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View ChrisCarr's profile

Best Work Bench Design for Hand Tools? Your thoughts.

by ChrisCarr
posted 681 days ago


28 replies so far

View Cole Tallerman's profile

Cole Tallerman

389 posts in 781 days


#1 posted 681 days ago

Buy a workbench kit from harbor freight and just use the top. It is make of hardwood and then make a simple, cheap base out of 4×4’s. If your going to be using hand tools then make sure you save some $ for a good vice! Actually, the whole bench looks good except for the legs. I would use the drawers and the top and put a new base on it.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

9571 posts in 1214 days


#2 posted 681 days ago

Check out this thread on LJs for ideas.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

4744 posts in 1173 days


#3 posted 681 days ago

+1 for Smitty.

Enter workbench in the, SearchLumberJocks.com,
on the right side of the web page as well.

View crank49's profile

crank49

3336 posts in 1567 days


#4 posted 681 days ago

The HF bench top is probably less than 3/4” thick. Just has an edge that makes it look thick. Then You couldn’t get much cheaper than the base that comes with it. Whole thing is a waste of time in my opinion, for anything more than a general purpose table to screw to a wall.

I made my bench top out of two sheets of 3/4”(23/32) cabinet grade sandply. It is not bad material, 7 laminations, exterior glue, no voids or patches. My top is 24×90 and 3 1/2” thick including the replaceable masonite top layer. I banded it with 1×4 maple and it looks great to me. Don’t know anything else that I would have liked better.

I made my legs and stretchers all out of laminated plywood as well. Easy to make tennons and through mortices by leaving gaps in the layers. The whole thing weighs about 300 lbs and is rock solid. Materials were less than $300.

-- Michael :-{| “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” ― A H

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

4744 posts in 1173 days


#5 posted 681 days ago

View jmos's profile

jmos

681 posts in 966 days


#6 posted 681 days ago

For bench styles, Chris Schwarz has two book out that go into great depths on the topic. I particularly like his second book (maroon cover.) You could adapt any of the designs he presents to different (read less expensive) construction methods.

For hand tool use you want heavy, and that is hard to come buy from a purchased bench in the <$300 range.

-- John

View Brett's profile

Brett

620 posts in 1279 days


#7 posted 681 days ago

ChrisCarr, are you just starting into woodworking with hand tools, or do you have power tools already (such as a jointer, a planer, a table saw, etc.)? Building a good workbench for hand tools use is not hard, but it’s much harder with hand tools than power tools.

For hand tools, you want a heavy bench with a flat top. I’m building Chris Schwarz’s Roubo bench from SYP, and all the wood costs well under $300. The metal screw for the leg vise is under $40.

I would avoid an MDF top if you want to use hand tools, as MDF is very hard on cutting edges of plane irons and chisels (due in part to the adhesives in MDF).

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View ChrisCarr's profile

ChrisCarr

196 posts in 1495 days


#8 posted 678 days ago

Do you guys think laminated construction lumber (white pine) for the frame and multi layer (contact cement bonded ) sanded pine plywood for the top would work? I would use mortise and tenons to connect the legs and stretchers. And I will add a plywood cabinet in the middle.

Would it be heavy and stable enough for hand plane and tool use?

View Brett's profile

Brett

620 posts in 1279 days


#9 posted 678 days ago

ChrisCarr, “flatness” is more important for the top of a hand-tool workbench than for a power-tool workbench. That’s because you’ll use the bench top as a reference surface to determine whether your boards are flat or if they need to be planed some more. If you can make the top out of plywood and feel confident that it will stay flat to within 1/16” or 1/32”, then go for it. But if it ever warps, you’ll have a harder time making it flat again if the top is made out of plywood. A benchtop made out of solid wood can be planed flat if it ever warps.

“Heaviness” is also more important for a hand-tool workbench. I’ve read comments from knowledgeable workbench experts that a 100-lb bench is far too light. A southern yellow pine Roubo-style workbench with a 4” thick top (for example) will likely weigh over 300 pounds. You’re better off trying to make sure your bench weighs closer to 200 lbs (or more) than 100 lbs if you’ll do a lot of planing.

