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Forum topic by mochasatin posted 05-26-2016 04:51 PM 1651 views 0 times favorited 42 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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mochasatin

82 posts in 2424 days


05-26-2016 04:51 PM

Hi,

I am 55 and have been working with wood since I was a child getting in the way in my father’s woodshop. I have used and built several workbenches and work surfaces over the years and I have formed an opinion about the workbenches I have used.

  1. Old, sexy workbench designs do not work for me. I simply do not do wood working the way they did in Europe 200 years ago. I built an Nicholson Style English workbench 5 years ago and to be honest, I don’t really like it.
  2. Old workbench designs are fun to build, but I do not find them to be very handy. I am sure there are many woodworkers who are very happy with the old style benches or at least claim to be happy. But I am interested in knowing what woodworkers really want from a workbench in a modern shop.
  3. Having said that, I really like bench dogs and holdfasts.
  4. I prefer wide, flat surfaces for the workbench top. I need a surface for both building and assembly. I hate running to my tablesaw to do assembly work because there was not enough room on my workbench. I don’t like handling and moving material more than I have to.
  5. Complex workbench designs do not add any significant value for me. It is a simple work surface that I am after. The bench will get beaten up. It needs to be easy to repair. The benchtop surface should be replaceable.
  6. The workbench top should have sufficient overhang so I can clamp all around the perimeter of the bench. I like clamping portable tools and accessories to the workbench, i.e. pocket hole jigs and small sanders.
  7. I like to stick my feet a little way under the bench if sitting so any cabinets or shelves underneath need to allow for legroom. The best solution for me is to use a properly positioned shelf for a foot rest.
  8. I prefer one or more electrical outlet strips mounted under the benchtop. There should be easy access to the outlets, but the outlets should be protected from dust accumulation. FYI, if you only use hand tools, then you should be aware that the electrical outlets provide electricity to run the motors in power tools.
  9. I prefer modern materials for bench construction. Plywood is relatively light and has cross directional strength and has minimal seasonal movement. Particle Board and MDF provide flat, hard surfaces. Stack 3 boards or more together of 3/4 thick MDF and you have a nice workbench top. Stick a piece of 1/8 hardboard on top of that and you have a replaceable surface.
  10. If the bench is against the wall, then I want thin upper cabinets above the bench within arms reach.
  11. I prefer metal over wood for tools, especially for workbench vices. I don’t like moving a dowel into another hole every time I want to use my leg vice. I want to be able spin the vice handle with my finger.
  12. You don’t have to buy expensive hardwood for your workbench. Save the nice wood for your projects. Do what Christopher Schwarz recommends in his book Workbenches from Design & Theory to Construction & Use, use large clear Southern Yellow Pine lumber from your local home store. Buy the clear 2×12x10 SYP boards. Pick through the piles at the store. Plane the wood to 1-1/4” and cut to size. FYI, Southern Yellow Pine very hard for a softwood – 870 on Janka scale.
  13. Think about what you really want in a workbench, not what you are told or read somewhere. What works for you in your shop? What works best for you ergonomically? If you are taller or shorter then adjust height accordingly. Do you have back problems and require a stool? Are you hunched over often doing fine work? If so adjust your bench design to suit your needs.

Finally, my best advice for us is to design our own workbenches. Its OK to look around the web for ideas, but we must make the final drawing. If you still like the old style bench types, then consider making a hybrid bench encompassing your needs and ideas. We all spend many hours in the workshop. Each of us must have a symbiotic relationship with our workbench or the work will become pure drudgery. Only we can determine which design will work best for ourselves. I will never build another workbench from someone else’s plans or drawings again.

-- Scott


42 replies so far

View devann's profile

devann

2200 posts in 2154 days


#1 posted 05-26-2016 05:18 PM

You and I are cut from the same cloth. I prefer many of the points you listed. My current workbench came about when I rented my last commercial shop. There was a crappy attempt that somebody had made out of pallets left from the previous tenet. I straightened it out, made it flat, made it level, skinned it with a full sheet of 3/4” plywood and went to work. It’s has served me well for more than ten years now.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View JKMDETAIL's profile

JKMDETAIL

172 posts in 1116 days


#2 posted 05-26-2016 05:22 PM

Now that’s a pretty strong list. One of the things that really caught me odd was the metal top. I drop to much stuff to do that. My chisels would be a wreck. I agree, step out of the box and come up with what works for you, not necessarily those before us. We are suppose to make improvements along the way.

View mochasatin's profile

mochasatin

82 posts in 2424 days


#3 posted 05-26-2016 05:24 PM

I don’t believe I said anything about a metal top. I recommended a 1/8” piece of hardboard.

-- Scott

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mochasatin

82 posts in 2424 days


#4 posted 05-26-2016 05:27 PM

I was a factory manager for many years. We were always looking for ways to improve efficiency and eliminate waste.


You and I are cut from the same cloth. I prefer many of the points you listed. MY current workbench came about when I rented my last commercial shop. There was a crappy attempt that somebody had made out of pallets left from the previous tenet. I straightened it out, made it flat, made it level, skinned it with a full sheet of 3/4” plywood and went to work. It s has served me well for more than ten years now.

