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workbenches: new fangled, 21st century, or...?

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Forum topic by AaronK posted 07-26-2011 10:51 PM 8128 views 1 time favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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AaronK

1441 posts in 2930 days


07-26-2011 10:51 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question workbench

I’ve been thinking about how to go about a new workbench. Been reading “the workbench book” by Landis and also Chris Schwartz’s book, and looking around the net. I work partly by hand, partly with power tools, and I’m a hobby woodworker – so I need some versatility. I definitely see the need for a workbench to function as Schwartz describes it: the bench needs to be able to hold the wood so you can work all sides of it (although I disagree that a bench can not/should not be used for storage!). I’m not a purist, I don’t worship the Schwartz, and I don’t feel the need to build a Ruobo.

I like both the 21st century and New Fangled designs – particularly the split top with removable panels. Something about being able to apply clamps through the middle of the bench really appeals to me. I am a little concerned about the cost of hardware with the 21st cent. design. Likewise, I’m a little concerned about structural rigidity in the New Fangled… although I’m totally fine with using pipe clamps as vices.

Right now I’m leaning towards a modified New Fangled – but I would use a beafier top (at least on the near side of the bench), possibly another stretcher, and a couple other smaller mods. But I’d like to hear from people who have built these or other designs – about strengths or weaknesses.


24 replies so far

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Bertha

13003 posts in 2159 days


#1 posted 07-26-2011 10:56 PM

I’m right there with you, Aaron. I’ve read all the books and I don’t take the Swartz as gospel. That being said, I’m a handplane guy, so the Roubo makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t want storage in my bench but I certainly understand why you would disagree. You’re looking at $800 for the Benchcrafted vise kit. That’s big money for hardware. I’ll probably end up with a combination of woodscrews and modern hardware because I’m caught up in the lore of the old craftsmen. I like, respect, and admire what you’re saying, though. It’s your bench; you’ll build it the way you’ll use it.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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buffalosean

174 posts in 2853 days


#2 posted 07-26-2011 11:09 PM

I’m looking to build a new fangled bench in the near future like this one from fine wood working, but i what to put some more mass on the table top and the legs. I’m debating wether to use hard maple for the top or LVL, just so i don’t have to worry about the top move and not staying truly flat. I’ll most likely use ash for the base; its cheap, easy to work, and can take a beating.

http://www.finewoodworking.com/Workshop/WorkshopArticle.aspx?id=28530

-- There are many ways to skin a cat...... but, the butter knife is not recommended

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Dan

3630 posts in 2346 days


#3 posted 07-26-2011 11:19 PM

” I’m not a purist, I don’t worship the Schwartz” I got a good chuckle after reading that line.

Not to long ago I built my 3rd workbench and I went with the 21st century design. I have been using it for a few months and the split top design was def a good choice for me. Not only for clamping but I have found it comes in handy with other task as well. I built a couple of tool trays that sit in the middle split of the bench and its great having my most used bench tools that close in reach. The trays just sit in there so I can pull them right out if needed.

I didn’t want to buy a new expensive vise for my bench so I made my own sliding tail vise out of an old cast iron bar clamp. It works just fine for the work I do and it didn’t cost me anything. If you can build a bench with pipe clamps fitted in then I suggest going that route. I am very happy with my shop made vise.

I didn’t read The Schwartz’s book but I am surprised he said a bench should not be used for storage. I cant see how adding storage to your bench hurts it in anyway. I store a lot of my jigs and tools at my bench.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

13738 posts in 2084 days


#4 posted 07-26-2011 11:22 PM

@Dan – that is a GREAT looking bench!

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

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AaronK

1441 posts in 2930 days


#5 posted 07-26-2011 11:23 PM

$800 more than I thought! ;-)

BTW, in terms of storage i don’t mean an array of cabinets – just a rack and/or shelf for holding small tools, planes, and clamps.

Sean – I had to look up LVL. While on one hand I have no qualms about using manufactured stuff for tops (my bench now has a 2x thick MDF top, which I like), the problem with that is that when I comes time to joint the top. A removable top layer, like say, an inset hardboard top covering a lumber sublayer, would do really well though.

the New Fangled looks really flexible in terms of adding mass to the top. White’s design has the top as a single “2x” thick layer. No reason you can’t laminate those together like a more traditional top to build thickness.

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MedicKen

1610 posts in 2928 days


#6 posted 07-26-2011 11:29 PM

I picked up about 500bf of maple a year or so ago with all intentions of building a bench, and still will. I have read most of the books as well and I dont care for Schwartz at all. I have taken some ideas from various benches and will incorporate a few of them in a “hybrid” of my own design. It will fit the type of woodworking I do and I cant wait to get after it. Now that I have a saw again I will be able to build it.

