In the beginning were the catalogs, and in the catalogs were beautiful workbenches, and attached to the workbenches were not-so-beautiful prices.
Is there a single one of us that has looked at a catalog and not drooled over the incredible workbenches therein? Some may have unlimited funds, but I have trouble dropping a grand on a work surface. There are too many areas that have a greater demand on my hard-earned dollars. On the other hand, trying to edge-plane a board on a 6-foot folding “church dinner” table is counterproductive – the table and wood both take off across the floor at the first touch of a blade. Also, the height is definitely less than ideal for my 6’ 4” frame. Backaches were the order of the day. There had to be something better that was still affordable.
I picked up a copy of Popular Woodworking’s special issue on workbenches and shop cabinets, and compared designs. No single one was exactly what I was looking for, but many had features I wanted to incorporate, so I began to synthesize. I have an internal CAD system of sorts that lets me build projects in my head, so I considered my requirements:
- A design that could be built out of common box-store dimension lumber.
- Large front and end vises with wooden jaws and a bench dog system.
- A sturdy base that would be rack-resistant, and allow me to add under-bench storage.
- A working height that would be optimal for my height and work techniques.
I settled on a top made from dimension 2×4’s glued together in an edge-up orientation. I would add a pair of inexpensive quick-release vise hardware sets from Woodcraft (the Chinese, not the German) mated to maple jaws. This would rest on a base again made using standard dimension lumber in some sort of sturdy configuration.
The base details could wait till later. The objective for now was the top. The next step was a trip to Home Depot.
More to come in the next installment.
-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog: http://littlegoodpieces.wordpress.com