Sunday, December 29, 2013

Portable Woodworking Bench

Further adventure in making a portable medieval wood working kit.  I need some tools.  I'll need some wood.  Oh yeah, and I'll need a work surface to do my business on!

I looked at various images of medieval wood workers as depicted in illuminated manuscripts.  I am aware that I'll probably want a few small benches or what we currently call saw horses.  In the mean time I wanted a portable surface where I could do some wood working at events or demos.  
I had four primary concerns during the planning stages.
1) It must look like a period work bench
2) It must be constructed using only hand tools.  
3) It must be cheap to create.
4) It must be portable to the point of easily fitting in the back of my car.

I have had a stash of hard wood in my garage for over 20 years.  I used to work on the shipping docs of Builders Square.  When I was there I was able to collect the hardwood pallets used to ship very heavy deliveries.  I had at one point planned on making a butcher block table out of it, but like many of my plans they vanished before they completely began.

So, with a stash of what looks to be oak on hand I had my resources.  I measured the back of my car and that became the maximum length of my bench.  My least favorite part of this project is the work surface.  It is recycled lumber from the old gazebo which used to be attached to the pool which existed when I bought my current house 12 years ago.  I destroyed the gazebo, but kept a lot of the lumber.  It is very poor quality treated lumber which will be replaced as soon as I have the chance!

Here is the basic idea I had in my head.  I made the following doodle while at work, during a horribly exciting meeting.

That was all the plans I had.  Other than measuring the length of the boards for the top, the rest of this project just sort of went along without any measured plans.  

Started by selecting some stock, cutting to standard length and then cutting the mortise which would fit into the legs of the bench.  At this point I hoped that the pieces would be all interchangeable, but I gave up on that.  I marked the pieces as i fit them and as long as I put them together in the proper order there was no benefit in having them be interchangeable. 


Next the base of the bench would have a long runner which would have to be jointed into the bottom cross braces.  This piece was another piece of that crappy pine which may get replaced some day.


Each end fitted in a similar manner.


Snugly fit and ready for pins the bottom is just about done.

At this point I employed the use of my new auger.  See blog entry (Pear Tree Stool) for details about the auger.

I chose the size of my mortise and tenon joint based on the fact that I only had this one large auger bit.  Since this was my only auger, that would be the size of the joint!


Here you see all the pieces jointed together.  At this point I hadn't yet cut the holes for the pegs.  I have since finished all the joints and all the pegs.  All the joints fit well and are very sturdy when assembled.  I am still rather disappointed in the work surface.  I may replace it with simple pine which is better than the ugly treated lumber I have now.

The bench is now completed, but I don't yet have pictures of it assembled or unassembled. I'll post more later as time allows.

After I completed the bench I decide to start adding more details.  I need some hold fasts and bench dogs to hold my work pieces in place.  So far I have only made the following three items, but rest assured I will make more.  A flat work surface is important.  A method to hold your work-piece on that surface is more important.

The following piece of wood was taken from an American Ash (I think) which was recently cut down this fall.  I know it isn't fully dried yet, but for what I am making it didn't matter.

I split the log into sections and roughed them out with my little carving axe.  Did I mention how much I love my axe?


I roughly marked the location of the head and then trimmed it up further with a carving knife.  I 


I know that they aren't perfectly square, but I have used them already making a few other projects and they serve the purpose.  I will make more later but this served as a fun little addition and I was itching to make something out of the reddish center of the Ash tree recently felled.  

Here is a chunk of the center of the Ash tree we felled.  Sections had a lovely red tone to it.  As it has rested nicely in the corner of my garage the color has already begun to fade.  The section I used for the bench dogs wasn't quit this red, but originally had a nice bright orange streak through it.