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Joinery Workbench

author-gravatar joelav May 11, 2018

I have a rather large Nicholson style workbench that I've been using for about a year. It's great for dimensioning lumber and heavy joinery work like chopping mortises. However it's too low for a lot of finer joinery tasks. I decided to make another much taller bench for joinery specific operations. I'm not sure if this bench has a "style", I just made it specifically to suit my needs and how I work

Nothing special for wood here. I subscribe to the idea that workbenches should be made of whatever is cheap and available. I also prefer a softwood bench over a hardwood bench. 2x4's and 2x6's from home depot. In my area that means Douglas Fir

I was in no hurry to get this done, so I decided to use hand tools most of the time. Since this is joinery specific I don't need anything huge. I decided on a 22" wide 6 foot long split top that is close to 38" tall. I cut the best 6 foot sections out of the 2x4's

I did use a powered planer to get the 2x4's an even thickness, but I jointed them with hand tools first. I also wanted to be sure I marked the grain direction to make flattening it after much easier.

Gluing up the slabs 

I also laminated the legs and stretchers. The legs are about 4 1/2" square, and the stretchers are about 3" square. Here is the pile of parts waiting for joinery

I start cutting mortises into the top(s) for legs. About 1" wide and 2 1/2" deep. I decided to do a single large tenon instead of double tenons. I'm more concerned with shear resistance than glue surface area here. The veritas dual marking gauge makes this task super easy

I don't have a 1" mortise chisel, and I don't think I'd want one. I remove the bulk of the waste with a brace and bit

Then on to the tenons. I saw the shoulders first with my carcass saw (even though these are technically shoulderless tenons). 

Then the cheeks with a large ryoba

I clean the tenons up with a wide Japanese paring chisel 

and test fit. I didn't seat them all the way at this point. Softwood compresses easily and I didn't want to compress anything more than necessary. 

Now I fully seat all four legs so I can check them for square and properly layout the joinery for stretchers 

1" tenons again in the legs. Drill then clean up

Test fitting the stretchers, again only a little more than half way

Sometimes I get into a rhythm while working and forget to take pics. This is one of those times. I made a leg vise chop (laminated two 2x8's) and a parallel guide. The parallel guide is the only hardwood here (ash). I also pre drilled the leg for the screw and cut the mortise in the leg for the parallel guide before assembly. This made things so much easier 

Assembled and painted. This is general finishes lamp black milk paint after the 2nd coat. I put a total of 4. this stuff is very durable. You can see my sawhorses in the background are painted as well and the paint is holding up nicely. 

Dog holes! I use a corded drill for this and an Irwin speedbore auger. These are self feeding so the handle is a must. I also made a jig to keep the holes plumb and the same distance from the edge. I screw this to the underside of the bench top when I'm done. It makes adding future dog holes (in the same row) easier

I line the center mark used to drill the hole in the jig (on the drill press) up with the line on the bench, clamp it down, and drill

After it's all lined up, I just drill right though

And there is a nice even row of dog holes. 

And we're done. I took the vise off my Nicholson bench. That really is a "viseless" workbench and performs much better without them

The center board is removable. Since I use Japanese saws a lot I like too flip my bench hooks around and use them hooked to that surface. It also allows room for slipping clamps into to hold work

1 comment

Thanks for sharing the dog hole jig made in the drill press. As with all great ideas, it's ingeniously simple to execute and produces good results every time.

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