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A Workbench's Progress

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Blog series by TheGravedigger updated 07-31-2007 05:41 PM 12 parts 22518 reads 91 comments total

Part 1: In the Beginning

05-29-2007 04:17 AM by TheGravedigger | 7 comments »

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 foldin...

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Part 2: How to use a half-gallon of glue on one project.

05-30-2007 05:02 AM by TheGravedigger | 9 comments »

Now I needed some wood. Since low cost was a priority (the vise hardware was setting me back enough as it was), I decided on basic whitewood studs. I know SYP would have been better, but if I was going to screw up, I didn’t want too much money involved. Besides, I reasoned, if it became unusable in a few years, I would have gotten my money’s worth, and could simply build a new one with better materials and more experience. The vise hardware and jaws would be reusable. So, h...

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Part 3: How much wood will $80 buy?

05-31-2007 05:07 AM by TheGravedigger | 7 comments »

I decided at this point that I should install the front and end vises with their wooden jaws prior to surfacing the top. So, my son and I (remember, 150 pounds or so) flipped the benchtop on its back, and I made sure the vise mounting spots were relatively flat and square to the edges. Then it was time to construct the wooden jaws, and obviously, whitewood would never do for this application. The only logical choice seemed to be maple, which is not available as a locally-produced wood. ...

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Part 4: Squeeze play

05-31-2007 05:56 PM by TheGravedigger | 7 comments »

After the holes were bored and the jaws were shaped, it was time for installation. Every vise hardware set is probably a little different, so I won’t get too technical here. The bottom line is that the mount assembly is positioned on the underside of the benchtop and screwed or lag-bolted into place. Then, the jaw is threaded onto the guide rods and screw, which are then run through their respective holes in the mount and secured. The screw is then tightened to snug the jaw up again...

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Part 5: Leveling the playing field

06-01-2007 04:55 PM by TheGravedigger | 10 comments »

Now for the hard part – leveling the top. As I previously mentioned, there was considerable misalignment and undulation in the soon-to-be working surface. My drywall square made a good level-checker. Not only was it straight, but the head kept it vertical to the surface with little effort on my part. With the biggest problem areas identified, I grabbed my jointer plane to start knocking down the high spots. I had, however, forgotten one of the biggest principles of planecraft: P...

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Part 6: Base plan

06-03-2007 04:39 AM by TheGravedigger | 11 comments »

As requested, here is my basic plan for the workbench base. This was my first (semi) successful drawing with Google SketchUp, so please pardon the crudeness. I plan on starting on this phase in the next week or two (after payday). The wood will be southern yellow pine dimension lumber. With the exception of the 2x6 lower stretchers, the rest will be 2x4's. The upper stretchers will be single thickness, the outside legs and feet will be glue-lams of 2 studs, and the center legs and ...

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Part 7: The Base Begins

06-17-2007 03:19 AM by TheGravedigger | 4 comments »

Well, the next phase of the workbench project is now under way. I went to a local lumber yard the other day (the real thing, not a box store—I learn pretty fast) and picked up enough southern yellow pine to build the base. I’ll have to give these guys credit – they take care of their customers. Even though the yard crew was busy loading up 18-wheelers, they had time for me. When I told the “guy inside” what I was building, he wrote on the pull ticket, “...

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Part 8: Glue-up's Finished

07-01-2007 02:52 PM by TheGravedigger | 7 comments »

The easy part’s over—all of the base components have been glued up, trued up, and evened up. After gluing the pieces together to make the rough leg components, I squared up the surfaces with a hand plane, and then sent everything back through the thickness planer to insure uniform thickness. Then, it was time to cut everything to final length. I hate this part—it’s one of my favorite ways to mess up. While the legs were a-gluing, I skip-planed the stock for th...

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Part 9: Cutting Tenons the Old-Fashioned Way (sort of...)

07-04-2007 02:26 PM by TheGravedigger | 5 comments »

Building this workbench has made me rethink a lot of things. Joinery on this scale is completely different from a jewelry box, cutting board, or a bookcase, and calls for different techniques. I can hear the timber framers howling with laughter and shouting,”Duhhh!!!!” Well, it’s new to me. A case in point is the tenons joining the legs to the feet (see the plan in Episode 6). The center leg elements are composed of three 2×4’s glued together with a fin...

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Part 10: The Mother of Invention

07-11-2007 09:18 PM by TheGravedigger | 3 comments »

Sometimes you can stare at a problem with a project for days (or longer) before a solution comes to you. In my case, the solution often comes at the oddest times and places. In this case, I was sitting at work performing a calculation when the light bulb went on. I was having problems with drilling the mortises in my workbench legs. The legs were long and heavy and my drill press table is small. This was made worse by the fact that most of the mortises were located near the ends of the...

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Part 11: The End's in Sight!

07-26-2007 05:16 PM by TheGravedigger | 9 comments »

Hooray! The final glue-up of all the pieces is finished, and boy am I tired! The last post left me sharpening my chisel and getting ready to square up the 28 mortises. This was indeed as difficult as I feared. It’s not that squaring a mortise is that hard, but there were so many of them. This was the time to remember the old adage that a mountain is climbed one step at a time. Each mortise was just one mortise, and that’s how I approached the problem. The problem with SYP...

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Part 12: Home Base at Last!

07-31-2007 05:41 PM by TheGravedigger | 12 comments »

Well, it’s finally done. The workbench base is done and has been mated to the top. I gave the finished base three coats of finish. The first was equal parts turpentine, BLO, & spar urethane. The next two were just BLO & spar urethane 50:50. All were applied with a rag & then rubbed dry like all finishes of this type. This gave me a good seal for the wood, and gloss wasn’t really a consideration. Yes, I know lots of folk will go for a proper finish, but I’...

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