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Improved Workbench #1: What to Improve

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Blog entry by Brian024 posted 03-31-2011 08:24 PM 1495 reads 2 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Improved Workbench series Part 2: Design and Beginning Construction »

I have been wanting to upgrade and rebuild my workbench for sometime but just haven’t gotten around to it. I think the time is now so I’ll begin work once I get the current project finished. In this video I’ll about my present one and what I like and don’t like.



11 comments so far

View Dan's profile

Dan

3543 posts in 1635 days


#1 posted 03-31-2011 10:51 PM

I would def make the top larger. Even with limited space you should be able to add a little more top space.

For the top if you cant do hardwood I would use 3/4 MDF. You probably only need 1 or two sheets for a bench that size. Just glue up a few layers of the mdf..

2×4s should be fine if you get them straight. Not the best choice but if done right they can serve good for a bench.

I also agree with the last post about dog holes along the edge.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View Gregn's profile

Gregn

1642 posts in 1738 days


#2 posted 04-01-2011 12:36 AM

I agree with Skarp on the 2×4’s with using Douglas Fir or Southern Yellow Pine. SYP can be fairly hard and will stand up to some abuse. Not sure what type of bench you have in mind. From what I’m hearing, is that you looking for inexpensive, sturdy and versital. Because you mentioned about hand planing the New Fangled Workbench comes to mind.
http://content.jettools.com/content/jet50/wood/freebies/jet50_workbenchplan.pdf
http://www.finewoodworking.com/Workshop/WorkshopArticle.aspx?id=28530
This bench can be modified to fit your needs. One guy put a sanding downdraft section in his to accommodate his sanding needs, another added a cabinet with drawers to put bench tools in. One thing I would do is to use draw bolt joinery instead of using lag bolts. This would allow you to tighten up the joints during seasonal changes when it gets dry and the wood contracts. Just food for thought.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3314 posts in 1409 days


#3 posted 04-01-2011 04:43 AM

I love benches. That’s a preface for the discourse below.

Southern Yellow pine is a real winner when it comes to building benches in the states. It’s stiff, heavy, readily available and cheap. The Dollar figure on the wood is important because of one of the most important rules of bench building…think big. The heavier your bench and your construction are, the less problems you will have, good benches start at about 300lbs. SYP is about 3 lbs per bdft. Without boring you with the math; on a 2 ft wide bench, 6 ft long each inch of thickness you add will add 36lbs to your bench. 3 inches is good (108lb) 5 is better (180 lbs). 2×6 nominal lumber is easy to glue up and will leave you with enough room of clean up to hit the 5 inch mark, and it’s not much more expensive in the grand scheme of things.

Build the base as beefy as possible but make sure that the stretchers are not where your knees should go when you hand plane cross grain (this is a mistake I made on my bench and is a total drag…if I had it to do over again I would put the stretcher about 3 inches off the deck to make clearance for my feet). Use big stout though tenon joinery and drawbore the joints so you grandchildren get to work on the same bench you did. Lining the legs up flush with the top is very handy when working with large workpieces as it allows for more clamping position, which brings us to our next rule, MAKE YOUR BENCH CLAMP FRIENDLY. Your workbench is a tool for holding wood in any position, anything that interferes with that makes it a less effective bench, this includes storage under you bench, a small shelf on the bottom is OK as it is a great place to put a workpiece when you are prepping for another operation, it’s also a good home for bench planes.

A few more words of wisdom. 24 inches is a perfect width for a bench, just trust me on that. Tool wells are the invention of rabid hamsters as a method of collecting more shavings and hiding my tools from me.

There are a lot of really great bench designs out there, but my favorite is Roubo’s
http://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-blogs/chris-schwarz-blog/workbenches/free-wallpaper-of-roubos-plate-11

http://lumberjocks.com/projects/45511

Failing that you can build Roubos ugly cousin. (cost me under 200 and that inlcudes a very nice face vise from Lee Valley.)
http://lumberjocks.com/projects/45051

Good luck.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Brian024's profile

Brian024

358 posts in 2154 days


#4 posted 04-01-2011 05:40 AM

Thanks for the great feedback guys, it opens up possibilities for things I hadn’t thought of. The size of the current of the bench is 2’ by 4’, which I may build the new one a bit longer. The height is also an issue because the new one will probably be a bit lower, when I sit down I use a chair so the current one it to high, as you may tell by watching some of the videos. I do have access to Douglas Fir 2×4’s so I will probably use those, they have been used for pretty much every shop furniture project so far. If I can save a bit on the wood, I plan on putting that towards 2 better quality vises, one as a tail and the other as a side. I completely forgot about the New Fangled Bench, I printed the plans for it and said to myself someday I will build that, I totally forgot about it. Using bolts to help with the joinery, had crossed my mind. When I get a chance, I start working a few designs on Sketchup and see what comes to mind.

