Workbench: Episode 4

Workbench Episode 4

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Time for the rails. They are cut to size and planed before the tenons are laid out. They are then cut to size using a combination of the saw, chisel and router to get a tight joint.

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  1. Nicholas Newble on 15 December 2017 at 11:03 am

    Very timely release of the fourth episode, as I’m just finishing the mortises. Are there any major advantages of using a haunched tenon on that top rail as opposed to the shoulder cut shown here?

    Production, lighting and camera work great again too.

    • david o'sullivan on 15 December 2017 at 6:31 pm

      the hunch provides integrity to the joint

    • ads king on 15 December 2017 at 6:40 pm

      I was thinking the same. The old YT workbench videos show the haunched tenon and the plans for this bench show it as an option. Would be nice to know why this shoulder? Type tenon has been chosen instead.

      • Stefano Passiglia on 16 December 2017 at 9:35 am

        The haunch helps prevent twisting. You still have a wide tenon surface, but with less end grain movement that could make the tenon cup, or warp. So it prevents tenon integrity with a smaller surface. Same reason why in some cases for very large tenon surfaces, you split the tenon in two.
        The top rail is the one carrying the load so it is imperative it is strong and stable.
        There’s no need to haunch the bottom rail tenon as it is a through tenon and its purpose is to keep the legs together

        • Stefano Passiglia on 16 December 2017 at 9:36 am

          “it prevents tenon integrity” should read “it preserves tenon integrity”

        • Nicholas Newble on 16 December 2017 at 12:13 pm

          Thanks – looks like I’ll probably make mine haunched then as per the optional bit in the downloadable plans.

    • Stefano Passiglia on 16 December 2017 at 9:37 am

      The haunch helps prevent twisting. You still have a wide tenon surface, but with less end grain movement that could make the tenon cup, or warp. So it preserves tenon integrity with a smaller surface. Same reason why in some cases for very large tenon surfaces, you split the tenon in two.
      The top rail is the one carrying the load so it is imperative it is strong and stable.
      There’s no need to haunch the bottom rail tenon as it is a through tenon and its purpose is to keep the legs together

    • Philip Adams on 18 December 2017 at 4:58 pm

      Hi Nicholas,
      Paul said that a haunched tenon was not necessary in this case as it doesn’t add significant strength for this purpose.

      • Nicholas Newble on 18 December 2017 at 6:47 pm

        Thanks for checking that – I have decided I will use one but more as an exercise in seeing how it works as my first project.

    • Michael Ostrander on 24 December 2017 at 7:55 am

      You’re installing a 4″ or 5″ tenon through a 4″ mortise. Adding a haunch here would just be an exercise. It would add very little strength to this already massive joint.

  2. tas on 15 December 2017 at 11:06 am

    Thanks Paul!

  3. laurence on 15 December 2017 at 11:56 am

    As always, great real life instructional video!
    Thanks Paul!

  4. ruben verschueren on 15 December 2017 at 12:28 pm

    I’m looking foward to start building mine during the hollidays. I am going to incorporate a removable tool holder to have that roubo style clamping option of the split top. And I’ll probably be adding a leg vise wit a wooden screw and an end vise.
    It’s only about the fifth design so it might still change 😁.
    Thanks for another great video.

  5. James Ortaliz on 15 December 2017 at 12:35 pm

    I noticed on your hand router that you have a jig attached to it. Is there any better woods to us to make this jig?

    Thank you

    • Philip Adams on 15 December 2017 at 12:43 pm

      Hello James, something durable and dense that doesn’t mark the wood you are working on, for example sapele.

  6. /Roger Dickinson on 15 December 2017 at 1:51 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I have been following your new bench series and have also been getting to grips with your new method of making m & t joints using the router plane. I am wondering if the router plane method could be applied to the bench construction, or do you think that the tenons are too big for this? I have also wondered about using a scrap piece of stretcher material to support the free end of the router during tenon reducing operations so as to avoid the router plane end swinging free. (Your employment of the bench plane on the tenon ends slightly frightens me!) I am enjoying these videos so much!

    • Bas Cost Budde on 16 December 2017 at 9:45 am

      supporting the router past your workpiece needs the support to be exactly in the same plane as the workpiece face. I frequently find that hard to realize. Pauls method with the bench plane, guided by the router groove and the knife/gauge marks on all sides is so reliable and so achievable, I never reached for the elongaters anymore.

  7. Keith Walmsley on 15 December 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Hi! What length are the saws used in this video?

    Thank you.

  8. Randall Cates on 15 December 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Thank you. As always, a very well done presentation. I’m looking forward to building a new workbench myself in the near future. I do have a question tho. When it came time to surface plane the rail, you picked up one plane then switched it with another. And when you were adjusting it it looked like it was your scrub plane based on the appearance of the blade in the throat. Is that correct? And did you have a particular reason for choosing that one?

