Some days I feel like Ahab, frantically trying to find and slay the great white whale. Others, there is the realism of Ishmael as he tries to cope with the insanity that slowly burgeons around him. It is no accident that we’ve named this workbench the Great White Whale.
My father and I worked on the danged thing on the 6th, the day before I became officially old. We had one objective - to get the 3 pieces of the top together. This wasn’t a trivial undertaking as each piece consisted of five 74″x2″ pieces of hard maple. Not only that, they were crooked. I don’t know that I’ve ever tried to put heavy crooked things together before, but I certainly won’t be doing it again. We had to slide two of the three together to see if the were straight enough to connect or crooked enough to merit trying to straighten. Turned out there was no way on earth those things were going to fit together, they bent different directions. And yes, there was a definite up side that couldn’t be changed.
So we had to straighten. This shouldn’t have been a a problem. Dad had a router (a really powerful one) and a straight bit for it. Cut the top half of the edge, cut the bottom and you’re done! Just like the pictures! Right. Like anything in this project has been just like the pictures. We mad the calculations for where we’d have to cut to get a straight, aligned edge and affixed the straightedge. The first setting we tried for the router was too slow - it was shredding the edge instead of cutting it. So Dad says “Let’s set it faster, that should cut it properly.” He cranks the router from 1 to 4 and pulls the trigger. I’m supporting the worktop from the back so it doesn’t slide away. When the router touches, it grabs the worktop and pulls - RRRRRRRRR! Dad let go of the trigger and we’re staring at a quarter inch gouge.
I think I’ll cut the swearing. But obviously at this point, the router’s out. We need to play with it on something we haven’t been working on for a YEAR to see what it can do. But the table saw. There has to be a way to do this, right? It cuts straight lines. And we have to cut out the gouge anyway. There is NO WAY that we’re leaving that thing in there. So we start playing with the straight edge and angles and measures and rotation and finally get it so that yes, the line we’re going to cut is straight. Several passes later, the whole of the gouge is gone and we have a straight edge on the worktop. It’s a miracle!
We mirrored the technique on the other 4 edges that needed to be cut, and lined those puppies up. They fit perfectly. No wood filler necessary and beautiful! No one will ever know that one of the boards is short by 1/4″. And I’m not pointing that out.
The next step? Getting these things placed on the 3 pieces of ready rod that will connect them. The first piece was easy, we got to stick it on the eThe next step? Getting these things placed on the 3 pieces of ready rod that will connect them. The first piece was easy, we got to stick it on the end and pound the ready rod into the holes. It just barely fit, but it went through. Then we had to call on Mom for help. She held the rod up perpendicular to the floor, keeping the first third upright while Dad and I hefted the middle piece into position to get the rod into the holes.
Lining that thing up while avoiding smashing Moms fingers and not dropping it was a minor challenge. Holding the already attached piece upright while Dad swung a slegdehammer at the new piece and protected it with a bit of 2×4 was an adventure. Avoiding the hammer and the bits of 2×4 spraying off when it hit while keeping those two pieces in place proved to be a challenge. However, this time I didn’t end up with any bruises on the insides of me knees from the wood. Gluing the edge to keep the pieces in place permanently was cake. And then we got to do it again with the third section.
Miraculously, no splinters ended up in places other than on the floor.
Of course, then we had to move the assembled worktop into the house so that the glue could cure at the proper temperature. Dad has a cart-like thing, but getting the heavy worktop onto it took all three of us and some creative maneuvering. That cart has 4 wheels that can turn any which way, and it likes to travel. Keeping it in place while weilding a couple hundred pounds of wood was quite a challenge. But we did get the worktop inside and laid down. I even got the wax paper in place to protect the floor from the dripping glue. The pipe clamps went on quickly and we were done! About ready to crash, but done!