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3314 posts in 1409 days


#5 posted 04-01-2011 03:07 PM

Longer is good. 6ft is a good place to start on a workbench, if you can make it longer 7ft or 8ft you won’t regret it. However I would guess that you are fairly limited on space so 6ft will probably be your magic number.

Let me ask you a question. Do you do more of your work with power tools, or do you use mostly hand tools, or somewhere in between? That is going to affect an awful lot about the design of bench you should use.

One thought build a new base for you current bench and work storage into that. you can use the top for a sharpening station or an additional assembly area.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Brian024's profile

Brian024

358 posts in 2154 days


#6 posted 04-02-2011 04:54 AM

If I move it to the other end of the shop, I think it could be built a bit longer. I have been using power tools more often up until now but recently I’ve been introducing more hand tools, once I get my hand plane working right, I will probably be using that a fair bit. The old one may be saved or I may just take it apart, just depends on how much room I have afterwords.

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3314 posts in 1409 days


#7 posted 04-02-2011 04:18 PM

You’ll probably end up in the half and half category whne it comes to power vs hand but that’s ok. My dream shop by the way, is a jointer/planer/mortiser combination tool, a beefy bandsaw, and then the rest is hand tools. But right now with the occasional exception of the tablesaw or my planer for production work I am going the galoot route.

The reason I asked is if you are planing on using hand tools make sure to space you dog holes close the the front of your bench (1”-1.5”) this allows for the use of joinery planes on narrow workpieces and is suitable for all other dogging down applications. Come to think of it the benefit does translate to power since it will let you do router work at the bench much more easily. but I do see that Skarp touched on this point.

What kind of plane are you trying to get to be functional and what’s wrong with it, I may be of some help in that area?

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Brian024's profile

Brian024

358 posts in 2154 days


#8 posted 04-02-2011 05:22 PM

The hand plane I have now is a Groz no. 4, bought it for $30 at Woodcraft. I’ve heard a lot of guys replace the blade since the stock one is not any good.

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3314 posts in 1409 days


#9 posted 04-02-2011 06:09 PM

Replace the blade for starters. A2 tool steel is worth the money. IBC blades are the way to go.

For a 30 dollar plane, I would go through the same process I go through on a thrift store junker, Make sure the sole is flat, the the blade seats right on the frog, that the frog seats right on the plane. The only thing you shouldn’t have to do is remove rust. I would go into more detail here but so many other places have covered it. Fine woodworking had a really extensive article recently.

Woodcraft sells WoodRiver handplanes that cost a bit more than the groz or stanley lines but you don’t have to go through this headache (or cry as you purchase a Lien Nielsen) just sharpen the blade and go. If those are too expensive there is a third option that I personally endorse heavily.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dag4qNRdRRo

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Brian024's profile

Brian024

358 posts in 2154 days


#10 posted 04-03-2011 01:33 AM

There was an article in Woodcraft magazine that described the exact process for tuning up a junk plane. I did flatten the sole when I first got it but I’ve had trouble setting up the chip breaker in relation to the blade and in the frog.

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3314 posts in 1409 days


#11 posted 04-03-2011 04:19 AM

Ahh! Is it an issue of the chipbreaker skewing or is it not seating against the blade?

For a smoother, the closer you get the chip breaker to the blade the better. If you are getting issues with the throat clogging because it is to close you may want to take some time and use automotive sandpaper (2000 grit) to smooth the breaker so the shavings can pass more easily over them.

If it’s the skewing issue, then I would check to see if the chipbreaker is square on the sides like the blade. It may need correcting to be so. Then it’s just a matter of using your fingers on both sides as you tighten the screw. If the screw is in the chipbreaker at an angle outside of 90 then you are likely to see some movement if it ca be fitted within the frog a small rubber washer between the screw-head and the blade solve this issue. Otherwise it’s just a mater of practice.

Shoot me a message with same more detail on the problem andwhen I am a bit more sober (its been a very long day) I’ll help you out..

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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