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Curious: work bench engineering. Why not 5 legs instead of 4?

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Forum topic by Holbs posted 05-27-2015 12:59 AM 1329 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Holbs

1689 posts in 1810 days


05-27-2015 12:59 AM

If you look at planing, joinery projects, etc… most things are done in the middle of a bench. Why is there not a 5th leg in area for joinery (pounding for mortises and chisel work)? I am considering a roubo splt top down the road and was looking at all the existing projects and joinery videos. Everyone keeps saying to work over the leg so they have to move the piece they are working on over left or right.
Is stubbing of the toe is THAT big of a concern?

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter


12 replies so far

View Daruc's profile

Daruc

460 posts in 913 days


#1 posted 05-27-2015 01:20 AM

Uneven floors I would assume

-- -

View JADobson's profile

JADobson

887 posts in 1891 days


#2 posted 05-27-2015 01:39 AM

I don’t know, I end up working on the ends of my bench a lot, mostly because then I’m close to my vises. I find the middle of my bench is under used.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany

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Holbs

1689 posts in 1810 days


#3 posted 05-27-2015 01:43 AM

Maybe it’s just all the youtube videos I see, where they stand near the leg vise and stay put to do joinery, nearly working in the middle of the table with no leg underneath for support. But in the real world.. everyone actually works off the ends :)

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter

View davidroberts's profile

davidroberts

1027 posts in 3266 days


#4 posted 05-27-2015 02:54 AM

Assuming the bench is a standalone verses the back affixed to a wall, the length of the bench would determine whether two additional legs are required in the middle, to minimize sag. My uncle a plumber said everything leaks, just give it time. My other uncle a carpenter built floors and rafters and said everything sags. A long bench top, no matter how thick, will sag over time. You need a flat top to construct square furniture, whether it be your woodworking bench or an assembly table. A bench 5 feet or so long with good support should not need a middle leg. Much over 6 feet long and I’d recommend a middle leg. It can be tucked out of the way underneath the bench. Leg levelers and shims can be used on uneven floors. Old wide jointers typically had three legs, two on one end, and one at the other. Level floors, more level than dirt, are a recent phenomena.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View Airframer's profile

Airframer

3043 posts in 1733 days


#5 posted 05-27-2015 03:01 AM

I have found my bench to be sturdy enough to chop away at joinery etc just about anywhere along the length. I think you see most folks hanging out near a leg for reasons already stated.. they are near the vises.

As for why not a leg in the center of the span, I would have to say it would most likely just get in the way and be a frustration for the life of the bench. Dog holes over a leg are difficult to manipulate, you can’t clamp through a leg, you would need 2 deadmans to get around the leg and yes.. I would find it a trip hazard when planing.

If your bench top is solid and the base joinery is solid as well.. the 5th leg would be un-needed.

-- Eric - "I'm getting proficient with these hand jobbers. - BigRedKnothead"

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile

kaerlighedsbamsen

1229 posts in 1494 days


#6 posted 06-03-2015 03:05 PM

The way i see it it´s just a workbench – and it´s yours- if it is not stable enough give it a 5th leg!
My bench is a classic European one and it has 5 legs; 2 at the tail vice and 3 at the side vice. Works great.

If you make a 5 legged bench please show pictures!

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View Underdog's profile

Underdog

1040 posts in 1816 days


#7 posted 06-03-2015 03:22 PM

I think a five sided polygon would be interesting…

-- "woodworker with an asterisk"

View Holbs's profile

Holbs

1689 posts in 1810 days


#8 posted 06-03-2015 04:53 PM

I can tell the difference when pounding out mortises, when I am over a leg or not. Granted, I do not yet have a robust true workbench. But from what I have seen via youtube videos and other opinions, everyone says to do the same thing over a leg. Looking at a traditional workbench, there are only 4 legs at the corners…and many workbenches are 6’ or even 8’ long. And the first 2-3’ is reserved for leg vices.
I am just gathering ideas (even far fetched yet applicable ideas such as five sided polygon!) when it comes to my future workbench project with joinery by hand tools included. I would really like a joinery work bench table (very short length between legs) but real estate in my shop will not allow both roubo and joinery benches.

Kaer… where is your 5 legged workbench pictures? I’d love to see them!
Woodust might have it right: 5 legs means super flat flooring is needed. harder to accomplish on 5 legs instead of 4.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter

View BinghamtonEd's profile

BinghamtonEd

2286 posts in 2150 days


#9 posted 06-03-2015 05:44 PM

My workbench top is 2” thick, laminated from douglas fir, and 8 feet long. It sites on top of two cabinet bases I made from plywood. Each section of base cabinet has 4 adjustable legs. So, my workbench technically has 8. I notice no difference pounding on things in the middle versus the ends.

Since a extremely level floor is tough to come by, adjustable legs would be a more likely solution.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile

kaerlighedsbamsen

1229 posts in 1494 days


#10 posted 06-03-2015 05:58 PM

You´ll find several images starring my trusty workbench in this blog: http://lumberjocks.com/kaerlighedsbamsen/blog/58154
In this book by Tage Frid he describes in detail its construction. If you dont have it already it is highly recomeneded reading!

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View Oldtool's profile (online now)

Oldtool

2489 posts in 1971 days


#11 posted 06-03-2015 06:52 PM

Put as many legs as you want, definitely wont hurt & probably will help. The way I see it, the more support under the bench – the better. I would only suggest that you leave what is called a toe kick in kitchen cabinets, to permit easy access to all the bench top.
Think about it, many bench designs use full cabinet storage under the top, and usually with the toe kick. So if you want 5 or 6 or more legs, that’s your call, because it is your bench. No need to meet some text book standard.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View Richard's profile

Richard

1912 posts in 2471 days


#12 posted 06-03-2015 07:40 PM


I can tell the difference when pounding out mortises, when I am over a leg or not. Granted, I do not yet have a robust true workbench. But from what I have seen via youtube videos and other opinions, everyone says to do the same thing over a leg. Looking at a traditional workbench, there are only 4 legs at the corners…and many workbenches are 6 or even 8 long. And the first 2-3 is reserved for leg vices. I am just gathering ideas (even far fetched yet applicable ideas such as five sided polygon!) when it comes to my future workbench project with joinery by hand tools included. I would really like a joinery work bench table (very short length between legs) but real estate in my shop will not allow both roubo and joinery benches.

Kaer… where is your 5 legged workbench pictures? I d love to see them!
Woodust might have it right: 5 legs means super flat flooring is needed. harder to accomplish on 5 legs instead of 4.

- Holbs

Well for a Far Fetched idea , how about a solid bench 3’ high 4’ wide and 8’ long No Legs required at all and you pound on it anywhere. Just don’t ask me to help you move it. :)

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