Having laminated seven Douglas Fir 2×4’s into a roughly 72″ x 10″ x 3.5″ slab off screen, it was time to set some ground rules. Going forward, I would only use basic hand tools to make a workbench worthy for an apartment woodworker. Or, at least that was the goal. Let’s see how it went.
Using just my No. 5 jack plane, I proceeded to flatten the underside and square both edges to the underside. I tried supporting it with the buckets I was using as saw benches, but that didn’t work too well. The buckets were just too slick and the slab rocked too much. So I reverted to just working on the floor on a non-skid mat. It was slower going than I wanted, and my back and knees are killing me (heyo!), but it got done.
It took less time to dress the top, but in doing so, I realized my basic tool kit was missing something: a marking gauge. So I’ve added a wheel marking gauge to the basic tool kit. Eventually, the slab was S4S enough for joinery. But before cutting any joints, a coat of “Tung Oil” to protect against any glue squeeze out when the legs eventually get glued on.
Nine inches from the end seemed about right for the legs. When making a saw bench in the Schwarz pattern, the legs are recessed into the sides of the benchtop via square dadoes. Then, angled lap joints on the legs cause them to poke out at the right angle.
All dadoes start the same way: mark it, saw it, chop out the waste with a chisel. Typically, I finish off each dado with a light pass from the router plane to ensure uniform depth and a shoulder plane to square the walls of the extants. But router planes and shoulder planes are luxuries outside the scope of the basic tool kit. It has been a while since I did this by chisel alone, but I got it done, even if the dado bottom isn’t pretty. But that might be because Douglas Fir is real splintery. The extants are square at least.
The only hard part about this joint is laying out the leg. However, if you cut the top of each leg to a consistent angle (10 degrees works great), you’re almost all the way there. But that requires a bevel gauge. Which has also been added to the core tool kit. I won’t go through the whole process, nor could I better than Mr. Schwarz does himself here. But suffice to say, if your shoulders line up, then you can pre-cut each leg to the exact same length and you won’t need to worry too much about leveling the feet.
Part of what makes this joint strong is the large glue surface between the slab and the legs. Use the offcuts from the angled lap joints to assist in clamping, then drive in a couple screws through each leg (parallel to the bench top, not the legs). Be sure to countersink them a bit so the screw heads are well below the face of the legs. Don’t worry; we’ll flush the tops of the legs later.
But the joint doesn’t just rely on glue and screws. A couple of gussets, glued and screwed onto the legs. When making gussets, perfectly quartersawn softwood stock will allow you to glue and screw along the entire width with minimal risk of splitting over time. I also squared up the ends of the slab off camera, but in fairness, that’s not necessary.
And that’s it for the main bench. Next time, we’ll reassess the full basic tool kit and begin adding work-holding.