|Project by Ottacat||posted 05-26-2013 02:18 PM||6835 views||34 times favorited||20 comments|
I’ve been building a new woodworking shop from the ground up these past few months. I am getting back into the hobby after getting out of it about 10 years when family commitments were taking up too much of my time.
This time I knew I wanted a solid bench that could last me a lifetime. I also needed a good first major project to build back my skills. A good solid-maple workbench fit the bill. After doing a lot of research I realized there was no perfect workbench, nor any workbench design that had a broad consensus as being optimum. I finally found the plans for the ‘21st Century Workbench’ that Popular Woodworking published a few years back. What appealed to me was that the top consisted of two solid-maple laminations that were small enough to flattened in my 13” planer. They are separated by a series of 4 tool trays that can be used as normal tool trays or flipped upside down to create a large flat surface.
I found the dual lower stretcher design to be overly complicated from both the perspective of their joinery as well as the upper stretcher with all its dog holes was something I felt could be easily replaced with a sliding deadman so I modified the design accordingly. I also shortened the bench by 8” and used the smaller version of the Veritas twin-screw vice. My version is 16 7/8” between centres as opposed to the 24” between centre version used in the plans. However the wider centre is used when cutting full case dovetails. First I don’t know if I’ll ever do this and second if I did it seems that a Moxon vice mounted higher up would be a more ergonomic way to do it.
It took about 3 weeks to build as I had to buy the lumber over about 4 or 5 trips as I only had a car and could only carry 4 pieces of the 8/4 maple at a time. I was also accumulating equipment and tools for my shop as the project required them. Over the course of the project I had to buy extension stands for jointing and planing the boards, a router for the mortise and tenon joints and literally countless other things. I started out with a used Delta lunchbox planer but quickly replaced it with a DeWalt 735 as the Delta was sniping something awful
Once the slabs and leg assemblies were done it was on to the vice installation. Everything went fairly smoothly. The twin-screw vice does require you to carefully read and follow the instructions. Once I had the vices all installed I attached the two slabs to the leg assemblies using lag bolts.
The bench can hold work in several ways. I use a small quick release front vice on the right end as a tail vice. It has a dog hole in it’s chop and I drilled a series of dog holes in the front slab. This holds work down length-ways to the top of the bench. I can put larger pieces down the middle of the front twin-screw vice. I can use the side of the twin-screw vice and the sliding deadman for holding long boards on edge. The back slab has a wider spaced series of dog holes to use holdfasts to hold big pieces of work to the bench. The tool boxes are also removable if I ever need to clamp anything from the centre. The one thing I haven’t done was put dog holes in the chop of the twin-screw vice and corresponding holes in the slabs. This would be to hold very large pieces. If I need them I’ll add them later.
The completed bench weighs about 300 pounds. I didn’t put castors on the feet but I can slip a dolly under each end and move it around my shop quite easily.
I finished the bench with a oil-varnish blend that doesn’t build a finish. I put two coats on the top slabs and tool trays and one coat underneath the slabs. I then diluted the remaining finish 1/3 with mineral spirits to make a wiping varnish and put 3 coats on the leg assemblies, stretchers and bottom shiplapped shelves.
Its all done done and its time to get on with making some furniture.