I am currently working on the front vise. I will save that story for the finished product.
I am sitting here today having a bit of a reflective view of the project. So I am going to break it down here.
$100 – about 100BF of rough 8/4 poplar (I will likely only have gone through about 40BF during this build
$81 – 3 sheets of 3/4in MDF (still have over half a sheet, I could have used some of the poplar for the lower shelf but was saving time)
$20 – 2 vise screws (usually these are about $30ea, but I got mine on closeout)
$35 – QR end vise (again, closeout price)
$100 – Glue, screws, nuts, bolts (I have a lot of extras here, with a plan there would have been less waste here)
$10 – 3/4in and 1in oak dowel rods
$25 – 3/4in S4S oak for front vise (2X 1×4x8ft, 1X 1×8x6ft)
...okay, so that is $371 by my math
I could have saved money here and there. I think you could repeat this project with better planning for around $250-300. I have erred to the side of time savings and over-bought on supplies.
Things to do differently:
1) Dog holes. I have mentioned this before. If doing this again I would invest in a good brad point bit. If cost were no object I would also use a 3/4in upcut spiral router bit for the initial bore.
2) Milling lumber. In the end I have milled most of my lumber to 1.75×3.5in. Had I dedicated a day upfront to just dimensioning the rough lumber I am sure it would have saved me time in the end.
3) A better QR vise. Honestly, I cheaped out. I couldn’t stomach paying $150 for a good QR vise. Now I am saddled up to spend the next couple of years using a vise that I am no terribly fond of. It is a Bessey, but otherwise is not worth squat. It doesn’t rack or sag, but it does rotate in torsion which may be more obnoxious.
4) A more substantial leg system. The bench is pretty solid. Maybe by the time I am done it will be rock solid. Some of the wiggle I am sure is due to the knock down construction. Glue and screw would be a more solid joinery approach.
Things I did right:
Open for discussion, but overall there are several aspects of the bench that I really like.
1) Size matters. While not going overboard I worked with full sheets of mdf and wrapped apron around the trimmed pieces. The bench top ended up at 27in wide and 101.5in long. It can handle just over 9ft long boards.
2) Mass for stability. By going a full 3in thick on the top it is solid. There is no sensation of give like my 1.75in thick plywood workbench.
3) Knock-down base. While I am still working to make the base 100% solid I am still very pleased with how it has turned out. Within about 20 minutes the bench can be broken down into small and manageable blocks. Of these blocks the benchtop itself is the only one that requires 2 people to move around (depending on how far it is going even this is debatable as I have been able to wrestle it around the garage myself thus far).
4) Right tools for the job. Chicken or the egg debate here, but in all honesty without the tools that I have at my disposal it would have been very difficult if not impossible to make this bench. There are some equivalents of course, but for the most part my hand planes and miter saw were life savers on this bench. I will take a minute to discuss tools below.
Tools (must have, nice to have, worthless):
Must haves (you could probably build the entire bench with just these tools and some perseverance)
- Circular saw
- Router (edge guide, edge bearing bits, long straight bit)
- HD drill (forstner bits 3/4 & 1-1/4, 3/4in bit for boring dog holes, 7/16in bit for thru holes for all 3/8in hardware)
- Jigsaw and or handsaws
- Clamps (lots of them, not much way to get around this one)
- work surface (I alternated between rubbermaid tubs and a 2×4 frame, keeping the top low to the ground allowed me to flip it and move it as I worked. Saw horses would have worked, but I couldn’t have flipped the top without help if it had been up that high)
Nice to haves (I found several tools had me smiling and wondering what I would have done w/o them)
- 1/2in Spiral upcut and 2.5in straight router bits
- No4, No5, No8, and block planes, some things are just so simple with good planes
- 13in lunchbox planer (this is more of a must have if you start with rough lumber)
- Shoulder plane
- Clamp extenders (it is nice to have the option to clamp the aprons all the way across the benchtop)
- belt sander (for smoothing out the rounded over feet)
- Tablesaw (good for straight line ripping and getting repeatable widths on all parts)
- Irwin boring bit (feeds too fast, clogs, leaves a rough hole behind)
- bevel gauge (some would say operator error, but I am sure it was my bevel gauge that laid my dovetails out backwards)
- 3/4in forstner for boring dog holes straight (don’t bother it won’t turn out well)
Okay, thanks for reading. Hopefully this is helpful to those looking to build a similar bench.
-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama