• We invite you to join UKWorkshop.
    Members can turn off viewing Ads!

Yet another english style workbench build

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

SteL

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
2 Jul 2020
Messages
113
Reaction score
84
Location
Liverpool
I recently decided to move from an utter noob and upgrade to complete novice by building my own workbench. I was off work due to the lockdown so what better opportunity. The only problem was I started looking on places like this to decide what style bench to build, what material to use, what vice... and before I knew it lockdown was over! As usual, I had procrastinated too long so I just lumped for the English style bench using the plans and videos from The English Woodworker. Once I had decided on the bench I scoured the Internet for posts showing beginners building this kind of bench in the hope I could avoid some of the mistakes. I found one post on here that saved my bacon...


The way I'd planned my bench I was about to have the same problem little dangly bits encountered in that post. So I thought I'd share and concentrate on my cockups so they might help anyone else doing this build in the future. I sometimes find you can learn more from someone who is only a few steps ahead of you. Someone who is experienced can find it hard to remember back to the time they were new and can overlook the things that seem obvious to them but are major hangups for beginners. Although I have to say the video series on The English Woodworker is top-notch.

Right to kick off with cockup number 1...

Not going and choosing my own wood. Unfortunately for me, my local timber merchant had their yard still closed to the public due to coronavirus and I wasn't up for waiting any longer so I just overestimated what I needed in the hope I could pick and choose. The jury is out on if that'll be the case!
IMG_1915.jpg
 

AndyT

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2007
Messages
12,027
Reaction score
495
Location
Bristol
Watching with interest.

You are so right when you say

I sometimes find you can learn more from someone who is only a few steps ahead of you. Someone who is experienced can find it hard to remember back to the time they were new and can overlook the things that seem obvious to them but are major hangups for beginners.

That's one of the strengths of a forum like this and why nobody should be put off posting.
 

SteL

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
2 Jul 2020
Messages
113
Reaction score
84
Location
Liverpool
I was able to cut around some bad bits to get 4 clean legs.

IMG_1918.jpg


IMG_1929.jpg


This brings me to cockup number 2. And the worst thing about this one is I had already seen someone else do the same thing...

Not squaring the legs.

I think it is because that bit is missed off the video series. Every other component gets the full treatment apart from the legs. I squared a face and edge to do my markings off, but when I eventually came to fit the rails to the legs they were far too tight to hammer home. This was because the leg face that the rail's shoulder sits on was on a slope sort of wedging the joint as I hammered it in. Luckily I realised this was the thing causing the tightness otherwise I would have kept reducing the size of the rail.

Capture.PNG
 

SteL

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
2 Jul 2020
Messages
113
Reaction score
84
Location
Liverpool
Watching with interest.

You are so right when you say

I sometimes find you can learn more from someone who is only a few steps ahead of you. Someone who is experienced can find it hard to remember back to the time they were new and can overlook the things that seem obvious to them but are major hangups for beginners.

That's one of the strengths of a forum like this and why nobody should be put off posting.
Thanks, Andy. I'm just catching up posting from my notes where I am up to now (not that far really just the trestles almost taking some sort of shape).

Another way I think experienced people can be inhibited when teaching beginners is that they don't want to oversimplify something only to be inundated with comments on how wrong they are under certain conditions or situations. As a beginner you have no reputation or kudos to lose, you're known for making naff stuff so anything that goes right is just a bonus!
 

Fitzroy

All the gear...
Joined
12 Mar 2013
Messages
1,438
Reaction score
425
Location
Aberdeen
Loving it, keep it up. There are many ways to skin a cat and I like seeing how others do things.
Fitz.
 

pitch pine

Established Member
Joined
3 Jul 2007
Messages
266
Reaction score
17
Location
northumberland
I think you did well with cockup number 2 working out why the joint wouldn't fit. It is really easy when test fitting joints to shave the wrong bit and make a bad situation worse.
 

deema

Established Member
Joined
14 Oct 2011
Messages
2,406
Reaction score
170
Location
chester
The old timers who did everything with hand tools would only 4 square if absolutely necessary, I.e. if it as on show or had joinery on every side. It’s good practice to mark the two sides your going to make true to each other, or your reference sides with a tick or ‘6‘ with the long tail coming of the edge that joins the two sides. This is a well recognised way of marking them. In your case, if you’d made the two reference sides the inside face and the face that will take the stretcher you wouldn’t need other than for aesthetics to have trued up all 4 sides.
 

