How to Make a Bench with Traditional Woodworking Joinery

In the video “Wood Bench | Wedge Through Mortise & Tenon,” Caleb from You Can Make This Too demonstrates how to build a bench using the challenging yet rewarding wedge through mortise and tenon joints.

Caleb begins by acknowledging the complexity of the joints and the excitement of trying something new.

The project kicks off with breaking down raw materials to rough lengths and milling the wood. Caleb clarifies that while he uses big machines for efficiency, they are not necessary; the same results can be achieved with simpler tools or even pre-milled lumber.

The bench design necessitates glue-ups as the initial pieces were not wide enough.

Caleb emphasizes precision in the glue-up process, aiming for tight seams, and stresses the importance of shoulder cuts in the joinery, which he learned through trial and error on scrap wood.

To achieve identical lengths on the legs, he uses a miter gauge with stops and cuts the benchtop while keeping the glue line centered for aesthetic reasons.

He then meticulously lays out and cuts the mortise and tenon joints, drilling holes and sawing by hand, but notes that a router could also be used.

The mortises are cut with attention to keeping the ends slanted to match the angle of the wedges. This angle is arbitrary, but Caleb ensures consistency by measuring and chiseling back to marked lines.

As he moves on to the legs, Caleb discusses the use of a hand drill for creating mortises and opts for a palm router to finish them off, citing the difficulty of chiseling through hard maple’s end grain.

The corners of the mortises are squared up with a chisel, and he makes sure not to cut inside the mortise beyond the necessary depth.

After all the joinery is laid out, Caleb switches to a flush cut saw to make angle marks for chiseling, a technique that ensures precision for fitting the wedges.

Once satisfied with the joinery work, Caleb smooths all parts with a plane before glue-up, and upon realizing the limitations of hand tools, he resorts to sanding for the desired finish.

The final steps involve gluing and wedging the bench together, flush cutting the tenons, and applying finish.

Caleb uses General Finishes Arm-R-Seal for a durable finish, sanding lightly between coats.

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