Yes, another workbench build blog series. Not exactly a novel topic, and I will strive to keep the series to less than novel length as well. Of course, given how long this build has been simmering, if I posted on it once a week, it would be closing on Russian novel length.
So, some quick background. I’ve been working wood for about 15 years now, not that my output would give much hint of that. Still, I have graduated from using a Black & Decker Workmate (a wondrous, underrated device) to the second iteration of a proper workbench. The first iteration was a 36” x 80” solid core door on top of a base from Sam Allen’s Making Workbenches The door was skinned with Masonite tacked down with brads, and had both dogholes and a proper English Record 7” QR face vise. Unfortunately, there was too much unsupported overhang on one end, which resulted in some permanent droop when a friend who was helping me hang lights in my shop stood out there. A few years after building that bench, I moved, and as part of the moving process I tossed the solid core door top.
The second iteration of the bench is what I’m using now. I bought a Jorgensen maple top, 6’x25”. I mounted the Record vise to it, put a bunch of dogholes in it, and plopped it onto the Sam Allen base. The bench has been doing yeoman duty for almost a decade. Actually, it’s spent a LOT of time in storage during that time.
So, if this bench has been doing a decent job, why am I building a new one? Glad you asked…
My current bench has some shortcomings. First and foremost is that the effective thickness of the top is not consistent. There are top rails between all the legs, meaning that there’s a nasty void behind the rails that makes deep clamping a pain. Second, there is an inch of overhang on the back. I could make new front-to-back rails to widen the base, but that does nothing to solve Problem #1. Third, no tail vise. While I can certainly endorse the wondrous qualities of the Veritas Wonder Pups, the Wonder Pup still has a minimum height, which restricts the thickness of wood one work using the W’Pup without undertaking a bunch of complicated, and shifty, spacing.
The new bench is going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 9+ feet long, depending on how much effective length I can get out of my stock. The width will be 24”-28” or so, again, dependent on stock. There’s a second factor at play on the width, namely how much hand work I want to do. My planers (I currently have 3!!!!) are 12”, 12.5” and 13”, so slabs over 13” will have to be subjected to hand processing. I’m aiming for a final thickness of 4.5” for the top, and will be putting a bottom shelf, possibly with a special feature, into the unit. The base will be sized to fit the top, with overhang for a Benchcrafted Wagon Vise on the right end, and some overhang on the left end as well. In addition to the BC Wagon Vise, the bench is going to have a BC Criss-Cross Leg Vise. I’d love to go with the latest generation, but such is not in the cards at the moment. I will be adding a deadman, and will almost certainly use a combination of square dogs and round dogs. Perhaps someday I’ll do a stop motion video of a battle between the two packs of dogs, and settle forever the argument of which is better.
The base is soft maple, the top is hard maple. I may do some accents and such with either Jatoba or Purpleheart, since I have some of both on hand.
I’ve had everything on hand for the bench for quite some time, except for some poplar for the bottom shelf. The wood is thoroughly seasoned, and I’ve started milling it. All the main structural components of the base have been milled up, and today I started milling the timbers for the top.
That’s it for now, I’ll try to include some pic next update.
-- I'm happier than a tornado in a trailer park! Grace & Peace.