Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rigor Mortise and Tenon

I added that last bit of the skirt the other day. It went on with no problems and was just a matter of gluing the tongue and dovetails and clamping it up. Because of the length of the benchtop it required my longest pipe clamps to be supplemented with additional Pony clamps. I don't like doing this because the tension along the axis of the clamp is always a little offset where the clamps meet. Not a big deal in this situation but there are times when it is potentially a little dangerous.

I then went ahead and installed the two vises. I'm afraid I didn't photo-document this part. I blame this on the frustration level involved in the tail vise: it uses two little steel guide-ring bushings that truly tested my patience. They really improve the performance of the vise but my word, they were a pain to install. At one point I was tempted to go blow $50 on a right-angle impact driver (Yes, I own the JobMax. Yes, it's a great tool) specifically for the task. Must resist impulses to buy tools for one-time needs. In the end I got the SOB installed and am pleased with it. It really reduces the amount of play in the vise. The face vise doesn't have the guide bushings and has a remarkable amount of play in it. *sigh*

Completed benchtop:
Well, kind of completed: the general construction is done but there is plenty of detailing to do.

Then I flipped it over to start work on the leg assembly. One nice thing about traditional woodworking vises is that you can use them upside-down! Not an asset 99% of the time but it was nice here. This picture reminds me of the expression "building a plane in midair:"

I just thought of something: this project makes extensive use of the three types of joints: butt, corner, and angle. The floating tongues were butt joints, the ostrichtails were corner joints, and now time for the mortise and tenons. There are 16 of them total in the undercarriage: 8 blind and 8 through. I don't really enjoy busting these guys out. There is just too much chopping with the chisel. It's loud and tiring. I cut a few tenons by hand and then decided to just go with the bandsaw. I feel I've put in my time cutting tenons with the ryoba, don't particularly enjoy it, and I'm not especially good at it. As I mentioned before, this is my last project with the Japanese saws, so farewell big ryoba:

Big, chunky joints; but darn if they aren't solid.

I was joking with my mother-in-law about "the next workbench I plan to build." I was kidding, but this picture does suggest a man who needs even more space, doesn't it?

Among handtool aficionados its trendy to refer to power tool use as "burning electrons." I'll tell you what, it takes a lot of red-ox reactions to complete a mortise through a 2" thick piece of maple. My body is killing me from all the work today. Here's the result:
(FYI: trashcan o' shavings II went out to the curb yesterday, as did an empty 50lb. dog food bag stuffed full of dust)

The next step is to complete the tapered mortises through those projecting tenons and make wedges to secure the legs longitudinally. I know that may not be clear but you'll understand when it is complete. The goal is to have a really solid bench but be able to dis-assemble it if needed. I don't plan on moving in the next couple of years but I'm sure it will be appreciated when I do. Why the quick-clamp in the photo? Yeah, I had a little blow-out on my last M&T. Did I mention I don't enjoy mortise and tenon joinery?


  1. Well done, well done! I know so little about woodworking, but am acquiring a new respect for your hobby! This work (and this blog) is quite impressive.

  2. Shouldn't you be wearing close-toed shoes?

  3. OSHA has no authority in my garage...thank God.