.





As you can see it was well worth the effort and works like a dream straight off.




Stanley no.10 Rabbet plane rehab


This ca. 1910 Stanley no.10 Rabbet plane arrived today after crossing the Equator and the Atlantic Ocean en route to the Land of The Brave. It is another of my acquisitions from Patrick Leach.


Here you can see what the blade, chip breaker and lever cap looked like as I took the plane apart.


I found ample evidence that the plane was used at some point between 1910 and 2014, as you can see.


Initially I decided to only send these three parts (from my latest acquisition) for bead blasting, but then changed my mind and sent (second picture) all the blades, chip breakers, the #10’s frog and the #607’s main casting off too. (see posts entitled “Third acquisition from Patrick Leach” and “Stanley Bedrock no. 607 rehab”)


As you can see here, the main casting lost some japanning during it’s 104 year tenure.


During a very brief (less than 4 days) visit to Kenney at the Prop Shop it lost all of the rest of it’s japanning, rust and gunk.


The lever cap were bead blasted and then plated with cadmium.


The blade and chip breaker (left two) received the same treatment as above.



I hope to get close to finishing this rehab over the next weekend. So hopefully will be able to post the rest of the drama next week.


I first applied a coat of rust converter followed by an anti-rust undercoat (first picture). That was followed by three coats of black high gloss truck enamel.


After removing the masking tape, it looked like this.


Initially I I thought that the frog did not need the full treatment, but after try to clean it realised that it really should get the benefit of a bead-blast exfoliation. It is pictured with the #607 Bedrock (you will find a seperate post on this rehab) shortly after returning from the spa and after the rust converter, followed by anti-rust under coat and enamel paint.


Starting to look like the business.


Posing with the #607.