My Workbench Project (Design)

I just put up a pdf file (and a SketchUp file), if you would care to see it, at my new website:
http://web.newsguy.com/MySite /
I was not trained as an engineer as many of your were, and I don't have much experience in woodworking, so I have a few questions.
My pdf file illustrates my design idea from various angles. The shelves on the right side will become drawers, and I may put a door across the 3 shelves on the left, but that's not an issue now.
All of the wood is 2" (nominal 1.5") SYP. The top, 84" by 30" by 3" should be about 88 pounds assuming 60 lbs/ft^3 for SYP (I've come a long way, when I first saw "SYP" here, I didn't know what it was).
1.The model looks better with 3/4" shelves rather than 1 1/2" thick ones in this model, and that's how I started out. But after considering an interesting bookshelf thread the other day, I started thinking that my shelves could provide structural support--rather than being "passively held in dados" like I originally planned. That includes the boards behind the shelves; I had originally intended to just slide them into dados. I could glue and screw everything down and make it rock-solid, but then the instability of the wood could give me all sorts of problems I suppose. Please help me consider that...an 88 pound top is pretty heavy, no? I'd prefer to use 3/4" shelves.
2. I left 2" between the back and the rails and another 2" between the rail and the 2 boards behind the shelves. So 5 1/2" of "wasted space" in the back altogether (plus actually, 2" more for the overhang on the top I left for clamping things to the top). I was trying to be prudent (for strength). Could I safely get by leaving less than 2" on each side of the 2 rails?
3. What's a good way to attach the top? Screw in wood with triangular cross-section like I see on manufactured tables and chairs? Something else?
4. I was thinking about cutting arches in 2 or 4 of the verticals, leaving the impression of "feet". That makes up to 8 feet, and I don't have a particularly level floor...? I could leave it and shim it to fit the floor.
5. Glue the tenons of the rail into the mortise or not? If I can think of a way to avoid glue, the unit might be easily disassembled if desired.
Is it overbuilt or have any weak aspects? What would an engineer say (not about the poor drawing!)? Sorry if there are too many questions, i'm just thinking now...
Any comments you would like to make would be appreciated especially by me, and I like to think for some of the other beginners out there. I'll save my quesitons about drawers until after I have done more research on drawers!
Thank you, Bill
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G'day Bill, - I'm neither engineer nor tradesman, but I have a couple of thoughts; I would increase the overhang to about 6". You will have more flexibility in clamping, depending on the depth of reach of your clamps of course. In my untrained opinion, 88 lbs is a lightweight top. That structure will easily support far more than that.(Mine is in the region of 250lbs)
diggerop
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Bill wrote:

My gut reaction is that it's grossly overbuilt.
Nothing wrong with that but it's not necessary--3/4 inch ply pedestals are enormously strong, the same for 3/4 inch ply shelves supported in dadoes on three sides. When I say "enormously strong" I mean with the dimensions you've provided they'll support thousands of pounds without perceptible deflection.
Whether an 88 pound top is heavy or not depends on what you mean by "heavy". If you're lifting it by yourself, yes, it's heavy. If you're supporting it on plywood pedestals, no, it's not compared to the strength of the pedestals.
I'm not sure why you even have the rails in back--they don't contribute to the structure in any manner that I can think of--the only thing they seem to do is provide positive spacing for the pedestals. You could eliminate them completely.
To fasten the top down I'd put some pieces around the inside of the tops of the pedestals, or just put tops on them, and then screw the bench top down. If you're really worried about movement then route elongated holes and use screws with washers.
If your floor's not level you can shim as you suggested or you can use screw-feet in tee nuts--if you're not going to be moving it I'd shim. Whether to leave the lower edges straight or cut arcs is an aesthetic decision--do whichever works for you, in typical woodworking use you're not going to be working close enough to the structural limits of the pedestal sides for it to make much difference.
You're going to want more allowance for clamping, I'd go for at least 6 inches, which is enough to put a K-body full depth with clearance to tighten it from beneath if you need to.
Now, having addressed all that, what you've designed is a desk, not a work bench, at least not for woodworking. You don't say anything about special needs and your posting history doesn't say anything that I could find about you being in a wheelchair, so I'm assuming that you're not, in which case I'd consider doing away with the two-pedestal design in favor of a single larger base, and making it taller (unless you're really short)--if you want a thumb rule then measure from the floor to the web of your thumb and that's a fair height--some people like a little lower, some like a little higher but that's a start. You've made no provision at all for vises or dogholes--the vise should be designed in, not an afterthought. With a good vise and bench dogs you'll hardly ever need to clamp anything to the bench.
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Mr. J. Clarke,
Thank you for your very thoughtful comments and suggestions. No doubt, I'll be "going back to the drawing board...", so to speak. I can only reply briefly right now, as I need to take care of some local responsibilities.
I know you are correct that vises ought to be built into the design. I learned that in the middle of this process. My dad, and his dad too, used a machinist's vise for most everything. My dad still built a decent vanity for the bathroom. He preferred golf, bowling, and gardening. My design had storage on each side, like back then. But those are just excuses--and I recognize they are not good ones. Hence, I am still in the middle of this process. But I am a little wiser now thanks to the help of several very kind folks here, like yourself.
I have interests in luthery, and one of my guiding thoughts was that I wanted a place where I could perform a task like setting the soundpost of a violin--a task I would want to do sitting down. One of my related project goals was to build a "mistrel style banjo", and eventually, a fiddle (since that's the instrument I'm playing mostly these days). I think all of the space on the top would be convenient. I did have the revelation that I had "designed a desk". At an earlier point, I was thinking of making two benches--one where I could use a hacksaw, hammer, a soldering iron and another with a woodworkers vise. I don't really have enough work to justify that at this point, so I may be wise to combine these needs together (on the other hand, maybe 2 would be nice...). Thinking about benches has been worthwhile. For one, I came to appreciate ALOT MORE about what woodworking is about. I never designed and redesigned a project to make so carefully as I did this one. In earlier years, I would have been cutting by the second day. I think most folks have the impression woodworking is about using tools... I also learned about SketchUp in the process and I'm still going to learn more about vises (I read about an "Emmet Vise" which looked interesting--haven't checked price/availability). I don't think I have a need for a tail vise (but at least I know a bit about what I am talking about now!). : )
One last thing. I have mentioned in other posts that I am "chemically sensitive". Working with man-made materials is bad news for me--I can't even drink an artificially sweeted soft drink. I can't work with plywood. I'll glue SYP timbers together (are there problems with this?). I bought 15 pipe clamps and 15 pieces of 48" black pipe for this project! Maybe I'll go into business. ; )
Time for reflection, Bill

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Bill wrote:

If you're interest in luthery you're into a specialized area that is way outside my experience.
With regard to Emmert (note the "r"--I don't usually criticise spelling but in this case you need the right spelling if you're searching for information) vises, Emmert is long since out of business but you can still get them used on ebay for a price. Upside, they're incredibly flexible. Downside, they're relatively slow to use as they don't have a rapid action screw.
There are some good Chinese clones available--Woodcraft carries one for 240 bucks or so. Like many Chinese tools it may need a little fiddling, but the design is sound. Lee Valley/Veritas rethought the concept and came up with their own improved design, made in Canada, but it's now discontinued--it's called a "Tucker Vise".

Yellow pine, or any solid lumber, doesn't have the biderectional stiffness and uniformity of plywood--parallel to the grain it's stronger and stiffer but perpendicular to the grain much less so--if you're going to use it for wide shelves I'd make them tongue and groove or use biscuits or dowels--while wood glue is stronger than the wood, unless you're using an epoxy or plastic resin glue it can creep under continuous load, so your shelves may come apart at the seams and the pieces that aren't supported in the dado will then sag.

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Thank you for mentioning your point about the shelves. I would not have even considered dowels, thank you for mentioning that. I thought of tongue and groove. Is it fair to say that using dowels will require a drill press (I was thinking of buying one anyway)?
If I understand your point on bidirectional stiffness, that means if I set heavy weight upon endgrain I will be ok. That was what I had been expecting. No reason to expect warpage here? I hadn't even considered a possible problem with the shelves--thus, once more, illustrating the value of a design process.
As far as benches go, I'm going to investigate what some luthiers are using..then try to take some sort of weighted-average--ha, that's probably where one ends up with the "tire swing designed by a committee" or, in this case, a "desk". Thank you for teaching me.
Bill
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Bill wrote:

A drill press makes it easier but it's not particularly difficult to make a dowelling jig. Examine a commercial one at Woodcraft and you should get the idea.

You need to be careful with grain orientation to maintain flatness in glued up wide panels, but if you are it's no big deal.

