I have worked on a tiny bench for way too long now. My current bench is apprx. 22” x 28”, has one vise that is too small with a chop that is too big, and it the most frustrating piece of equipment in my shop, bar none. It’s so small that I knock everything off of it while working, I can’t handplane long boards on it, the list of this bench’s shortcomings is just endless. With one exception, it is very sturdy and it doesn’t rack much at all or move while planing on it. How is this possible? I lagged it to my concrete floor.
This new bench, to more correctly describe it’s design than I had in my earlier post, will be a sort of mix of the Roubo and Holtzapffel designs, with some of my own ideas as well. The main reason I am looking at this type of bench is, first, it’s simplicity and extremely robust construction. The second, is that this design allows for a much wider range of work-holding options than a bench with a deep apron and legs inset from the edge of the top.
And as a last point, it is my opinion that a bench that relies on it simply being massive for it’s strength will hold-up better over time than a bench that relies on tight joinery alone. Especially when it’s built from a relatively soft wood as I will be doing.
I also want a bench that is heavy and sturdy enough that it won’t move while planing, but doesn’t need to be bolted down like my current bench so that I can move it if I need to. This will be a major plus and the end of a long-running headache!
Now, onto work-holding, vises and other amenities.
I decided I wanted wooden vise screws after trying a set on an old bench I saw a while back. It worked very fast and held very, very tight. It also had a better “feel” to it than any metal screw vise I had used before. I was instantly in love.
I had initially wanted to use Lake Erie Tool Works wooden screws for the vises, and then I saw the price. Nope. Just way more money than I can afford. To buy just the basic kits for my planned set-up, at $120 a piece, I’d be at $600 right there, more than doubling my projected total cost just on vise hardware! I had to find another way.
One option was to simply use pipe clamps. But they’re just not what I want for this bench, and definitely won’t make for a “Top-Notch” bench by any stretch. So, what else is there?
Then I found the Beall Wood Threader, perfect! Granted, it only cuts a 1-1/2” diameter thread with 5tpi, but if I use a solid hardwood, I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine. Anyway, if I have the threader, I can simply replace a screw should I ever have an issue. And at less than $100, it fit the budget too.
Because my bench will reside in the center of one area in my shop, and such will not be against a wall, I plan to make the best of this and set up each side with a different type of vise.
One side will use a large twin-screw vise, which will be used for dovetailing, cutting tenons and other end-grain work. The other side will use a leg-vise, sliding deadman and a removable crochet, which is a good set-up for edge jointing long stock and other tasks which need a similar work-holding arrangement.
The end-vise will be another, slightly smaller, twin-screw.
That pretty much wraps up what the bench will be. Once I get materials ans start the actual work, I’ll apdate again.