Bringing it all together

The big day is here.

Eat a good breakfast and make sure to stretch.

It’s time to assemble the bench!

Putting something this size and complexity together is not an easy task, or one to be undertaken without some planning.  Has everything been properly labelled and laid out so that you can find it in a hurry?  Have the test-fits been done?  Do you have the clamps and mallet at hand?  If so, then take a deep breath…and start mixing epoxy.

I’m using a very slow-setting epoxy here (open time is rated at 4 hours).  I want plenty of time to get everything together before it starts to grab.  When you think you’ve mixed it enough, mix it some more.

I start with the undercarriage.  I put a short stretcher between a pair of legs, clamp it, and then hammer the peg through.  I want to be sure that the taper is through, and that I’ve got a full-diameter peg on both sides. If both ends are securely pegged, you can take off the clamp. Once one pair is done, move to the next, then put in the long stretchers.  Glue, clamp, hammer, repeat.

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Now, at this stage, I made a decision.  I didn’t want to assemble the undercarriage to the top while it was on my workbench.  It was too tall and clumsy.  I put the slab on a sawbench, then lowered the undercarriage on to it.  Even with only a 4′ long bench, my wife’s help was pretty darn useful in maneuvering this conglomeration.  Once the tenons were started into the mortices (make sure it’s the correct one!), I used some long pipe clamps to ease all of the legs down gradually.  There’s enough friction (the epoxy doesn’t help you in this regard like hide glue does) that the top is extremely stubborn.  But with the torque of the pipe clamps and a little perseverance, you can pull through.  Peg the legs to the top, clean up the drips, and retreat overnight.  Celebrate your synergistic success!

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Even with the fact that gluing up is a pretty familiar thing, and even though I was hustling, this still took about an hour to get everything together and pegged.  Use a fast(er) setting glue at your own risk!

Once everything has set up, there’s a fair bit of cleanup.  All of the pegs have to be cut and planed flush.  Any drips have to be sorted.  The legs need to be levelled and beveled.  I still had to cut one end true.  And there’s these great big tenons standing proud of the benchtop!  Well, we knew we were going to have to flatten this beast eventually, so now’s the time.  Cut off the worst of the tenons before you start in with the plane.

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Then, it’s just like flattening a board.  A really, really big board.  Cut across the grain with the jack until the hollows are mostly gone, then a few swipes with a jointer diagonally to make sure you aren’t twisted (when the scalloped surface from the jack is gone, do check to seen if you have any twist that needed correcting), then along the grain with the jointer to true it all up.  You don’t have to use a smooth plane for this (some folk use a toothing plane to give the benchtop more grip!), but I thought it could use it.  About the only thing left is to fill in the bottom shelf and we’ll be done!

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