I had a very serviceable general-puropose bench built from a solid
core door on 4x4 legs and 2x8 skirt and stretchers. It ain't going
anywhere! But I wanted a bench better suited to my neandering
tendencies. I knew that I was not ready to build the beautiful
ultimate benches like some of you guys build. So I started with Bob
Key's "good first bench" and modified it to include a trestle base,
shoulder vise, and rudimentary tail vise.
For the heck of it, I decided to build it all out of wood. Vices are
wood, with knobs to tighten rather than regular vise handles. I still
have my iron vise on the utility bench when I need to crush something,
and I can apply plenty of pressure to hold a piece while cutting
dovetails without being tempted to "crank down" and possibly break my
shoulder vise. If I find out that the sliding dovetail on the spacer
along with the areas I could glue without cross-grain problems are not
enough, I give up on my all-wood idea and use the hole that I
predrilled to within 1/2" of the front surface to insert the usual
threaded rod to hold the shoulder.
Here are some pictures of a 3D model of the bench I drew for a design
exercise. http://www.alibre.com/xpress/forum/viewtopic.php?t (3
Most of the discussion there is about modeling issues rather than the
woodworkign issues. At the bottom of the thread, I have shown a
picture of the actual bench and a couple of details.
It was a fun project, and I'm happy with the result. The base is built
of "premium white wood" studs, dressed and laminated three across.
Mortises were just cuts of the center board before gluing. The feet
and tops were joined to the legs with wedged tenons (my first
experience with them--man is that ever a solid joint!). The break-down
joint on the stretchers gave me an initial scare. I assembled the base
with the wedges pushed in by hand, then leveled it to make sure the
points of support for the top were coplanar. After putting the top
(~120lb) on, I was dismayed to find the bench very wobbly. However, a
strap clamp pulling the legs tight onto the stretchers followed by
solid mallet blows on the wedges gave me a very firm foundation. While
the base might not be as easy to break down as if it were bolted, I
think I can do it, possibly sacrificing the wedges.
I have a bunch of in-process photos, including some embarrassing
"whoops" moments, that I tell myself I will put up on a web page some
day, but thought I'd post a pointer to these images for anyone
Alex -- Replace "nospam" with "mail" to reply by email. Checked infrequently.
I do this every chance I get. Build a model, then build the model.
A workbench like that makes a great project..... wish I had more time.
Nice job. Does Xcad allow views in perspective? Flat views like that
bend my brain. *S*
If you're gonna have a tool tray you might add a sliding
"door" on one end of the bottom. Ramps make cleaning
out sawdust, chips and curlies easier but a whole to
push/sweep them in is even easier.
What's going to guide the tail vise? By enclosing it
you loose one of its functions - to hold a drawer for
planing dovetail pins and tails down flush and other
front holding functions. Having square dogholes
close to the front edge of the bench comes in handy
Using splines to align the core of the top to the
apron is a good idea. But I have a question about
how the left end of the front apron is to be
connected to the left end apron. Here's one
solution that uses mortise and tenons for
alignment and some lateral stability AND
a barrel nut and bolt wih a little tip for
positioning the barrel nut in the hole while
you try and thread the bolt into it
(bottom of the page)
I'm hoping that you have a piece of all
thread that goes through the front arm of
the shoulder vise, through the spacer between
the arm and the bench apron Without it
the force exterted against the front arm WILL
not be good on the half blind dovetail on the
apron end of the shoulder vise arm.
One of the features of a shoulder vise is that
the jaw can swivel on the end of the screw.
Comes in handy when holding something that
doesn't have parallel faces. How'd you get
your wooden screw version to do that?
Spme stick on UMHW strips on the "finger"
of the shoulder vise jaw will help prevent
it binding or sticking.
What's the thing on the front left end of
the left sled leg? If it's a leveler, why
How's the top attached/connected to the base
unit? Did you go with Frank Klausz's bullet
shaped big pegs in the top of the base and
a corresponding hole in the underside of the
Inquiring minds want to know.
Did I mention - nice work!
Charlie: Excellent points/questions. Thanks. I'll address them below/
keep that in mind, and look back at how the ramps have functioned for
that. So far, so good--just move the shop trash can under the end of
the bench, and push junk up the ramp. One think I like about the ramp
is that if you smother a hex key, nut, bolt, etc. with shavings, it
will tend to fall out of the shavings and back into the tray rather
than go through the trap door with the shavings. But that is pure
conjecture, not experience.
in the top. If you look at the exploded diagram, you can see that the
bottom half of the body is narrower than the top. It is the ledge
between these that rests on the pieces of wood in the slot. But right
now, it is more accurate to describe this as an adjustable rear dog
holder than a vise. One of my "well, duh, what did you expect?"
moments was noticing what happens if a vise screw pushes left, 2"
below the top, while a dog meets resistance at or slightly above the
top of the bench! I'm thinking I will put a piece on the bottom of the
vise body extending beyond it to ride against the underside of the
bench and prevent the vise body from rotating.
