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My first attempt at a "real" workbench

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Project by Skip Brewer posted 06-28-2015 04:09 AM 8179 views 2 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So I have been very busy lately building furniture for my kids and grandkids – a dresser for my 12-year-old, a dresser and headboard for my 28-year old and his wife, and have orders for three toy boxes for the grandkids and a dresser for my daughter. For the most part, I have been using my Festool MFT table, but while it is great for many things, it has its limitations. So before I go on to the next round of projects, I thought I would take the time to build something for me. :-)

I had built a “workbench” at my old house. It was a laminated countertop on a couple of cabinets screwed together for the base. It worked fine, but was a little limited. So when we moved, I gave it to the next-door neighbor, planning to build a better one once we moved. It only took me three years to get around to it!

I decided to built it completely from scratch. I thought about buying the top pre-made, but I decided to try laminating the top myself. I decided to use beech rather than maple to keep the cost down. Cutting down the 8/4 beech on my Jet contractor saw was a little challenging. It was imperative that I used a thin-kerf rip blade. When I tried to use a standard kerf rip blade, the saw kept burning the wood, bogging down and popping the breaker…

After ripping, jointing and planing the stock to about 1-3/4” square, I glued up the top in three sections. I decided I didn’t want the top to be just plain looking, so I put 1” x 1-3/4” pieces of mahogany between the glued up top section. After scraping off the glue, I hauled the top down to my local hardwood dealer to run it through their Timesaver to get it flattened and sanded. Best $20 I spent on the entire project!

After cutting the top to length, I attached 1-3/4” x 3-1/2” aprons around the top, using splines to line everything up. The breadboard ends are attached with glue only on the first 2-3” of the board, and using 3/8” lag screws in elongated holes along the rest of board to allow for movement.

I’ve never really done much with mortise and tenon joints before, so I decided to use this as a learning experience. Although it is not visible, I used three different methods of creating the mortises and tenons for the end leg assemblies. My first attempt was to drill out the mortises with a drill press and forstner bit, and then clean up and square the mortises with a chisel. I used a tenoning jig from Woodcraft to cut the tenons.

On the opposite leg assembly, I used my plunge router and straight bit to cut the mortises and used my dado stack to cut the tenons, then rounded over the ends of the tenons to fit using a rasp and file.

Because this was my first attempt at mortise and tenon joinery and I didn’t want the joint to fail, I decided to pin the tenons with 3/8” dowels. I decided to use walnut dowels just to add some visual interest. I just drilled through the tenons from one side, applied glue and drove the dowels in. After they dried, I just flush cut the dowels and sanded.

For the long stretchers, I decided to use draw-bolt joinery. I used the router again to cut the mortises, but this time I squared the end of the mortises with a chisel. I used the dado stack again for the tenons. This was by far the easiest method of creating a mortise and tenon joint for me. I then drilled the holes for the 3/8” x 5” carriage bolts, using a forstner bit to create the hole for the nut and washer.

I used a 7” metal quick-release face vise on the front. I buried the rear jaw in the apron (I cut the relief for the jaw before attaching the apron), and added a beech jaw to the front. I bought an economy quick-release front vise to use as my tail vise. I made a jig out of several layers of plywood for drilling the dog holes straight.

After a final sanding, I gave everything a couple of coats of Danish oil, mounted the top to the base, and here we are! I still intend to build a drawer unit to sit on the lower stretcher, both to add more storage and to add more weight. It may not be a Roubo split-top like Marc Spagnuolo has, but I am pretty pleased with it for a first attempt…

Another thing I plan to add is some type of board jack/sliding deadman. I am thinking of using t-track under the apron and along the front stretcher for the deadman to slide on – that would also make it easy to remove and get out of the way when not using it. Has anyone done something like that before?

-- Skip, Califormia





14 comments so far

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

3697 posts in 1733 days


#1 posted 06-28-2015 04:30 AM

Skip, that’s a really nice looking bench.

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

923 posts in 1780 days


#2 posted 06-28-2015 08:48 AM

Very impressive. It should help you finish those orders you have in the pipeline!
Jim

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View timbertailor's profile

timbertailor

1592 posts in 892 days


#3 posted 06-28-2015 03:30 PM

Very nice job. I like tables that are not carbon copies of everyone else’s.

