Amana Church Bench – FineWoodworking


Synopsis: With a protracted and storied historical past going again to the early 1800s in Iowa’s Amana colonies, this bench is constructed to outlive being damaged down and transported, and used each week by church members. But regardless of its utilitarian previous, it has a fairly thrilling design. The legs use staked joinery to connect to the seat and battens, that are joined with sliding dovetails. The seat and splat are linked with a knockdown joint, with an angled tenon. And the again relaxation connects to the splat with drawbore pegs.

The second I first noticed one among these benches in a church in Iowa’s Amana colonies, I wished to construct one. After researching the benches’ historical past with Amana historian Peter Hoenle, I found that the unique benches had been made in Ebenezer (now West Seneca), N.Y., within the early 1800s for the church buildings of the Neighborhood of True Inspiration, a communal society that also exists. The benches, with their detachable backs, had been transported from New York to Iowa in 1846 when your entire group relocated to close Iowa Metropolis. The vast majority of the benches, some upwards of twenty-two ft. lengthy, are nonetheless used every week by members of the church. I scaled down the bench to five ft. to raised slot in a typical residence. I additionally used hickory for the legs and battens and pine for the remainder.

For a seemingly spartan design, the joinery is fairly thrilling—and it’s all seen. The legs use staked joinery to connect to the seat and battens, which themselves are joined by way of sliding dovetails. The seat and splat are linked with a knockdown joint, whose angled tenon requires particular care. A tapered wedge locks the joint. To high all of it off, the again relaxation connects to the splats with drawbore pegs. It appears like loads, however it’s price it; the originals have been going robust for almost 200 years.

Just a few elements, joined properly

Benches with this design have lasted almost 200 years because of tapered, staked joinery, sliding dovetails, and well-considered mortise-and-tenons.

illustration of bench details

illustration of joinery details

illustration of leg mortise layout top view

illustration front view of bench

Battens with sliding dovetails

Executed proper, the sliding dovetails create a stable mechanical joint that additionally advantages from glue. Reduce the housings first. After clearing many of the waste with a dado stack, I take advantage of a router and jig to create the flared facet partitions. I then use the identical dovetail bit within the router desk to chop the dovetail on the battens. Solely mild mallet faucets must be wanted to assemble the joint. I depart the battens about 1 in. lengthy for becoming. The seat will get angled notches at its again edge to make room for the angled splats. Hint every splat onto the seat to put out the notch’s width. Noticed and chop the joint first, then refine it with an angled paring block, deepening it till the notch’s high edge meets the highest face of the seat on the very nook. Blue tape or a backer strip on the high of the seat can assist management blowout. Then chop the ends for good, crisp shoulders.

Dovetail battens are the center of the seat

illustration of seat

Using a jig to shape the dovetail housing
Use a jig to form the dovetail housing. The jig is screwed collectively, with the slim back and front items secured in order that they’re tight to the seat. Additionally they function a backer on the edge to get rid of blowout from routing the dovetails.

Routing the dovetail housing
Rout the dovetail housing to form, width, and depth. After clearing many of the waste with a dado stack, Abraham secures the jig in place and routs. The router’s base is trapped by the jig’s wider facet items, which decide the width of the housing. The facet items are parallel.

close up of router

Using the same bit in the router table to shape the battens
Use the identical bit within the router desk to form the battens. After setting the bit’s peak with a check piece, Abraham routs his battens. These are 1 ⁄ 4 in. wider than the slot, and he sneaks up on the tail’s width; as a substitute of transferring the fence, he handplanes an edge between passes.

Inserting a batten by hand before lightly tapping with a mallet
Insert batten by hand earlier than flippantly tapping with a mallet. In case your match’s any tighter, the glue may swell it a lot it gained’t assemble. Moreover, you can blow out the entrance fringe of the seat whereas inserting the battens.

Sawing an angled notch at seat’s back edge for angled splat
Noticed an angled notch at seat’s again edge for angled splat. Noticed kerfs each 1 ⁄ 4 in. or so earlier than rigorously knocking out many of the waste with a chisel. This notch makes room for the splat, which runs via the batten and rests in opposition to the rear legs.

