Barn News

Sgt. Don’s Bench Boot Camp

This is the “Week of the Bench” as I am joined at The Barn by old friend Dave Reeves and newer friend Jason Weaver, who is the webmeister of this site.  When  I asked Jason to design and construct the site, one thing he asked for was to spend time at The Barn “learning stuff.”  This is the first installment.  Three guys trying to finish two benches in five days.  hmmm.

I’ve been assembling a nice inventory of large-ish hunks of lumber, and a stack of vintage (salvaged around 1950?) 12-foot long 5×12 Douglas Fir beams struck me as a nice starting point for a Roubo bench, and Jason agreed.  The end result will be (we hope) a ~8-foot Roubo bench with a pair of Benchcrafted vises.

Dave had somewhat different bench needs, as a successful furniture restorer he did not need a massive behemoth like a Roubo, so he is making a lighter weight version of the same concept.  He arrived with a pair of 3-1/2″ hackberry (!) slabs and a bunch of other timbers to make his bench.  His only vise will be a leg vise with an Erie Toolworks screw.

I promised a fairly vigorous if not brutal pace of work as we all worked side-by -side, and thus far we have kept to that promise.


We began Monday evening by running all the slabs through my friend Tony’s giant planer, and Tuesday morning we set to getting them glued up.


My Ryobi 6-inch timber framer’s portable joiner was conscripted for the task, along with a scrub plane, and #5 set up as a fore plane, and a #8.



By noon we had them glued up and set aside, with leg stock prep on tap for the afternoon.


The afternoon was all about getting leg stock flat, square, and true.  Both guys made progress, with the goal for today being the readiness of all the leg stock and a good start on flattening the glued up slabs.  While our choreography was a bit off in the steps,  we done good.


By the time we stopped for dinner both tops were flat, and legs were coming together nicely.



Again, the typical progression was from a coffin plane set up as a scrub plane, a #5 used as a fore plane, and a #8 jointer to finish things off.


This is pretty much what you want to see coming off the blade when trueing up.


As we finished last night the sky was ablaze with an azure and fluorescent pink composition with a crescent sliver of white highlight.

Today was all about keeping things moving forward, fast.  To help with the cleanup problem we hauled the bench tops outside to keep the mess out there.


Both ends of the tool spectrum, with me using my power planer to hog off a lot of stock in a hurry, with Dave in the background using a horned wooden plane set up as a shallow-cut fore plane.



The slabs of Douglas Fir are going to make a spectacular bench.  I will probably be using it at WIA next week.


While both guys were busy, I snatched some time to finally flatten my very first Roubo bench from several years ago.  I will add a crozet and some dog holes on the left leg.


Dave trued his legs and cut the double tenons (and learned about – and learned to love – holdfasts in the process), and Jason should have his four legs ready tomorrow.

Again tonight there should be no insomnia in the ranks, as we are finding consciousness leaving the grounds fairly early, and arriving late.  Aching joints and groaning muscles are the hallmark of the morning, but once we get going we seem to be almost ambulatory.

More later.