Sawbench Antidote

Holy cow.  Another week of work craziness.  I work at a big software company, and the product I work on has been under fire for the last several months.  We’re had lots of meetings with execs, lots of planning meetings and several emergency software updates.  Including one this past week.  Typically it takes at least three or four weeks to test and release a new version of the software, so doing it in two or three days is a nightmare.

The upshot of all of this is, and the tie-in to what I wanted to talk about (besides my silly little saw bench here) is it’s effect on my ability to do things outside of work.  After a week of high pressure activities it sounds like a wonderful thing to be able to go out in the shop and make something.  And in more typical times it is.  But in reality it’s hard.

I find that my mind isn’t at all focussed and I make really dumb mistakes.  Things I should (and do) know already trip me up.  Simple projects are the best for times like this, but even simple projects can be frustrating.  That the other part I guess, not only is my focus off on vacation somewhere, but it took my patience along for the ride.  Am I the only one that experiences this?  I’ve tried taking some time off (last Friday, in fact) but guess what?  Work emergency.

So yesterday I had to feed parts into the CNC mill for a side job, and decided to make a saw bench.  Christopher Schwarz has published, videographed and blogged about more varieties of saw bench than is probably healthy.  I used one of his bench designs as the starting point, although I left off the long stretcher.  The material came from a home center 2 x 8 that I cut up several months ago.

2 x 8 Previously Dissected

2 x 8 Previously Dissected

I dimensioned and trued the legs, then laid out the notches for the tops.  So far, things are going reasonable well.  I got a slight taper on the very end of one leg from careless plane work.  I also trashed one piece when I over did it removing a out of square edge and the part was too narrow.  That’s the kind of mistake I was talking about earlier.  I don’t claim to be a great hand tool woodworker, but with a clear mind I can dimension something like this without a lot of angst.

Bird's Mouth Notches Laid Out

Bird’s Mouth Notches Laid Out

Sawing the notches was frustrating, mostly because of my crappy workbench.  The vises on it don’t hold well at all, so the part is wiggling around while I’m trying to saw it.  I tighten the vise more, it holds just enough to convince me it will be stable, then shifts in the middle of a saw stroke.  I need to work on my workbench project, but I’m put off by dimensioning the stretchers for some reason.  Maybe I’ll bite the bullet today.

Anyway, I flattened the board top and cut notches for the legs.  The top had a huge cup and it took some work to get rid of that.  But I think I’d rather deal with a cup than a bow or twist.  Twists drive me crazy, and on a day like yesterday it would have been too much.  After I cut the notches I glued and nailed the legs in place.

Legs Installed

Legs Installed

One of the legs was angled slightly off.  I should have checked the bird mouth notches side by side to make sure they were consistent.  Sigh.  I marked out and cut the half-laps for the short stretchers, then glued and nailed them in place.  And of course one of the split even though I drilled pilot holes for the cut nails.  Sigh, again.  And yes, it would have been better to put the stretchers on the inside of the legs so there would be more clearance for the ripping notch.

Saw Bench Fabricated

Saw Bench Fabricated

So, it’s not terrible, right?  I’ll make a better one someday when my head is clearer, but it’s functional.  After I scribed and trimmed the legs it sits nice a flat and should be just great for crosscutting small boards.  I need to make another one so I can work with longer boards.  Since I had time I decided to try out some milk paint I bought on a whim a while back.  I gave the bench a coat of black as a base coat.

Black Milk Paint

Black Milk Paint

After the black had dried I sanded it with a 320 sanding sponge.  It sands really nicely.  I mixed up some Salem Red for a top coat.  I think I had it mixed a little thin as it didn’t cover quite as well as the black, but I wanted the black to show through anyway.

Salem Red Top Caot

Salem Red Top Caot

I sanded the red top coat after it dried, and then applied a coat of Tried & True Oil/Wax mix.  It really darkened the color nicely.  I like it.

Topcoated with Oil/Wax Mix

Topcoated with Oil/Wax Mix

My son came out and helped me clean up the shop last night.  I ran the last of the parts on the mill, and need to order the hardware before I can finish that job.  The sun is up and it’s a beautiful day.  Let’s see what kind of damage I can do today…

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4 thoughts on “Sawbench Antidote

  1. I’ve never heard of anyone finishing their saw bench! Looks like an excellent opportunity to practice your finishing though. 😀

    I’m thinking about making the small Dutch tool chest that Chris just made and was planning on using milk paint. How was it to work with? I really like how this turned out.

  2. The milk paint is easy to work with. It’s a little hard to get the lumps out, a tip in the instructions is to add just a little water to the powder and work it into a smooth paste first, then add water to thin it. Letting the mixed paint sit for a little while, then stirring it more helps too.

    When you sand it it smooths out really nicely and takes on a nice sheen. Now I want to make something I can use the milk paint on for the house (although I want more of a “Greene & Greene” aesthetic than Shaker in the house)

  3. I made one similar to that, and the lack of long stretcher makes it a bit wobbly in practice.

    I like the finish you came up with, looks great! Understand the software thing, I’ve worked in software (in QA) for nearly 20 years. I get those crazy times when you have to do the impossible, twice.

    • In my experience the QA folks tend to get the short end of the stick. If dev is late with features they get squeezed. If there is an emergency release you guys have to work through the night to get the testing done. And if a problem slips though into the release the first questions is “why didn’t QA catch this”. I hope it’s better that that for you.

      So I made it through the weekend without a phone call from my boss. First time in a month I think.

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