SteL

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
2 Jul 2020
Messages
113
Reaction score
84
Location
Liverpool
After the legs, it was onto the rails.
I think you did well with cockup number 2 working out why the joint wouldn't fit. It is really easy when test fitting joints to shave the wrong bit and make a bad situation worse.
I'll be totally honest, you would laugh if you only knew how long I spent trying to figure that issue out on the first joint! It was literally the first joint I tried to fit so it was very disheartening. I was shaving minuscule amounts off and it was feeling no different each time. I had practised making these joints on some scrap and realised you can go from nice tight-fitting to a useless joint within a few careless strokes. The thing that eventually gave it away was looking at the marks being left on the leg. I could see the bruising all on that inside face of the leg. When I looked closer I couldn't even force a fingernail between the shoulder and the leg. Then I put my square to the leg and realised my cockup. Being a beginner you never know if a problem is salvageable or a start again type of issue. In this case, after sweating and cursing myself for a while it ended up okay.

I consoled myself by realising I'm going to have to trade my time for lack of skill and experience. I had friends and family asking if I'd finished that workbench yet after a couple of days! That doesn't help.
 

AJB Temple

Finely figured
Joined
13 Oct 2015
Messages
3,571
Reaction score
782
Location
Tunbridge Wells
It's a great way to learn. Good for you posting your experiences. And it's true for me too - I always grossly underestimate how long projects will take. The fact is that wives, kids, shopping, garden, work and other annoying stuff is a distraction.
 

SteL

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
2 Jul 2020
Messages
113
Reaction score
84
Location
Liverpool
The old timers who did everything with hand tools would only 4 square if absolutely necessary, I.e. if it as on show or had joinery on every side. It’s good practice to mark the two sides your going to make true to each other, or your reference sides with a tick or ‘6‘ with the long tail coming of the edge that joins the two sides. This is a well recognised way of marking them. In your case, if you’d made the two reference sides the inside face and the face that will take the stretcher you wouldn’t need other than for aesthetics to have trued up all 4 sides.
That is a great way of describing it. This is exactly why I wanted to post this build so these mistakes are documented. If I had read your post before starting I would have avoided this cockup. In fact, I've only just realised that. I thought the takeaway lesson was just to do all sides when all I needed to do was choose the correct faces to square.

I am doing this all by hand. I have no machine tools apart from a cordless drill. In fact, I have very little hand tools. I've been having to acquire them as I run into needing them. I have to do this covertly, though. One of the touted benefits I said to my partner of building the bench myself was the wood only cost £160. Then under my breath.... and £60 on a tenon saw.... and £150 on a block plane.... and £150 on a shoulder plane... etc. I'm not listing the rest in case she reads it and it is used as evidence against me!
 

SteL

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
2 Jul 2020
Messages
113
Reaction score
84
Location
Liverpool
Now onto cutting out the bottom rails. They went quite smoothly really. The only tough bit I found was the dovetail section. The first couple was very slow going and I found the best way was to be more confident and do long flowing strokes with the chisel. At first, I was taking small bites to cut out the shape and found I then had a bumpy surface.

IMG_2039.jpg


For my age, my eyesight is woeful so I tried using tape to also mark out the lines (can't remember where I got that idea - some YouTube clip)...

IMG_2044.jpg


I gave up on that, though. It was a pain to do and something from Amazon arrived...

IMG_2061.jpg


I look like a complete silly person (a cross between Mr Magoo and Robocop) and you think you still have it on when you go to bed, but It really helps me be more precise.

At the time of cutting these joints, I didn't own a shoulder plane so my idea was to just get the shoulder straight off the saw. I even bought a £60 veritas tenon saw so it'd be neat. When practising I'd say it was a 50/50 chance on me getting that shoulder line straight. When it is slightly off it looked terrible. If I cocked it up one way it was fixable with a chisel but I ended up with a crappy shoulder line then. That is when I decided to cheat and make a guide to compensate for my lack of skill.

