Drawboring the Workbenches


 

Yesterday morning Robell, Mike, and I met at the studio to pick up where we left off on the bench build. We had just begun fitting stretcher tenons into their mortises at the end of day one so we picked back up there in the morning. When we cut the tenons, we followed Mike’s mantra “When in pine, leave the line” as pine is so great at compressing when joinery is assembled. Because we intentionally left them a hair thick, they almost all needed some paring to slide home.

 

Then we began laying out the bridle joints for the rails joining the top of the legs. We cut out the stock to length and transferred the exact shoulder-to-shoulder width from the stretchers below. The easiest way to lay this out is to choose your tenon width based on your stock size and then mark all the tenons with a marking gauge off the reference face. With the tenons scribed, set the rail on the leg to determine the reveal that looks nice to your eye. Holding the rail in that place, transfer the two tenon gauge lines onto the leg stock with knife stabs. Then reset the gauge fence to these knife marks and scribe the mortise placement on all the mortises.

 

Because these bridle tenon cheeks were approximately 3.5” x 4.5”, I decided to use my 4 tpi rip saw. It was pretty incredible. The saw was so aggressive and sharp that I actually felt like I had to slow down and hold back. With careful attention, it made sawing this large joinery speedy and enjoyable. Once the two walls of the bridle mortise were sawn, we bored a hole at the baseline halfway from each side. That technique severed 95% of the waste in less than a minute. From there, it was simply a matter of cleaning up the mortise bottom with a chisel. We made sure to slightly undercut the bottom of the mortise from both sides to make fitting easier.

 

It was interesting to find that during this process, we found ourselves all either sitting on the low “Roman” bench on kneeling on the work on the floor. There was no conscious decision to do this but we all found ourselves gravitating toward these postures. It wasn’t until we took a photo of all three of us working on these boring and chopping tasks that it became obvious. It was kind of ironic to see three guys sitting on their work down low surrounded by empty tall workbenches. After realizing this, we all talked about how certain operations like chopping, boring, and some sawing are such that you want to be able to get your body directly over the work. When boring at a tall bench, I always feel like I want to climb up on top of the bench and lean down onto the brace (i.e. breast auger). It was an interesting revelation to us. I will definitely be more conscious of this from now on.

 

Once we fit the bridle joints, we bored the ½” drawbore holes and rived and pared the oak pins. At the end of this second day, we reached the most fun part: drawboring! We heated up the hot hide glue and assembled one joint at a time. Once the glue was applied on both tenon cheeks and their mating mortise walls, we slid the tenons in and drove the pins. There are many satisfying moments in woodworking but near the top of that list is the moment the shoulder cinches tight with a subtle glue squeeze out as you drive the massive pins into the joint. It doesn’t get much better than that. 

We trimmed the pins, and pared them flush before sweeping up and putting tools away at the end of the day. We also took an opportunity to clamp a sideboard on the legs and lay the 2” thick near top board on to mock up the final proportions. These benches are going to be massive and awesome. It is fun dreaming about all the work that is going to happen at these benches over the years.

 

We’ll be putting these bench parts in storage until the new shop goes up in September. Then we’ll build them right into the walls. We all felt great about our progress on this project and had such a blast working, conversing, and laughing together. Mike and I are looking forward to Robell’s next trip to Maine. (We’ve already begun planning that next project together.) A big thank you goes out to Robell for his enthusiasm, hard work, and careful craftsmanship. We couldn’t have gotten this far without you, Robell. Thank you so much!

 

What a way to spend these two days!

- Joshua