Since I caught the sawdust bug, I have read many a book and blog, watched many a video and bought many a tool. I have even built some of my tools, and while I am a pretty frugal person, I like to only buy things once and do not like moving up the levels of quality for any given tool. Sometimes this is not possible, and sometimes buying something is either not the most effective, cheapest, or best way to broaden my woodworking skills. While I love working out in my shop, the workbench that I do much of my work on is not really up to par for Woodworking. It seems more like a general purpose bench that I have added things (and not very well in my initial lack of skills) to to make it work a little bit better than it was intended for my purpose. As a result, I have lusted after a true traditional woodworking bench for quite some time. I have seen many a picture of great workbenches, and even purchased several of the books out there that delineate the construction alternatives (namely: Lon Schleining’s The Workbench and Scott Tolpin’s The Workbench Book) I looked at Christopher Schwarz’s book, but I ended up not purchasing it as I had basically already decided on a design in my head that was better suited to the other two books. After having read a great deal in books and on the internet, I went through my own design process. For me, this involves a great deal of pondering and mulling over options. I like to let ideas percolate in the back of my mind for a while to let the best ones filter down into the conscious (this also involves me making the extra money to buy the tools that support my habit :) )
Some of the things that I thought about while mulling the idea of building my workbench were: Cost—Could I afford to buy one of the commercial benches? The answer, probably not all at once. I can easily stretch the cost of something over a long period of time, as I am pretty patient, but plunking that much money down for something that would help me learn if I built it, didn’t make much sense to me. I thought I would be better off building the darn thing on my own and learning a few things along the way. Plus, I didn’t think I could get the initial cost of a large woodworking bench past my wife at the time, whereas I could sneak the relatively minor purchases of things by her over the long haul (We both have our vices, woodworking for me, and shoes and clothes for her. We just have that great unspoken agreement to keep our habits within limits LOL)
Space—How would one of these benches work in my limited shop? I love the look of the Frank Klauz benches, but that extended vise on the front just wouldn’t work for me. I had to decide on a different design. That different design ended up being the Dunbar bench for the most part. I made some modifications along the way, but overall, I liked the versatility of having a face vise that was pretty hefty and the an end vise in the same mold.
*Wood—What kind of wood would I be building this bench out of? While I ultimately may end up building a new bench down the line out of maple or beech, I thought the learning process and my skill level would not allow me to spend that much money on lumber that I would be just hacking at. Some day maybe, but not now. I decided to go with Douglas Fir, as it is readily available and cheap. Once I had made that decision, it was simply a matter of purchasing the best cheap lumber.
Sometime last summer, in between a vacation of a lifetime to Europe with my wife, and the beginning of the new school year, I purchased the best 2”x12”s that I could find at my local Home Depot (whatever one may say about HD, they have cheap lumber and it is just around the block from my home, so it is my easiest alternative in this area). As I knew I didn’t have a great deal of time to work in the shop and the lumber was still a little wet, I decided to lay them out and sticker them for a while until I could begin working on them later in the fall.
That time came in October when I had an extra day off. I pulled the boards out and chalked them up the way I wanted to rough cut them.
After having drawn out my rough outlines to get the top pieces out of these boards with the best grain and least number of knots, I rough cut the pieces for the top.
After I rough cut them that day, I jointed and planed them down to the sizes they would need to be for glue up in sections. I only have a 13” planer, so I would be gluing them up in approximately 6” sections, so I laid them out for best effect before I started gluing them up.
I think that’s about it for tonight, I will add more in a day or two.