|Project by Lenny||posted 12-03-2011 04:37 PM||12264 views||29 times favorited||42 comments|
Hi folks! It has been quite awhile since I posted anything on LJ. Several D-I-Y projects, including a family room renovation, kept me busy most of the summer and fall but that is behind me and I recently finished this project that I started in June.
Years ago, when I did not have the space for one, I often envisioned what my one-day workbench would look like. After my workshop expansion last summer I began to seriously consider what bench to make and started researching. I ran searches for “workbenches” from the online indexes at Wood magazine and other such sites. I located a nice bench in Wood’s November 2005 issue (#166). They referred to it as “rock-solid”, “easy-to-build” and “traditional”. It incorporated 3” square legs, a face vise, an end vise and bench dogs. They made theirs from ash but it could be of any hardwood species. The plans also offered the options of making an under-bench cabinet or just a shelf. Perhaps most importantly, the article suggested that buying the laminated maple top might be easier and as cost effective as making one yourself.
I liked the features of this bench and resolved to make it. However, I really wanted to have an adjustable bench so it could serve as an outfeed table and assembly table as well. I find that table saw height is not the most conducive to a comfortable stance for bench type work (e.g., planing or sanding) or assembly work (e.g., glue-ups or pocket screw work). I searched “adjustable workbench” and among the results was an adjustable height assembly table project in the December/January 2010 issue of American Woodworker. The author, Alan Schaffter, designed and created this table. I began to wonder if this could somehow be adapted to a workbench. As I continued to research it, I learned that Alan had in fact carried his idea over to a workbench. He designed an outstanding workbench that is not only functional and sturdy, it also looks great. I am inserting a link to a video of Alan discussing and demonstrating his workbench. His demonstration of the adjustable height feature doesn’t occur until around the 5:00 minute mark. “Workbench”: http://videos.americanwoodworker.com/video/Adjustable-Height-Woodworking-B
In early June of this year I contacted Alan by e-mail via American Woodworker magazine and got some particulars from him pertaining to dimensions, sizes, etc. Alan was very patient and generous with details of his design. With the needed information in hand I resolved to make Alan’s workbench but, as suggested in the Wood magazine mentioned earlier, I bought an already completed laminated top. I got mine (36”x60”x 1-3/4” thick) from Grizzly with a 10% off coupon. I contacted Alan a number of times since June and each time he was patient and helpful in his responses. The overall appearance of Alan’s workbench is quite different from mine (his looks nicer) since he added aprons, and different type vises, but the height adjustment feature is the same.
The tedious part of making this workbench is cutting the ratchets in the legs. The ratchets are the key to the adjustment feature and must be precisely cut in all four legs. Alan’s instructions in the AW assembly table article clearly indicate how to make an indexing jig to accomplish this task. Much like cutting box joints, you run the legs through a dado blade making repetitive cuts and then switch to a saw blade to make the angled cuts.
One change Alan made from the assembly table to the workbench was to switch from a sliding dovetail to a mating V surface. A V is cut along the length of the lower legs (female) and a corresponding V (male) is made on the upper legs, on the opposite side of the ratchets. Cutting these mating surfaces was also a bit challenging and required precision.
The upper legs are held in place to the lower legs with hardware that Alan calls the “ratchet arm assemblies”. They consist of a corner brace on the outside and a piece of flat bar stock or a mending plate on the inside. Half-inch bolts serve as pawls and washers and nylon nuts hold it all together. Holes must be precisely cut in each of the braces in order to keep the unit balanced and level.
I made my table from maple and in several places, laminated it to get the required thickness. Most of the joinery is mortise and tenon and I had my first attempt at wedged tenons which are used to join the stretchers to the upper legs. While not perfect, they aren’t bad for a first try. I used walnut as a contrasting wood for the wedges.
When it came to vises, I already owned a quick-release vise mounted in my counter type general purpose shop bench. I removed it and used it as my end vise. I bought a Jorgensen quick release vise to serve as my face vise. I added 1-1/2” thick maple jaws to both vises. Both vises have a metal stop that can be raised for clamping purposes. I drilled 3/4” dog holes and chamfered them. I bought some Pinnacle (made in America) mini bench dogs (2-3/8”).
To raise the workbench you simply lift one side to the desired height, then move to the other side and do the same. To lower the bench, you lift slightly and step on the pedal. The pedal releases the pawls and you lower the bench to your desired height and release the pedal. My workbench goes from about 30” to 40”. I used some golden oak stain and a couple coats of satin polyurethane as finish.
Thanks for checking in and comments/questions are welcome.
-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI