Work Bench Part 5 - The Top and Shelf


Welcome, this time we will be showing the steps to make the bottom shelf boards and the top for the work bench. I decided to start with the shelf, and used some white oak boards that have been laying around the shop for a few years. Now was a good time to make use of them, they match the rest of the oak and are close to the thickness desired. First, the length of the grove in the long stretcher that will support the shelf was measured to find the length of the shelf. Because of the angle of the legs, the end shelf boards will be at an angle at the ends where they meet the legs. I knew the approximate length of the shelf which gave me an idea of how many boards it will take to make the shelf. Then using dividers, I stepped out the top of the grove line to get the width of each board. The two ends boards are left a little longer to make up for the angle of the legs. Stepping out with the dividers gave me equal sizes for the shelf boards. Now that the width of the shelf boards were found (and don’t forget about the tongue), the oak was cut to length (the width of the shelf, plus and inch for the tongue that will support the shelfs into the long stretchers), squared and planed to approximately three quarters of an inch.  I also prepared the half inch thick tusks at this time from the same stock.


First the base line of the tongue that will go into the long stretchers was marked (right). The tongue is one half inch deep and thick. Once the baseline was marked, it was time to mark the tongue with my mortising gauge. Next the tongue is marked on all the boards, then the base line was cut with a hand saw. This makes for a nice base line. Then with my Record 405 plane, two rabbits were planed making a tongue. It was finished off with a large shoulder plane to clean it up. Next it was time to mark the tongue and grove on the long edges of the shelf boards. I set my mortising gauge to the size of my tongue cutting blade, approximately one quarter inch. Once these were marked, I set the depth adjustment on my tongue blade to about three eights of an inch and cut all the tongues. On the two end boards, they will only need a tongue on one and a grove on the other end board. The groves were cut next, with my Record 405 plane as before. 

TongueGroveComplete BoardComplete Shelf

Next I started on the top. This is the largest item I have ever worked on, and it went fairly well. Its just not easy moving oak like this around by your self. I had determined the maximum length top I could use in my workshop and with the stock I have and came up with eighty-three inches long and the width was previously determined as twenty-three and a half. So the timbers were sorted as to which would be were, and top and bottom. There is a lot to take into account as my top is three boards glued together, so grain direction is important for easy planing once assembled. Then it was time to plane the boards. I started by making one flat face on each, which is the top face. I got started out with my scrub plane, then moved on to the jack plane to get the top flat (below). I didn’t use any other planes at this point as everything will be planed once again after the glue up. 


It is the same process to plane a large timber as a small board, just more time and effort is required. The edge was planed next, followed by making the board to width and square. The bottom was left rough at this point, they will all be planed after they are all ready. That way I can find maximum thickness for the top (which ended up being three and a quarter). Once they were all close in thickness they were prepared for glue up. To help keep things lined up,  six one inch dowels were used as pins on the edges (right).

Once the dowels were cut it was time for glue up. It takes alot of glue for a joint of this size. A full fresh container is what I started with, that way there was more then enough available, you down want to come up short once you have started. This was a large joint and took a lot of persuading to get it tight. Clamps as well as my lump hammer were used to get things together. Two of the boards for the top were glued at once (below), let dry, then the third was added. Doing all three at once would be a lot more difficult. Not to mention that it was hard enough to do this on my current workbench. 


Once all three were glued together they are planed as one with my jack plane (below), making them all one level surface. I just got it close for now, I am going to let it sit before final planing to allow for any movement that may occur. 

Top 4

That is it for this time. Next some of the bench accessories will be worked on as the bench nears completion.

© Shane Larson 2018