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Improving the Effectiveness of your Work Bench

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Project by Lee A. Jesberger posted 07-11-2007 07:09 AM 5280 views 5 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Improving the Effectiveness of your Work Bench
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My work bench is not a home made beauty most of us wood workers would like to build. It’s a nice, high quality teak bench, just not as pretty as some of them we’ve all seen.

I bought mine from a woodworking store that was going out of business. The original price of the bench was $ 1,200.00. I paid $ 800.00 for it. That was close to twenty years ago.

I try to keep it in nice shape, while not being too anal about it. When other people are using your equipment, some abuse happens.

In spite of this, it is still a prized posession of mine, and is in good shape.

To make it a more productive piece of equippment, I did some alterations to it that double it’s effectiveness.

These modifications are all based around the same vacuum system as we use with our veneer work. The modifications are very minor, but have a major impact on production.

In the photo you can see the “brains” of the system. The controls of the vacuum. This is mounted to a piece of plywood that’s attached to the end of the bench with keyhole slots, so it can be removed easily.

This control panel can be used for both vacuum clamping, or with a vacuum bag, simply by changing the hose on the top of it.

When used in the clamping mode the bench comes into play. I made up a manifold system, with three valves on it. I open the proper valve for the intended use. Opening one valve allows me to hook up a vacuum line with a quick connect fitting on a nylon hose. we have a quick connect fitting on the vacuum bag as well.

A second valve controls suction to a hole drilled into the center of my bench. The hole has a barbed fitting jambed into it on the underside of the bench. It is “piped” to the manifold with nylon hose. This setup allows me to clamp work parts to the bench, by using plexiglass parts with a gasket on the top and bottom. These plexiglass parts can be a simple square, or an intricate pattern.

A simple square piece is used when biscuiting the edge of cabinet parts. It’s a matter of laying a board on the plexiglass and stepping on the foot pedal. Within five seconds, the workpiece is clamped tight enough, that you can drag the bench around with it. To release the part, step on the pedal again and it’s instantly released.

With a pattern, duplicate parts can be routed out very quickly.

The next valve is “piped” to a hole on the front edge of the bench. The hole is surrounded by the same gasket material. With this setup, I can mount a work piece to the edge of the bench by holding it against the bench and stepping on the pedal. This is ideal for edge banding plywood, installing hinges on a door, planning a board, the list goes on and on. The part is very securly attached to the bench.

One word of caution: If you have dogs wandering in your shop, as I do, keep the foot pedal out of their way. Them stepping on it will release your work also. Usually, no always at a bad time!

The modifications took about an hour to do and have made production techniques immensly faster.

While drilling holes in your prized bench sounds like a sin, the returns are well worth it.

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com





15 comments so far

View Don's profile

Don

2603 posts in 2927 days


#1 posted 07-11-2007 10:40 PM

I appreciate the thought that goes into everything you do, Lee. thanks for sharing all of these details – most interesting.

I installed a foot control pedal for my drill press. It’s very handy for using my Wasp Sander attachment. Unfortunately, more than once I’ve failed to turn off the drill press main power switch when changing drill bit. With the chuck key in the chuck and an accidentally misplaced foot, it sure does a nice job of whacking your knuckles.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!" http://www.dpb-photos.com/

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6702 posts in 2730 days


#2 posted 07-12-2007 01:16 AM

Och Don.

The changes to the bench do save a lot of time.

In one of the shop pictures I posted on the shop blog, you can see a pile of cabinet sides / parts with biscuit slots visable. These are directly behind where I’m standing when using the vacuum setup. I just turn around, grab a part and machine it as needed. The assembly line theory is really kicking in with this arrangement.

It also has a big effect on assembling the cabinet carcasses. One person can quickly and accurately assemble the carcasses with no help needed.

Get a spring loaded chuck key. An eye is a terrible thing to waste!

There are some tools I won’t use them on. I also don’t like routers with toggle switches for the same reason. I hate it when you plug them in and they drive away.

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 2837 days


#3 posted 07-12-2007 02:33 AM

Your engineering talent is impressive Lee. It seems like whatever difficulties you face in your work you have overcome with ease. One of these days I’ll actually get to build myself a decent shop. This is definitely something I can see incorporating into my bench.