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I was provided with a link to a thread with 178 posts concerning violin makers' workshops. I just posted a picture of one (temporarily) on my website which is illustrative (there is no way to provide a link to it):
http://web.newsguy.com/MySite /
Most had (at least) 2 workspaces. A shorter bench/table with a chair, and a taller (traditional bench) with a traditional woodworkers vice. So, in that sense, my design wasn't too far off. In fact, I saw as least 2 which looked something like what I drew up. Sort of like the "tire swing" that was designed by a committee.. : )
Bill
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I have come to find myself in the following predicament. As a new woodworking hobbyist, I wish to try/do several techniques. I can see myself standing upright at a vise with a mallet and a chisel (HIGH bench needed) and also using hand planes (LOW bench needed). I already have a mallet, some chisels, and some hand planes, so I'm practically half-way there.. ; )
Today, I somehow encountered the concept of "adjustable-legs" for benches. One lesson in design I have learned over the last several weeks is to try to take advantage of the good ideas that people have already come up with, and that's explains my reason for this post.
I can think of some ways to put a "stilt" on a leg, using a 1/2" bolts say. But I wanted to see if anyone here has already tried making or using "adjustable legs" (of any sort) on a workbench, and might give me the benefit of their experience. I don't need "quick change"--changing 8 nuts and bolts is reasonable to me at this point. By the way, almost every time I post about this bench, I realized I've learned quite a bit more since the last time...
The top will be 7' by 27" or so, and about 100 pounds. Lew Hodgett helped me decide how to build that component.
Thank you! Bill
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Ideal bench height is a very subjective thing, - that which suits one will not necessarily suit another. As a starting point, it may be worth trying the following: - Get a box and a few scraps of wood , stacked to the design height of your bench. Grab one of your hand planes and stand relaxed, with your feet about 18" apart, keeping your back straight and holding the plane in front of you so your hands are approximately at belt buckle height. The height of the sole of the plane should be within a couple of inches of the benchtop height plus the thickness of the material you want to plane. If not, it would in my opinion need to be raised. Any lower and sustained hand work will prove to be tiring.
Then, grab a hammer and chisel, holding the chisel vertical, stand next to the bench height you've established with the plane and go through the motions of striking the chisel, remembering that the head needs to be within your field of vision.
Using that approach, the ideal height for planing and chisel work for me are almost the same. Mine is approx 38" high, which suits my height, - (6' 2".) When first built it was 34", which was too low. A couple of hours of bench work and my back was killing me. I raised it by 4" using 2 pieces of 4 x 4 timber dowelled to the uprights as a sled. Much better.
My advice would be to build a bench for planing and general work first. If you are new to wood working, you will probably find yourself putting in a lot of time learning the finer points of planing, sawing, measuring and marking out, chisel work etc. Once you begin to master those, you'll have a far better idea of what sort of specialised work benches you may require and your existing bench will enable you to produce exactly what you want.
diggerop
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That's exactly what I decided to do. I need to start off with a birdhouse for my wife and build up a little confidence from there. I've completed a few small woodworking projects in my life (in my parents garage and in high school) but that was about 30 years ago. I should do it right and put in some holes for bench dogs, though I've never used them before--especially in view of the fact that I'll need to make my own "wde boards" (as I can't work with man-made materials). Thank you for your suggestions; I'll try stacking some boxes to determine optimum height.
By the way, I removed some "artwork" from one of my garage walls yesterday, and found a 6" hole in the wallboard (obviously make to help install the 220v). Thus I have a "chance" to see how nice of a job I can do repairing that. My intuition says to cut out a section to the vertical beams (16" or so wide)? The hole is right between two of them. Is that the right approach? For me, this is "practice" for interior work.
Peace, Bill
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You an do that, but it's rarely necessary to make the repair that large. There are several ways to repair wallboard. If it's a small hole you can simply use a board (plywood, 1x, or sheetrock scrap) behind the opening and mud over it. The "backer" board can be held in place with screws into the good wallboard or temporarily with a string in the middle tied off the the opposite wall. Fill the hole and cut the string, if used, on the last coat of mud. There are also metallic patches made for this purpose that stick onto the surface and are intended to be mudded over. For larger holes, the hole can be cut out to "normal" size and a scrap of sheetrock fit and screwed to a "backer" board as above; tape, mud, sand as normal.
Strong suggestion: use the mix-it-yourself, Plaster of Paris based mud (30 or 60 minute stuff), instead of the premixed. The premixed stuff is water soluble. The more you screw with it the worse the job gets. It seems counter-intuitive, but the rapid set stuff is *much* easier to work with for small jobs.
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Strong suggestion: use the mix-it-yourself, Plaster of Paris based mud (30 or 60 minute stuff), instead of the premixed. The premixed stuff is water soluble. The more you screw with it the worse the job gets. ------------
Yes, I remember that from last time I worked with the mud. I'm willing to give the mix-it-yourself mud a chance.
Thanks too, evodawg, for providing me with a link.
I know I can repair the hole. I'd like to repair it so that no one can tell!
Philisophical question: If you could see that someone had painted over some drywall tape in your living room, would you rip the stuff off the wall and start over? : )
Bill
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wrote:

I've done it in the master bedroom, but only when doing a lot of other repairs to the room. I know others who have successfully injected glue under the bubble. I generally use the mesh tape because I'm terrible with the paper tape. The mix-it-yourself stuff is a must with the mesh tape.
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Bill wrote:

Try this site for the drywall repair...
http://www.easy2diy.com/cm/easy/diy_ht_3d_index.asp?page_id5750435
--
"You can lead them to LINUX
but you can't make them THINK"
  Click to see the full signature.
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Bill wrote:

I think you will find that the same height bench works fine for both.

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