I just finished “Workbenches” by Chris Schwarz. I really enjoyed the book and it gave me a boost of motivation to get started on my workbench project. I enjoyed his writing style, his humor, as well as the little bit of history that was sprinkled in. I saw the quote somewhere years ago that “A man that does not know the history of his trade is continually forced to reinvent the wheel”. I tend to believe that.
My current workbench is a folding table from costco. Its wobbly, almost impossible to clamp things to, and its not very stiff. Mostly it ends up covered with tools while I work on the concrete floor of the garage or on my table saw top. The only problem with that is I find the stamped steel extensions on the table saw difficult to clamp to and then I can’t use the saw when it’s covered with stuff.
So, I consider finishing this book as step 1 in my quest for a workbench. This will be my 1st workbench so I have been looking all over for ideas, plans, designs, tips, tricks, etc. I really like the design and simplicity of the french bench in his book, based on a design from Roubo. I mostly use power tools at the moment but I really want to start learning how to do some things by hand. What I like about this bench is how open it is and how solid it seems, plus the simple looking joinery. I don’t think I like the idea of a leg vise (even though I have never tried one) so I have a feeling I am going to put a more standard face vise on the front. I am probably going to build one on my own, rather than buy one. I havent decided if I will have an end vise yet. Most likely I will design one in but not install it unless I find myself wishing I had one. I really like the way the Veritas twin screw vise looks, so I might check that one out, or I might just make my own.
Why make my own vises? I like to make my own stuff and McMaster Carr is a short drive away. I’m an engineer by trade and I really can’t help thinking that for a lot of items, I can do something just as good for less money and get something that is perfectly customized the way I want it to be. I also tend to think I can tweak things to get a better design and sometimes I am right and sometimes I am not, but all this tinkering makes me a better engineer at work so why not. Besides, I don’t mind spending the time on that sort of thing and if I can save some money I can buy better wood for the next project, or a new tool.
I plan to make the whole bench out of Douglas Fir or possibly the top out of Douglas Fir and the base out of Hem Fir. The only question I have to settle on there is whether I am going to make do with the green construction stuff at Home Depot, which looks full of knots and other problems but is really cheap, or do I go with the nice clear kiln dried stuff at the lumber yard. The wood at the lumberyard looks great and would be easy to use because its so clear but it costs 4 times as much. We’ll see. I am still a ways away from having to buy any lumber.
Step 2 for this project will be to fire up the CAD software and start playing around with some designs…
-- Good Judgement Comes From Experience. Experience Comes From Bad Judgement.