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker http://www.capecodbaychallenge.org

View David's profile

David

1970 posts in 2889 days


#4 posted 07-12-2007 03:15 AM

Lee -

This is a wonderful bench. Very timely as I am struggling with design criteria for a bench / assembly table for my small shop. Since I have just recently started to play with a vacuum press, this bench really caught my fancy. I am playing with using vacuum clamps and set-up guides. I think I will need to request permission to borrow a few ideas from your bench!

-- http://foldingrule.blogspot.com

View Karson's profile

Karson

34916 posts in 3151 days


#5 posted 07-12-2007 03:42 AM

Lee: I’ve often thought about veneer clamping, but never tried it. I’ve got the vacuum setup on the 2nd floor and with some piping I could vacuum to the work bench.

Do you apply vacuum to the workbench or just have a connector in the middle of it. I would think that you would get vacuum leak if the top surface was providing the vacuum and the jig was just surrounding it.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6702 posts in 2730 days


#6 posted 07-12-2007 06:57 AM

Bob;

Not to would be a shame.

I get a lot of satisfaction out of handling the engineering aspects of my businesses.

I’m also a princaple in a small pizza store chain. The engineering and construction of those is always challenging, but fun. We generally combine two or three buildings together, removing much of the party walls.

Believe it or not heavy steel work is enjoyable to me also!

I do the entire projects, excluding the refrigeration, and the hoods / fire systems.

Myself or my guys handle from the heavy equipment operating to handing my partners the keys.

Thank you for the nice comments,

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6702 posts in 2730 days


#7 posted 07-12-2007 07:08 AM

Hello David,

More than likely I will post some of the vacuum jigs I have made tomorrow.

It’s all in the name of saving time, right?

Use ‘em all if you can!

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6702 posts in 2730 days


#8 posted 07-12-2007 07:18 AM

Karson;

The barbed fitting at the bottom of my bench only enters the wood about an inch. The hole in the wood acts as a tube for the suction to travel thru.

There is such a small amount of suction, leaks are rare. You could pipe from the second floor, down to thr first floor with 3/8” nylon tubing. Use barbed fittings with or without clamps, and still no leaks.

If you notice on the front edge of the bench, there is a large rectangle of gaslet material, with two small verticle strips., and a small piece next to them. They are there to close the size of the vacuum area, for smaller pieces. It is amazing how easy it is to control and manipulate the vacuum area.

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View David's profile

David

1970 posts in 2889 days


#9 posted 07-12-2007 08:19 AM

Lee -

Looking forward to vacuum clamps – I am starting to play with some and would like to learn as much as possible.

-- http://foldingrule.blogspot.com

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6702 posts in 2730 days


#10 posted 07-13-2007 04:31 PM

Hi David,

Just like with veneering, once you get stated with these vacuum clamps, the ideas for use really flow.

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View GaryK's profile

GaryK

10262 posts in 2739 days


#11 posted 07-29-2007 06:30 AM

Nothing like a great workbench!

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6702 posts in 2730 days


#12 posted 07-29-2007 07:16 AM

Hey Gary;

Amen!

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View Dusty56's profile

Dusty56

11684 posts in 2439 days


#13 posted 09-13-2008 07:57 PM

Hello Lee , would the vacumn clamp system work for sanding and routing applications ? The “rubber” mats that I am presently using seem to lose their holding properties after being used for a while . Great article once again…thank you : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6702 posts in 2730 days


#14 posted 09-14-2008 01:01 AM

HI Dusty;

The vacuum system is great for those functions! I still use the rubber mats for sanding most of the time.

Check out some of the jigs we use:

http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com/Vacumm_Systems_pg_5.html

These make production work VERY quick!

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View sptfish's profile

sptfish

67 posts in 1812 days


#15 posted 05-15-2014 11:37 PM

Hi Lee,
The most beautiful bench is one that show years of use.

Yours is beautiful !!!

-- Sptfish, Naples, Florida, http://www.ckherzer1@comcast.net

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