A couple of very nice roubo benches were recently posted and it got me to thinking. I joined Lumberjocks a couple of years ago and, seldom posting, I have spent a lot of time just reading what people have to say and looking at the pictures they post. In that time I have seen a lot of remarkable work and encountered some good wisdom. One of my favorite searches is work benches, because I want to see what people are working with and find out what type of bench other woodworkers might prefer for their chosen niche. My favorite benches are those that were done as well as could be with what the carpenter had on hand to build with.
My first work bench was made out of a sheet of 1 inch decking plywood. It was sanded smooth and the corners were all rounded with a 1/2 inch round over. I forget the exact dimensions but we used exactly one sheet of plywood. it was about 20 inches deep by 40 inches wide and 26 inches tall. The top had two shallow dados where the plywood legs joined the top about 3-1/2 inches in from each end. It was supported by two 3 inch plywood rails that were morticed into the top and legs with a shallow dado joint. The shelf was the same plywood, about 6 inches up from the floor and was dadoed into three inch plywood rails, which provided both support and borders for the bottom shelf, making it into a tray for storage.
There was a small bench vice mounted to the top and I had a 2 inch wilton clamp on bench vice that I could use as needed. I kept my hand tools on the shelf in my first tool box, which I still have and still use. My father engraved my name into each side with a stanley router. My first power tools were a 1/4 inch Black and Decker drill, and a Black and Decker orbital sander. I kept these on my shelf beside my tool box. I kept my works-in-progress on the shelf as well and, when not in use, the little bench slid underneath the counter in my Dad’s shop, right beside the work stations of my brothers. It seems like we made that when I was about seven and I used it till I was in middle school when my brothers and I built our own tool chests with a large compartment above drawers and a workbench top with rollers on the bottom. These were made out of 3/4 plywood with pine for the drawers, rails and stiles. I do not know whatever became of the benches but my youngest brother still has my carpenter chest in his garage.
In my own little shop, I have several sturdy work benches, all of them improvised to fit my needs with what I had on hand when I built them, but there is nothing remarkable about any of them. Nothing about these benches reflects my best effort. My best looking bench was repurposed to hold my radial arm saw when I moved it into my little shop. I still need to pull the bench vice off, but I have never completed its replacement. My outfeed table, which doubles as a sanding and assembly bench, is well made with posts and gussets, like the bench under my radial saw, but I designed it to be cut out and assembled in an afternoon. Both benches are utilitarian.
My tool bench is built rather like a credenza. All I did was assemble a couple of rough file cabinets and attach them to either side of a heavy chest of drawers with heavy guides. I never did get the laminate glued to the top. It, too, is utilitarian. Milling the drawer pulls out of alder was kind of fun though.
The other three benches, or counters, are extremely simple and I built them all in a couple of hours. With the plywood gussets in the back, they are square, and they are solid, but they are not attractive by any standard.
Resting on top of one of those simple benches is an approximately 32×66x1-5/8 inch piece of lumber core door with maple veneer. When I get to the project, that will become the top of a nice heavy little work bench with lots of drawers.
Functional is a necessity, however, where nice is just nice, the privilege of showcasing one’s skills to those that visit their shop. Until I can make the time, I will have to settle for admiring the benches that others here have built but, whether or not it is my fanciest work, when I post my own completed quality woodworking bench, I will be posting my favorite project.
-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin