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Thread: Frank Pellow’s Woodworking Bench Project -Phase 2

  1. #1
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    Frank Pellow’s Woodworking Bench Project -Phase 2

    (part 1 of 5)

    I started building a woodworking bench just about this time last year and reported progress in the thread: http://familywoodworking.org/forums/...ead.php?t=2984

    That work stopped in early June when I packed it in for the summer.

    Early this year, I picked up the project again and now the bench is (almost) complete and I have started to use it:

    I will continue the “story” with extracts from my weekly journal. Also I will pick up the number of the steps from where I left off last June.


    2008 Jan 20:

    22) The first task at hand is to finish drilling all the dog holes in the bench top. I made a simple jig that speeded up the process:

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    Compare this to the clamping both on top and underneath the bench that I was doing before -as per the photos I showed in this journal last June:

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    This time I am screwing a temporary sacrficial piece of wood underneather the spots where the drill will emerge. Things are going much faster and about half the holes are now drilled.


    2008 Jan 27:

    23) I worked a little bit on the woodworking bench and almost all the dog holes are now drilled. There was a problem because the jig from Lee Valley that I was using broke due to metal fatigue. I will probably take it back. I devised my own simple jig which seems to work OK.

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    Last edited by Frank Pellow; 03-08-2008 at 04:08 AM.
    Cheers, Frank

  2. #2
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    (part 2 of 5)

    (part 2 of 5)


    2008 Feb 17:

    I built the core of the base cabinet for my woodworking bench this week. This base cabinet will be very much like the mobile cart that I built last winter (see the thread: http://familywoodworking.org/forums/...ead.php?t=1769).

    24) I experimented with using my router table to cut a long (almost 5 feet long) rabbet along the edge of a couple sections of plywood. I would normally cut this using a router on a guide rail, but I wanted to try this technique.

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    It worked well:

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    25) These two sheets also needed several dadaos and they were routed in the normal way:

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    26) Sunday was a bad day because I made a series of transcription and calculation errors. The first two arrors resulted in the base cabinet being 10 centimeters too wide and 4 centimetres too short. I dealt with the too wide by cutting off a complete cross section, Most of this was accomplished with a guided circular saw:

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    but, for some parts, I needed to use a good old hand saw (as shown to the left below):

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    The cross section is that was removed is shown to the right above. The third mistake that I made was to remove a 12 centimetre wide portion rather than 10 centimetres leaving the cabinet two centimetres too narrow.

    27) Five substantial legs were made by lamainating pieces of maple. Here is a photo of them dry fitted onto the cabinet:

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    After the picture was taken, I compensated for the loss of two centimeters in width by laminating more maple onto the three legs on the right hand side. I compensated for the fact that the cabinet was 4 centimetres too short by increasing the distance that the four corner legs projected beyond the cabinet.

    The four corner legs will hold the bench. Notice that the legs are higher than the cabinet. This is so there will be space between the top of the cabinet and the bottom of the bench in order to accommodate things such as hold downs inserted through dog holes on the bench.

    28) Now we get to mistake number 5. The legs were supposed to project 95 mm above the cabinet top but I forgot that I would be adding a layer of ¾” MDH as well as one of ¼” hardboard on top of the double layer of plywood. Once this has been done the legs will only project 70 mm. I will correct this by adding shims that fit between the legs and the bench top. In fact, I think that I will make this a feature whereby it will be possible to have the bench at different heights by adding zero, one, or more shims.
    Cheers, Frank

  3. #3
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    (part 3 of 5)

    (part 3 of 5)


    2008 Feb 24:

    I got quite a bit done on the bench this week and figure that it should be completed by this time next week. Continuing on with the construction “story”:

    29) I drilled a series of eight dog holes into the three legs on one side of the bench. In the photo below the edges of the holes are being slightly rounded using a 1/8 inch roundover bit. The same thing will be done with the dog holes in the bench top.

