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Wedged-Base Workbench


Wedged-Base Workbench

Tablesaw joinery locks it together.

By Tim Johnson

This workbench has a top ready for hard use. But it’s the base that catches your eye. The interlocking joinery, with its dovetails and wedges, is rock solid, yet it knocks down quickly for moving.

Although it looks complicated, the base is surprisingly easy to build. It’s made from multiples of only five parts that fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. The fancy joinery that locks the pieces in place is nothing more than strategically located rabbets and dadoes, and they’re all made on the tablesaw.

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Cut slots centered in the top of each leg for the brackets that hold the top (Step A).To keep the leg steady, attach a tall auxiliary fence to your saw’s rip fence and clamp the leg to a good-sized rectangular block. Use a featherboard and make the cut in several shallow passes until you reach the maximum depth your dado set allows (21⁄8-in., in this case).

Cut dadoes on both sides of each top bracket so they can slip into the dadoes in the leg tops (Step B). Stop blocks at each end of the miter fence control the width of the cut.

Bevel the edges of each end rail at a 9-degree angle (Step E).These cuts turn the tongues into big dovetail pins. Leave a 1⁄4-in. wide flat on the back edge of the rail to ride against the fence.

Make angled cuts at the reference points, turning the leg dadoes into tails (Step F).Then nibble away the remaining waste. After cutting the angle on one side of each dado, flip the leg over and stand the end rail on the leg. Align the pin with the unfinished tail, and mark the leg for the remaining angled cut. (Inset) Set the height of the blade for cutting the dovetail corners by raising it so that its teeth barely nick the top of the dado.

Pare the waste from the angled saw cuts with a sharp, wide chisel to finish the corner.

Cut a dado (Step G) in each end rail, starting from the shoulder of the half-lap. Make it wide enough to house the side rail.

Mark the location of the angled dado in the side rail that will hold the wedge. Slide the side rail into position and use the end assembly dado for reference.

Lay out the side rail wedge dado from the L-shaped mark you’ve just made (Photo 7). Its leg gives you the depth and its stem marks the back of the wedge. Extend the dado a bit behind this line for clearance. Draw the angled front using one of your wedges held tight against a try square.You can remove most of the waste from this dado with straight, 90-degree cuts (Step L).

Make the final angled cuts in the side rail (Step M). Use one of the wedges clamped between the rail and the miter gauge to guarantee that the angle of the dado and the wedge match perfectly.

Slide the wedge home (Step N). Once it has engaged the dado in the lower end rail, tap it securely into place.


Woodcraft Supply,, 800-225-1153, workbench tops.

Your local home center or lumberyard, kitchen countertops.

The story originally appeared in American Woodworker October 1999, Issue #75.

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