Nicholson Bench – construction continues

After some discussion about certain details of the build, we head back to the workshop.

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We still have a few mortises to make.  Most of you know that this blog is dedicated to handwork.  That said, many of the joints were machine cut, due to our compressed schedule.  But one of the goals of this project was to put the construction of a heavy,”first-class” bench well within the reach of woodworkers working exclusively with hand tools.

Remember to position yourself in a way that allows you in maintain squareness while cutting the mortise.

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Tenons on the stretchers are hand cut, as this is considerably easier than maneuvering the long pieces on the table saw.  It’s a very good idea to incise the shoulder line, then create a “guide groove” on the outside of the line with a good sharp chisel.  This makes cutting the shoulder of the tenon much easier.

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It’s important that the leg sets be clamped squarely while the glue is curing.  (We’ll pin them after they’re dry, just for a little additional insurance).  If we were working with air dried lumber we would draw bore and draw pin the leg sets together.  We’ve measured, then used a clamp on the diagonal to pull the leg set into square.

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The material for the aprons has been cut to length.  We’ve decided to shorten the bench a bit.  Originally it was going to be seven feet (7′).  But, bearing in mind, that we’re somewhat limited for space in the classroom, it will now be just six feet (6′).  Still it will be a substantial workbench.  The tops are 2 1/2″ thick and the aprons 1 3/4″.  We had our sawyer, Dennis Sharples plane and rip the material.  Normally, we would have prepared the stock by hand.  But again, some concessions to modernity had to be made in order to stay on schedule.

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Here, Carl and I are dry fitting the base for last Saturday’s demonstration.  I’m really “getting into my work”.

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If I looks as if I’m supporting myself and preparing to faint, it’s due to the fact that we just put the aprons and tops in place.  At this point, the bench is being help together with just four clamps.  Still, it’s amazingly stable even without the fastening bolts that will pull it all together.  We’re guessing the weight at this point is around 225 pounds.  When we’re completely finished, we’ll do a legitimate weight analysis.  Even in it’s shortened form, it could be very close to 300 pounds.

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A little camaraderie at the end of the demonstration.

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Next week our goal is to have all of the boring done for connection bolts and holdfasts, the vise, crochet, shelf boards and cross-members ready to install.

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3 Comments on “Nicholson Bench – construction continues”

  1. rondennis303 Says:

    In this edition of your blog, you said, “If we were working with air dried lumber we would draw bore and draw pin the leg sets.”

    Why would “air dried” versus “kiln dried” make any difference in the use of draw boring?

    • D.B. Laney Says:

      In my experience, air dried stock is usually somewhat higher in moisture content than kiln dried stock and seems to maintain greater plasticity. I believe that it has a greater potential for shrinkage that KD stock. The beauty of draw boring in green stock is that as drying takes place, the structure is actually pulled together more tightly. KD stock will be more stable (theoretically), so the benefit of draw boring is minimized. When draw boring KD stock, I’ve noticed that you have to insure a “minimum” draw and adequate tenon length, as there seems to be a greater proclivity for the tenon to “break out”.


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