Drilling for Screws
You can attach the legs using 2-1⁄2″ brass or stainless-steel wood screws (pieces 5) or threaded inserts and bronze machine screws. Running wood screws into end grain can be a bit risky, so the machine screw option could be a very good idea, even though it’s considerably more work. You’ll need inserts with a #10-20 thread, preferably stainless steel, because the brass ones tend to strip and then there is no getting them in or out.
Whichever type of fastening you choose, you’ll need to make yourself the simple cradle jig shown in the photo at left. Clamp it to the drill press table so the bit is exactly centered on the “V” cutout. Mark the location of the tabletop and shelf screw holes in one leg, then set stops so each leg will be identical. Drill holes for the screws and then, with the leg still cradled, bore a countersink for the screw heads in each of the legs.
Fastening the Legs
First, make a 3/8″ gauge block to ensure uniformity and then lay a leg across the top of the bench. Clamp the tabletop vertically in the vise. Position both parts so the leg projects the thickness of the gauge block strips, smooth face out, using the appropriate offcuts as backing blocks and clamp the leg down to the benchtop. Drill a pilot hole into the tabletop for the size of screw you are using. If using a threaded insert, remove the leg and drill a shallow hole of appropriate diameter and screw the insert in place. Replace the leg, install the screw and rotate the top, repeating the procedure with the other legs.
To fasten the shelf, place the table upside down on the bench and cut four strips to support the shelf at the correct height. Wrap a few loops of sturdy string around the legs, insert a short stick and wind the stick end over end to tighten the string until the shelf is securely locked in place. (This ancient device is known as a Spanish windlass.) Drill pilot holes as you did before, and drive the attachment screws. Or, remove the shelf and install the threaded inserts if you’re using them instead of wood screws.
The final step for threaded inserts is to lay the table sideways on the floor, one leg resting horizontally on a piece of carpet, and drive the machine screws home. I use a brace and screwdriver bit for the final tightening because it gives more control. With a bit of luck (and practice) one can usually stop before the screw shears off or the threaded insert pulls out.
Before applying finish, I gave the top surface a final hand sanding in the direction of the grain. I used Watco® oil penetrating sealer, which must be wiped off with a cotton rag while wet. A day or two later, I applied a second coat, wiping it off as before. It’s a durable finish, proof against most spills, and it’s easily renewed as necessary. The final step is a thorough waxing and polishing.