THERE IS COMFORT in knowing that others feel the same way I do. I am talking about Joe McGlynn who writes at his blog, McGlynn on Making. Joe builds furniture often in the Greene and Greene style. He has been working on a Blacker House Serving Table, most recently adding delicate inlay to the legs. I left him a comment about how good his inlay looks. He replied thusly:
“Thanks Jeff. Now that I’m on the other side of this part of the project I’m feeling better about the whole effort. And I’m already worrying about how to pull off the next detail…the ebony splines for the bread board ends.”
Worrying how to pull off the next detail – that is exactly how I have been feeling towards my bench seat. I have been procrastinating finishing construction; this delay 100% fueled by worry that I would screw it up! I feel like putting about 10 exclamation points at the end of that last sentence.
My daughter’s window seat bookcase has been one big teaching exercise for me. While I have built other furniture projects using many of these same construction methods, there are several processes which I have not attempted in a while and a few steps I have never attempted before. And the cherry I am using is expensive. An error would likely be costly and just add further delays to my target finish date (which is now June 30th).
A way to make seemingly stressful woodworking less so is to break it down into smaller steps. And that is what you see here. The first thing I need to do in this segment of the build is executing the joinery for what I call the “seat ends”. This component is joined to the seat via a mortise and tenon joint (illustration above).
Making the tenon isn’t a big deal, but making the mortise in the seat ends will be challenging to pull off exactly as needed. Careful marking will be key. Let’s get started… (lots of pictures)
Making Seat Tenons
To make the tenons, I’ll form a 5/8″ x 1/4″ notch on the top and bottom of each end of the seat. I’ll be using my plunge router to make the cuts which define the boundaries of the tenon. What you see below, resting on the seat top, is a jig I made from scraps. Basically this is a fence which wraps around the seat. The top and bottom pieces of the fence are parallel to each other.
I used a similar jig many years ago – the jig layout is an original design of mine. I later saw this same method taught in Fine Woodworking. I thought of it first though :). The jig is easy to make and does a very good job of creating mirror cuts on both sides of the seat.
In the photo above, I am working on the top side of the seat. I carefully position the jig so that it is square to the end of the seat and is located the proper distance from the end. I’m using my adjustable height sawhorses for this operation.
In the photo above, the seat has been flipped over so I can create the bottom half of the tenon.
The fence enables me to locate an identical cut on both sides of the seat. I then used my rabbeting block plane and my new shoulder plane to clean up the tenon. I then repeated this operation for the other end of the seat.
Making the Mortise
Cutting the mortise is accomplished using my current favorite technique – my plunge router outfitted with a micro-adjustable fence. After making layout lines defining the boundary of the mortise, I carefully set up the router and make the cut along the inside of both seat ends.
I find it easier to make the mortise a little narrow and then trim the tenon to fit. My rabbeting block plane is perfect for this task, taking very then shavings off the tenon until it fits.
This process took the better part of the week, working most nights and some early mornings. All-in-all, it went very well. At this point, I have left the seat ends longer than they should be. I’ll trim them to final length and do the needed shaping later.
Adding Weight to the Seat
The design calls for a 1 1/8″ thick board to be added to the front edge of the seat. See the image below…
This board is simply meant to keep the front edge of the seat from looking too skinny. I form the board at my table saw, remove the saw marks and cut biscuit slots for #20 biscuits.
There is a minor alignment problem with the new front edge; it is slightly lower than it should be. Hopefully a little work with my #4 bench plane will take care of this.
I was looking for a reason to get some more experience with my smoothing plane. After removing the seat from the clamps, I went to work making the seat top smooth. Note that I am using my table saw/router table as a work surface. I NEED A SECOND WORKBENCH!
Creating the last segment of the tenon on each end of the seat involved chisels, a hand saw and my block plane. This worked really well.
As you can tell, this step was a lot of work, but there just doesn’t seem to be a lot to show from it. The seat ends are still too long at this point (they stick out too far from the front edge) and both the ends and the seat will be moved rearward to fit into a slot where expansion will take place. I am going to lock the front edge of the seat flush with the front legs.
Also, I need to cut slots for the fasteners which will join the seat to the bookcase and I need to form the final shape of the seat ends. Still a lot to do before construction is concluded. I’ll have more next weekend.
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