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A new workbench #1: Initial Requirements

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Blog entry by Murdock posted 08-13-2011 09:03 PM 866 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of A new workbench series Part 2: Cutting all that wood »

I am beginning to build a new workbench so I thought I would try out blogging it. This is my first attempt at writing to explain a project so please feel free to comment on my style.

My current bench is a ‘whitewood and screws’ model, that was built by the former owner of my house, worked great for what I needed at the time, but it is showing signs of age as well as some other issues that need to be dealt with.

  1. The old bench has begun racking, the screws are not holding well enough anymore. I did add additional screws and a piece of 1/4” ply to the back as a quick fix but the new bench needs to be stronger
  2. Too tall, I keep running into it with longer boards as I try to work with them on the table saw.
  3. Too large, it is 8’ long and aprox 38” deep, I am 6’3” and do not have an issue reaching the back, but I have found that the last 12” or so just end up collecting junk. In my ‘small’ shop I also feel that this bench takes up to much of the floor space.
  4. No longer flat (never really was). Even though it is supported along the entire length with multiple 2×4’s the 1/2” CDX plywood top has a pretty good sag in it, also with all the knot holes doing anything that requires a smooth flat surface is impossible.

My shop space is a single car garage that is 12’11” X 18’; I have decided this space and my combination of tools would be better served by having a counter across the entire back of the shop.

I plan to actually build 3 separate freestanding units to make up this counter. The idea is someday I may want to move them around, either to rearrange the shop or just to use as an assembly table. The first one I will build is the one that will sit in the middle and is loosely based on the Heavy-Duty Workbench from WoodSmith. I have made multiple changes based on my needs. I have found a lot of good ideas on LJ and hope to include some of them now and others down the road.

So based on all of this I have come up with the following set of requirements:

  1. 24” deep, 36.5” tall, a little shorter than the table saw. The base will be 21” deep allowing for a 3” overhang on the front, to be used for clamping and to reduce the chance of kicking the base while working close to the bench.
  2. The 3 benches will be 36”, 72”, and 46” long to fill up my almost 13’ wall.
    a. 36” and 46” benches will have an open front and no bottom shelf so my rolling tool chest, shop-vac, etc. can be parked under. It will also give me space for my legs if I want to pull up a stool as a desk.
  3. The top will be made up of 2 layers of either ¾” ply or ¾” mdf. I have not decided for sure if I want to put on a hardboard sacrificial top.
  4. The base will be made from fir 2x stock, 2×8 ripped down to size, allowing for nice square joints.
  5. Ability to be knocked down, although I do not see it happening that often if at all, I would like to be able to easily transport the bench if the need arises. When putting it back together it should be relatively easy to put back into square. To accomplish this; end assemblies will be glue and screwed together while the long cross members will be bolted in place with 3/8 bolts.
  6. Easily reconfigurable, I do not plan to be in this space forever. Hopefully I have successfully designed the base to be able to accept a different size top, and even be made shorter or longer by simply removing a few bolts and putting in new cross members.

I do have a very small vice that is designed to screw right into the face frame of the top. I have not decided if I want to put it on here or not. I do not use it with my current bench. I tend to simply clamp the work down to the top itself.

As far as a ‘real’ vise, that is one of the reasons I am trying to design the bench to be easily reconfigurable. Once I am ready to add one I can replace the top with one that has the space for the vice.

I will include pictures as the work progresses. All my current drawings are pencil and paper and probably not clear enough for others to easily read. I have never used SketchUp and all my CAD skills are in applications that I do not have access to.

Thanks for looking

-- "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein



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