BTW, since the right endcap is glued at the front and back dovetails,
but floats against the rest of the body, I found an interesting
feature--a very firm blow with the heel of the hand on the front or
back of the bench at the endcap tightens or loosens the lateral
support of the vise carriage.
make in my ultimate bench.
the real think, I used doubled #20 biscuits (floating) spaced as close
together as I could. A compromise, but should keep it aligned. About
the only way I could see this weaker approach being a problem is if a
heavy soon-to-be-former friend were to jump up on the back corner to
sit down. Absent that, I think the biscuits should be plenty strong to
Our's look very similar--not that there is a lot of variance in the
way shoulder vises are constructed. One clarification--my front board
is not an apron, per se; the front 5 boards are all the same
dimensions. My "spacer block" for lack of a better term is attached to
the front board and the shoulder with tapered sliding dovetail, glued
for the 2" nearest the left end cap, and glued to the left end cap. So
that is part of the attachment of the front board to the left endcap.
I also glued the doubled biscuits there (only), and if I remember,
used two pairs of biscuits, spaced equal distances from the top and
I got a "been there, done that" chuckle from reading your account of
deciding to double your shoulder and end, and the implications of
doing so. In my case, I had already decided to double the shoulder and
had cut it to length, and cut the dovetail joint with the single
endcap. Then when I came in posession of another piece of properly
dimensioned and dressed lumber (remember the "shovetails you and I
corresponded privately about?), I decided that doubling the endcaps
made hef-blind dovetails easy in the back (cut through dovetail
sockets on the inside board before laminating). But since the tail
socket had been cut on the shoulder, I couldn't do a through dovetail.
So if you look closely at the model you will see that I have a weird
half-blind dovetail, where the "wrong half" is blind. But that's
okay--this big dovetail was my first, and while structurally tight,
was certainly no thing of beauty!
I'm hoping that the tapered sliding dovetail and areas that are glued
will prevent any problems in that regard. So far, cranking down as
hard as I generally want to gives me a visible opening between the
shoulder and spacer (maybe 1/64-1/32?). But my making it of wood
alone was a fun challenge that does not rise to the level of
obsession. All pieces were drilled with a 5/8" hole before assembly,
and that hole in the shoulder comes to within 1/2 to 3/4" of the front
surface. On the bottom of the shoulder I have a line scribed in line
with the center of that hole, and a note to myself that says "through
hole for threaded rod 2 7/16" above this line". So if I do start
getting too much play, I'll just get a forstner bit the size of the
washer I want to use, and drill at the appropriate point to complete
my through hole for a through-the bench rod a la Klausz. The hole on
the back side of the main body is already open to the tool tray.
At this point, both of my vises are "one-way" in the sense that the
screw closes but doesn't open the jaw. To open, I unscrew, the
manually move the jaw. I've thought a bit about how to attache the
jaws to the screws, but thought I'd go ahead and use it this way for a
while to see if I cared. Since the screw is not supporting the jaw
face, I suspect that the piece fitting between the spacer and the top
of the base is a little tighter than it would otherwise need to be.
But I still get enough swivel to hold things a little unparallel
vertically, and with significant angel horizontally. I guess I could
bevel the top and bottom of the tang if I found more swivel in that
dimension desirable. BTW, I have found that swiveling to be a
trade-off. My shoulder vise (and I suspect others) is not very good at
holding very narrow stock--if it is not wide enough to extend to a
point in line with the screw, the face starts rotating around the
bottom of the stock being held. Scrap the same thickness as the piece
being held solves this, but is not always readily available or
Because I don't care about level--only coplanar or equal support (not
rocking) Feet are 3/4" stock glued to the bottom of the sled, rather
than having the middle of the sled foot carved away. The left front is
about 1/2" thick. The visible part of the foot is a shell in which the
main 1/2" thick foot can move up or down as determined by the screw.
Thus this corner can be 1/4" shorter to 1/4" longer than the other
three corners, depending on the vagaries of my shop floor. I don't
expect to be moving it often. This screw is VERY tight in its
hole--thus the 1/2" hole for a convincer rod to turn it.
the base is the same size as the recess where the back slab is thinner
than the front 5 boards and the back board. This prevents front to
back movement. Intent is to glue stop blocks on the underside of the
bench at either side of the base top to prevent side to side movement,
which I expect with heavy planing, but have not yet experienced.
Alex -- Replace "nospam" with "mail" to reply by email. Checked infrequently.
Won't work. If you want to separate small metal objects from shavings
throw the whole mess into a bucket of water, stir well and gather the
shavings off the top. The metal parts are freshly washed at the bottom
of the bucket. (I did this recently when I dropped an open pack of
little brass nails into the heap of shavings on the floor, separating
them by wind (letting the stuff fall down on a windy day in the hope
that the nails fall ratehr straight into a bucket, while the shavings
get blown away worked very badly, many shavings clumped together and
got into the bucket, and and slakening of the wind meant also many
shaving with the nails, so one would have to use impractically many
passes.) didn's work)
On Sat, 01 Oct 2005 18:50:00 +0200, Juergen Hannappel
Thanks for the water bucket idea, I'll try to remember it next time I
dump a bunch of small metal objects in a pile of sawdust and shavings.
However, the wind idea could work if you use a shopvac, with the hose
connected to the "blow" hole rather than the vacuum of course. I used
mine successfully that way to separate wild blueberries my wife had
picked from the stems and leaves. Nevertheless, the water bucket is
probably faster and easier.
Replace "nonet" with "yukonomics" for real email address
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