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    30) The maple portions of the bench are being finished with Tung Oil. I like Hendrik Varju’s bench and had planned to finish mine like he had done –that is using 7 layers of Tung Oil mixed with a slight amount of Japan Drier. That was going to take a LOT of time and, after some reading and some discussion with others, I decided to opt instead for one coat of Tung Oil Sealer followed by three coats Polymerized Tung Oil. That does not take quite as long and the temperature need not be as high for the curing. Hendrik warned me as follows when I told him what I had decided to do:
    I'm not against polymerized Tung oil, but it isn't just regular Tung oil with driers added. It has been heat treated, effectively turning the finish into more of a varnish-like finish. It's much harder than Tung oil and while that might seem better, it can crack and peel when you pound heavily on the bench. Keep the finish very thin or it is even more likely. I prefer multiple coats of regular Tung oil which doesn't build up a hard film. It can be recoated at any time and it never cracks or peels off.

    All sides of the maple need to be finished. The oil is rubbed on left 10 minutes then rubbed off. Then one waits for 24 hours, smoothes the surface with very fine steel wool, then does the next coat. The photo below shows the underside of the bench after the Sealer coat plus one coat of Medium Luster Tung oil:

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    31) After 3 coats were applied to the back, the bench was flipped over (well, weighing what it does, not exactly flipped), the edges and the dog holes were rounded over with a router, then the top and sides were sanded extensively using a Festool Rotex sander with 80, 120, 180, and 220 grit paper:

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    32) Next the bench top was sealed, then finished with 3 Tung oil coats. In the picture to the left below sealer is being applied to the interior of a dog hole using a bottle brush.

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Name:	Woodworking bench 48 -Applying sealer to the top of the bench -small.JPG 
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    And in the picture to the right above sealer is being applied to the entire top.

    33) Returning to the base cabinet. First of all, all plywood parts were finished with two coats of Spar Urethane. All five legs were bolted to the carcass using a couple of 5 inch lag bolts per leg:

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    34) Then casters were screwed to both the legs and carcass at each of the four corners:

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    Cheers, Frank

  4. #4
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    (part 4 of 5)

    (part 4 of 5)


    2008 Mar 1:

    I almost finished my workbench this week.

    35) First of all, I completed the three coats of polymerized Tung oil on the top. I am very very happy with the result –it’s the smoothest finish that I have ever applied to anything.

    Next, a layer of ¾” MDF was glued and screwed to the top. On top of that I screwed ¼ hardboard put on a coat of Spar Urethane then two coats of Johnson’s Paste Wax. I don’t expect to use the cabinet without the bench-top attached very often, but I am now prepared to do so.

    36) The next thing I needed to do was to devise a method for attaching the cabinet-base to the bench-top. I thought that the hardware used to attach bed rails to head and foot boards would do the job, so I bought a set of four attachments intending to place a set at each of the four corners. Here is a picture showing the two components at one of the corners:

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    In this picture the bench top is standing on its side and the hardware is attached to the underside. The two projections on the underside of the bench slide into the slots in the companion hardware attached to the leg. This would have worked well if the bench were not so heavy or if I could always count on help when I wanted to remove the top –but I want to be able to insert and remove the top all by myself. What to do?

    37) I like the way that the hardware shown above establishes a precise position for the top- on the leg, so I decided to keep the hardware for one corner. It’s possible for me to position one corner by myself. Once that corner is properly positioned, it is easy to move the top to an appropriate position on the other four corners. After much thought, I came up with the idea of using barrel bolts on the other three legs and drilling holes to receive the bolts on the underside of the bench. The bolts can be slid into place after the bench top has been placed in its desired position. The picture below shows a barrel bolt on one leg and a receiving hole drilled on the underside of the bench (which is, again, standing on its side).

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    I am using a large barrel bolt (the one shown) on one leg and smaller barrel bolts on the other two legs.

    38) On the side of the bench where the vise is mounted, I am installing 8 home-made drawers. On the non-vise end I installed a bank of Veritas so called “toolbox trays” and to the right of that there will probably be a couple of cubby holes.

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    The home-made drawers in the picture are not yet finished or mounted.

    39) On the other side of the bench, I placed the three legs that have dog holes.

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    Some time in the future I might build a leg vise on this side. But, for now, I am planning to experiment with Veritas surface clamps, one of which I have already. It is shown in one of the do holes in the left leg. Below is a picture from the Lee Valley web site showing the clamps in use. Perhaps, with a few of these clamps I will decide that a leg vise is superfluous.