    • Mohyudin Dingle on 19 December 2017 at 3:52 am

      I’d guess he was choosing between the Stanley #4 smoother and the #4 set up as a scrub plane

    • Philip Adams on 19 December 2017 at 2:04 pm

      Hello Randall, it was indeed a scrub plane that is used first to remove a lot of stock, then the smoothing plane is used to refine the surface.

  9. steve Eastwood on 15 December 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Paul, enjoying your new series you make it look so easy, practice makes it so I’d guess.
    Just one question, “what happened to the split that was appearing at the end of the mortise as you neared
    Please keep the good ideas flowing and a merry Christmas to you and the team.

  10. Ecky H on 15 December 2017 at 4:49 pm

    Many thanks for that great video and in particular for the valuable hints to fit the tenon in the mortise – with the router plane.
    That helps a lot in my next steps prior to build the workbench: work on small saw horses (perhaps they’re better called “saw ponies” 😉 ).

  11. Dennis O'Shea on 15 December 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Every time I watch you work I am in Awe of your skills .I have one question how many times did you have to sharpen the chisels in cutting all those mortises ? Again just a fantastic series and many thanks

  12. Bob Hutchins on 16 December 2017 at 3:20 am

    Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Joyous and Prosperous New Year!

    As always, your videos are a wonder to watch. You impart information in so many different ways without seemingly thinking about the teaching aspect. It’s as if teaching is part of your nature in all you do. Marvelous to see!

    At about the 9 min 30 second mark in this video you mention that your layout will be true if your square is true and registered on the correct sides. Of course this is true, but it would be helpful if you expanded on this a bit and showed how to test that a square is truly square, and what to do if it is not (provided, of course that the error is correctable). This would make a good subject for a short video lesson.

    All the best,
    Bob from central Texas

  13. Brian Miller on 16 December 2017 at 5:19 am

    Watched this at 5 am (South Dakota time) now I’m back at 11 pm watching again. Can’t get enough of this.

  14. Christopher Dennis on 16 December 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Great to see you using on the Workmate and along with a basic set of hand tools this really is a build that ‘Everyman’ can follow.

  15. pomme on 17 December 2017 at 1:36 am

    My eyes keep getting drawn to the offset brickwork to the left of the picture near the copper down pipe.
    No miss alignment with the perfect fitting mortise and tenon joint.

  16. JDLG on 18 December 2017 at 4:02 am

    Is there a reason for using the router plane rather than a shoulder plane? Are they interchangeable for trimming the tenon? Is one better than the other?

    • ballinger on 18 December 2017 at 11:23 pm

      It’s about a minimal set of tools. It’s a way of eliminating the need to buy a shoulder plane. But if you happen to have one then use it 😀. The advantage of a shoulder plane is that you could save a little time prepping your stock. You could flatten one face and edge to register your layout lines. Then on the side that hasn’t been prepped you could use a shoulder plane because it doesn’t rely on the rail being coplanar to the tenon cheeks.

      • Larry Geib on 19 December 2017 at 1:34 am

        Two different functions.

        a router registers against the face of the work. It is primarily used to dress the tenon cheek.

        A shoulder plane isn’t named a cheek plane. It was designed to dress the shoulders.

    • Philip Adams on 19 December 2017 at 2:09 pm

      The router plane is indeed used to give a guaranteed distance from the outside face, so you get a centred, even width tenon.

  17. millermj on 9 January 2018 at 2:19 am

    Hi. You center the mortise gage to center the tennon. With hand tools, each rail will be slightly different. Do you recenter the gage on every rail or is it “close enough”?

  18. Patrick Bell on 15 October 2020 at 5:12 am

    Hope you still monitor this older, but still very relevant link.

    After chopping my 6″ mortis’ (morti?), I’m ready to cut the rails. In the US, a 2×6 is actually only 5 1/2 in width. The 6 ” rail on the video looks to be one piece. The question that comes to mind: is 6″ lumber available in the UK, and hence the 6″ verses 5 1/2″ recommendation for the width. Looks like I’ll be gluing up to get the 6 inch width. For future (?US) viewers, to prevent an extra glue up step, would a 5 1/2″ rail be adequate?

    • Izzy Berger on 21 October 2020 at 4:20 pm

      Hi Patrick,

      I see our members have kindly given you answers, please let me know if there are any outstanding questions you have and we’ll do our best to help!

      Kind Regards,

  19. Benoît Van Noten on 15 October 2020 at 9:16 am

    Use what you have available.
    None of the dimensions are critical.
    Although you should adapt everything.
    If you lumber is 5 1/2 or whatever , make the mortise and tenons accordingly.

