Is everyone building a new workbench this year? I have seen more videos and posts about workbenches and which is the best, and why they need a new one. I have to admit to a little Roubo-envy when I see some of the beautiful benches that are on display. My present bench is about 25 years old and was built from a set of plans put out by Shopnotes or Shopsmith or one of those magazines that have been around since the woodworking style named after those two loveable Disney characters, Chip and Dale, became popular. The first thing I found was that the workbench was a pretty, but nearly useless addition to my cabinet shop.
Ninety-nine percent of everything I did was power-tool oriented. The pretty little workbench was soon relegated to a horizontal surface where cut-offs were piled waiting to be sorted. With one 4’ x 8’ and two 4’ x 4’ out-feed tables they quickly became the combination out-feed/assembly stations and with a few strategically drilled holes for round bench dogs they also became the work stations. Every once in a while my father, a retired old-school carpenter, would drop by and suggest that we move the pretty, little work bench to his garage where it would be treated with greater respect. But as I had put many long hours into building this horizontal surface with both end and face clamps, I always demurred.
I recently retired, the shop was sold and a few of the tools were moved to a 2,000 sq. ft. garage behind my home. The pretty, little workbench continued to serve me well in holding cut-offs and other items that needed sorting or needed to be put away. When my father passed away last summer I inherited his tools and suddenly space was at more a premium and pretty, little workbenches seemed to be redundant. Along with my father’s tools came two tool boxes from my grandfather. Between the two carpenters they had collected a lot more hand tools and planes than I have ever owned. I grew up using many of these tools so they were not foreign, but I had migrated to the power end for the speed and convenience. As I sorted through the old tools some had been neglected for more than sixty years when my grandfather passed away. So, it became a project to restore those tools which were complete and begin to search for parts of tools that were not. As planes were cleaned and sharpened I need somewhere to test them and the pretty, little tool bench got cleared and waxed.
It was a lot of fun to again use these tools that had started me down the path of a carpenter and then a cabinet maker. My pretty, little workbench had taken some abuse in the years that it served as a horizontal surface. The wood had dried and shrunk and cracks were developing. The waxing helped some, and some re-gluing and clamping helped. Several times I have asked myself if I should rebuild the pretty, little workbench. Each time the answer is no. It will due. Reorganizing my little shop has made it more efficient and freed up room for the traditional hand-tool bench and what I use as an assembly/workbench. There is even room for a new bench that I have been thinking about for several months, a power tool bench. Yes, I am still a power tool junkie.
Recently Fine Woodworking posted an email showing a power tool bench that had several good ideas. http://www.finewoodworking.com/Workshop/WorkshopArticle.aspx?id=34430&lookup=auto&V18=&V19=&V20=&V21=&V22=&V23=&V24=&V25=&V26=&V53=&V54=&Taun_Per_Flag=true&utm_source=email&utm_medium=eletter&utm_term=workbench&utm_content=20111110-wired-workbench&utm_campaign=fine-woodworking-eletter They call it the Ultimate Power Tool workbench. I have a problem with the word “Ultimate.” It means the pinnacle or the last word. Magazine writers are so quick with hyperbola. Technically it should have been called the Ultimate workbench for power tool use, but we got the point. At a glance, I could see several ways to improve it for my own use, so I guess that it wasn’t the Ultimate after all.
It would be nice to start a dialog on how to improve the Ultimate power tool workbench. I’m sure that there are some other power tool junkies who, like me, have adapted their benches to the use of POWER! So come out of the closet and admit that the $2000 worth of material and who knows how much in labor to build a beautiful inlaid workbench and attach every vice known to man, just so that we can plane a few boards, will never, ever pay for its self. I’d like to hear from you.