Angled paring block perfects the slope
Angled paring block perfects the slope. The block’s angled finish is reduce to match the notch. By clamping the block to the seat, Abraham can take mild paring cuts that begin excessive and, by gently tapping the block down, go deeper till he finally ends up with a crisp nook on the high of the seat.

Dry-fitting the batten to lay out its mortise for the back splat
Dry-fit the batten to put out its mortise for the again splat. Use a knife tight to the seat’s notch to scribe the entrance of the mortise (picture left) and the splat clean to put out the again of the mortise (left). Abraham makes use of a pencil right here, which is correct sufficient, since he’ll aircraft the splat’s future tenon to suit. Switch the marks to the batten’s backside face, remembering that they angle throughout the batten’s edges.
Same angled paring guide adjusts the mortise’s angled ends
Identical angled paring information adjusts the mortise’s angled ends. Take away many of the waste on the drill press after which with tough chops. End with mild paring cuts whereas holding a chisel tight to the angled block. Pare from each faces to keep away from blowout. Set up the battens after this step.

Angled mortise-and-tenons

Angled through-mortises within the battens settle for the lengthy splat tenons. Though this can be a knockdown joint, it yields an extremely inflexible construction.

To put out the mortise for the splat, I drive a batten into its housing till it’s 1 ⁄8 in. proud on the entrance fringe of the seat. Then I knife a line the place the batten meets the notch to mark the entrance of the mortise. To mark the again, I maintain a splat clean within the notch and hint in opposition to it with a pencil. A pencil line is okay right here since I’ll aircraft the longer term tenon to suit.

After eradicating the batten to put out the remainder of the mortise, together with transferring it to the batten’s backside face, I drill and chop away many of the waste, then rigorously chisel the ends with an angled paring information block clamped to the batten.

With the mortise executed, flip to the accompanying tenon on the splat. To ensure the splat strains up completely with the notch behind the seat, place the splat proper on its batten and use the mortise to mark the tenon’s width. I reduce the cheeks on the bandsaw, chop the shoulders with a chisel, and shave down the thickness with a handplane. Go away this tenon lengthy for now. You’ll reduce it to size later when the bottom is assembled. Do test its match although. Insert the splat into the batten, then faucet the batten till the splat tightens as much as the notch. There must be no hole the place the splat meets the highest of the seat.

With the splat nonetheless tight in opposition to the notch, mark the entrance of the batten to size. After slicing at this mark, I reduce the bevel on the batten’s entrance finish for a pleasant shadow line.

Lastly, set up the batten. When driving it, cease a few inches from the entrance of the seat, apply some glue to the housing, set up the splat, then drive the batten till the splat seats in opposition to the notch. Clamp the entrance of the batten to the seat to shut any gaps, take away the splat, and let the glue treatment.

Splats are knockdown and drawbored

Chiseling perfects the splat’s lower tenon shoulders
Chisel perfects the splat’s decrease tenon shoulders. Slightly than noticed proper on the angled shoulders, Abraham cuts shut and finishes with a chisel. The cheeks are merely ripped on the bandsaw. Go away this tenon lengthy for now.

Tracing the bottom of the batten onto the splat tenon
Hint the underside of the batten onto the splat tenon. This line enables you to precisely find the angled gap for the dowel that can lock the knockdown joint.

Drilling at an angle above the line from the batten
Drill at an angle above the road from the batten. A few quarter of the outlet’s diameter ought to fall throughout the batten’s mortise. To create the angle, prop up the splat with a shim below its tenon shoulder.

Planing a tapered flat along an oak dowel while testing it frequently
Aircraft a tapered flat alongside an oak dowel whereas testing it continuously. This dowel wedges the splat in opposition to the batten. When testing it, test that the flat seats firmly and evenly. Trim it to size after attaining a great match, leaving the slim finish lengthy for simple removing.