- devann


-- Scott

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1727 posts in 1431 days


#5 posted 05-26-2016 05:41 PM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBvHT9TVXTo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG0_pb_tXus&list=PL06ACC20F47E7FE39

You may have seen these two but if not they are great to see.

I think these two are innovative. I don’t have the room for the worktable but if I ever build a shop (a billion years from now) I would do the work table in a heartbeat. Plenty of storage, area for working, and a replaceable top. The “Texas” roubo one would be great for many work holding features.

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View Derek Oliver's profile

Derek Oliver

162 posts in 1613 days


#6 posted 05-26-2016 05:44 PM

Excellent points.

View mochasatin's profile

mochasatin

82 posts in 2424 days


#7 posted 05-26-2016 05:58 PM

Interesting videos. Two unique benches. It sounds like AskWoodMan came to the same conclusions I have. I suspect there are many other experienced woodworkers who have already made the jump.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBvHT9TVXTo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG0_pb_tXus&list=PL06ACC20F47E7FE39

You may have seen these two but if not they are great to see.

I think these two are innovative. I don t have the room for the worktable but if I ever build a shop (a billion years from now) I would do the work table in a heartbeat. Plenty of storage, area for working, and a replaceable top. The “Texas” roubo one would be great for many work holding features.

- Kaleb the Swede


-- Scott

View Don Niermann  's profile

Don Niermann

214 posts in 3434 days


#8 posted 05-26-2016 06:34 PM

Amen

-- WOOD/DON (...one has the right to ones opinion but not the right to ones own facts...)

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

8299 posts in 3109 days


#9 posted 05-26-2016 06:41 PM

Building a traditional bench was a rite of passage for
me so I can’t say it wasn’t worth doing. If you don’t
want to do traditional furniture building with perhaps
it’s not worth doing. I agree modern materials can
be made flat and a good bench can be made cheaply
in terms of material cost and effort.

http://lumberjocks.com/Loren/blog/27597
Comments on my semi-traditional bench I made many
years ago. I still use it. Most of the wood
was salvaged except the base which I made
from construction fir.

View mochasatin's profile

mochasatin

82 posts in 2424 days


#10 posted 05-26-2016 06:55 PM

I felt the same way which is why I built the English Workbench. If you had to do it over again would you have made some changes to the original design to make it better for you?


Building a traditional bench was a rite of passage for
me so I can t say it wasn t worth doing. If you don t
want to do traditional furniture building with perhaps
it s not worth doing. I agree modern materials can
be made flat and a good bench can be made cheaply
in terms of material cost and effort.

http://lumberjocks.com/Loren/blog/27597
Comments on my semi-traditional bench I made many
years ago. I still use it. Most of the wood
was salvaged except the base which I made
from construction fir.

- Loren


-- Scott

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

5765 posts in 947 days


#11 posted 05-26-2016 07:12 PM

A wee bit longer. That’s about it.

Different mindsets between the two styles.

A workbench build is usually just as much of a skill building exercise as it is building a useful tool. Building it with that in mind you would probably take extra time on the details as opposed to an almost strict utilitarian approach.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

8299 posts in 3109 days


#12 posted 05-26-2016 07:16 PM

I might have skipped the tool tray. I didn’t have
enough shorts to make the top wider though and
it was interesting to make the tray and figure
out the end caps… the top moves and the end
caps are slotted, the top laminates tongued.

All in all, it allowed me to do some cool technical
things I had never done before. If you use dovetails
and endcaps in a bench like I did you’ve almost
used every major furniture making technique.

The point being that once you’ve done it, you know
you can do it so other challenges are less intimidating.

The tool tray is a cesspit of junk most of the time.
I’m not totally averse to the idea. I like being able
to put clamps all around the bench so a fixed drawer
base is not so appealing to me. I’ve thought about
some sort of tool-wells in place of the tool tray,
maybe something that pops up… a rather fanciful
concept admittedly.

View WadeHolloway's profile

WadeHolloway

85 posts in 1556 days


#13 posted 05-26-2016 07:35 PM

One of the main things about building your own bench and all of the designs is that you never really know what you like or what works for you until after you have built the bench. Then as time goes by your likes and needs most likely will change and so then what you want in a bench will change too. I spent years working off of a plywood and saw horses type bench and I spent a lot of time looking through designs and reading what someone thought was the best bench. I finally got to build my own and even though it was exactly what I wanted at the time, not so much now. But as I stated my out look on benches and the way I work has changed too. I used to be a big power tool guy but over the last 5 years or so I have discovered that a lot of the times I can do the same job with hand tools as with power tools and do it faster. But all that is just me and everyone else maybe different.

View jmartel's profile

jmartel

6565 posts in 1611 days


#14 posted 05-26-2016 07:38 PM


# I prefer modern materials for bench construction. Who still uses hide glue and how would they possibly justify its usage?
- mochasatin

I do. There’s a number of advantages over more modern glues. There’s also some disadvantages. Neither is strictly better than the other. To completely dismiss one type is foolish.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View mochasatin's profile

mochasatin

82 posts in 2424 days


#15 posted 05-26-2016 07:56 PM

Foolish to dismiss hide glue? No, not really.

I do. There s a number of advantages over more modern glues. There s also some disadvantages. Neither is strictly better than the other. To completely dismiss one type is foolish.

- jmartel


-- Scott

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