It Takes Time


I’ve been woodworking now for about 6 years, blogging for 4, and using hand tools for about 3. I don’t necessarily believe in the culmination of anything to be perfectly frank, i.e. there’s always room to explore and improve, but getting to the point where I’m able to flatten a rough sawn piece of wood using only a jack plane, a jointer plane and a smoothing plane has been nothing short of gratifying. On the surface of it, a simple task, no? But considering the details of keeping a hand plane properly tuned, of learning to correctly sharpen a steel blade by hand, and to listen and respond to a piece of wood in order to coax the desired form from underneath is a real trial and a real joy. It’s a unifying process, of working in harmony with hands, tools, and wood. And I’m grateful for the opportunity.


Walnut Shaker Meetinghouse Bench

After making the smaller Cherry Shaker Style bench, I scaled up to make this Walnut version to sit at our dining room table. It will be about ¬†5′ long by 13″ wide by 19.5″ tall.

Here’s the rough lumber getting measured for the first cuts and jack-planing.These two boards will be joined to form a 13″ wide¬†bench top.

After edge-jointing the pieces and some rough jack-planing the edge surfaces are placed together to ensure a completely flat fit, sans any gaps.


A close up of the edges dry fit for accuracy.


Planing down each piece of the bench top for flat and square prior to glue-up.


And glue-up, complete with 3 sets of cauls to ensure flatness. The clamps aren’t too tight-just enough to push the glue out.


And now for the two legs. The lumber for the bench top was kiln dried and from somewhere in the Midwest. The wood for the two legs and the four knee braces came from an urban tree in Davenport, IA, and has been drying in my garage for about two years. I did an initial planing of it about a year ago and there was some slight cupping. So now a second round of planing to level it out.


After everything has been cut to size and rough planed, it undergoes a couple of days of sitting flat with some Osage Orange and White Oak for weight.


Cutting the sliding dovetails on the legs to be joined to the bench top.



And removing the mating space for the sliding dovetail joints on the bench top. Getting the matching angles just right takes some time and patience.


The two legs and the top dry-fit to check for square. The piece is quite elegant without the knee-braces but given the size of the bench and the assumed weight of three adults, necessitates a bit more support.


Sizing up the knee-braces.


Dry-fitting the four knee-braces to the tops and legs.


And everything dry-fit prior to glue-up. The knee-braces sit proud on purpose. They will be planed down with a low-angle block plane prior to applying the beeswax finish.



Knee-brace end prior to trimming…


…and trimmed flat with the bench-top.


The bench is now ready for the wax finish.


But first, a slight chamfer on the top of the bench.


Gotta love those long curly-cues from chamfering.


And the beeswax finish applied and drying.