Okay, I’ve been determined to do a blog series on some project but they’ve all gotten away without being documented. But, I’m gonna document this build because I’ve been planning it for so long that it deserves some posterity!
This won’t be a quick build given my limited shop time so don’t expect daily updates and a wrap-up in a week. But, we’ll get there so come along for the ride if you like.
I’ve wanted a new bench for a couple of years. I built one in my garage before I really started woodworking for general use. Don’t get me wrong, it’s served it’s purpose and I’m glad I built it before I really understood what I needed/wanted in a bench because it was a cheap and quick build. 4×4 legs with 2×4 stretchers and a sheet of 3/4” plywood topped with leftover 3/4” oak flooring. I added dog holes and an end vise last year which was a big help. But the front corner sags so bad I have to shim the end of anything going “to the dogs”. The bench is stout and heavy enough but the top has flex and is far from flat. It’s too wide, too tall and is useless for clamping anything on edge.
So I started planning a new bench over a year ago. My design has undergone several incarnations until the current one which has been mostly unchanged for the past few months. I want it to be solid and usable first and foremost. Chris Schwarz’ books have been a real help as have all the threads and project posts on this site that I’ve spent hours pouring over.
But, other projects and life have gotten in the way… until now. I told my wife that after I finish the 2 projects currently underway, I’m not taking anymore on until I build a bench. We’ll see how well that goes ;-) But the stars have aligned… not only have I dedicated the immediate future to the build but I’ve acquired my material. I had all but given up on finding some good bench material at a good price and had resigned myself to using SYP ripped down and laminated. Don’t misunderstand, the material is a proven good material for a bench, just not what I was envisioning. And then I found these (which are shown stickered up in my garage/shop waiting to be bent to my will):
I found an ad on Craigslist for some 8/4 Walnut that was a great price so I went to look at it. When I got there, this guy had more lumber than most lumber yards. There were 2 barns full of stickered lumber. A garage full, piles covered with tarps everywhere. All wood he had felled and had milled over 3 decades. So, I passed on the 8/4 Walnut ‘cause it wasn’t dry but I mentioned I would be starting a bench soon and asked if he had any hard maple. All his maple was 4/4 so I skipped that too. So when I was about to leave empty handed, he asked if I’d be interested in some oak for my bench. I said “sure”, if it’s dry, the right size and the right price. So he walked me over to a pile and pulled the tarp back to reveal 80-100 BEAUTIFUL (in my eyes at least) oak 8X4s 12’ long that he had milled over a decade ago to build a sauna, which he’d given up on by now. “How much” I says. “How’s $25 a piece?” he says. Well that’s $.70 per bf. So, they’re in my garage. 5 should be plenty for the bench but he’s got plenty more if I need ‘em :-P. I also ended up with a 3X10 slab of Walnut that’s been drying for 4 years that he gave me for dirt cheap ‘cause it’s about 1/2 sapwood. I plan to use it for my vice chops and maybe border the oak with it, we’ll see.
So I have the time. I have the material. I have my design. Time to relocate my donkey! (I stole that quote from LJ Brian Noel ;-P)
Next time, I’ll give a little detail on my design and how I arrived at it.
Thanks for stopping by!
-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!