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Sawbench Notes

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Blog entry by Alan posted 03-28-2016 01:24 AM 616 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Like my previous post, this is mostly a note for my own future reference. I’m trying to centralize all my woodworking notes in one place, preferably one accessible from anywhere, and LJ is the only logical choice.

So I have some unusual needs in a sawbench. Since I am an above-knee amputee, the conventional method of holding the board in place with ‘pot roast power’ is a no-go. I’ve tried it, it’s excruciatingly painful and it doesn’t work to hold the board in place either. Of course, the French method of ripping by hand whilst seated straddling the bench, as advocated by The Schwarz, is perfectly workable. Nevertheless, designing an appropriate sawbench for my peculiar needs has eluded me until now. I just don’t have enough experience to know what will or won’t work well for me.

Besides, in a world in which 110 volt, bandsaws, tablesaws and mitersaws are widely available for reasonable prices, doing gross dimensioning by hand makes about as much sense as a screen door on a space station :P

But, you know, sometimes the power goes out, and work goes on. And sawbenches have other uses, such as stepstools, sitting-stools, portable workbenches, etc. I have always intended that mine be able to double as a chairmaker’s bench, a la Roy Underhill’s “Rustic Workbenches” episode. I’ve always been impressed by the simplicity, yet remarkable versatility, of that little piece of shop furniture.

I’ve also identified a need for a mobile, portable ‘workbench’ of some sort, and I think I can fulfill that need with this device. I am aware that I am risking it becoming a camel. I figure I’ll burn that bench if I get there ^_^

For no readily apparent reason, I’ve been on a sawbench research kick this weekend, come to some conclusions about what I’d like in my sawbench.

First, and most important, I want a true split-top design, a la Stumpy Nubs and Bill Schenher. Tom Fidgen’s design has some interesting features that I intend to incorporate, especially the fence, but I figure that if my sawbench is going to be most useful to me for ripping, then it makes sense to optimize it for ripping. And that means a clear central channel from end to end.

Further design notes:

Top should be made from Nominal 2” (actual 1.5”) material. Legs probably should be too. I will drawbore the tenoned legs into the trestle style feet, which I’ll make via the Stumpy Nubs/Schenher method.

I plan on making it fairly long, probably 30” or even 32,” including the overhanging V notch at one end, which I intend to include for no better reason than I like the way they look. Of course, that makes the joinery between the tops and the front legs a bit tricky, since dovetails won’t work. My current plan is to dado the bottom side fo the tops, glue the tops of the front legs in, and then just run a couple of 3” screws down through the top. My personal opinion with shop furniture is that there are no points for style, only utility.

Current plan is to make it just short enough for my feet to sit comfortably flat on the floor. I’m a short guy, so the conventional to-the-kneecap measurement would only be maybe 18” on me. But as I’ve already discussed, kneeling on this thing is out of the question. Since I plan that most of the work on it will be performed seated, it makes sense to optimize it for that role. Besides, if I get it up to about 22,” I can hold wood on it for crosscutting by leaning over and pressing it down and into the fence with my hand.

Top and legs will have 1/4” rabbets around the inside perimeter to accommodate a piece of 1/4” plywood. This will seal off the tool storage areas from sawdust, and provide a place to mount tool holders. It will be very important to mount any tool holders to those plywood panels BEFORE they are installed (indeed, probably before the unit is finally assembled) as it will be impossible to drive screws in from the back once they are installed.

I figure that the areas under the tops and between the legs of this style offer a great place to add some storage, especially since the Stumpy Nubs/Schenher design includes one or two fore-and-aft stretchers to add rigidity anyway. Locate those stretchers just above the feet, and all you have to do is cut a scrap of of 3/8” or 1/2” plywood to length and tack it on top of the feet between the legs and you have a shelf. Since I’m planning to make my sawbench fairly long, probably about 30”, I don’t think you could get a full size handsaw in that space, but a framing square might fit. Also, it would be easy enough to fit a handsaw till in the slot between the two halves, which is exactly what I intend to do. I figure it would be easy enough to fit 2-3 backsaws on the plywood on one side with a chisel roll, block plane and jack or fore plane, and on the other a couple of squares, marking knife and gauges, etc. and have a small but comprehensive kit kept onboard for jobsite work.

The top will have appropriate 3/4” holes for dogs and holdfasts, as well as the chairmaker’s appliance Roy Underhill demonstrates in the video mentioned above. I may also make a circular saw guide from a stiff batten with a couple of 3/4” dowels in the bottom, with the holes in the top spaced so that the circular saw runs through the central slot. Slap a board at right angles across the bench, place the saw guide over it, and make perfectly square cuts.

I’d like to make the fence from 1/2” plywood attached to one side of the top with hanger bolts running through slots, so it can be adjusted up and down, but that depends on finding low-profile knobs, as wing nuts would catch things and tear up my legs. If I end up using good old dowels just like Fidgen, I’m okay with that.

Four wedge blocks, like joiner’s saddles sawn in half, will allow even sizable logs to be held on top of it. Or just ratchet strap the log down, that works too.

What it doesn’t have is integrated clamping. I’ve seen some very clever designs using pipe clamps, and I like them, but I don’t see a way to integrate that without occupying the central slot. Also, they add a lot of weight. Of course, it would be easy enough to add such a device by simply cutting a couple of U notches in a couple scraps of plywood and nailing or screwing them to the front and back legs. Holding a board to work on the end – dovetailing, tenon cutting, etc. – is as simple as clamping it to one of the rear legs with a couple of quick clamps. Need an end vise? Clamp a scrap of wood to the rear leg with the workpiece held between it and a bench dog.

-- I have no idea what I'm doing.



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