Hand Tools Archive

Latta Bench Assembled *PIC*

Bill Tindall, E.Tn.
Quartered Wormy Oak Steve Latta Auxiliary Bench


I made the bench in what seemed to me to be the most reasonable way to make it. The legs are dovetailed into the sides and the stretchers are M&T into the legs. I don't understand the I-beam construction Latta advocates. I may add an "apron" across the front to provide a clamping surface. If so I will just screw it on so I can remove it if it gets in the way of my preferred F-style camping of stuff to the surface.

The joinery came up snug. The joints are not glued and won't need to be unless something shrinks and loosens. In this state I can disassemble and alter leg length if needed (see below M&T detail).

I wish I had not used oak. It is miserable to work with hand tools. While it saws fine, I had no problem sawing dovetails, it does not scribe mark and chisel fine. If someone decides to build a bench I would recommend maple. The first socket was too tight and paring to get a good fit was difficult with oak. By the time I sawed the 3rd I was able to judge where to saw relative to the scribe line and the last two joints fit without modification.

I sawed the tails with a Lee Valley saw, 12 point rip. This saw was way too aggressive for oak. The teeth were so grabby that my several hundred pound bench shook while sawing. I used the vintage saw shown (filed by Tom Law cross cut) for socket sawing and it did well. The LN dovetail saw was too dainty for this job.


The picture shows how I positioned the legs perpendicular to the top for dovetail socket marking. Anyone got a better idea? This worked but it seems a bit strange.


Oak pares poorly and I could not chisel the bottom of the sockets smooth. The router plane came to the rescue.

The stretchers are M&T into the legs. The tenon is half the thickness of the stretcher and it is not centered but rather it is at the top surface of the stretcher. If I want to shorten the bench I will just turn the stretcher upside down and reinstall. An inch of leg with stick below the stretcher in this position and can be cut off.

Vise is back ordered

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