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Work Bench Constuction Journal #1: My Dream Workbench - A Journal of Progress

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Blog entry by Ron Ramsey posted 946 days ago 7779 reads 3 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I have finally gotten around to making a real workbench for my new, and smaller, shop (see my previous entry). I am in the planning phase right now. I’ve been pouring over plans, books, philosophy of workbench design. I guess it’s safe to say I may be over thinking this. But the design is half the fun. So, I’ve put together a journal that you can download and look at. It has pictures and explanations of some of the design considerations I’m mulling over.

I am designing the bench to be somewhat versatile as well as aesthetically pleasing. I will be working on cabinetry and some furniture, but also doing some carving and small box types of projects. I’m a little bit stuck with the size of my shop. I will have to make the bench somewhat narrow and will work primarily at the end of the bench, since the other end will be up against a wall. I’m looking to make it approximately 24” x 70” which will leave plenty of room to work on three sides while not overpowering my small space.

So far as aesthetics go, I am hoping to add some of the Arts and Crafts features that I like, such as Greene and Greene appointments as well as some Craftsmen style features.

I hope that you will share any ideas you may have to help me along. This is my first (and hopefully last) workbench, so I want to incorporate the best features for the work I’ll be doing.

-- Ron Ramsey, Rochester Hills,



21 comments so far

View Brandon's profile

Brandon

4138 posts in 1583 days


#1 posted 946 days ago

Best wishes on your bench build. If you’re interested in inspiration for an Arts and Crafts Bench, check out this photo (I’ve only seen this pic I don’t have access to plans or anything like that).

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View RandyM68's profile

RandyM68

693 posts in 950 days


#2 posted 946 days ago

I completely agree with your first choice. I like that shaker style bench. As soon as I saw that picture, I realized that was basically what I started building was based on that design. I wanted under bench storage, a flush front, a sliding deadman, a leg vise, and more.
I did the same as you and looked at everybody else’s ideas. Never really decided on one style, but just went for it and made it up as I went along. I see now the similarities with the shaker style, although mine has morphed into something else. Mine definitely doesn’t have that classic beauty, in fact it is ugly as hell right now. but it was a functional workbench within three days of starting, and I don’t get in any hurry about anything.
I’m not finished with mine yet, and it keeps changing as I go. But if I ever get done , it will do anything these other will do and then some. I’ll send you some pics and see what you think. I know it’s ugly but I’ll share with you for the scientific value. You seem like a smart guy, you might get some ideas, every body else would probably just laugh at me.

-- I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you. I'm sorry,thanks.

View Ron Ramsey's profile

Ron Ramsey

34 posts in 1147 days


#3 posted 946 days ago

Thanks for both the replies. I think the bench from issue 65 of Shop Notes is beautiful and it could easily be transformed with some of the embellishments and fixtures that I would find useful. I think its the only bench I haven’t studied. Wouldn’t ya know . . . I have almost all of the shop notes back 6 years, but I don’t have issue 65 ? I’ll hunt it down and take a look.

-- Ron Ramsey, Rochester Hills,

View Ron Ramsey's profile

Ron Ramsey

34 posts in 1147 days


#4 posted 946 days ago

Here’s the first draft sketch of the front and top views of the bench. Any thoughts or ideas are welcome.

-- Ron Ramsey, Rochester Hills,

View RandyM68's profile

RandyM68

693 posts in 950 days


#5 posted 946 days ago

I was reading your plans above and realized we were thinking even more alike. Especially the incra track on the front. Every one out there is just copying the same three or four designs. There are slight variations but no real ingenuity. I, too, have a small place to work, mine is even on the back porch. I have about 8’x16’. I walled in the north end and about 8’ down from the corner. The rest is open. I had to make mine mobile, so I can shove it back against the wall when the rain blows in. I need my bench to do as much as possible. You’re wanting to build some thing beautiful and functional, I want functional and cheap. I mentioned before that mine is ugly. That is mostly because of the variety of materials I used, and the fact that I really hadn’t planned it all the way through. I still haven’t, it keeps changing. I put this thing together out of used furniture. That contributed to the ugly for sure, but I can buy used furniture and tear it apart for materials cheaper than I can buy lumber. Now I stop by my favorite thrift stores on the way to home depot. A lot of times I find what I need. That explains the looks.Sort of.
http://i1054.photobucket.com/albums/s494/RandyM68/Workshop/020.jpg
http://i1054.photobucket.com/albums/s494/RandyM68/Workshop/025.jpg
http://i1054.photobucket.com/albums/s494/RandyM68/Workshop/021.jpg

