I finally completed my chairmaker’s bench so I can get back to building Windsor chairs. One of the tasks was to cut a through mortise into the bench top for a planing stop. The planing stop measures 3 by 3 by 6 inches and is red oak. It includes an embedded forged iron stop with a hook and a sharply filed toothed edge. The toothed edge is for gripping and holding furniture parts on the bench top. I’m ashamed to say that over the years I haven’t bothered to use a wooden bench stop, but I have utilized steel bench dogs to provide a similar function. To attach the toothed stop to the oak block, I had to cut a mortise approximately 7/16 inch square by 4 inch deep. I excavated it with a couple brad point bits and a few chisels. I then worked to fit the toothed and oak planing stop into the through mortise in the bench. I used chisels and rasps to clean it up. It proved to be challenging to keep the mortise sides square and 90 degrees vertical in the laminated top. To strengthen the mortise walls in the laminated top, I coated those surfaces and the many dog holes with epoxy from the West System. Based on the recommendation of the folks at West System I opted for the 105 epoxy and the 206 hardener products. It has the consistency of syrup and it slowly hardens the plywood laminations. It worked great! Also, just because it is quite like me to slip and get a cut with edge tools, I followed my wife’s suggestion to install some polyethylene tubing on the toothed edge of the planing stop when the stop is not in use. Yeah Barb!
Rather than damage tools that might potentially roll off the bench top, I built a tool tray across the long edge out of 3/4 inch stock. It measures 8 inches wide by 48 inches long. I used oak and assembled it with through dovetails. I usually cut the tails first and then measure for the location of the pins. I marked the pins with some very sharp French marking knives I obtained from Garrett Wade some time ago. They offered them with left and right hand blades and I found that I can accurate scribe the pin locations with them and it saves me time in the fitting. The ebony handles are also easy for me to keep track of on the bench. After scribing the pins, I used a couple back saws to cut the tails and pins and a coping saw was used to remove waste between the pins. This time I found that my chopping skills with a sharp chisel made it possible to easily pare to the scribe line on the pin end. I chop from both sides so there is no tearout and it leaves a hollowed area in the middle which aides in making a tight dovetail joint.
At the suggestion of Chris Hedges on Google plus, I also gave dovetail peening a try. Although my gaps were insignificant except for one spot that required doctoring with veneer, the peening turned out to be a great enhancement for my dovetailing skills. The bottom is made of 3/4 inch poplar and fits into a 1/4 inch rabbet. I added a center divider that was installed with several flat head slotted screws. It gives me the option of relocating the divider if it makes sense later. One added benefit of installing the hardwood tool tray was that it helped maintain flatness on the bench top. I used four 5/16 inch dia lag screws to attach the tray.
As Chris Schwarz found useful on one of his many Roubo bench builds, the area inside the stretchers offers another place for tool storage. Since I continue to use a similar area on my carving bench as shelf storage, I know all too well how things vibrate on that shelf area or get covered with dust and wood shavings. So instead of just using that space as a shelf, I enclosed it with a frame and panel lid. I made the lid components out of red oak and assembled it with draw bored mortise and tenon joints. I installed it with strap hinges from Van Dykes (source provided by Chris Schwarz). To compliment the black strap hinges and lid support hardware, I added a black cast iron shutter pull ring obtained from the House of Antique Hardware that made opening the lid more convenient.
After adding the pull all that’s left is trimming some bench components, sanding/filing away some epoxy in the dog holes, cleaning up some wood filler on the legs, and applying BLO. The good thing is that this “holey” bench, with 27 dog holes, is just the right size for my workshop space.