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Thread: Ideal Workbench

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Pretoria, South Africa

    Ideal Workbench

    Hi all.

    Please share your experiences with work benches with me. I have one which my dad build from my bed when I was 4 and he made me a new, super cool bed. The problem is that it is not very sturdy, and I've been wanting a new one ever since I started doing woodwork. So, somewhere between working onthe other 4 projects, and keeping SWAMBO happy, I want to build myself a super cool work bench.

    Requirements I have is as follows, and please feel free to comment.

    1.) Space below a Work bench is wasted space if nothing is stored there - I want to build drawers for tools such as hand planes, router bits, cloth etc.
    2.) I saw in older threads work benches on wheels - i am having difficulty keeping mine stable, and it is not on wheels - how do you keep it stable when planning, sanding or doing other operations if it is on wheels. Ideally I want to bolt mine to the floor.
    3.)Vices, vices, vices!
    4.)Dust extraction. I thought of making the center piece of the top a vacuum table, as most of my Random Orbital sanding is done on it.
    5.)dust thightness - i don't want dust to get into the drawers, cabinets or what ever goes beneath it.
    6.) Size - 5ft x 2ft?
    7.)Construction - solid Rosewood, laminated top.

    What else - what do you find handy. Please post pics of you bench.

    Uys van Rooyen
    Pretoria, South Africa

    Uys is pronounced "Ace" - it's Dutch

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    Uys, I think you will get a lot of answers to your question, most likely you would get two dozen answers from 12 woodworkers

    I think that the next bench you build, will be your best bench, that is until you use it a while and start planning the next, next bench

    Certainly, there are a lot of things that can make up a good bench, some key things, to me are the height, which should be set for your personal work habits, and it should be as solidly built as possible.

    Storage under your workbench certainly is a good idea, but make it separate from the bench, that way, down the road, when you make the next bench, you can just use the same storage again

    What kind of work you do has a very large impact on the bench you will want/need, if you do a lot of hand tool work, you need to put a lot of thought into how things will be held in place on your bench, vices are only the start.

    I bought a set of three books, "The Workbench Book by Scott Landis" "The Toolbox Box by Jim Tolpin" and "The Workshop Book by Scott Landis" All three are very good reads, inspirational, the pictures and the layout is very well done. In your case, the "Workbench Book" is the one you want to get and read, the variety of workbenches in this book are worth the price of the book and all of these benches work, they are from working craftsman's workshops. I've seen some ideas for benches that look like a good idea, but you wonder if they would work long term...

    I'm sure others will chime in here, hope this helps!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    I would recommend Christopher Schwarz's new workbench book. Besides good basic information, he goes into detail on three different benches, based on three very different traditional designs - the type of information that was generally lost when woodworking guilds succomed to the power tool age. Over at he's gone into great detail over the years as he's been building and using the various benches. He's also an editor with Fine Woodworking magazine.
    Essentially, you'll want something to hold wood so that you can work its faces, edges, and ends.
    Most traditional benches i've seen have a front vise of some sort and an end vise. Those coupled with some well placed dog holes and stops will give you a great deal of versatility. A massive top and sturdy base give stability. The specifics will be determined by the type of work you do.
    My personal bench i picked up at a building demolition sale for $10. It's 8 feet long, 42" inches deep, and has a 2-1/4" thick solid maple top on a heavy steel frame with two continuous shelves underneath. I mounted a quick release 10" wood vise to the front.
    It's nice, and i use it constantly, but i already know how i'm going to modify it. I'll keep the slab top, though i'll trim it to 24" wide. That will require a new base - i'll use wood with mortise and tennon joints. I'll keep my current vise on the front and install a twin screw vise on the end. I'll thicken the front edge and add a sliding dead man along the front. Well placed round dog holes will let my bench dogs and hold downs do their work.
    Personally, i like to store lumber under my bench.
    I like my tools where i don't need to bend down to get to them. If i were going to put cabinets under my bench, I would be tempted to look into buying off the shelf cabinets that would fit - maybe even some used ones. If i needed, i could make new fronts for them to suite my needs, and still be way ahead in terms of time and money.
    As far as bolting it to the floor, i think you'll find you won't need to with a good thick top. I can barely lift the corner of my bench of the floor when the shelves are empty. With the lumber on it, i can't budge the thing. That can be a problem when i need to move it around for a specific task. Right now i make do without moving it because i have to, but it's less than ideal.
    Regarding the top - why rosewood? It's beautiful, dense, and hard wearing, but seems needlessly extravagant for a tool that sits in the work shop. Other, more common, local, and less expensive species would work equally as well. Truth be told, clear yellow pine would work perfectly well.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Hubbman View Post
    .............Regarding the top - why rosewood? It's beautiful, dense, and hard wearing, but seems needlessly extravagant for a tool that sits in the work shop. Other, more common, local, and less expensive species would work equally as well. Truth be told, clear yellow pine would work perfectly well.
    Perhaps "Rosewood" is "Common, local and less expensive" in South Africa

    Great info on the workbenches Paul, I'll be looking to add that book to my collection
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Cedar Park, TX
    I have seen a number of people turn wood working hobbies into bench building hobbies. The bench is just another tool in your shop, but it is probably more personal than any of your other tools.

    What I recommend is that you start simple with the idea of keeping it easy to modify as you learn how you personally work at your bench. My store bought bench came with an end vise and a front vise. I have since replaced the front vise with a leg vise for the added depth above the screw. The end vise has been used occassionally as a clamp to do some panel glue-ups but I've not found a lot of use for it otherwise. I don't like to "pinch" work between a vise and a bench dog etc for planing and I use old fashioned holdfasts for holding stuff down on the bench.

    I have a page on my website that has some of my methods as well as some from a couple other folks here.

    "If politics wasn't built on careful deception it wouldn't need its own word and techniques. It would just be called honesty, education, and leadership."
    Bob "Phydeaux" Stewart one day on Woodnet

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    You may want to look at Popular Woodworking magazine's "bench for the 21st century"- you can see a video of its features and download a free SketchUp drawing from their website.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    uys, here`s mine shot just now mess and works.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Click image for larger version. 

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    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Waterford, MI
    I stuck the Noden Adjust-A-Bench legs under mine
    and I'm not sure I'd ever want to give that up now. It's soooo nice being able to adjust the height. You have to spend about 5 minutes turning the caster adjuster bolts to let it down onto the leg panels, but once there, it's super stable. It does tend to shift a small bit with the casters engaged, but locked so I just drop it all the way with the adjusters.
    Link to my ongoing ClearVue DC Install on CV's site: http://www.gallery2.clearvuecyclones...s-Mini-CV1400/

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Brandon, MS

    English Bench

    Uys, I just finished building the English bench out of Chris Schwarz's book. It is almost 8' long and 29" wide, and all yellow pine. The bench does not have any wheels, and it does not move unless you really want it to. It has two vises, a leg vise and a tail vise. The leg vise is great. The leg is angled outward at 20 degrees so you can clamp all the way to the ground without the screw getting in the way. It also has tremendous holding power. I am less thrilled with the tail vise. If I had to do it again I would install a quick release vise on end. I hope some of this helps. Don

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Deming, NM

    As many said, we all have different workbench ideas. I do not have a typical 'woodworking' bench, as my needs differ Here is one photo that shows a couple of benches I built. They are both full of drawers.

    If you use a typical 'overlap' type drawer front, they do a pretty good job of keeping the inside of the drawers clean and dust free - but never 100%.

    You can see some of my construction ideas here.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails bench.jpg  

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