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The Ultimate Modern Woodworking Workbench

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Project by Dirk Van Essendelft posted 11-20-2014 05:53 AM 7191 views 31 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch
The Ultimate Modern Woodworking Workbench
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I built this workbench through the winter last year and have been using it for my new projects. Every time I wanted to do a video about it, I had another project on top of it! Finally, I had some free space at the right time to do the “finished product” video.

I made it out of Baltic Birch Plywood, Maple, and Walnut. The bench consists of 8 torsion boxes (4 on the base, 3 on the “elevator car” and 1 under the maple skin of the table). The torsion box skins are made from 3/4” baltic birch and the ribs are 1/2”. The top is skinned in 3/4” maple strips with a 4” skirt around the outside. I plugged the screws in the top skirt with walnut accents and made matching bent wood handles from walnut. There are 3 big drawers for loads of storage and a side cubby for larger items (could be configured for shelves).

The bench rides up and down on 4 screw jacks which are actuated by a single NEMA 34 motor which is controlled by an Arduino. I made a simple remote for it that allows me to control the speed and direction of the lift. There is also a rechargeable battery pack on board which allows me to operate completely wireless which is handy. The bench can lift over 350lbs so it is good for even the heaviest projects. I wanted an adjustable height workbench because it really saves my back and is so convenient for moving materials and serving as infeed/outfeed for all my different tools. It will go from about 30 inches to over 50. I can also lock the elevator car to the base with high strength clamps when I need extra rigidity.

The bench is mobile and rides on 4 leveling swivel casters. They are super heavy duty which is good because the bench weights over 800Lbs. Being able to lower those feet helps when I am hand planing.

It also has a custom built, twin screw end vise which I built directly into the table top tortion box for extra strength. This thing is perfect for doing hand cut dovetails. The screws in the end vise are linked by a chain inside the vise so they advance at the same speed and keep the face parallel to the bench face. The end vise and table top are drilled for bench dogs which allows so much versatility. I can fasten anything very securely and it really helps to face boards by hand. I also included a general purpose face vice for those quick and dirty tasks.

All of the torsion box parts were cut on my home made CNC, but I did all the finishing with my traditional techniques and hand tools (except for flattening the table… I did that on my cnc).

I finished the top with linseed oil. I have to say I love that finish. If I get marks on it or stains, they come off with just a little denatured alcohol. If I get scratches, I can just sand them lightly and put more on. I think every workbench should have that finish. It is so easy to care for. The base is finished in water based varnish (general finishes). I love that stuff because it has a deep color to it, doesn’t stink up the place, and dries super quick.

Check out the video, you can see all the stuff working:

(for those of you who don't have a flash compatible device use this link)

-- Blending Traditional Woodworking with 21st Century Tools http://www.21stCenturyWoodworking.com





23 comments so far

View Tim Royal 's profile

Tim Royal

203 posts in 950 days


#1 posted 11-20-2014 06:46 AM

nice! Make sure you add smackdown to the tags…

-- -Tim Royal... Always reminded of this when I see the amazing work LJ's do (I have no choice but to be humble!), "Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." -Thomas Merton

View Dirk Van Essendelft's profile

Dirk Van Essendelft

58 posts in 1358 days


#2 posted 11-20-2014 07:17 AM

hey thanks for the tip. There are some really cool benches on there!

-- Blending Traditional Woodworking with 21st Century Tools http://www.21stCenturyWoodworking.com

View Notw's profile

Notw

469 posts in 1217 days


#3 posted 11-20-2014 02:12 PM

Wow, super cool bench! I would get nothing done with a bench like that though, because I would just play with the remote and make it go up and down the entire time I was in the shop :-)

View ohwoodeye's profile

ohwoodeye

1740 posts in 2617 days


#4 posted 11-20-2014 02:40 PM

I’m a tall dude, sure could use a bench with height adjustment. Very nice.

-- Directions are just the Manufacturer's opinion on how something should be assembled. ----Mike, Waukesha, WI

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

7170 posts in 2262 days


#5 posted 11-20-2014 02:45 PM

I like your ideas. I built a quite different plywood bench myself so I have an idea how much fun this was to design and build.

Nice one.

Just a suggestion: Since I started using an iPad (no flash player) I have started adding the YouTube link under my embedded videos. If you do that iPad users can access them too. Right now all I see in your video space is ….... space.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees. http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/

View Spur's profile

Spur

87 posts in 1491 days


#6 posted 11-20-2014 02:58 PM

If I don’t have something nice to say I don’t say anything, and my first impression was this is gimmicky and impractical. Then I looked closer. And I watched the video. Every single concern I had about the design, you had covered. So now I can say something. This is one sexy beast :)

I am curious about how you built the height adjustment system (bearings of any sort at the base of the jacks and where to source the motors/batteries), and if you have a solar panel to charge your batteries :-p

-- Henryk, South Carolina

View Dirk Van Essendelft's profile

Dirk Van Essendelft

58 posts in 1358 days


#7 posted 11-20-2014 04:26 PM



Wow, super cool bench! I would get nothing done with a bench like that though, because I would just play with the remote and make it go up and down the entire time I was in the shop :-)

- Notw

I did play with it for quite a while. It is a VERY handy tool because it serves as infeed/outfeed to all my tools…. I wish they would make everything to a standard height, but they don’t. I can’t tell you how much this extends my time in the shop when I do hand work. As soon as I feel the burn in my back, I adjust the height and it’s gone! This is the best project I have ever done so far.

