I have actually had the bench in this stage since early September when my father in law was in town to give me a hand in mounting the top, beam and all, to the sled. It went on just right the first time which was rewarding, until I looked closer at the planing beam pipes and realized I was going to have to make some adjustments on the alignment holes in the top. After several go ‘rounds, we finally got that into a workable solution. Then I raised the planing beam only to discover it caught on the support for the top of the bench before getting all the way to the top. So after taking the beam back off and ripping a little margin off the back side, I was able to raise it to the top.
My satisfaction was short-lived though as I found my careful measurements to center the planing beam on the vertical pipe clamps were in fact accurate.
The only catch was that there wasn’t very much left to support a board.
So free advice here to anyone wanting to make this bench, cheat the planing beam forward of center when you are measuring and cutting out the holes for the vertical pipe clamps. This wasn’t self-evident from the drawing in the article, nor from the dozens of times I have watched the demo video on FWW.
Another issue I encountered was that the beam was cupped up at the edges. There was quite a drop near the well where the tail vise pipe clamps ride, so I spent a good part of a Saturday with my scrub plane and alternately the jack plane taking the beam down. I got a little over zealous towards the end and actually took the edges down too far, so I have some tuning to do on the end where the pipe clamp screws are. But it is getting close.
I installed a simple sheet of 3/4” plywood over the stretchers for a shelf as to create space for the bench, I had to take apart my former rickety bench which also was my tool storage area. You can see the planes and other tools now loosely organized here on the shelf. Down the road I will make a more creative solution, but for the meantime the goal is to get everything functional. I am planning on adding a rail to both sides of the shelf to prevent any of the planes or other tools from taking flight off the edge. I think one long rail on a series of small blocks on each side will suffice and still allow me to sweep shavings and dust off rather easily.
One thing I added that you can’t see easily is that I added a couple narrow rails to the well for the mdf boards to ride on rather than the pipes of the pipe clamps. I read a post by John White that he would have changed his design in this regard so since I had some extra small straight pieces of stock (that used to be attached to the back edge of the planing beam) I installed those and they seem to work pretty good thus far.
It still feels like there is a good bit of work on this project, formerly I would have been able to knock it out on a Saturday, but these days I am spending a good bit of time taking care of my new son and that is fine with me. I hope we will have plenty of adventures using the bench down the road and he needs to get a little taller before he is ready for that… and acquire some basic motor skills etc. but it sure is going fast already. Anyway a few things I have yet to do. Finish fine tuning the top so it is flat across. Cut and mount the wood jaws for the tail vise pipe clamps, joint the front of the planing beam and glue another piece of flat stock to it to add width on the front, construct and install the wedge which I think I am going to make removable as a safety feature – thinking I will use some threaded cam style clamps and t-track for that, still have to better fit the pipe clamps that function as front vises for all those holes and drill holes for the speed pins, put the finger holes in the mdf boards over the well, install the rails on the shelf and apply a finish to the wood. By the time I get all that done, I am sure I will think of some other additions.
I have already made initial use of the bench for cutting some stock, but am looking forward to actually doing some fine work on it. It is really solid and I am going to enjoy planing on it as a great improvement from my old rickety bench.
-- Michael, Seattle, WA