A New Bench for Hand Work #1: The Beggining, sort of

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Blog entry by Sean posted 11-23-2009 10:52 PM 1178 reads 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of A New Bench for Hand Work series Part 2: Let's take it from the top »

I began my woodworking journey a little over two years ago now. My wife and I had just bought our first house together, she had quit her job and became a full time law student and I was looking for something to do that was a little more engaging than television. My previous hobby had been tinkering with cars which I still enjoy, when I can, to this day. But our new home had no garage and we had little money to spare. So I searched my soul and the internet and decided that I would teach myself electronics. I already had all of the tools for small electronics work save one; a work bench. And my interest, my wife would say obsession, in woodworking started.

I found the plans for a basic work bench on the Popular Mechanics website. It looked simple enough for me to construct with my limited tools and sturdy enough to serve any purpose I could find for it. So I trotted off to the neighborhood Borg center, picked up a bunch of 2×4’s, lag screws and bolts, a full sheet of 3/4” baltic birch ply and dragged it all down to my laundry room. I borrowed an ancient 10” benchtop table saw and an equally ancient Skill saw from my dad and over several nights built my very first work bench.

Over the next several weeks many small packages of even smaller electronics components arrived in the mail and began accumulating on my new bench. As I accumulated more and more of the parts for my first project (an engraving laser) my enthusiasm waned. The parts sat on the bench for several months. Then small household projects began coming up. The parts went into a drawer where they still sit today but the bench was finally being used, and used more and more frequently.

Fast forward two years. I’ve accumulated enough tools both complete many projects and fill my small laundry room to near capacity. But the tight space is but a minor annoyance compared to my very real and severe problem… I’ve caught the handplane disease. For those unfamiliar with the handplane disease, it starts out innocent enough with just a plane or two. Then you learn to sharpen; you buy another plane or two. By the time you figure out how to use a jointer and a smoothing plane it’s all over, you have an incurable disease. There is only one way to treat this disease and that is to build a bench with enough efficient work holding and weight to enable you to swing around all variety of different hand planes with out having to move your bench back into position everything third stroke. And that, of course, is why I am writing this today.

I will be building, indeed have already begun building, a Roubo style bench. This is a pretty massive bench based on the designs of Andre Roubo in the 18th century and revived by PWW’s Christopher Schwartz around 2005. I do not undertake this lightly; I have read many articles and several books on the topic of work benches, their design and use and come to the conclusion that this is the best bench for me. Not only is it massive in both size and weight but it’s construction is remarkably simple. I think it even has fewer joints to cut than the Popular Mechanics bench I started with! Today is just the introduction, check back tomorrow for part two when I begin construction.

And now because I know I rarely read a blog post with out pictures, here is a picture of my #7 Bedrock on my electronics work bench.

Stanley Bed Rock #7 Jointer

8 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3671 days

#1 posted 11-23-2009 11:08 PM

sounds like most of our lives here…

that’s a great bench design you picked, I recently tried several designs, but ended up building a roubo-style bench, and it is a wonderful asset, and a great (/clamping) surface to work on.

Click for details

good luck on your journey! I think a workbench project is one of the best to take upon yourself.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View GoGoZRX's profile


23 posts in 3129 days

#2 posted 11-23-2009 11:11 PM

Having heard the live version of this project, i’m looking forward to seeing the pictures!


-- chip junkie, motorcyclist, skydiver, geek.

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1567 posts in 3588 days

#3 posted 11-23-2009 11:42 PM

Good luck with your Roubo build, its a great choice. What kind of wood are you going to use?

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View OhValleyWoodandWool's profile


970 posts in 3143 days

#4 posted 11-24-2009 12:46 AM

yup – i’ve recently come down with it as well. A new bench is my near futurre as well

-- "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure." Mark Twain

View Mark's profile


27 posts in 3477 days

#5 posted 11-24-2009 03:01 AM

Sounds like a very contagious disease! I might have caught it myself….good luck with the workbench, I plan on building my own someday, once I buy a house that is-just no where to keep a nice bench in my rented house.

-- Mark, Sydney, Australia

View Sean's profile


18 posts in 3721 days

#6 posted 11-24-2009 05:11 PM

Thanks everyone!

PurpLev, that’s a great looking bench. I love the look of the laminated leg vice, well worth the extra time of the bent lamination for such a stunning visual effect. I also read through your blog entries and I have a question. I am planning on a wagon vice for the same reasons you site, and would also love the one from Benchcrafted but will not be getting one for the same reasons. I see you used LV screw and it looks like you off set it so you could clamp boards inside. Is that accurate? And how did you set up the block to slide? Did you attach strips underneath? Did you mortise it into the bottom of the top? Thanks!

Timbo, I’m using all hem-fir as the only big box store near me is Home Depot. And while I could have driven anywhere in the DC/NoVA area I did not like the idea of highway travel with a large load of 12’ boards on top of my SUV. I’ve worked with hem-fir before and know that it’s pretty soft, far more soft than I would I like, but it is easy to work and will be more kind on the tools. If it really turns out to be a problem I’ll hand plane it down some and laminate a 1/2” layer of maple over the whole top. And I’ll be using ash for the end cap and leg vise.

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3671 days

#7 posted 11-24-2009 08:01 PM

Thanks Sean.

The wagon vise is still not installed for lack of time recently. however, the design is there, and it’s just a matter of putting it together. I basically followed Jameel’s (the guy that designed the Benchcrafted vise) blog and used LV screw for the driver. but opposed to using metal housing and rails, I’m using wood. it’ll have 2 wooden rails on the sides, and an enlarged block of wood (with the dog hole) running in it.

I will blog it as soon as I put it together, but am not sure when that would happen. hopefully soon. I’ll try to put up some sketchup views of it this week. so stay tuned.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3696 days

#8 posted 11-24-2009 08:27 PM

Nice start!

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