Bench Repair (Part 3)

Having cut and cleaned out all the mortises in my previous session working on this bench, my next job was to cut the tenons on each end of the seven slats. With relatively small components like this, I like to use my faithful router sled to gauge the thickness by making a single pass across each face.

Much to my surprise, the otherwise excellent tenon cutter from Wealden left a rather ‘fluffy‘ edge on both shoulders of each tenon. This is a problem I used to get when using a simple twin-flute straight cutter to do the same job – and, hence, why I bought the tenon cutter, specifically for this sort of work. It’s never done this on any other timber before, even a softwood so, I’m putting it down to the timber I’m using. This cutter’s been used a reasonable amount in almost two-years but, I’m sure it’s not blunt… Idigbo (which is usually much lighter) has a tendency to ‘fluff‘ as it’s machined but, I’m quite certain now that this wood is meranti (aka. lauan).

I always like to reduce the width of my tenons to less than the width of the component, so that you have a clean shoulder all around. This looks tidier, to me and, if the wood should shrink over time, there’s no risk of water creeping in to the mortises, as long as the shoulders are cut accurately and tight. I’m not sure why I used my bandsaw to do this now, thinking about it… In the past, I’ve used the same tenon jig on the router table by simply altering the height of the cutter. Using the bandsaw, you still need to trim the shoulders with hand tools.

It may not be perfectly clear in the photo above but, when ever I have multiple components to fit in to a frame (as on this job), I find it beneficial to stamp a letter or number on to the face-side of each tenon. On larger jobs (doors, gates, etc.), I’ll even use a marker pen. What I’m trying to avoid though, is marking any of the faces or edges, which I also sand thoroughly in advance of assembly.

I bought my belt sander (a Makita 9404) almost two-years ago. It was mainly purchased for flattening large table tops and surfaces that are sometimes awkward to flatten with hand planes, in a small workshop. Since then though, I’ve found I use it in just about any sanding job. I’d love to own a small drum sander some day but, for now, there’s no better tool for removing previous machining marks from your timber. Even with a 120g belt fitted (I rarely use anything more coarse than that), it’ll ‘clean’ the wood much faster than any random orbit sander could plus, it’ll leave a very flat surface. Stacking narrow components side-by-side also helps to avoid tipping and associated disasters when using a wide sander.

There are, of course, some tips and tricks you may need to know if you wanted to get the best from your belt sander, without ruining all your previous hard work… Reducing the speed of the tool is one of my favourites and, you may find a view more in the following video, which I came across a couple of months ago:

At the end of this session, the new seat was ready for assembly, using Titebond III. Notice how I cut the tenons on each end of the front and back rails before assembly:

There’s still a little bit of work to do before this new seat ready to be fitted in to the rest of the frame. In the next instalment, I’ll show you how I re-created the two side rails, which allow the main seat to be fixed to the four legs, in a knock-down fashion.

Ironically though, I briefly sat on the other seat last night (the one which hadn’t rotted away), when one of those slats hit the floor – just when I thought I was making some progress with all these chores and other jobs that need doing… All the weeds I killed a month ago have grown back now as well! 🙄

Thanks for reading.

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