On to the workbench top. I bought some 8/4 soft maple for the top, which was the most expensive part of the bench (still < $200 though). Ripped it to a bit over 3” on my Ridgid portable tablesaw – yes, you can rip 8/4 maple on that little guy! The wood was a bit wet, and sometimes would bind up past the blade and trip the fuse, but then I’d just hammer in a wedge to open it back up, and keep going. Hard maple was harder to get, so I went with soft, which is still harder (though not quite as stiff) as the yellow pine that Chris Schwartz uses in lots of his benches.
I didn’t plan to make a split-top bench when I started, but once I got to 12” wide slabs, they got pretty heavy to lift up and maneuver around by myself, so I decided to leave the top in two pieces. Has some nice benefits I’ll mention later. Total size is 6-feet x 24” x bit shy of 3” thick.
On to the features – the main front vise is a leg vise – first learned about that in Schwarz’s Workbenches book. So far, I love it – need to plane the edge of a 12” wide panel, or make an inset door a little smaller? No problem – pinch one end in the vise, set the other on the sliding deadman, and go to town. The 10” depth is great. The pin in the parallel guide still needs a shop-made handle, but we’ll get to that (who wants to teach me to turn?). The guide is fixed with my first execution of a wedged through-tennon.
The sliding deadman runs on a triangular wedge screwed to the top of the bottom stretcher, and a 3/4” groove in the bottom side of the bench. Wax it up and it slides around like a puck on ice. Veritas hold-down in the deadman for storage, or for when I need to clamp a wide piece vertically – one side in the leg vise, hold-down presses the other side against the front of the bench. In this photo you can also see the tongue-n-groove boards for the shelf under the bench – probably over-doing it, but it looks way better than a chunk of plywood sitting under there.
Planing stop on the top fits into two 3/4” holes in the benchtop. Another stop fits into the 1/2” gap between the two top pieces for planing across the grain. I have to admit this is not ideal for going at a piece really heavy that way, but for quick operations it’s convenient.
That about wraps it up. I don’t have dog-holes in the top yet because I still need to decide what sort of end vise I want. I was thinking of using a quick-release metal vise there, but at 6’ long crossways in the garage, I fear I’d be banging my hip into the vise every time I tried to walk around the bench. So now I think I might go with a Veritas Surface Vise or Wonder Dog instead. Other suggestions welcome.
Very, very happy with the bench so far, and I definitely recommend building one to anybody that has the inclination.
-- -- Kevin in Mentor, Ohio