Clamp the back rest to the splats to lay out their mortise-andtenons
Clamp the again relaxation to the splats to put out their mortise-and-tenons. Dry-fit the splats after which clamp them to the again relaxation with risers for even spacing. Subsequent, take away the risers to knife the underside fringe of the again relaxation onto the splats. Then, because the splats’ higher tenons are full-width, knife the width of the splat onto the again relaxation to mark the mortise’s width.

After mortising the back rest, drill for the drawbore pegs
After mortising the again relaxation, drill for the drawbore pegs. Two pegs in every mortise assure a robust connection.
Marking the drawbore’s offset
Mark the drawbore’s offset. Use a middle punch 1 ⁄ 16 in. smaller than the outlet. Register the punch in opposition to the outlet’s edge towards the shoulder. Drilling at this mark will create a gap offset 1 ⁄ 32 in. towards the tenon.
Bandsawing the splat’s taper
Bandsaw the splat’s taper. On the high of the taper the splat must be flush with the again relaxation. Bandsaw near your line earlier than refining with a aircraft. Don’t assemble the splats and again relaxation but.

Again relaxation is drawbored

The joinery for the again relaxation, a straight mortise-and-tenon, is a break from the angled work up to now. Its drawbore means it’s no much less fascinating although. Once more, lay out the joints utilizing the elements themselves. Insert the splats into the battens and clamp the again relaxation to them, utilizing spacers to set the right peak. Regardless that I haven’t reduce the splats’ higher tenons but, this setup permits me to make use of a knife to mark the size of the mortise on the again relaxation and the shoulder on the splats.

The again relaxation’s mortises are centered within the inventory, however the splat’s corresponding tenons are offset towards the again so the taper might be reduce into the splat’s entrance face.

After the joints have been fitted, dry-assemble the again relaxation and splats to put out the splat’s taper, which runs from the highest of the seat to the again relaxation. The taper provides the sitter a bit of ergonomic consolation— a welcome consideration from an austere piece of furnishings.

Lastly, lay out and drill for the drawbore pegs. I don’t glue this joint; the pegs are adequate. However don’t assemble it but. There’s nonetheless extra to do: the knockdown joint. Right here, tapered pegs run via angled holes within the splats’ decrease tenons. The wedging motion retains the splats tight to the battens—and allows you to take the bench aside for cross-country strikes.

Legs are turned and staked

Turning the tapered tenons while checking them in a reamed test hole
Flip the tapered tenons whereas checking them in a reamed check gap. After roughing away many of the tenon with a gouge, Abraham adjusts the match utilizing a scraping software. A reamed check gap in {a partially} resawn block enables you to monitor the match.
Lasering a level in a tilting carriage lines up angled mortises for legs
Laser stage in a tilting carriage strains up angled mortises for legs. Abraham adjusts the carriage to the suitable drilling angle, then positions it so the laser falls on his sight line. The laser left plumb is about perpendicular to the sight line.
Reaming from the underside after drilling through from above
Ream from the underside after drilling via from above. Ream slowly and test your progress continuously. Small adjustments have an effect on the rake and splay greater than you’d anticipate. Abraham blocks up the plumb laser to permit it to clear the batten.

Staked undercarriage helps again

Even with its little tweaks and added curiosity, the joinery till now’s typical of flat work. The legs, although, are firmly in chair territory, with turned, tapered tenons and matching tapered mortises.

I flip the tapered legs and their tenons. The tenons must be smaller than the biggest diameter your reamer can reduce. Whereas you should use the measured drawing as a tenet when sizing the tenon, your particular person reamer will decide the precise dimensions.

The rake, splay, and place of the legs had been designed so the beveled ends of the splats’ beveled tenons relaxation firmly on the backs of the rear legs. This triangulation is what makes the bench so robust.

I take advantage of a pair of cheap laser ranges, one plumb and one in a shopmade adjustable mount, to forged sightlines onto my drill and reamer. I often flip the lights off within the store so the laser beams are extra seen.

Begin by drilling via the seat and batten from the highest. This can isolate blowout to the underside, the place it will likely be eliminated whenever you flip the seat to ream from under. Maintain the drill and your elbows near your physique for the perfect management.