I used parts from three different desks, a bookcase, and some 2×4’s. I built the base from the back of a bookcase that was 3’x6’. Under it, I made a frame of 2×4’s laid on edge, with swivel casters on the back and three 3/4” jack bolts across the front to keep it level and stable.
The box on the left is taller so I built the right two up level, framed out the corner and back, made a mat of half-lapped 2xs , and laid an 1-1/4” thick mdf desktop on top. It was ready to use. So far i’d had to pay $30 for one of the desks, bought casters, bolts and $20 worth of 2×4s. The rest was free. I used it like it was for a while, but i planned from the beginning to make a sort of sliding vice on top to use for work holding and assembly.I just hadn’t figured out exactly how. I’ve had the idea of using electrical super strut for miter slots and t-tracks rolling around in my head for years I picked up another desk for $30 bucks, took the 1” thick oak veneer top off and added it to the pile. It was a little smaller than the other top so I had room to ring it with strut. This can be for clamping and positioning fences, stops and so forth. As you mentioned, I plan to run more t-track across the front, top and bottom, and down each leg, and one more in the middle.all told it should be nearly 70 feet of t-track. I’ve spent more on strut than the whole rest of the bench put together, about $120. Try buying that much incra track without a bank loan. Then you have to buy their clamps and stuff to go with it. I’ve been making t-nuts with oak 1×2s cut to fit. Also 1-1/4” flat iron bars and 1-1/4” patio door roller bearings ride perfectly in it. The thing riding on top is the beginnings of a gantry router/panel saw. But thats another story.

-- I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you. I'm sorry,thanks.

View Brit's profile

Brit

5125 posts in 1475 days


#6 posted 946 days ago

Ron – I can’t help thinking you will regret not putting your leg vise on the front of your bench, since it’s main purpose is to clamp long boards on edge for planing. Long boards need to be supported at the other end and that is where the sliding deadman comes into play. Twin screw vises excel at clamping work on end, e.g. when dovetailing carcasses and perhaps you should consider mounting it on the end of your bench. I’d be interested to hear your reasoning for positioning the vises as shown in your first draft sketch.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View thedude50's profile

thedude50

3512 posts in 1110 days


#7 posted 944 days ago

I just don’t get the fascination of the leg vise when a twin screw veritas vise will do the same job quicker and better like on the 21st century bench I am in the final planing stages on the things I am going to change in the plan but my bench must have a beautiful tool tray and it must have 2 vises I don’t like leg vises and I don’t see what good they are i invite you to enlighten me . as I could add the 3rd vise to my bench at any time

-- when I am not on Lumberjocks I am on @ http://thisoldworkshop.com where we allow free speech

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

9806 posts in 1250 days


#8 posted 944 days ago

I’ll take a leg vise over a dbl screw anytime… :-)

Dbl srew being quicker and better I simply can’t agree with. My vise is fast, and holds strong. Don’t know how to improve on that, so it’s preference only… Just sayin’...

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View Ron Ramsey's profile

Ron Ramsey

34 posts in 1147 days


#9 posted 944 days ago

thanks to all you who have commented. Brit, I took your advice first and went back to the drawing board, did some measurements, and I’ve decided to rethink my vise situation.

So, here’s my final analysis. First, I am NOT going to use the leg vise. I agree with Smitty that it’s a good vise, but for me, in my limited space, I’m going to put in a twin screw vise, most likely the Lie Nielsen (http://www.lie-nielsen.com/catalog.php?sku=cdsv). I think both vises are good. However, a twin screw will do pretty much every thing a leg vise will do, and more. I’ll be using it for dovetailing and end of board use, which is a little difficult with the leg vise. And I like the clean look of the Lie Nielsen vise vs. the Veritas. Just personal preference.

Second, I’m going to put in an inset tail vise from Bench Crafted (http://benchcrafted.com/TailVise.html). I have been studying Rob Cosmen’s technique and I’m devoted to getting better with a hand plan. When I get them to work right, I love the results. Cosman uses a traditional cabinet makers bench with a tail vise and a shoulder vise. . . . . neither of which I like. So, I’ve chosen to go with the inset tail vise and skip the shoulder vise for the twin screw (which I think is more versitile than the shoulder vise). I realize I could probably use the twin screw in a similar way to hold boards flat with dogs, but I would prefer to use the tail vise parallel with the grain, that way, it will be easier to keep the top flat, on the one side of the bench, i.e., the Maple side. Here’s a good video on the use of various vises by an Patrick Edwards, a hand tool woodworker: http://woodtreks.com/category/tools/workbench/

I’m still planning to make the top out of two glued up panels (which is the Shaker method for bench tops). The side I will doe planing on, and will keep dead flat is the Maple side. That’s where I’ll have the tail vise. The other side will be White Oak and that’s where the twin screw will be. You may recall that one END of the bench will be against a wall, and there will be 30” of room on either side of the bench to work. The other end (opposite the wall) will be the end I spend the most time at and that’s where the two vises will be.

I am also not going to install a dead man, but instead I am planning to put Incra miter track inset into the side of the bench perpendicular to the twin screw, as well as on the leg at the opposite end from the twin screw.

