Weekend Bench #7: A bit of reflection

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Blog entry by dsb1829 posted 01-05-2009 07:11 PM 1410 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Getting a little closer to being done Part 7 of Weekend Bench series Part 8: Front twin screw vise »

Okay, I am nearing completion on the bench.

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)
- Bandsaw
- 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

8 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3820 days

#1 posted 01-05-2009 07:53 PM

Thanks, Doug. I have a need for a quality bench in my shop as my 4×8 melamine table is (1) too large for my shop and (2) not very stable. This series has been a help to me since I need to build a workbench to replace the assembly table.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View PetVet's profile


329 posts in 3485 days

#2 posted 01-05-2009 08:31 PM

I hate it when those bevel gauges act up!
Great looking bench and very thoughtful and thorough post. Appreciate it!

-- Rich in Richmond -- Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3671 days

#3 posted 01-06-2009 12:33 AM

Looks great, Doug.

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3880 days

#4 posted 01-06-2009 03:21 AM

Good write up. Thanks.

We had chatted before about 3/4” router bits. I had to go home and make sure I knew what I was talking about. The one I bought is an Onsrud 40-141 3/4” upcut spiral. Amazon has them for $36. I think I bought this from the rack at our local Woodcraft. Those guys know what we want. It is short though (but still wicked looking). It cut like a dream. It is HSS and not carbide, hence the reason it is not $150.

I took a pic of it along with the other bits that I had tried. Just for the fun of it:

Take care,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3625 days

#5 posted 01-06-2009 03:57 AM

Hey Steve, thanks for posting that here. I didn’t see that bit listed on their site, gonna have to check again. The price isn’t really that bad in HSS and it would likely only be used for dog holes and dados, so the HSS would likely still be a good investment. Just have to keep it away from the mdf, that stuff is murder on router bits.

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3794 days

#6 posted 01-06-2009 01:12 PM


I love reading about workbench builds, and will have to detail mine when I actually start as well. Trials and Tribulations are always great to hear about in any build, especially a workbench build, and yours has been no exception. I look forward to seeing the finished piece and seeing it put to work!

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3625 days

#7 posted 01-06-2009 10:15 PM

Glad some are enjoying the journey with me. I will have an update on the front vise in a day or two. Just working evenings as time allows now that I am back on the 9-5 grind.

I ended up returning the Irwin boring bit. I told the Manager my thoughts on it and that I had indeed used it. He was fine to accept it back. Ordered up a set of giant brad point bits from Grizzly ( ). The 3/4 in there should get me through the rest of the dog holes I need to do on this bench.

Stay tuned for more updates as I get them out…

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3625 days

#8 posted 01-08-2009 06:25 PM

Okay, just came up on some information.
Woodcraft does infact carry the Onsrud 40-141 3/4in hss upcut spiral bit
WC PN: 03K53

Might come in handy next time woodcraft has a good special running or coupon.

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

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