When reaming, heart the lasers on the outlet by eye. The lasers ought to stroll up the reamer and meet on the center of the highest of the software. Ream slowly and punctiliously, taking frequent breaks to filter the waste and checking that you just’re nonetheless aligned along with your lasers. You can skip the reaming and use straight tenons, like lots of the authentic benches do, however the joint wouldn’t be as robust.

Earlier than gluing the legs into the seat, I drive them into the mortises dry and mark the tenon on the underside of the batten. Solely after that do I reduce the kerf for the wedge. This permits me to seat the tenon with out the tapered mortise closing the kerf. I apply glue to the tenon and the mortise. I then drive the tenons into the seat, stopping on the marks. I take advantage of liquid disguise glue for its prolonged open time. Then I glue and drive the wedges, which must be about 1 ⁄ 16 in. wider than the tenon so its edges chunk into the seat. I apply glue to just one facet of the wedge so if the tenon shrinks, it strikes away from the wedge on the unglued facet as a substitute of pulling away from the mortise. As soon as the glue cures, noticed the tenons flush and easy the highest of the seat.

The bottoms of the legs must be reduce to size. Place the bench on a flat floor (I take advantage of my workbench high) and shim it so the seat is stage left to proper and angled down entrance to again. Now measure 16-1 ⁄ 2 in. down from the entrance fringe of the seat and set a pair of dividers to the gap between the 16-1 ⁄ 2 in. mark and the highest of the workbench. Use the dividers (I take advantage of the Accuscribe made by Fastcap) to mark a line across the backside of every leg. Noticed to the road with a backsaw and chamfer the reduce.

The again meeting has two closing steps, trimming and angling the splats’ decrease tenons to size and attaching the again relaxation.

Every splat’s decrease tenon must be reduce to express size and beveled on the finish so it rests evenly on the again of the leg. Get this info, each the size of the tenon and the angle of the bevel, from the bench itself. I are inclined to noticed the tenon lengthy, then sneak up on the precise match with a aircraft till the bevel rests behind the leg simply because the splat bottoms out within the batten. Deal with every tenon’s size and angle independently. With the splats fitted to the legs, drawbore the again relaxation to the splats.

I gave my bench a cleaning soap end, which is what the unique benches have. They’re nonetheless maintained with cleaning soap, and actually, contained in the church in Amana the place I first noticed them there’s a sill cock and central drain for laundry the wooden flooring and benches.

Assemble across the seat

Gluing the bench legs in place
Glue the legs in place. Orient the legs so the expansion rings are perpendicular to the lengthy grain of the seat. This locations the tenon in probably the most favorable place for seasonal shrinkage, serving to the joint to remain tight over time.

Close up of wedges for keeping the bench stable
Wedges are additional insurance coverage. The kerfs also needs to run perpendicular to the seat, inflicting the white oak wedges to push in opposition to the seat’s finish grain. Trim the tenons and wedges flush after the glue dries.

Marking the legs’ lengths
Mark the legs’ lengths. On a flat floor, use cash to shim the bench so the seat is stage left to proper and drops 3 ⁄ 8 in. entrance to again. Set the caliper to attract a line 16-1 ⁄ 2 in. under the highest entrance of the seat.

The splat's lower tenon is trimmed and angled to rest against legs
Splat’s decrease tenon trimmed and angled to relaxation in opposition to legs. It’s essential to get every tenon’s size and angle appropriate, since their contact with the legs strengthens the again construction. Decide these measurements from the bench itself, and aircraft them to suit. Connect the splats to the again relaxation afterward.

the back assembly of bench is knockdown and held by woodworker
Again meeting is knockdown because of tapered wedge. The unique Amana benches had been disassembled and traveled midway throughout the U.S. in 1846 because of this design, and plenty of are nonetheless used weekly. Your model ought to maintain up simply as properly.

adding last part to bench

Jameel Abraham is a woodworker and toolmaker in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Drawings by Christopher Mills.

From Nice Woodworking #298

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