-- Brad, Texas, https://www.youtube.com/user/tonkatoytruck/feed

View PAchemist's profile

PAchemist

56 posts in 542 days


#4 posted 06-28-2015 05:19 PM

Great looking bench. I definitely like the mahogany accent.

View Joshua Oehler's profile

Joshua Oehler

169 posts in 1159 days


#5 posted 06-28-2015 05:49 PM

Very nice bench, great job! I am currently in the process of making a new bench myself

-- - "But old news can change, as memories float downstream. So don't judge me by my failures, only by my dreams"

View oltexasboy1's profile

oltexasboy1

240 posts in 1172 days


#6 posted 06-28-2015 05:51 PM

Nice bench, about your sliding deadman. What I did was to use a triangular piece on which to slide the deadman.
I mounted it on the bottom of the bench, far enough forward to make sure the front of the deadman was coplanar with the front of the bench. I made mine(deadman) from 2 pieces of 1” stock and miter cut them so when they are fitted together they form a 90 degree angle to sit on the slide. By having it in 2 pieces ,I just put screws through it to keep it together so when or if I need it moved I just remove the screws and it is off.

-- "The pursuit of perfection often yields excellence"

View gsimon's profile

gsimon

1198 posts in 1581 days


#7 posted 06-28-2015 06:15 PM

excellent bench – congrats!

-- Greg Simon

View lumberboss's profile

lumberboss

27 posts in 559 days


#8 posted 06-28-2015 06:50 PM

Fabulous Bench! You have inspired me to get started on mine!!!

View Skip Brewer's profile

Skip Brewer

24 posts in 2103 days


#9 posted 06-28-2015 07:42 PM



Nice bench, about your sliding deadman. What I did was to use a triangular piece on which to slide the deadman.
I mounted it on the bottom of the bench, far enough forward to make sure the front of the deadman was coplanar with the front of the bench. I made mine(deadman) from 2 pieces of 1” stock and miter cut them so when they are fitted together they form a 90 degree angle to sit on the slide. By having it in 2 pieces ,I just put screws through it to keep it together so when or if I need it moved I just remove the screws and it is off.

- oltexasboy1

That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll have to think about how I would mount something like that on this bench, especially with a drawer unit installed.

-- Skip, Califormia

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

23214 posts in 2334 days


#10 posted 06-28-2015 07:46 PM

It’s very nice workbench and will be great for your shop.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Skip Brewer's profile

Skip Brewer

24 posts in 2103 days


#11 posted 06-28-2015 07:47 PM

Thanks for all of the kind comments. This project was both easier and more challenging than other projects. Easier, because at the end of the day a workbench is primarily a tool, and if something did not come out aesthetically pleasing, it really wouldn’t affect the utility of the bench. More challenging because I chose to use the opportunity to learn some new techniques – laminating the top, mortise and tenon joinery and such. The final bench is 28”w by 72” long by 32” high. That should be big enough to handle any of the projects I will be working on in the near future.

-- Skip, Califormia

View Dlhornscxm's profile

Dlhornscxm

4 posts in 535 days


#12 posted 06-29-2015 02:25 AM

Very nice bench! I too am in need of a real workbench. I built a generic/multipurpose bench ten years ago. It has survived three moves in the last six years. The biggest move was from Washington to California with nothing more than a chip out of one of the legs. I’m in the process of adding two feet to either side and transforming it into an eight foot miter saw station. I’m using my TS as a bench top at the moment. I recently come across a pallet built out of 1” roughcut oak. I think it will make a good laminated bench top. Looking forward to your next project.

-- Dlhornscxm, Elk Grove CA, http://www.lumberjocks.com

View RussJohnson's profile

RussJohnson

53 posts in 1290 days


#13 posted 06-30-2015 12:06 AM

Dead sexy!

View dnick's profile

dnick

984 posts in 1850 days


#14 posted 07-01-2015 03:14 AM

Great bench. Really well done.

-- dnick, North Hollywood, Ca.

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