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    40) I did hit a snag. The end vise is not working properly. Like the technology started by Record, it is supposed to be “quick release” which means that turning it a couple of turns anti-clockwise frees up the vise so that it can be pulled or pushed to any position. Turning a quick release vise a couple of turns clockwise then engages it and allows one to tighten the vise again. Right now I can only get the vise to engage again sporadically. On Saturday morning I took the vise into Lee Valley and left it to see if some expert there can determine what the problem is.
    Last edited by Frank Pellow; 03-07-2008 at 11:12 PM.
    Cheers, Frank

  5. #5
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    (part 5 of 5)

    (part 5 of 5)

    2008 Mar 7:

    I finally finished my woodworking bench this week.

    40 –continued) First of all, someone at Lee Valley found that the problem with my vise was that the manufacturer had left a glob of paint in the works. Now that the glob has been removed the vise works well.

    41) I installed three shelves with ¾ inch holes to hold bench dogs, hold downs, clamps, etc on one side of the bench. The offset chuck on my Festool drill came in handy again:

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    It’s not something I use a lot, but when I need to drill or screw close to a wall, I really appreciate the chuck.

    42) I decided, for now at least, not to make shims to raise the height of the bench. Someone at the Festool Owners Group forum to me that: “To determine the correct height of your own personal bench, stand erect with your arms down straight by your side, as if you are "at attention". Without moving your hands, stick your thumbs out straight and they should sit on top of your workbench.” I took the test as shown in the photo below and the current height is bang on.

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    43) Here is a picture of the underside on the bench-top resting on it’s side on the base-cabinet. All the barrel bolts are installed and all the holes are drilled.

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    It takes about a minute for me to install the top and about the same amount of time top remove it. The top is heavy but not so heavy that I can’t do these operations by myself.

    44) The shelves for the bench-dogs, hold-downs, etc. work well. Here is photo of that side of the bench:

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    45) And here are a couple of photos of the other side of the bench:

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    Notice the a bank of Veritas “toolbox” drawers on the end. I have these things all over the shop and they are very handy. There is a hole (14 cm wide, 49 cm high, and 34 cm deep) beside the drawers that I have not yet decided how I am going to use.


    46) And, to complete the ‘tour around the bench’, here a photo of the vise end:

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    47) The wooden drawers are mostly empty at this stage. In fact, the picture below shows the only contents of any of the drawers:

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    By the way, that’s the only hand plane that I currently own and it was my Dad’s. Over time, I plan to put drawer liners and dividers into them and, of course, to acquire more quality hand tools.

    48) Being mobile, there was a minor concern that the bench would not be solid enough. So, I tested it with a few different tasks –such as the planing shown below:

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    No problem -It’s solid and stable!

    Wrap-up) The final dimensions of the bench, without vises, are 88 cm high by 60 cm wide by 165 cm long (that’s approximately 34.5 inches by 23.5 inches by 64 inches).

    Over time, I expect the make a few additions and modifications to the bench. For example, right away, I set that I need a few higher up dog holes on the vertical plane. But, the important thing is that, at last, I have a real woodworking bench tailored to my specific needs. I am a “happy camper”.
    Cheers, Frank

  6. #6
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    Super job, Frank...

    Very well thought out, designed and executed. I'm sure your are going to really enjoy it, and for a long long time. Something to pass on to one of your grandkids.

    I'm going to go back and review many times, when I build mine, I'm sure.

    Thanks for the very interesting and informative posts on this project.

  7. #7
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    Great post Frank stepping us through your trials and tribulations as well as triumphs. I enjoyed reading through the whole thing and enjoyed seeing how other folks "tick" and solve problems. I enjoyed where you turned a mistake (legs too short) into a "feature" that you ended up not using anyway, but I like your mindset. Thanks for taking the time to post pics that bring the explanations to light.
    Build it Break it Fix it ...repeat

  8. #8
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    Frank, thank you so much for posting all the pictures and details.

    Bench looks great. awesome job.

  9. #9
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    Greg, thanks for your praise. I never thought about the possibility that the bench might be passed on to someone some day, but I guess that it will. In that case, I do indeed, hope that the recipient will be one of my woodworking grandchildren.

    Dave, I am glad that you enjoyed reading about all the ups and downs of the project. And you spotted the fact that I never did get around to implementing the “leg shims” feature. Well done!

    Mohammad, thanks for your thanks.
    Cheers, Frank

  10. #10
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    That's a beauty. Great threads taking us all along for the ride. Much appreciated by all, I'm sure.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

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