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Workbenches for the Shop

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Blog entry by Todd A. Clippinger posted 2486 days ago 2666 reads 6 times favorited 31 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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.

Todd A. Clippinger - American Craftsman Workshop

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.

Todd A. Clippinger - American Craftsman Workshop

Todd A. Clippinger - American Craftsman Workshop

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.

Todd A. Clippinger - American Craftsman Workshop

An Overview

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



31 comments so far

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

645 posts in 2758 days


#1 posted 2486 days ago

Very nice blog Todd! I really liked the outfeed tables design with adding the tapered legs. That little added design gives anyone entering your shop the feel that they walked into a true woodworkers shop kind of like the Eourpean style bench does. Thanks Todd!

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2784 days


#2 posted 2486 days ago

great blog, indeed.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8768 posts in 2723 days


#3 posted 2485 days ago

Thanks guys. I am so excited to have figured out how to get pictures into the blog so that I may share this.

I get a lot of compliments on the tapered legs and arches. Many people are a bit disappointed to see that I do not have a traditional workbench, but this does seem to be an acceptable replacement.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com

View Brad_Nailor's profile

Brad_Nailor

2531 posts in 2581 days


#4 posted 2485 days ago

Great work Todd. I can see you are allot like me, you take pride in everything you build….even shop tables! I think I will be stealing your designs. I love the taper on the out feed legs …reversed from bottom to top. The melamine/laminate on the tops is great idea….I always write stuff on my workbench, and the white will make it easier to see, and remove….and the laminate is smoother than plywood making it easier to move things around and less likely to damage and scratch stuff.

-- http://www.facebook.com/pages/DSO-Designs/297237806954248

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4435 posts in 2586 days


#5 posted 2485 days ago

Great work, Todd,
I too, could not see the advantage of those narrow benches. So I built one the way I like to work(see my projects). It and the lift up outfeed table work as a unit when I’m ripping sheet goods. I also use the gap between the two to cut down long boards with a Skilsaw. It is the best thing I ever had to work on. I did mount traditional vises and use them a lot. Like you I needed more than one work table. Over in the saddle shop Is the cutting table which is topped with 3/4 MDF, a full size sheet. I also retopped my old outfeed table with left over laminate and it is the glue table(and other messy things). When we are finishing a set of cabinets all these get put to use. I store my sheet goods on two sawhorses backed up to the cutting table and with the addition of a piece of plastic they complete the finishing area. These three are on the saddle shop side so I can close the door and still work wood.

You have a great shop, Todd. And now you have some very impressive benchs to work on as well. It’s always good to hear the hows and the whys of projects. Thanks for sharing.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Mark Mazzo's profile

Mark Mazzo

352 posts in 2536 days


#6 posted 2485 days ago

Todd,

Excellent work on the shop bench/tables. They look to be very functional and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the efficiencies that they bring. Great looking shop too…I only wish that I had that much space as your shop looks to be about 4 times the size of mine!

-- Mark, Webster New York, Visit my website at http://thecraftsmanspath.com

View mot's profile

mot

4911 posts in 2660 days


#7 posted 2485 days ago

Given the room, bigger is better. Nice.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8768 posts in 2723 days


#8 posted 2485 days ago

Bigger can be better as long as you keep control of the space.

It’s great to get feedback from you guys so that the others will have these points to consider when designing their own workspace.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 2498 days


#9 posted 2485 days ago

Todd – Looks like nice, sturdy tables. Thanks for sharing your reasoning! Do you think the extra durability is worth putting laminate on ply, or would the cost savings and reduced replacement time make melamine a suitable alternative for tops?

-- http://www.peteroxley.com -- http://north40studios.etsy.com --

View Steffen's profile

Steffen

326 posts in 2659 days


#10 posted 2485 days ago

that’s a great bench Todd. I like the design of the legs. I have also pondered in length about what bench I will build in my shop. I have a book titled “In the Shaker Style” and it features a bench made by Thomas Moser (www.thosmoser.com). I would like something like this bench but maybe just not as long. Great Job!

-- Steffen - Kirkland, WA

View Dadoo's profile

Dadoo

1763 posts in 2614 days


#11 posted 2485 days ago

I built my rolling bench pretty much in the same fashion only with a 2’x6’ double layer of 3/4” ply. You’re right about the tool tray being a dust bin and I omitted it for that same reason. It’s also a good place to “catch a leg” and topple the workpiece. I have installed benchdogs by using 3/4” dowels topped with rubber crutch feet (got that idea from one of our LJ’s). I’ve also installed sliding door panels to keep the dust off my toolboxes and added a couple drawers to protect my measuring tools and pencils. Mine is heavy as well but won’t be leaving anytime soon. It had to be 2’ wide to maintain the parking space needed for her car…but I just had an idea that I could add a fold down “wing” to make the surface 4’ wide! Ain’t it great when the coffee finally kicks in?! I’m also tossing around some ideas about adding a fold down wing to the end that would be lower than the top is now, which would allow placement of my planer or bandsaw. Anyone else could adopt that idea to place a contractors tablesaw or a power miter station too.

I absolutely love this addition to my shop and would strongly advise it as an addition for anyone else. The fact that it’s on heavy casters and movable makes construction of just about anything a possibility. If ya want to see it check out my workshop pics here and there’s cold beer in the ‘fridge if ya wanna stop by.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Bill's profile

Bill

2579 posts in 2785 days


#12 posted 2485 days ago

A nice set of benches Todd. Functionality is better than the “old world appearance”. If they work and you are more productive, then that is what you wanted.

-- Bill, Turlock California, http://www.brookswoodworks.com

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8768 posts in 2723 days


#13 posted 2485 days ago

Peter – the laminate is definitely more durable than melamine and is worth the extra cost. The tables I made in my brother’s shop have melamine as the top surface and it is breaking down pretty fast compared to the laminate on mine. (I built his first and learned from experience.) The tops are attached from underneath and can be replaced anyway as needed. Just spend the money on laminate up front is my recommendation. Doing it right the first time costs less in the long run.

Dadoo – really good point on the problems with projects tipping into the tool tray. That actually was an issue voiced to me when I was researching tables. You also had some good variations on a theme with the drop down leaf. The idea of making the table with the tablesaw built into it would be great for someone needing to maximize space in a garage shop. That and a router table built in combined with total mobility and lots of on board organization would be great.

This is what I was hoping to spark was some great ideas for those still trying to decide. Hopefully the ideas share here will save somebody time and money.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8768 posts in 2723 days


#14 posted 2485 days ago

Steffen – Thos. Moser has been one of my idols for years.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8768 posts in 2723 days


#15 posted 2485 days ago

Thos. Angle – Great point about the glue. It is easily removed from the laminate surface for sure.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com

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