Like the hair on the heads of most of my co-workers, or a fine strand of gossamer, or perhaps the skin of many woodworking writers, my time spent woodworking lately has been very thin. Why? First off, I just haven’t felt all that great to be honest. I’m hoping it’s nothing, but in any event it was enough to keep me grounded for a week or so. Secondly, with the Easter holiday just passing we had a fairly busy week around the house, not only visiting our relatives, but also having much of the family over visiting us. Still, I did manage to get some work done on my plant stand here and there on Saturday morning, and at that I got a good amount accomplished.
Last week I had milled the stock and finished the top, so next on the agenda was chopping the mortises, and I decided to chop out the mortises for the bottom stretchers first. It’s been months since I chopped any mortises, so I felt that starting at the least visible portion would be the smart thing to do. Each leg has two ¼” mortises, which are intersecting. Intersecting mortises are theoretically easier to chop by hand because if you chop them plumb and square, you automatically will have a flat bottom for each side by virtue of the intersection. The job wasn’t difficult; I had sharpened my mortising chisel last week so it was fully ready to go, and the Fir legs of the soon to be plant stand work easy enough. I didn’t use a mortising machine because I don’t own one and I never really had the desire to, though in this case I wouldn’t have minded. It took around an hour of work to get the bottom eight mortises finished, along with the fine tuning done with a regular chisel. I guess I could have used the router table, but they don’t do all that great a job with mortising in my opinion. I don’t enjoy repeatedly adjusting the depth of cut as there’s just too much room for error.
Rather than continue in a logical sequence and chop out the top mortises, I decided to fit the tenons for the bottom stretchers instead. At first, I used the shoulder plane, but found that a sharp skew chisel and a bench hook did a much better job. I own two skew chisels, ½” Narex LH and RH. Though I don’t care for the bulky handles all that much, they sharpen nicely and hold a good edge. I think I paid $20 for the pair and they were well worth it. To fit the tenons I took a light pass on the “face side”-meaning the side of the tenons on the visible portion of the stretcher, but I did the bulk of the work on the inside portion of the tenon. I learned that if you are going to make a mistake fitting a tenon, it’s best to do it on the “inside” portion. The job didn’t take long, less than an hour, and I had all eight tenons fitted. Only one tenon, the back right, had a shoulder which was a little off kilter, meaning it had a minor gap. It doesn’t matter though, as it will be covered by the bottom shelf and will be completely invisible.
The last woodworking act of the day was sawing the miters on the edge of each tenon. I used the table saw for that job, as it was faster and more accurate. Once the miters were sawn I did another test fit, and found that the tenons were a hair long. To fix that problem I used the jack plane and bench hook to “shoot” the ends of the miters just enough to nibble off the ends a hair. Strangely enough, I had just mentioned to another woodworker that I very rarely “shoot” boards. Once I had finished that little task I did a final test fit using clamps. The shoulders closed up nicely, but I very well may use dowels to reinforce the joint once it’s together; I’m thinking one 3/8” dowel on each tenon should do the trick.
I’m going to estimate that chopping the mortises for the top and fitting the tenons should also take roughly two hours. After that, I will begin the arduous task of planing and sanding the stand. I am planning on beading the stretchers after the sanding is completed. I’m still on the fence with beading the corners of the legs, though I am 95% sure that I will stick to the bead. I’m thinking that a larger bead may be in order, 3/8″ rather than 1/4″, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, but the toll for the crossing may be the first new router bit I’ve purchased since before I started woodworking.