So, I’m using Christopher Schwarz’s plans for the base of the bench, and a modified version of Holzapffle bench for the top. I like the way the top works on the Bench Crafted Roubo. They have a nicely crafted little board that can be flush with the bench top or raised by flipping it over to make a little stop for panning Very Nice (go here for a photo: http://benchcrafted.com/Benchbuilding.html)

I ran my reclaimed White Oak barn beams through the planer tonight. The look very nice. I’ll be also using some cleaner (and thinner) whit oak that I had on hand, as well as some maple and purple heart. So, now that I’ve got the plan, time to get cracking. I’ll keep you all posted with photos on my progress. Stay Tuned and thanks for your insight.

ron

-- Ron Ramsey, Rochester Hills,

View thedude50's profile

thedude50

3512 posts in 1110 days


#10 posted 944 days ago

Ron I was a little bummed that your links were broken i am not sure what is wrong but for me only one of them works I wasn’t trying to make you change away from the leg vise i just wanted to know why you and others choose a leg vise i think they are ugly and looks mater to me I also know to many woodworkers that a nice leg vise is hotter than Pamela Anderson was in bay watch for me a leg vise is like Rosanne Bar nasty. But i never meant for you to change .

That said I will now try to sell you on the better looking more functional more cost effective Veritas twin screw vise it is a lot less expensive it is of equal quality has a better looking chain cover and sports two handles you don’t have to pay for separately the directions while clear are extensive and i found a good video on installing the veritas vise the lie Nielsen has one handle and is ugly for it plus you can only tighten the vise from the one position and while i own a herd of LN planes the veritas vise is a much better value and please make your own jaws the Ln doesn’t come with a chain cover as far as i can tell you buy is separately.

Next how are you going to configure the vises on the bench.

-- when I am not on Lumberjocks I am on @ http://thisoldworkshop.com where we allow free speech

View Ron Ramsey's profile

Ron Ramsey

34 posts in 1147 days


#11 posted 944 days ago

Good input. Im steering away from the leg vise primarily because of space and function. So far as leg comparisons go, I prefer my wife’leg over the one on a benchminute or Pamela’s for that matter. I will take another look at the Veritas vise. Either way, my layout will be the same. So for now, I’ve started on the base. But Im turning in. Speaking of legs, it’s 2:30 and mine turned in 3 hours ago . . . Tomorrow I will try to get a new drawing up of the bench and my shop floor layout. Thanks for your input.

-- Ron Ramsey, Rochester Hills,

View Brit's profile

Brit

5125 posts in 1475 days


#12 posted 944 days ago

I probably won’t be building a bench for a couple of years yet, but my current thinking is that I will build a Benchcrafted split-top Roubo. However, I don’t believe the split-top roubo will meet all of my needs unless I also build a twin screw bench on a bench. That way I not only get the added benefit of a twin screw vise, but it is also raised up to a height more suited to working on a board on end with a backsaw or a chisel.

Just thought I’d put it out there.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View Ron Ramsey's profile

Ron Ramsey

34 posts in 1147 days


#13 posted 943 days ago

I like that idea. In fact, I saw several options for mounting what they call the “Moxon Vise” on the page by that name: http://benchcrafted.com/MoxonVise.html

I have also seen an interesting version of a mountable vise in a recent Shop Notes. Similar to the Moxon style, you mount it in another vise. However, it is a 1/2 leg vise. Since I am putting a twin screw on my bench, I am I think it might be useful for me to build one of these for the same purpose, i.e., to bring small items I’m working on up to a more comfortable height and to serve a similar purpose as the leg vise. That was in issue November 2011 – Issue 12.

As of now, I’m sorting my lumber according to the Christopher Schwarz Shaker Workbench plans his Work Bench Book. It’s a lot of BIG lumber.

ciao

-- Ron Ramsey, Rochester Hills,

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1526 posts in 1107 days


#14 posted 943 days ago

If you will be doing cabinetry and furniture I would suggest you revisit what Franz Klaus, Tage Fried and other use for a bench. My third bench will be of this type minus the tool tray, I have a bench with one now and all it does is hold saw dust, I should have made the table wider and forego the tool tray it is nothing but a PITA.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View Ron Ramsey's profile

Ron Ramsey

34 posts in 1147 days


#15 posted 943 days ago

Thanks for the input. I have studied their benches and, for cabinetry, I can see the wisdom of their design. As I said earlier, Patrick Edwards (link above) does a nice job explaining bench layout, work flow, and the value of each vise. I will be doing more than cabinetry. I will be making boxes and small things. I will also be carving.

I’m a multi-media puppeteer and use puppetry for therapy and education. I mention this on my home page, but I’ll say it again here. I’m retired from Chrysler and I I have gone back to school to learn my next career: family therapy. I’m working toward my license now. I am planning to work with families to teach life skills that I taught when I was an organizational psychologist in my previous career. I have always loved puppetry all my life and now I have the chance to put it to use. If you think puppetry is for kids, look at these videos (hope you enjoy them) . . . . .

HUMOR

MOVING AND THOUGHT PROVOKING

WHAT IT IS

MAKING AND USING MARIONETTES

ENTERAINMENT

MULTIMEDIA

CARVING MARIONETTES

As you can see, Puppetry, popularized by Sesame Street and Henson’s Muppets, has many forms. And in some forms, requires some woodworking skill to deal with technical and sometimes complicated construction. So, this will become, in large part, what my bench is used for (in addition to the 102 projects around the house).

ciao

-- Ron Ramsey, Rochester Hills,

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