stevenbunn Sun, 03/27/2016 - 15:42

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Drawer Dividers

At this point you think you are ready to start assembling the bench base. But wait. There is one more thing to do before assembly. Sliding dovetails secure three drawer dividers to the front face of one of the two bays formed by the bench legs. Sliding dovetails are milled on the ends of each divider. These in turn, slide into dovetailed dadoes cut on the inside faces of the two legs that form the sides of the bay you have chosen to be the drawer rank. Lay out the location of the three dividers on both legs. I clamped the two legs together and used a temporary fence clamped across both legs to center my router and dovetail router bit in the centerline of each divider. I then cut a dovetail profiled dadoe across both legs in a single pass. I repositioned the fence and cut the remaining two pairs of dadoes in the legs. Quick, easy, and safe. Do this before gluing up the base. Mark the mating leg faces to be dovetailed. Then recheck to make sure that you have correctly marked the right faces.


Cut dovetailed dados for the drawer dividers with the pair of legs clamped together and marked out. One pair of grooves has just been cut.
stevenbunn Wed, 03/23/2016 - 06:58

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Building the Base (Cont'd)

Then stand each panel on edge and make straight cuts to create the tongues.
stevenbunn Tue, 03/22/2016 - 20:02

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Building the Base (Cont'd)


To determine the dimensions of the raised panels, I dry assembled the base frame, first fitting the legs, center stiles and rails together to make the bents and then adding the stretchers between the bents to complete the frame. This allowed me to check my 'as built' dimensions against the 'as planned' dimensions. After taking measurements for the panels, I marked out the locations of the panel grooves on the frame members. I marked the locations prominently to prevent myself from cutting a groove in the wrong face of a frame member. With the layout complete, I disassembled the base and plowed the grooves for the panel grooves with a dado blade on the tablesaw.

The raised panels were glued up from 5/4 soft maple and thickness planed to 7/8 inch. I cut the raised panel profile in two steps on the tablesaw. I use a simple to mill 45 degree beveled profile on all my raised panels. I have also made the profile in several different ways. Tim is a stickler for saftey, and objected to my standard set up, where I form the tongue on the panel first using a dado set, then cut the beveled edge of the profile with a fine toothed blade set at 45 degrees. For this series of photos I cut the raised panel profile first. Then cut the tongue on each panel using a shop-built sliding panel jig to cut the tongue.

Raise the panels in two steps. First cut 45 degre bevels on all four sides.


stevenbunn Tue, 03/22/2016 - 19:20
Build a Shaker Work Bench
Building the Base (Cont'd)
Mortise and tenon dimensions. For ease of construction all of the mortise and tenons are milled to these dimensions.
stevenbunn Mon, 03/21/2016 - 10:05

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Building the Base (cont'd)


Cut the tenon shoulders on each rail using a crosscut blade and a sled. Clamp a stop to the sled
to establish the length. Make four passes, one for each face.
 I used a crosscut blade and sled to cut the shoulders of my tenons. All of the tenons on the base components are sized identically to make construction easier. Cut the shoulders in two setups. On the sled set up a stop so that the length of the tenon is one inch. Set the  crosscut blade to the depth of the tenon's SIDE cheek, 3/4 inch. Then cut the shoulders of the SIDE cheeks on opposite faces of each part being tenoned. Reset the blade height to 1/2 inch and cut TOP and BOTTOM ( FRONT and BACK on the verticle dividers) shoulders of the tenons on the remaining two faces of the stock. I then changed blades and installed a dado set, to waste out material and create the tenon's four faces. I used a miter guage with a temporary fence and the T-square fence to reestablish the tenon length, Repeat the two step operation used in cutting the tenon shoulders. Cut the tenon cheeks with the dado set at one height, making a series of passes over the blade to form the cheeks, then reset the blade height and cut the remaining two cheeks of each tenon. Clearly mark the faces of all stock. I went to trouble of setting all the components being tenoned with the same face up or down, so I would not get confused and cut a tenon to the wrong depth.
stevenbunn Mon, 03/21/2016 - 08:55

 Snowing heavily this morning, so the mole isn't poking his nose out of the burrow. I'll wander out to the shop later this morning and get a fire going in the wood stove. I spent much of Sunday fitting spindles into the mortises in both the chair seat and the comb. Even though I turned spindles on the lathe, I find that all the various parts need to be

Fan-back side chairs with spindles and combs dry fitted to the under carriage of the chair
test fitted to insure that nothing binds and hangs up once glue is applied. I spent a long time with a spoke-shave tapering the top of each spindle until it was able to fit easily in it's mortise to full depth. A tedious but important task. I carved the volutes on the lobes of the combs Saturday. I left the back sides of the combs uncarved and full width so that I could drive the combs on and off the back posts and spindles without taking a chance on crumbling the thin top edge of the fully shaped combs. Now that I am satisfied with the fit of each comb, I will go ahead and finish shaping the comb's back faces. Then on to final glue-up.
A quick note on technique. In the photo if you look closely you will see that the combs haven't been driven on completely. I have glued the lower spindle tenons into the mortises drilled in the spindle deck. Tapping the comb on partially helps to insure that each spindle is set at the proper angles to side and rear as the glue dries. I have found that if I were to attempt a glue up with wet glue in both the seat and comb at the same time, the act of pounding on the top of the comb to set it in place can suck a spindle partially up out of it's mortise in the seat. When this happens it is difficult to work the spindle loose from the comb and force it back to depth in the lower mortise. To get around this, I glue the spindles into the seat and let them dry before mounting the comb. Two steps instead of one, but worth it.
stevenbunn Sun, 03/20/2016 - 19:17

