The Sign of a Craftsman
Most woodworkers, including myself, have dreamed of building the traditional European style workbench. This has to be one of the greatest trademarks of a craftsman that even trumps the dovetail. Anybody that enters your shop and sees one of these beauties would have no doubt that you can administer dovetails with the skill of a legendary craftsman.
Here are some thoughts on this table style. The table is designed to accommodate a certain work style, particularly handwork. These tables are heavy and by nature of their weight will resist being pushed around as you plow wood by hand. They typically have a very large vise for holding sections of furniture and the table is capable of holding your parts in many practical ways.
But here is why I did not build one. As much as I admire these work horses, I decided against one for very practical reasons.
1. The table top is typically not wide enough. The models available to order did not seem to have a wide enough table.
2. The storage under these tables is not that great, or does not specifically fit my needs.
3. The tool tray is a great dust catcher. As I studied this design, many comments on the tool tray were negative.
Now all of these issues could have been addressed if I had built my own. Being self-employed I typically can’t splurge on a time consuming project like this for myself. I have to keep it simple, practical and quick to build.
I am not going to get into the details of how-to but highlight the benefits of the tables I built.
The Assembly Table
The assembly table is 4’x8’ and on casters for mobility. The weight of the table keeps it from moving unless intended. The top is two pieces of 3/4” plywood edged in poplar and covered with white laminate to create a brighter shop. The top is considered to be replaceable. It is very durable but once it is damaged or wore out enough a new top will be made and installed. I often just write plans and math out directly on the table and it all wipes perfectly clean with a little lacquer thinner on a rag.
The storage underneath is designed to accommodate the common sizes of tool cases. I might get rid of these except for the fact that I do remodel work and many of my tools travel to the field in these cases.
When I clamp workpieces to the top they are just clamped along the edge of the table. I still can add a row of holes for bench dogs or add a T-track for clamps. I have had sufficient clamping ability at this point.
The Outfeed Table
The outfeed table is not on wheels. The tablesaw and outfeed table pretty much do not move. This table was a great opportunity to practice tapered legs and curved stretchers. There are lots of various storage cubbies and it works out really well. The top has dados cut into it for outfeed of the miter gauge.
Both of these tables have a vise on the end but the vise is located in the middle as opposed to being located to one side or the other. Since I don’t use bench dogs this is fine. If you use bench dogs, the vise needs to be located along one side of the table to push your work against these tabletop stops. Then you can stand along side the table and have the work in a comfortable position. This is also why the tables are not really very wide, so that the work does not get lost in the middle of the table. I personally have not had a problem with this.
One of these tables could have had a router plate dropped into it for a built-in router table.
The Infeed Table
The infeed table is only 30”x48” and is very mobile because it is not really large. It still seems to stay in place with just the right amount of resistance. I move it around to assist me at the tablesaw, planer, and sander. It is a great little table.
Cost for the tables ran approximately $550 each for the big ones and $300 for the small one. The materials will add up fast.
The assembly table was built in about 10 hours, 12 hours for the outfeed table with tapered legs and arches, and about 5 hours for the small one.
These tables have dramatically increased my efficiency in the shop and I can’t believe that I went so long without them. The price was good too. Roughly $1300 to $1500 for 3 tables compared to purchasing a single European style bench for more than that.
I hope that this would give some insight to anybody looking to build a work table. Keep in mind that these tables fit my work style.
Peace, Love, and Woodworking.
-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com