English Workbench Legs – v2

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Although the legs looked passable when dry fitted the poor quality timber I used for the legs meant they split as soon as I tried to nail the aprons on.

Following some sage advice on the ukworkshop.co.uk forum I gave it up as a bad job and have started again with decent redwood.

With hindsight it was a false economy to try and use those terrible old fence posts. Although the poor materials are not completely to blame for the crappy end result, I can see now that just getting the hang of the basic techniques is enough of a challenge without having to work around the additional problems caused by poor materials. 

I think I have learned a bit about how wood behaves in the process. For instance I now see, with the benefit of hindsight, that both the spits happened where I had borrowed the original cut ends – although I did this to avoid cutting into the bits of the posts that had been in concrete, it meant I was using the part with the most cracks and checks in it.


dry fit
splits in the posts

attempt 2 is underway!

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new timber

well my newly purchased wood for the legs is ‘scandinavian unsorted’ (good, apparently) and I think up to scratch.

I am now more or less back to where I was before messing up the first set of legs, and the redwood is indeed a lot nicer to work with. It is even easier to markup as the knife/gauge leaves a clear line compared to the squishy stuff, however, this did not stop me from marking up the wrong end of a (clearly labeled) leg, thus placing all the joints on the few knots I was trying to avoid. Luckily I noticed before I started sawing.

I won’t have much time in the next couple of weeks so will try and get the leg brace done and the legs glued up this weekend and then come back to do the aprons in early August.

In other news I realized that I had measured the dovetails that receive the aprons wrong on my first attempt, so had I carried on I would have eventually found the aprons did not fit. Thus it appears I was lucky to have a catastrophic cock-up when i did rather than find out later on.

My only lingering worry about the new legs is I have had to use 1 1/2 inch timber for the rails, rather than the chunky 1 3/4” I had before. I hope this will not make a difference – we shall see!

The joys of good quality wood – in the v1 legs this type of chiselling tended to cause large lumps to chip out no matter how careful I was:

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one of the good things about being so hopeless at woodwork that you have to do most things twice is that you get a lot of practice! The joints fit better this time round:

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deja vu – all the components for the legs prepared (again)
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and the finished components glued and nails

it might be argued that nailed half lap dovetails are unconventional for a workbench (this type of joinery being commonly used in large scale woodwork like timber framing, apparently) but there are old examples still in existence. Richard Arnold found this example (probably early 1900s):

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