IMG_2057.jpg


I'd love to say I progressed and started cutting the joints by hand but I didn't feel confident enough. I'm a bit disappointed about this cop-out but other than burning through the wood until I got a perfect cut I couldn't think of an alternative.

Anyway, eventually, they were done...

IMG_2116.jpg



Right onto the cockup. When cutting the dovetail I obviously first saw the shoulder, then begin slicing with my chisel up to that shoulder. I was surprised to find that the shoulder line wasn't some magical barrier that your chisel automatically knows to stop at. I tried to take far too deep of an initial shaving and instead of backing off, I solved the problem by using more force. That resulted in the chisel hitting the shoulder and putting a split in it. I stuck some glue in, clamped it and pretended it never happened. On the rest, I did a sort of knife wall thing (Paul Sellers I think that was from) but kept going until I was about 5mm down. Then the shoulder could take a bit of a stab!
 

Blaidd-Drwg

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
13 Oct 2018
Messages
19
Reaction score
10
Location
Minnesota, US
I may be in the minority here, but I don't consider a guide to be a cheat. If it is, I'm a big one. I use guides for saw cuts, mortising, just about anything I can use a guide for because I don't do them everyday so the muscle memory never has a chance to develop.
 

SteL

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
2 Jul 2020
Messages
113
Reaction score
84
Location
Liverpool
I may be in the minority here, but I don't consider a guide to be a cheat. If it is, I'm a big one. I use guides for saw cuts, mortising, just about anything I can use a guide for because I don't do them everyday so the muscle memory never has a chance to develop.
True. I have absolutely no clue if it is generally considered a cheat and a sin or if everyone uses them. I'd love to develop the skill to just do without a guide but while I'm using one that's not going to happen I suppose. I have practised on scrap wood but it's a bit like practising penalties, it's not the same when it counts for something!
 

billw

The Tattooed One
UKW Supporter
Joined
26 Apr 2009
Messages
1,690
Reaction score
857
Location
Sutton Coldfield, UK
I may be in the minority here, but I don't consider a guide to be a cheat. If it is, I'm a big one. I use guides for saw cuts, mortising, just about anything I can use a guide for because I don't do them everyday so the muscle memory never has a chance to develop.
I'm spending all my time making guides and jigs because I've seen the results of my freehand attempts at straight lines. I'd class them as helping rather than cheating.
 

deema

Established Member
Joined
14 Oct 2011
Messages
2,406
Reaction score
170
Location
chester
For me, when I learnt, I initially wanted to look at the blade from one side so I could see the blade better. The result was, that I always produced an angled cut! The trick I was shown, was to start the cut, first saw cut looking from the side so I could be sure I was cutting where I needed to be. Then to position my head so I looked down right on top of the saw. If you do this, you will make a far more perpendicular cut, If the work is horizontal, it will be a good cut, perfection needs some practice, and is never fully achieved. The other trick, is when starting the cut, to look at the reflection of the work in the blade. If the reflection looks to be a continuation of the stuff, the saw is at 90 degrees to the work and perpendicular. You need both to be true for the optical illusion. Just try it, tilt the saw and see the reflection move. You dont need a scribed line to cut square and true, saves a lot of time.
The last suggestion is when sawing use as much of the blade as possible. Long sawing cuts is what you want to strive for. We all tend to wobble about at the end / start of a saw stroke, so minimise the number of times it happens. It will also keep your saw sharp for longer.
 

MikeG.

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2008
Messages
10,158
Reaction score
663
Location
Essex/ Suffolk border
It's easier, Deema, to start your cut across the top of the work, and when you get to the front edge a mm or 2 deep, drop the heel of the saw as far as you can and saw down the front edge to the bottom. You now have two tracks to follow, and the saw will want to stay in them. Just completw the triangle, connecting the top back edge and the bottom front edge, then go horizontal and proceed to the bottom. At no stage have you had to cut using "feel" or judgement about what is vertical.
 
Top