I have read twice recently that woodworking is a journey. And it is. I can remember being nervous while attending my first woodworking class; “Wood Technology” while a senior at The University of Alabama. For more than 30 years now, I have been on my woodworking journey. But each project is a journey as well. I think this because there is a leap of faith which needs to be taken as a project gets underway. A confidence that you know what you are doing, or mostly doing.
And so it is with my new workbench. I have in my mind what I need to do to make this project a success, but there are unknowns and some assumptions which I hope will end up leading to a successful workbench.
One thing that has been an unknown is what material I’ll use for the base. I have been envisioning a darker wood for the base and a lighter wood for the top. One option I had considered was red oak for the base and ash for the top. The legs for the Moravian workbench are three inches thick which can be made by joining four 3/4″ thick boards together. The red oak at the home center was slightly less than 3/4″ and there is always the possibility that even in their already milled state, such wood may need further surface planing making these less than 3/4″ boards even more thin.
By the way, I was at Lowes. Why does Lowes call their horrible, awful, pitiful economy pine “Top Choice.” It must make Lowes feel good to carry Top Choice lumber, but the pine I saw there was worse than bad…
One reason I was at Lowes looking at their pine is a recent blog post at Lost Art Press (see it here) where they were announcing some openings for a Moravian Workbench class at Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s School. The blog post had photos of Moravian benches under construction with the wood of choice (at least for the base) being pine. Nothing fancy, just good ol’ pine (I’m sure not the Top Choice kind). Since red oak was not a good option and I didn’t like any of their pine, I headed for the door. Something caught my eye – some cedar. It had a kind of reclaimed look to it; once side surfaced and the opposite a little rough. I have never thought to make anything out of cedar; it is a softwood and this stuff was definitely soft, but it looked good. Plus the board thickness was about 7/8″ thick. Wanting to get this project started; wanting to end the constant wondering about what wood I should use, I bought enough cedar for the legs. This week, I got busy preparing this lumber.
Most of my time has been spent doing glue-ups of stock. My miter saw stand was perfect for breaking down stock. I can get three parts out of each eight foot board. The glue-ups had me using every small clamp I own, and even five pipe clamps. All this to glue two leg boards together (highlighted in orange in the image above).
Today, I began milling this stock closer to final size, but still over-sized…
In the photo above, I have leg stock partially glued up and I have some stretcher stock in clamps. I have quite a bit of joinery to cut on the legs. I’ll do the yellow stretcher’s dovetail sockets prior to gluing the two leg halves together. The blue stretcher will need a through mortise which I am thinking about doing at the Alabama Woodworkers Guild. May even do the notch for the red stretcher there as well.
I worked up a little sweat in the workshop today. It has been a nice Spring in Alabama, but it was humid today. In my case humid = sweat and as I began cleaning up from all the mess my planer made, a light shower passed through.
So, this journey has begun and while there is not much to show yet, I hope you will have some faith that it will start looking good soon. 🙂
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