-- Blending Traditional Woodworking with 21st Century Tools http://www.21stCenturyWoodworking.com

View Dirk Van Essendelft's profile

Dirk Van Essendelft

58 posts in 1358 days


#8 posted 11-20-2014 04:36 PM


If I don t have something nice to say I don t say anything, and my first impression was this is gimmicky and impractical. Then I looked closer. And I watched the video. Every single concern I had about the design, you had covered. So now I can say something. This is one sexy beast :)

I am curious about how you built the height adjustment system (bearings of any sort at the base of the jacks and where to source the motors/batteries), and if you have a solar panel to charge your batteries :-p

- Spur

Henry,

Glad that you liked it and didn’t tear me apart and left a very nice comment instead!

Re questions. Yes, there are bearings in underneath the sprockets on the bottom of the screw jack. I used angular contact bearings (timkin bearings that you use in wheel hubs for trailers). You just have to get the closest size to the threaded rod (which is a 1”-10 acme thread rod). I had to sand the rod down a little bit on the ends to get it to fit. Motors can be found in a lot of places. It is a NEMA 34 stepper motor with 900ozin of torque. You will need a stepper motor driver and a method to generate the step and direction pulses (I used an arduino). Batteries are universal power supply (UPS) backup batteries I got from www.batterymart.com. There are 3 48 volt battery chargers there as well which are actually e-bike chargers.

-- Blending Traditional Woodworking with 21st Century Tools http://www.21stCenturyWoodworking.com

View Dirk Van Essendelft's profile

Dirk Van Essendelft

58 posts in 1358 days


#9 posted 11-20-2014 04:41 PM


I like your ideas. I built a quite different plywood bench myself so I have an idea how much fun this was to design and build.

Nice one.

Just a suggestion: Since I started using an iPad (no flash player) I have started adding the YouTube link under my embedded videos. If you do that iPad users can access them too. Right now all I see in your video space is ….... space.

- shipwright

Paul,

I checked out your work. HOLY MOLY! I love it! I have done inlay work with a scroll saw that I thought was intricate, but wowzers! To hear that you think I made a nice bench is quite a compliment. can you post a link to your bench? I’d like to check it out.

Also, thanks for the tip about the link. I would not have thought of that.

-- Blending Traditional Woodworking with 21st Century Tools http://www.21stCenturyWoodworking.com

View Dirk Van Essendelft's profile

Dirk Van Essendelft

58 posts in 1358 days


#10 posted 11-20-2014 04:42 PM



I m a tall dude, sure could use a bench with height adjustment. Very nice.

- ohwoodeye

I’m also relatively tall (6’ 2”) so this helps a lot. It’s also nice because no matter how tall (or short) the project is, I can find a comfortable height to work with.

-- Blending Traditional Woodworking with 21st Century Tools http://www.21stCenturyWoodworking.com

View Mauricio's profile

Mauricio

7115 posts in 2615 days


#11 posted 11-20-2014 06:12 PM

Dope!

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Dirk Van Essendelft's profile

Dirk Van Essendelft

58 posts in 1358 days


#12 posted 11-20-2014 06:25 PM



Dope!

- Mauricio

Hope that is a cool reference to my bench and not to my intelligence… jk! It’s all good!

-- Blending Traditional Woodworking with 21st Century Tools http://www.21stCenturyWoodworking.com

View SPalm's profile

SPalm

5257 posts in 3346 days


#13 posted 11-21-2014 12:30 AM

Hey Dirk, that is a kick. I love it.

As an embedded processor and woodworking guy, I love that you did the height adjustment that way. A bit overkill, but hey, lots of fun. I too built my own cnc a few years ago – you need to post yours.

I did not catch how you did the front vise quick release mechanism. Do you just buy it that way? I like it.

Steve

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

5992 posts in 1792 days


#14 posted 11-21-2014 12:57 AM

very cool design and execution Dirk…. well done

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View Dirk Van Essendelft's profile

Dirk Van Essendelft

58 posts in 1358 days


#15 posted 11-21-2014 01:50 AM



Hey Dirk, that is a kick. I love it.

As an embedded processor and woodworking guy, I love that you did the height adjustment that way. A bit overkill, but hey, lots of fun. I too built my own cnc a few years ago – you need to post yours.

I did not catch how you did the front vise quick release mechanism. Do you just buy it that way? I like it.

Steve

- SPalm

Overkill, yes, but easy and cheap as well. There are tons of options you can use and they are all so cheap now.

The face vice is from lee valley. I think they are reselling it from another manufacturer. It works by simply turning the handle clockwise or counter. there is a split nut that engages and disengages the threads depending on which way you turn the handle. counter clockwise disengages it and allows you to slide it. When its where you want it you simply start turning to tighten and it engages and starts tightening. I have seen people do their own, but for the time involved it was worth the $100.

-- Blending Traditional Woodworking with 21st Century Tools http://www.21stCenturyWoodworking.com

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