While I was breaking down the large boards of Soft Maple that I purchased, I cut two pieces that are each 31″ long, which I plan to use as the legs for a new base. At this point, I’m looking at these pieces as netting two legs each, but if it looks out of proportion, I may just decide to laminate some beefier legs. We shall see.
So, today I decided to see how this wood behaves with a hand plane. I like to start out planing one of the large face sides, and when I have that flat, I’ll plane one edge so it is square and true to the planed face.
This face side of the board, had a raised bulge running the length of the board, so I focused on that area first. I lowered the bulge, planing down the length of the board, since it was fairly pronounced, and was hard to prevent tipping the plane fore or aft. After bringing that part down so it was almost completely level, I started working across the grain, so I could take advantage of heavier shaving and expedite my progress. It is amazing how much easier it is to work the wood across the grain, but do expect the surface to have a rough and splintery texture, so don’t expect to get a final surface planing this direction (unless you are actually wanting to give your bench top some “tooth”, so your work doesn’t slide around as easily). One other note: I always use an iron that has a fair amount of camber, when working across the grain, which helps me target any specific area and leaves a scoop pattern in the wood and the iron’s corners don’t dig in. I followed the cross grain planing with my old Stanley #3, first set up for a little heavier than normal shaving, then as a super-fine smoother, while planing with the grain.
After seeing the beautiful curly grain in this board for the bench legs, I’m getting more excited to see if the boards I cut for the bench’s top, will also have this nice grain?? Only time will tell!
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For anyone that has been following my blog, or my articles at Highland Woodworking for the last 5 years, you know I’ve had a bench build on my to-do list. For those that don’t know my background, I’ve had a number of iterations over the years, but never had all of the stars align to build a better bench.
I used a workmate for a little while, but struggled cutting precision joints, as there just wasn’t enough mass to knock out the saw vibrations. I attempted to build the base of my current bench, using some redwood from the big box stores, but I couldn’t get the joints to come together. Fast forward to when I got the earliest SawStop model saw, and integrated a home-made vise, to the holes on the left cast-iron wing. Finally I had the means to hold parts solidly, and also used the saw’s top as a “bench”. I pulled the base parts out of a storage stack, and re-worked the joints. All was good in the world again. With the base glued up, I had three layers of 3/4″ plywood, stacked as the bench top. From there it’s shifted to a double-layer of Ikea counter tops, 24″ x 48″, which is present day.
Today I chose some 12/4 Soft Maple at my local Dakota Premium Hardwoods, and they’ll drop it off here tomorrow. My cars just couldn’t handle two 14′ sticks and one 16′ stick. Haha.
Now I just have to wait to get the wood delivered, and fit the build into my “busy” schedule. 😉 You know I’ll be sure to document a good part of the build, so stay tuned. Sorry I missed the photo op today.
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