Portable Work Bench (Part 28) Ode to be Flat

An update on the portable bench, there are a lot of little things done, but all good steps to getting it near completion.

Cutting the last end to length with a back saw.
Cutting the last end to length with a back saw.

Each half of the bench top was cut to length by hand. Unfortunately I don’t have a good crosscut panel saw so I had to use a back saw. This made a bit of extra work as I had to go around the entire work surface as the saw wasn’t deep enough to cut all the way through. Due to my lack of consistency, or more likely impatience I messed up the cut and had a lot of cleanup to do. My hand made floats to the rescue, and a lot of extra work than just taking my time initially.

Pile of shavings from flattening the top of the work bench.
Pile of shavings from flattening the top of the work bench by hand.

Then onto flattening the top. I started out with a Stanley #6 setup as a fore plane and it did pretty well to remove a reasonable amount of material but I was getting a little bit of tear out once in a while despite I was going cross grain. I figured I would try out a smoother and get my process down before I screwed something up. I tried a Stanley #4 set super fine and made a few passes and was amazed at the amount of tear out I was getting. Cross grain, with the grain, diagonal, skewed, it didn’t matter what I did it just continued to tear out. I gave up on the smoother and reached for the Stanley #8 with a small radius on the iron. I figured I would go back to just getting it flat. Sure enough, no tear out at all, though it was all cross grain and diagonal cuts. I had a fairly substantial belly in the middle of both glued up boards to remove. After a great deal of planing I managed to get them flat, but I was impressed on how easy it was to do this, just time consuming. Unfortunately I didn’t get all the tear out removed, but the surface was flat at least.

Bench top just before adding finish.
Bench top just before adding finish.

The next time I was in the big shop we discussed running it through the planer and seeing if we could get the bottom closer to flat than it was. I know, totally not needed, but what the heck. We run it through the planer bottom side up a few passes. This removed a bit of glue and we got rid of most of the imperfections on the bottom. Then I wanted to run a light pass on the top surface to see how close I ended up with the hand plane and possibly remove most of the tear out that was left. First pass was very light, and it only touched the peaks, which just happen to line up with the spots between the hand plane, it was quite apparent that the hand plane did an amazing job at getting it flat. We dropped the head 1/8 of a turn, which we considered a glorified whisper and turned it to a finishing cut and ran it through again. This removed the slightest amount of material which was the rest of the depth of the hand plan arc, it was as close to perfect as I could have ever imagined. It removed most of the tear out, and the only negative was a little bit of snipe on one end of one of the boards, which I can totally live with. Once home from the big shop I added a coat of Danish Oil to the work surface. The quarter sawn grain popped at this point. So much that my wife noticed it when she glanced over.

Bench dogs with suede attached and ready to be trimmed.
Bench dogs with suede attached and ready to be trimmed.

I also worked on final touches to the bench dogs. I chamfered most of the edges. Then used hide glue to attach a small piece of suede to the face. The suede is probably over kill but I will give it a try and see if I like it or not. Once the glue was dry I trimmed up the suede and applied finish to the rest of the dog. Now I can officially say I am done with the dogs.

Bench dogs finally complete, suede trimmed and finish applied.
Bench dogs finally complete and drying, suede trimmed and finish applied.

Maybe these weren’t as little of steps as I thought. Cut to length, flattened, finish applied to work surface, and the bench dogs complete. This is big progress, but I have a lot more to do before it’s actually complete.

Work surface flattened with finish and completed dogs in place.
Work surface flattened with finish and completed dogs in place.

Leave a Reply