I thought I’d try blogging for my workbench build. I currently have a Sjobergs Duo 1500 workbench. It’s not a terrible bench, but as I get more into hand tools it just doesn’t cut it. At under 100lb, I end up having to keep one foot on the front stretcher while I plane to keep it from moving around. I decided I needed a new bench with some heft.
I did some research online, and bought Chris Schwarz’s new workbench book “The Workbench Design Book, The Art & Philosophy of Building Better Benches” Popular Wood Working Books 2010 (maroon colored cover). It’s a newer book where Schwarz presents a bunch of designs, gives build details, and presents a critique of each. I think many, if not all, are reprints of articles from the magazine, with the critique added. It is nice to get an assessment after the bench has been used for some time.
One problem I identified early is that I don’t have great access to any thick pieces of wood for the top. My local hardwood dealer only carries a few species in 8/4, nothing thicker, and I couldn’t swing a hard maple top, too pricy. Schwarz really likes Southern Yellow Pine, but I can’t get that around here, so that wasn’t an option. I looked at just using 2x material, but the inexpensive stuff was really not very good, and the good clear stuff was as much as hardwood. So, I decided to use LVL.
PWW did a LVL bench http://www.popularwoodworking.com/articleindex/lvl-workbench in 2009. In his critique Schwarz really had good things to say about the top, but not so much about the LVL for the base. LVL, if you are not aware of it, is layers of Southern Yellow Pine about 1/8” thick laminated into beams of stock sizes. It mostly used for long spans in buildings.
The pro’s for the LVL is that it has held up very well to use, stays flat, is very dimensionally stable, easy to machine, readily available, and I can get 1 ¾”x14” LVL for $6.20/lin ft (or $2.65/bf), so the price is right. My plan is to rip each 2×14 into 4 strips, should yield about 3 3/8”, flip them on edge and glue up 12 pieces. I should get 21” minus some planning losses, and a top just over 3” thick. I’m going to edge band the front and back with 8/4 maple for extra support and to protect the LVL edges. It will also look nicer. I should end up with about a 24” wide top, and I’m going for 7’ length, not including end vise hardware. I was thinking 8’, but that just seems too huge; maybe I’ll regret that later. My little Sjobergs only 4 1/2’, so this will be much larger.
I’m going with red oak for the base; cheapest hardwood I could get. The PWW design had a completely knockdown base, with all stretchers half-lapped into the legs and bolted together. I’m planning to mortise & tennon and drawbore the short stretchers into the legs, and half-lap and bolt the long stretchers. It will still come apart if I need to move it.
I looked at and drooled over the Benchcrafted, Hovarter, Lie-Nielsen, and Lee Valley hardware, but I couldn’t justify the cost, something else I may regret later. I decided to try to keep costs down.
I liked the leg vise in the PWW design. I haven’t used one before, but I’m taking the leap. I bought a wooden screw from Lake Erie Tools; a bit pricey, but very nice. It’s my one real splurge on this project.
I decided to try a twinscrew vise for my end vise. I bought two face vise screws from Lee Valley. Linked screws would be nice, but I don’t plan on running the vise all the way in and out too often, so I should be able to get away with independent screws. They were a whole lot cheaper.
I’m also using the sliding deadman in the PWW design, as well as keeping the legs flush to the front and back edges. No skirt. Round dog holes. I’m going to make the height a bit low on Schwarz’s advice, as I’m starting to fall down the slippery hand plane slope. The finish will just be BLO; I have an assembly table so I don’t plan on gluing up on my bench.
I’ve got the hardware and the lumber is ordered. It should be delivered in the next few days. I’ll start on the LVL while the hardwood is acclimating to the shop. I’ll try to post pictures as I build, but it will be slow as I don’t get a lot of shop time watching two small kids.
If anyone has any questions or comments, let me know.