Building a Shaker Workbench (cont"d)


Building the base


I milled the frame members of the base from 12/4 soft maple. After crosscutting the rough material to approximate length, I jointed one face and edge to square up the stock. Then I ripped the pieces slightly oversized. I went back to the jointer, and resquared all the material which I had just sawn out. This was done to eliminate any twist or bowing created by the release of internal stresses in the wood as the wide stock was cut into smaller widths. The frame pieces were then passed through the thickness planer to clean up the last two rough faces. With the stock at final dimension, I cut the individual components to length, allowing extra length on the center stiles, rails and stretchers for tenons. After the stock was prepared, I oriented the best face of each piece to show and arranged the legs to best match grain patterns across both the front and back of the frame. I marked each piece to maintain the grain match during milling and assembly.


Drill mortises in the legs with the drill press. Then square the shoulders with a chisel
I laid out the mortises on the legs, rails and stretchers and milled them using a forstner bit chucked in the drill press. A temporary fence was mounted to the drill press work table to center the forstner bit correctly in each piece being mortised.The mortises were cut 1-1/16 inches deep to allow for glue compression and to keep the 1 inch long tenons from bottoming out and preventing the joints from pulling together snuggly. All of the mortises in the bench legs open onto one or two adjacent mortises. This requires that the meeting corners of the meeting tenons be cut back at a 45 degree angle so that all tenons can fully seat.


stevenbunn Fri, 03/18/2016 - 07:34

Building a Shaker Work Bench (con'd)


Bench Design


The Shaker bench I built is loosely based on a large Shaker bench found at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA. I have always admired the ranks of drawers and doors that front that bench's base. I scaled the bench down in length to fit a space in my shop. For simplicity I modeled the frame of the bench's cabinet base after a typical New England timber-framed barn, like the one on our farm. I used standardized stock dimensions, and production methods to streamline parts manufacture and assembly. All of the cross section components share a common layout of their joinery, so that they fit together into three identical "bents," just as you find in a timber-frame. The bents are connected by eight rails, which are tenoned into mortises cut into the sides of the legs to complete the base's frame.


The 12/4 maple was incredibly heavy, so I cut the stock down in size to make things easier
when I milled the material for the base
A key element of the design is the six legs which transfer working force from the bench top directly to the floor. The frame is strong and massive, but provides a great deal of flexibilty in how the drawers and doors are finished out. I like the look of the original bech which inspired this one, with double doors flanked by a double rank of drawers. To reduce the length of the bench I eliminated one of the drawer ranks, shortening the base by almost 30 inches. I like to work on all sides of a bench. And, the bench is going to be placed where it can be viewed from all sides by vistors to the shop, so I was concerned that the bench looked good from all angles. I filled the side and back voids in the frame with raised panels.
The basic frame can be modified to accept different combinations of drawers and doors. Want a bench with all doors, or doors? Maybe doors on one side of the bench and drawers on the opposite side? Or, even double fronted drawers that can be pulled open from either side of the bench. Any of these combinations can be fitted to the frame of the bench I built.


stevenbunn Thu, 03/17/2016 - 15:36

Building a Shaker Work-bench




Shaker work-benches appeal to me for a number of reasons. First is their sheer size, presence and beauty. The long wide top offers space for almost any project, with room left over for all the tools and what-nots we like to keep close at hand. A Shaker bench's large top brings out my inner Walter Mitty, letting me play aircraft carrier commander in my mind. I can shout, "Swing her into the wind," and launch hordes of imaginary planes into the skies in my mind. Equally important as size, the enclosed space, behind doors or sitting in ranks of drawers in the base, adds a great deal of useful storage in a space that normally is under utilized. Additional storage, which is something every shop I've owned or worked in always needed more of. I evaluate every tool cabinet or workbench plan I read about with an eye for wasted unfilled space that could be better used. As I look back over the last few years in my shop, my efforts have not revolved around purchasing new machinery, but instead trying to improve the organization, efficiency and storage within the shop. And, I expect that every available bit of space in my new bench will be filled before I know it.


My original Shaker Bench on which the new one is based. Just a tad bit crowded. So many
projects, so little time


stevenbunn Sat, 03/12/2016 - 16:34
Turning a narrow spindle with the help of a steady-rest
I have been in a week long spindle turning marathon. Luckily, I am almost done. Earlier I turned and sanded spindles for two fan-back side chairs. These are short and thick enough in diameter so that I can turn them using only a gloved hand to steady the spindle stock as I turn it. Narrow, longer, spindles like those used on a sack-back chair require the use of a steady-rest to support the turning, and prevent it from wobbling uncontrolably. I built this steady-rest for use on the new long bed lathe I built in January. This has been my first opportunity to use the rest. I am very pleased with it's performance. The sliding fingers that butt against the turning are locked in place by hand-screws turned from ash.  The screws thread into threaded holes which pass completely through the rest from side to side. This lets me move the screws from one side of the rest to the other, depending on which side of the rest I am using the tool-rest. So, on Friday, I split spindle stock from ash, squared it up for the sake of convenince, and then cut stock length-wise into an octagon. This saves material and makes turning easier. I turned the lower end of each of nine spindles. Today, I moved the tool-rest to the right of the steady rest. Then I turned the narrow upper length on each spindle, then sanded them. Tomorrow, I will use a chisel or draw-knife to pare away the thicker nub, and blend everything together with sand paper.