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their therapist....medic20447@gmail.com

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AaronK

1441 posts in 2930 days


#7 posted 07-26-2011 11:29 PM

Dan – well, some Schwartzes are bigger than others. Your bench looks good – If I do go the NF way, I’ll be adding those 21st century tool boxes to the center :-)

What Schwartz really means, I think, is that too often a bench ends up being a cabinet with a hard top. If the top doesn’t stick out far enough over the cabinet (or apron), then you don’t have anything to clamp to – and his basic thesis is that the bench is a thing that you clamp wood to in all directions. So I think his point is just to jolt us out of thinking of a bench as necessarily having storage underneath. You can always add it back in, but only as a complement to the main purpose and in a way that doesn’t interfere with that purpose.

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Dan

3630 posts in 2346 days


#8 posted 07-27-2011 03:35 PM

Aaron, that makes sense about the storage. I still say do what you want though.

Some Schwartzes are bigger then others… Darn things must be broken

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

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HorizontalMike

7154 posts in 2380 days


#9 posted 07-27-2011 04:10 PM

I built the 21st Century Workbench and have NO regrets. Out of the $800-$1,000 I spent, half of that was hardware (Veritas twin screw vise, 7” end vise, LV dogs and hold-downs). I built mine out of White Ash at ~$2.5/BF at the time. Right now, I just throw scrap on the lower shelf since it makes it more accessible and leaves room for clamping when trays are removed. I also use the trays to “span” my hand planes over without having to turn them sideways.

BTW, I like Dan’s modifications to the design as well.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

13738 posts in 2084 days


#10 posted 07-27-2011 04:14 PM

The Schwarz message re: under-bench storage is a tough pill to swallow. I went for two years keeping the whole area under the bench clear of major obstructions. I did add a small side drawer, and used it ALL THE TIME to store and retrieve bench hammers, rulers, gauges and knives. It was a great addition, but the bottom stayed clear. As time passed I learned a few things about the way I work:

- I didn’t keep commonly used tools below the bench during a project because it’s a pain. They get covered in shavings and it’s no fun reaching up and down. There are wall-mounted cabinets for my tools nearby (very nearby) and I prefer reaching over stooping low.
- When I kept less-used tools there, like a Langdon mitre saw, everything just got filthy. I had to clean dust and debris from under the bench every week or so, and off of things that didn’t move.
- I really never used the reserved space for clamp clearance. I don’t have deep reach clamps that require pipes or bars to extend more than a foot into / underneath the bench. And I haven’t built anything that needs clamping like that where I’d want to use the bench over, say, a sawbench or assy table instead.

So I made a low-profile cabinet that allows for hold down clearance (use them all the time) AND can be a during-use place for some things that isn’t so stinking low to the ground. There’s clearance in front for the bench’s sliding deadman as well. Drawers open when it’s in place, too, just not all five at once… Hope it works in practice, just completed it (we’ll see).

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

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Bertha

13003 posts in 2159 days


#11 posted 07-27-2011 04:19 PM

It doesn’t get much better than Dan’s, Mike’s, and Smitty’s benches. Each one says a lot about the way they use them. Take Smit’s as the closest example. Look how Smit made his leg vise a little thinner and toned down the hook. Also notice his massive leg dogs and the fact that the leg vise is a gorgeous secondary. Look at the width and waist of his deadman. It’s so personal and it tells me a lot about the builder. Smit’s plough gives it away but even without it, I can tell that he works long boards using long strokes. He liked the idea of the hook but didn’t want a massive one obstructing his work. It’s all so telling. Build it for YOU.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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Dan

3630 posts in 2346 days


#12 posted 07-27-2011 06:15 PM

Smitty, very nice bench. I like the old look and the antique wood barrel adds a lot of character. I think I have the same saw vise as you. I have a Disston one that clamps on the bench just like yours.

I am thinking of adding a few small drawers under the top of my bench but I will keep that hidden from the Schwartz.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

13738 posts in 2084 days


#13 posted 07-27-2011 07:08 PM

Dan and Al – thanks for the fine comments. And Al’s point is TRUE- build for YOU.

That barrel was hanging around the shop for the better part of a year while I kept water in it, trying to swell the staves so it wouldn’t leak should I want to make wine. Finally said the heck with it, busted out the top and now it’s a scrap barrel. Doesn’t hold much, but it is more useful now than before. And it must have always leaked; it has melted wax residue everywhere inside.

The saw vise only has a “5” on it, nothing else. It does everything I need it to, and it holds rags on occasion. Great vise!

And, re: drawers on your bench… I won’t squeal if you don’t squeal. ;-)

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

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AaronK

1441 posts in 2930 days


#14 posted 07-27-2011 07:20 PM

yeah, smitty that’s a great looking bench. i also like the small hook, but i think i’d prefer a wider leg vice. And the small cabinet underneath seems perfectly appropriate!

interesting thing about the sliding deadman – the new fangled basically gets you to the same place, just with different hardware.

anyway, thanks for chiming in folks. I’m still waiting to hear from someone who’s build the New Fangled though!

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

13738 posts in 2084 days


#15 posted 07-28-2011 08:39 PM

Aaron – Here’s a LJ that built what you’re looking for, and several of the comments are from folks who have done the same: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/2653

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

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