So I decided to breakdown and build a workbench for my super small shop. It was a hefty decision, considering I’m working in a single stall garage from the 50’s that barely had enough room for my sedan from the beginning. But it seemed to me that a workbench was a must if I wanted to take fine woodworking seriously at all.
With that being said, I also didn’t have the time, space or skills to plane tons of boards to an exact thickness and insure a quality top after it was said and done.
One thing was for sure, I wanted a face vise (a good one), a tail vise, and a small total pricetag. All other wishes were simply wishes. In the end, I decided on Tom Caspar’s workbench in a weekend from the October 96 issue of Woodwork Magazine. http://www.workbenchdesign.net/bench1.html (Funny thing, it sure seemed to take a lot of time. Definitely not a weekend project)
Instead of 3/4 ply, I went with 3/4 mdf for insured flatness and density for a quality work surface. I had a hunch but wasn’t fully aware until it was finished that this puppy would weigh in at a whopping whole lot. The mdf is just ridiculously heavy. Now that it’s done, though, I wouldn’t change a thing.
It’s not the prettiest thing, but it is more than functional.
The bench is made up of 4 pieces: two ends, a middle base, and the top. All of which are torsion boxes of 2×4’s with laminated mdf on each side. I used glue and drywall screws for the boxes and the three pieces for the base were pulled together by 2 six foot 3/8” threaded rods that were secured by a nut and a washer on each side.
The top is held to the base by 4 bolts at all 4 corners of the base, which in the end, left two exposed bolts in the tool well. But that doesn’t bother me. The two on the front side were secured before I laminated the top mdf board to the frame. So they stayed hidden.
When it came to installing the face vise, I ran in to some issues. I originally mounted the vise on the underside of the top torsion box but then realized that I didn’t have a wide enough piece of stock to accommodate the overall width of the jaws that would make it flush with the top of the bench. And the jaws needed to be at least 1 3/4” thick as indicated by the vise instructions. So I opted for my 6” wide red oak (all I had in 2” thickness) and ran the rods of the vise into the torsion box itself.
The only problem with this was the small amount of bench top that my vise was now installed to. I went and bought some L brackets for the underside and now it’s super solid.
The tail vise went pretty smoothly. It utilizes a Jorgensen hand screw (#0, 6 inch) installed into a wedge that I cut with the angle of the clamp head. It’s secured by one wood screw on the outside and allows the adjustable side to move freely giving tons of flexibility to whatever I’m clamping.
For the dog, I skipped the instructions on the website and just made a super simple dog out of ash or white oak (can’t really tell) and cut it with the bandsaw. I experimented with the angle a little to see what would hold best.
Now that it’s done, I’m more than satisfied. It surely isn’t beautiful. But it is more than sufficient for my needs. Hope this article helps someone who is interested in making a quality bench on the cheap and was looking for more pictures (like myself). The total pricetag was around 200, including the face vise (Veritas regular face vise) and the handscrew. Here’s a few more pics. Thanks for reading!
-- Learning patience quicker than I am the art of woodworking...