The final significant task before I call the Roubo bench “done” is fitting a shelf between the stretchers. There are a few details to fettle, but I”m very much on the home straight and the finishing line is in sight.
For the shelf I am using scrap oak left over from the Policeman’s Boot Bench and other projects – a number of the shelve boards are gnarly pieces which did not make the grade for furniture quality work. It is a perfect opportunity to get them off the scrap pile and into use, and to be honest the “character” fits in nicely with the rest of the Roubo bench. I really like tongue and groove joinery for base or back boards for casework, and shelves for the bench. With a dedicated plane cutting the joinery is quick and simple, and it provides a strong joint. It also gives me an opportunity to use my 1/8″ Philly beading plane, which is probably the most enjoyable tool in my toolchest.
The boards were all of varying width and thickness. Rather than loose too much material by making them a consistent width, I bought four down to a width of just over 10″, and a further pair to 9″ wide. All were processed to a consistent thickness of a half a pouce (keeping with the 18th century unit of measurement wherever possible for this project). While my tongue and groove plane is set for 1/2″ thick boards, offsetting the joinery does not matter providing both halves are cut from the same reference surface so that they match. Processing the boards also provided an opportunity to try another work holding solution – planing into a batten held by the planing stop and a holdfast. This worked very nicely, and not having the boards held down mechanically meant that the workflow was very efficient when changing workpieces over.
Once the boards were trimmed to length to fit between the stretchers I started by laying them out. Pairs of the wider boards were placed at each end, with pairs of the narrower boards set in next to them. The outer most boards need to be let into the gap between the legs so that they meet the narrow stretchers at each end of the undercarriage. Instead of measuring the recesses, I marked these directly off the surface of the legs by holding the board against the legs and marking both dimensions with a marking knife registering off the surface of the leg. I then cut the recesses using my Bad Axe 16″ tenon saw. Normally for piston fit joinery I would cut against, but not on, the knife kerf. However, a little bit of slop here helps to ease the fit of the shelf boards, as the undercarriage is not perfectly square. So for the recesses I cut on the knife kerf. The resulting fit was nice and clean, without being overtight.
Once the end boards were in position, I then cut the tongue and groove joinery with a Lie-Nielsen No.49, and a bead on the shoulder of the “tongue” half with the Philly Planes beading plane. The boards are fitted together and rested on the shelf support battens – there is no need to nail or glue them in place as they lie quite flat, and the weight of my Moxon vise, shooting boards and other appliances will hold them in place. Being able to lift the shelf out easily will be beneficial, if I ever need to replace or repair the boards.
With the four-board arrangement in place, I could then measure the remaining gap for a central narrower shelf board. I will fit this board and oil the shelf during the week, and then do some tidying up before calling the bench done by the end of the month. Having the width of the shelves reduce from each end towards the middle of the shelf adds a nice visual rhythm, and made fitting the boards a lot more straight forward.