You always learn something

Every time I set out to fashion something out of wood, no matter how pedestrian, I have an expectation that I will learn something in the process. Wood is a great teacher.

Yesterday and the day before I finally felt a little better and I worked myself up to finishing the installation of my leg vise screw, which meant boring a hole through the apron and leg and attaching the mounting hardware to the inside of the leg. I couldn’t figure any better way to do this than to turn the bench on it’s side, drill a pilot hole as straight as I could and bore out the rest with the same expansive bit I used on the chop.

Here’s where I had the opportunity to learns something, but I missed the chance and only saw it later.

The acetal bushing that comes with the Benchcrafted leg vise screws needs to be flush mounted in a recessed hole around the main screw hole. If you have a 2 5/8 forstner bit this is a snap. I wasn’t willing to shell out $50 for one of those and thought I had a plan with my router, so I pressed on with the main 1 1/4″ hole.

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That was actually pretty slick work. If you don’t have a good expansive bit in your tool chest let me suggest you go get one. The nut mounted cleanly to the back, the screw worked flawlessly, and I decided I would come back and rout out the bushing recess later with a special bit I use to rout binding channels on guitars.

Only when I actually looked at the bit and considered how it worked (following along a bottom bearing) I realized it was clearly the wrong tool for the job. I decided to just mark out the circle and rout it freehand.

I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing about that.

Routing a circle freehand is next to impossible, but sometimes we can only see how bad an idea is after we try it for ourselves, and this was one of those times. I ended up with a recess that was large enough and flat enough to do what I needed it to do, but it looked like the kind of circle my four year old would draw.

I had to end up nailing in a small block of wood across the 1 1/4″ hole, marking out the center again and then using a Dremel tool on a circle jig to even out the circle.
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It looks pretty good now, even if it is too large all the way around. Functionally, it’s a wash. Aesthetically its a compromise.

I’ll deal.

With that done I moved onto mounting the top of the bench in the same way the legs were mounted (3/8″ bolts recessed into the top with mounting plates on the leg assemblies). This required breaking out the Judge (and executioner as Chris Schwarz pointed out) and truing up all aspects of the frame before making sure the bottom of the top was functionally flat and attaching everything.

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A couple of diagonal passes with my jack plane over the high spots and some time with the jointer gave me a nice flat base to work with. No rocking meant it was time to lock it down.

Here’s another thing I learned. When you work out all the measurements in your head, especially if there’s something important to consider, write them down. I had worked out the placement for the bolts through the top in the morning, and by the time I got back around to them in the afternoon I had forgotten a crucial dimension and ended up drilling out one of the recesses too close to the edge to clear the leg assembly properly. It wasn’t hard to fix by moving the hole over 1″ but now I had an obvious visual mistake on the most visual part of the bench. Bleh…

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I broke out the chisels and made the recess look like an elongated circle, but it will certainly serve as a constant reminder to me to double check things. To most anyone else, it will be insignificant.

I’ll deal.

I also took the time to lay out and bore all of the holdfast holes on the front apron. I am happy to report that that went fully without incident.
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At the end of the night, when the shavings and chips were swept off the floor, and the planes wiped down and oiled I was pretty pleased at how this thing has come along.
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It’s at the point where it is capable of holding the work I need to finish fitting out the bench. I still have a little work to dimension and shape the leg vise chop, reinforce the top and fit the shelf. Despite all the mistakes I’ve made opportunities I’ve had to learn something this week, I feel good about this bench, and I am quite confident that flaws and all it’ll serve its purpose well enough.

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2 thoughts on “You always learn something

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