The important things here are the ends, not the means. Make your bench heavy with a flat top (one that you can keep flat) and you’ll be fine.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View ChrisCarr's profile

ChrisCarr

196 posts in 1495 days


#10 posted 678 days ago

Brett, do you think white pine for a frame is flat enough if the top is something heavy such as hard maple?

View jmos's profile

jmos

681 posts in 966 days


#11 posted 678 days ago

I used LVL (laminated veneer lumber) for my top; got the design from Schwarz’s book. Not terribly expensive and easy to come by. It’s 1/8” thick layers of SYP laminated together. You can check my blog for lots of info.

I tend to agree with Brett though, flattening in the future could be dicey with a plywood top. Maybe plywood with a top layer of solid wood (hard or soft) so you can flatten a few times. Also agree on weight; I had a ~100lb bench and it’s now my TS outfeed table; just didn’t cut it for hand tool work. I’d be planing with one foot on the stretcher of the bench to hold it in place. My new bench top alone is over 200lb; much nicer to work on. Now, you don’t have to get all that mass from the wood in the bench, a shelf loaded with cinder blocks can add mass too.

-- John

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

1848 posts in 1157 days


#12 posted 678 days ago

Chris

I think the very best bench for hand tools is one that also holds all of your hand tools. I made a drawing of one for me in a wheelchair and with wheels, however, it can be modified to be taller then 32”

I will show a picture when my buddy is done with in in a computer drawing.

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

9571 posts in 1214 days


#13 posted 678 days ago

I’ve seen benches built that provisioned a torsion-box style of lower shelf that allowed for sand to be filled in to add weight. Are you thinking Roubo, Chris, or some other style? An english workbench isn’t as heavy, but is certainly geared towards hand work. It’s dimension SYP, too, available at the BORG depending on where you are.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View rustynails's profile

rustynails

444 posts in 1125 days


#14 posted 678 days ago

View ChrisCarr's profile

ChrisCarr

196 posts in 1495 days


#15 posted 678 days ago

I like a style similar to this (i am not sure the name lol).....

http://www.lie-nielsen.com/catalog.php?sku=1-B-LNA

I like that style but with cabinets in the center and a plywood or mdf top. That was my idea.

View crank49's profile

crank49

3336 posts in 1567 days


#16 posted 678 days ago

As I said earlier, my top is made of 4 layers of plywood.
Then there is a replaceable masonite top on that. Flattening is not an issue with this arrangement.
When the top gets messed up, I just pop off the masonite and plop down a new one.
There is an edge band made og 1×4 maple so that makes it look nice and protects the edges.
I attached the edge band with screws so I could replace it if I ever need to.
Don’t use contact cement. Too much flex. Use Titebond III to build the layers.
Be very careful when building the layers. If you glue it up with a twist, it will never be correctable.

-- Michael :-{| “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” ― A H

View john_az's profile

john_az

105 posts in 967 days


#17 posted 678 days ago

You can check out the one I made. It is based on the 24-hour workbench design from Chris Schwarts

http://lumberjocks.com/projects/61966

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/projects/24-hour_workbench

-- John, Phoenix-AZ

View ChrisCarr's profile

ChrisCarr

196 posts in 1495 days


#18 posted 678 days ago

My idea right now is 4 legs built up of 3 layers of stock so the mortises can be built in with 2 length wise stretcher (top and bottom) on each side to provide an easy way to build in cabinets and doors. The reason i wanted to use white pine is because i have a lot (50+) of pretty straight 2×4’s sitting around, so it would save some money.

My idea for flattening the plywood top was to screw solid wood underneath it if it is bowed or cupped to pull it flat, would that work? I have seen it done (shimming too) to get mdf router tables flat. Glue up is an issue though, i wanted to use contact cement to ensure a good bond. I don’t trust clamping just the edges and piling weight on top.

