The top of the staked worktable is now flattened and down to final dimension. Which means that all I need to do now is give the underside a final dressing and then cut the joinery.
At the end of my last session of working on the top I felt like there was still a great deal of work to get the top flattened. So to make the task at hand feel achievable (and really, it was very achievable) when I went into the workshop yesterday morning I decided to dimension the top before I finished off the flattening. Bringing the top down to final width and length did not remove much excess material, but it certainly put the rest of the flattening into perspective. To start off, I jointed one edge with the No8, to establish a reference edge for the rest of the dimensioning. As the majority of the top was flat at this point I had enough of a reference face to ensure that the edge was square and true. Jointing this edge did not take very long, and I then used it to lay out the right hand end of the top.
Working on a top of this size requires a slightly different approach to some common workshop tasks. A Vesper 10″ square acts as a master square in my workshop, and while a 10″ length is as big as I need in day to day work, it did not extend far enough onto the table top. I didn’t want to sacrifice the accuracy of the Vesper, so instead I ganged it with a 24″ rule by Sterling Tool Works. The Vesper gave me a near absolute square layout line (deviation of no more than +/-0.058mm over 150mm!) which the Sterling rule then followed to extend my layout line along the full width of the table top. Striking the layout line with a sharp marking knife left a crisp, square, end to hit.
My go-to combination for shooting boards square is the Lie-Nielsen No.51 on an Evenfall Studio wide shooting board, but even the wide shooting board did not have capacity for the 24″ wide table top as currently set up. I quickly removed the fence and the chute sides from the shooting board, allowing the table top end to be placed on it while allowing sufficient support for the plane. I lined up the knife line of the end with the side of the chute, and then planed the end deadnuts square. With one end square I was able to measure off the length of the table top and strike a layout line for the opposite end, using the same technique. There was more waste than I really wanted to plane off, so I quickly cross-cut the excess off with my Skelton cross-cut saw before sneaking up on the line with the No.51.
With both ends and one edge finalised, the top was looking manageable even though not much material had been removed (the wonders of psychology!), and setting the freshly sharpened jack plane to a rank cut, the final flattening did not take much time at all. After flattening the top with traversing cuts, I moved to a diagonal cut with the No.8, until the top was close to flat, before finishing up by working along the grain with the No.8. After the frustrations of taking a heavy traversing cut last weekend, I moved the bench away from the wall and filled the gap with several large storage boxes in which I keep my grandfather’s old tools. This improved matters significantly, although the bench dogs I was using to secure the top in place did not have enough holding power (I don’t like to overtighten them as it causes the workpiece to bend), and the top occasionally slid out of their grip. Two clamps fixed to the back edge of the bench stopped any lateral movement, and planing the top progressed noticeably quicker than my previous session. I am definitely working at the limits of the Sjoberg bench, and following my frustrations over the past 12 months, as well as Ethan’s welcome encouragement, the Roubo build has moved substantially up my project list. I spoke to a sawyer this week who assures me he can obtain a 5″x24″x96″ oak slab for the bench top (dimensions which most timber yards struggle to supply). I’m waiting for a price, following which, Roubo will well and truly be coming. With the Sjoberg fighting me every step of the way when flattening the table top, I can definitely see the attraction of a toothed planing stop and doe’s foot for hand work.
Dressing the table top revealed some unexpected curl on two of the boards, which will be very attractive once I’ve applied a gentle finish. There are a couple of isolated spots of tearout, but I am inclined to leave cleaning those up until the table is assembled, as these can be removed with either a smoothing plane or a cabinet scraper along with any other surface wear that can accumulate during assembly. The overall thickness has come out at 13/16″ (22mm) which given the strength of maple, should be plenty thick enough for normal use. Finally, I marked off the final width of the top with a panel gauge, and jointed that edge with the No.8 plane.