Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Workbench Top is Almost Finished

Last weekend I planed the four sections of the top to final thickness, thanks to help from my son.  I would have had a tough time feeding those 40 pound sections through the planer without his help.  By our count, we put each piece through 18 - 20 times.
After jointing the adjoining edges, I have one half of the table glued up.
32 Days | 50 Hours

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Milling by Hand

I’m not an expert on milling by hand, but here’s the process I developed while making the top for my workbench.
I use a small set of tools for this operation:
  • Jack plane
  • Block plane
  • Straightedge
  • 4” try square
  • Winding sticks
Before stickering the lumber to dry, I had cut and ripped everything to rough size, so each of the boards had one edge relatively to straight.  I have a bench top planer, but no jointer.  To make the most of the planer, I joint one edge by hand, and joint and square one face by hand, then finish up with the electric planer.
I start by jointing that edge, checking progress with a long straight edge.  When it’s close to flat and smooth, I make sure it’s square with a 4” try square.  This square is quickly becoming one of my most-used tools.  I picked up a pair of Crown beech try squares for about $20 on sale a few months ago, and it’s turned out to be one of my better tool purchases.  I had been using an engineering square.  It’s a good size, but a bit heavy.  The beech wood square is the perfect size and weight.
After the edge is jointed, I check for any bow, and put the high middle up on the bench.  Having both ends on the bench provides stability, and it’s easier to work one area than two.  After checking where the highest spot is with the straight edge, I start working that area, working out toward each end.  Check progress frequently with the straightedge.
When the face is nearly flat, I check for twist with a pair of winding sticks.  Checking for twist a little before the board is flat can save working the same area twice.  I make sure the face at one end is square to the jointed edge, then put the first winding stick on that end.  I put reference marks down the face about 12 inches apart and check for twist at each mark, using my try square to square up the sticks. I use a tick-mark system--the more ticks, the more plane strokes the area needs.  I plane down each area, then check with the winding sticks again.
Removing the twist usually takes out the rest of the bow.  I make one final check with the straightedge, and make any final adjustments.
I then run the board through the planer with the flattened face down.  I plane down the rough face until the planer takes a full cut along the length and width, then one more light pass.  I then make a couple of light passes on the other face to remove any tool marks from the jack plane.
Finally, I repeat that process on the board’s edges.
Using this process I milled about 85 board feet in about 35 hours.  It would be nice to have a jointer, but for now, this works just fine.  I’m not in a big hurry to get to the end--that’s not why I like working wood :-)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Workbench Build

This weekend, I finished gluing up the fourth and final slab for the top.  I have to say, it took less time than I thought it would.  I have about 36 hours into the project so far, and one month on the calendar.

I’m able to mill by hand now much better than when I started.  It’s one thing to read how to do something, but there’s no better teacher than experience.  I was able to read the cup and twist, and straighten it out, on the last board in about half the time (and double the certainty) as the first board.  I still have a lot of milling to do after the top is glued up, and hopefully it will go a lot quicker, since most of the parts for the base are much shorter.

22 Days | 38 Hours