View Dave T's profile

Dave T

194 posts in 2216 days


#19 posted 678 days ago

I read both of Chris Schwarz’s books and ended up building mine as he suggested in his first book of douglas fir 2X12’s. My bench isn’t done, as I have yet to finish installing the vise, but the top came out heavier than I initially expected. Now that I have the top and base together the thing is solid and does not move. I more or less went with suggestions from the books and the Popular Woodworking plan $175 Workbench. My overall cost has come to about $350 with a vise from Woodcraft.

View CessnaPilotBarry's profile (online now)

CessnaPilotBarry

877 posts in 706 days


#20 posted 678 days ago

After four busy years, I still love my Bob Lang 21st Century bench!

Whatever you build, resist the urge to put a shiny finish or lots of wax on the top. Hand tools work best when the bench surface offers traction. This lets you use holdfasts and planing stops, which save a bunch or time over clamping, and also won’t bow a board with end vise pressure.

Shiny or slippery bench top finishes will have you chasing your work all over the place, possibly at very inopportune times. This is reason #1 NOT to use a prefinished bench top.

When it comes to hand tools, the bench is the tool that makes all your other tools work.

-- It's all good, if it's wood...

View Brett's profile

Brett

620 posts in 1279 days


#21 posted 678 days ago

I’m not sure whether contact cement is a good choice for glueing wood. I read an article several months ago that studied this question, and wood glue (like Titebond) came out on top.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

9571 posts in 1214 days


#22 posted 678 days ago

“When it comes to hand tools, the bench is the tool that makes all your other tools work.”

Very nice, Barry, well said. +1 to that!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View meikou's profile

meikou

115 posts in 2231 days


#23 posted 678 days ago

I’d suggest you look at the bench Paul Sellers builds /uses

http://paulsellers.com/series/building-a-workbench/

View ChrisCarr's profile

ChrisCarr

196 posts in 1495 days


#24 posted 678 days ago

I looked at the article by paul sellers, he used spruce for the laminated bench top, i always figured that was too soft to be durable , wasn’t stable enough?

View Kreegan's profile

Kreegan

1452 posts in 743 days


#25 posted 677 days ago

I second the suggestion to check out Paul Sellers’ workbench. It’s designed by someone who is a big hand tool proponent. You might also check out the $175 workbench that Chris Schwarz did an article and plans for in Popular Woodworking:

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/projects/175_workbench

Rich;)

View ChrisCarr's profile

ChrisCarr

196 posts in 1495 days


#26 posted 671 days ago

I have got enough 2×4’s to glue a top up from them, they are down to 15% moisture content, is that good enough?

View woodworker59's profile

woodworker59

560 posts in 797 days


#27 posted 669 days ago

Chris I built my bench with the laminated top that you spoke of, I have four sheets of 3/4” OSB glued together inside of two sheets of 1” MDF..I then wrapped it all in cherry so that it would hold up to the abuse.
used condor tails to connect the ends. this has proved to be a very good top for me. I do mostly all of my work by hand and have not had any problems with my top in over two years of use. I would suggest both a tail vise and a leg vise for your bench. I find that the leg vise is very useful when planing wood and also when carving. you will note the dog sticking out of the front rail, this is so that I can stand a long board in the leg vise and the dog holds up the other end for planning. I have holes across the front for different lengths.
the base needs to be sturdy and sound. Hand work usually means lots of racking force against the bench so build accordingly. My bench is 66” long and 20” wide, as my shop is not very big, but have not found this to be a problem at all. I have produced some large pieces on my small bench.. will include a couple pics so you have an idea of what I am using.. best of luck with your build. If you build it right, you may never need another one… Papa

-- Papa@papaswoodworking.com

View ChrisCarr's profile

ChrisCarr

196 posts in 1495 days


#28 posted 669 days ago

woodworker59, how did you glue up the panel’s for the top to ensure they come out flat?

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