Sawyers Bench – Poplar & Cherry – 2015/2016

 With David

David had the intention of taking on a weekend project, finishing up early and spending the evening enjoying everything that Crime and Punishment has on tap.  Now I like beer, but I also like a challenge.  Somewhere between coffee and breakfast,  I dreamt up and sold him on a design revision.  A simple weekend project no more.  Rather than doing a lap joint to affix the stretchers to the legs – things got a lot more complicated.  If there was ever a moment for a raising dovetail this is it;  a joint with no practical purpose other than to amaze all those who behold it – and that it does.  The angle is dovetailed on both faces – providing the allusions that the joint can’t come apart in either direction but that begs the the question – how does it go together?

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The secret of course is that the joint slides together on an angle.  There are two central challenges – first figuring out all the geometry that makes it work and than cutting the joints without errors that would hint at the solution.  So rather than ending up at Crime and Punishment we spent the weekend trying to catch up on high school geometry and elementary saw skills.

Blending traditional techniques with a modern design sensibility Tom Fidgen‘s second book is a delight.  We basically replicate his design with some flairs – intentional and other wise.  You may remember that Brian and I reproduced his Joiners Tool Box a couple of years ago.  I added a leather slot for pencils and an awl on the side.  I dovetailed the legs on to the base.  Similar to Tom’s design – I screwed the cross bream to the bench.  I worried if I mortised the beam in, that one day I would try sawing something after Crime and Punishment, have a momentary lapse in attention and end up cutting through the support.  David elected to mortise his in – I appreciate that feel too.

We followed the big elements of Tom’s Design.  The left side of the bench is splayed out – adding stability, especially when I hoist myself on to the bench.  The hold fast is from gramery tool works – and so far is true to its name.

I had the luxury of time to sort through what I wanted my saw bench to look like – David on the other hand was rushing to get his living room shop up and running.  I think that this little bench is responsbile for a lot of woodworking in his shop already.



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Set the bevel to all the angles that mattered.  This is definitely one of those operations where it is handy to have two bevels hanging around.  Finally my weakness for buying things from antique shops that I don’t need pays off.  I made a series of kerfs and than pared out the waste with the sharpest chisel that I could muster.




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Made the compound cut carefully and than cleared out the waste with a chisel.


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So this involved a lot of fitting.  Paring little by little eventually we got all to fit, sometimes more perfectly than others. You can see the tail slide up the ramp into place.


Putting it all together











Cut the dovetail into the top.  Tom lapped his and than fasted it to the side with dowel – either approach works.












Carefully cutting the tails – contrasting woods and the high profile location required careful work.




David’s living workshop in motion.

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David mortised his stretched in place.


Raising dovetails took half a day to figure out the geometry and longer yet to cut all the joinery.  I don’t regret one moment of the time spent – since the initial time investment I have successfully stumped numerous visitors to my shop, with the promise of more to come.


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