    The dimensions for my workbench were inspired but not copied from the 2012 workbench [made in the garden] dimensions.
    The recycled lumber I have used for the rails was about 85 X 30 mm so I made my tenon and mortises 85 X 10.

    If your mortise is too big, two solutions:
    – glue up to increase the tenon height; or
    – glue a shim in the mortise.

  20. Jon on 15 October 2020 at 10:55 am

    I just finished my workbench last month. Benoit is absolutely correct. Get in the ballpark and you’ll be fine. Most of the measurements are off the stock itself, so the absolute dimensions don’t control. What is important is that the components are close to identical with each other. Also, if your joints aren’t perfect that doesn’t matter too much either. Those giant mortises mean your bench is going to be solid which is the important thing even if there’s gaps in the joints. Nothing has improved my woodworking like finishing the bench!

  21. Benoît Van Noten on 15 October 2020 at 3:48 pm

    I will add that I made a 10mm thick tenon for 2 reasons:
    – it is common practice to make the tenon 1/3 of the rail thickness;
    – I have a 10 mm chisel to chop the mortise; otherwise I could have made the tenon 1/2″ thick.

    So one not only has to adapt to the lumber available but also to the tools available.

  22. Benoît Van Noten on 15 October 2020 at 4:28 pm

    Looking back at episode 3, (you might have not catch this) Paul says that he made his rails exactly 6″ … and so he could measure the mortise.

    Now if one look at this 2012 blog:
    pictures 3 and 4,
    one will see that Paul doesn’t measure the mortise but uses the actual rail to report its real width on the leg to determine the mortise length. That is the best way to avoid mismatch.
    old video:
    look from 4’19”

  23. Roberto Fischer on 16 October 2020 at 12:34 am

    A friend of mine made the same mistake of cutting a 6″ mortise and later noticing his rails were 5″ and some.

    You must understand where measurements go and measure properly. I honestly didn’t even bother making all rails the same height, just parallel. I measured the end of each mortise hole by marking each pair and placing each piece right to the top mark of each mortise. I then measured the bottoms. They could be of totally different heights and it wouldn’t matter!

    I think Paul could have measured the mortises from the rails instead of just saying his were dead on 6″. I don’t see a benefit to having anything dead to a tape measure value here.

  24. Patrick Bell on 16 October 2020 at 5:37 pm

    Thank you all for your thoughtful and helpful comments. Benoit, I did review the 2012 blog and found it insightful for future mortis and tenon work. Had I of thought through the concept, instead of “strictly” following the 6″ video mortis, I would have saved myself a lot of time “fixing” an undoubtedly novice’s mistake. Unfortunately, that’s how a lot of us learn. Perhaps with age, and mistakes, come wisdom.


  25. Benoît Van Noten on 17 October 2020 at 9:58 am

    Although most of the processes are shown in the video, one has to listen attentively. Otherwise one can miss important information.
    And importantly, there are little gems in what Paul says.

    Me too I don’t always catch all at the first (or even at the nth) view.

  26. Charles Bushell on 6 January 2021 at 5:04 pm

    I’m about to cut my tenons, but I don’t have a router yet. Is there another way to take down the faces to fit the mortise hole?

    • Izzy Berger on 15 January 2021 at 12:17 pm

      Hi Charles,

      Paul says:
      Just paring with a wide chisel works just fine.


  27. Roberto Fischer on 6 January 2021 at 5:15 pm

    You can pare down with a chisel. Saw close to the line and then place your chisel on the line and cut aiming upwards. When you’ve gone down to the line on all 3 sides (like a raised panel), pare down the bump in the middle to make it all flat. Keep checking yourself frequently since it’s a pretty big tenon.

  28. Benoît Van Noten on 7 January 2021 at 1:20 pm

    I used a “poor man’s router” when I made my workbench.
    see Paul’s video:

  29. Charles Bushell on 7 January 2021 at 4:33 pm

    Thank you Roberto and Benoit for the suggestions. I tried the poor mans router before and it didn’t quite work for me. I’ll have to give it another try.
    Thanks again.


  30. Benoît Van Noten on 7 January 2021 at 8:14 pm

    my poor man’s router was a quick and dirty affair.
    I had to enhance it with a screw to prevent chisel moving.
    see picture.

    anyway, nobody will ever see those workbench apron dadoes.

    I now have a veritas router plane.

  31. Benoît Van Noten on 7 January 2021 at 8:17 pm

    oops, sorry, couldn’t link a picture

    I drilled a hole in the wood perpendicular to the chisel blade and threaded a metal screw in it to apply some pressure on the chisel blade.

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