Shooting Joinery Bench Top End Grain
Bench building is more like timber framing than furniture making. The size of the timber and the joints makes your 2″ paring chisel feel small. These monster components mean that often tasks have to be done by hand because the machines in the average shop don’t have the capacity to handle them. Whether you are a certified (or certifiable) galoot like myself or the hybrid type, you will be glad you learned some hand tool skills when you build a bench.
So when I took my Joinery Bench top out of the clamps and began sizing it to final dimensions I became very thankful for my low angle Jack plane. You see this top will be bounded on four sizes by an apron. This apron will be integral for the Benchcrafted Moxon vise on the front, but also as a knock down mechanism that will allow me to transport the bench to Woodworking in America next week (yikes). So it is imperative that the ends of the top be flat, square, and plumb. No shooting board and plane I know of can handle a 3.5″ thick top so accurate marking lines would have to be my guide.
Finding a way to secure the top for planing may have been the most difficult task of the day. While my leg vises have the capacity, I thought a simpler way would suffice. Fortunately my Roubo bench is an immovable object and makes a great planing stop. By positioning my saw bench against the Roubo legs and nestling the joinery bench top into the ripping V notch I have a very stable planing surface that was 32″ high. A little low for me, but still easily done.
A little alcohol to soften the end grain fibers a bit and I was off and planing. Pay close attention to your marking lines and make sure your square is never far from hand. Plane, check, plane, check is the process. No tricks here, just plane away the high spots.
Maybe it is a product of the work put into this task, but planed end grain is truly beautiful. It seems a shame now to have to cover it up with my aprons.