Building a woodworking bench

Anybody got any pointers to designs for woodworking benches?
I'm sketching-out some ideas for a woodworking bench top to fit on an existing sturdy metal frame. The top's going to be 1500x660 (overhanging slightly at each end), a tool well at the back, a quick release vice set on the front and a standard vice on the end. Probably also a removable panel to drop-in a router. Buying/laminating loads of Beech strips seems like too much work and expense so I'm thinking of laminating 3 layers of 18mm ply (or maybe MDF) and edging it with some 30mm wide Beech. There'll be a sacrificial layer of 6mm MDF on the top that will get changed when necessary. Does this sound sensible? Any suggestions for stockists of thicker ply? or HDF, or Beech kitchen worktops at a sensible price?
Dave (I'll post this in rec.woodworking too)
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Sound a very good plan. You don't say what sort of work you plan to do on it. I'd make doubly sure there's lots of weight and stiffness so it can't rock if I'm sawing.
Prepping it for bench dogs/hold-downs and racks for clamps/sash cramps might be nice if you use them:
http://www.axminster.co.uk/category-Bench-Dogs-and-Bench-Fittings-208051.htm
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Axminster's square dogs are good, but they're 11 quid a pair and they'll bite a plane iron if you're ever careless. Maple and a wooden holding spring is much cheaper, lighter to drop on your foot and safer for your tools.
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Veritas ones are nicer....
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Heretic! Behold the Unbeliever and his Round-Doggist heresies!!
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Ah well.....
I do agree with you about the Landis and the Tolpin books.
Generally, I've found most of the Taunton publications of high standard.
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Andy Dingley wrote:

I was thinking of drilling 18mm'ish holes when/where I need them, making them blind with a plate underneath, and then using hardwood pegs. Alternatively, boring larger circular holes (maybe 50-60mm) and fitting hardwood inserts which would carry a hardwood square dog. I guess a spring can be easily fitted to the square dog with a piece of ply, how do people put springs on circular dogs?
Dave
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It really depends on what you are planning to use the bench to do. If you need a surface that will remain flat and stable and stand up to punishment, then it needs to be solid and substantial.
There are some quite reasonable ideas at plansnow,com
If you take a look at their Heavy Duty Workbench it is made in roughly the way you are suggesting for the surface. The key to the method (or any other bench) is having a sturdy frame underneath the surface to support the top.
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Andy Hall wrote:

Thanks for the pointer, that's an interesting site. One of the pictures reminded me about chisel slots at the back so probably saved me much gnashing and wailing when I finally remembered, but after I've built it!
Dave
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wrote:

The Scott Landis workbench book from Taunton <(Amazon.com product link shortened)> Don't even think about a bench until you've read this.
It's well worth buying all three (benches, toolboxes, workshops) and they even do a cheaper box set <(Amazon.com product link shortened)> Otherwise look on eBay (there's a scrum) or most local libraries should be able to get hold of it..
Jim Tolpin has also done a workbench book that should be worth the look.
My own bench <http://codesmiths.com/shed/workshop/bench.htm is the Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking design (stretched a bit) from his 3rd book, a Scandinavian pattern. Not as good a book as his first volumes (another essential woodworking book) but it's a good bench design and worth buying the book for that alone, if you use it. I'd suggest trying to borrow and read it though.
If I made another bench though, it would probably be the Frank Klausz mainland European design (described briefly in Landis). It's a lot like Frid's, but the shoulder vice design is a bit more useful for timber boards rather than half-constructed carcases.
Any other bench I made would have to have some sort of moving dogs in the top surface (like Frid's tail vice). These are much more useful for joinery than any iron vice I've ever had.

No such animal, if by woodworking you mean handwork, planing and chiselling. Steel is strong, but it doesn't have the inertia, damping and stiffness of a good wooden frame. Under rhythmic loads it'll sway back and forth beneath you. Even if you weld stiffeners all over it, it's still an annoyance. As a minimum, I'd use a solid sheet back, then weld angle sections across that to stiffen it.

Big enough to catch things rolling, but no bigger.

I've no use for an iron tail vice whatsoever. Tail vices aren't there as vices, they're either there as front-edge notch vices (useful) or as a moving member to work moving dogs (incredibly useful). Wooden tail vices aren't to be used as vices on the end of the bench (you'll strain them) and the whole idea of a "tail-mounted vice" is a red herring that has grown up around them.

Damned annoying to work around. Router tables are easy - make a simple top and stick it on a cheapWorkmutt frame. <http://codesmiths.com/shed/workshop/techniques/router_table/

Bit soft too, IMHO. Use oak or maple, if you're going to that much trouble. Mine's 12" wide cabinet-grade oak ripped down into 2" strips and re-jointed, just because we had nowhere to store the stuff any longer and it was time to use it for a benchtop or firewood! OTOH, you only need one good face, so you can save money on skankier boards than "best" and it shoudn't cost an impossible amount.

2 x 19mm baltic birch plies and a 4mm MDF top is traditional and works well. Wax the MDF well, stick it down with DS tape and replace every half-decade.
--
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Andy Dingley wrote:

Thanks, I'll look for it.
... snipped

This looks good (never seen double dovetails before).
... snipped

My plan is simply to put dog holes in the hardwood facings of the end vice - these can then be used to clamp boards against dogs in the bench - what's the advantage of moving dogs in the top surface?

This is heavy "U" section with (eventually) diagonal braces, but I take the suggestion about the solid back.

... snipped

With dog-holed wooden facings it will be useful for holding boards

There will be an insert plug fitted when the router isn't needed so the bench top will be flat, the big router will spend lots of its time in the Woodrat anyway. Are you just thinking about strength? The hole won't be bigger than it needs to be for a 1/2" router and will have stepped edges and a reinforcing brace underneath - so I don't think it'll be a problem.
... snipped

I can just get the 3 layers out of a single sheet - and size matters - so I may as well go for the 3x18 (less offcuts to store).
I hadn't thought about waxing the MDF - why wax rather than oil or PU? (and which wax?)
Many thanks. Dave
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One of the things I don't like about my bench is that it only has the usual single row of dog holes. A second set about 6" further back would be wonderful for clamping wider and non-square pieces against loads that are offset from the dog-line. Certainly dogs don't want to be too close to the front edge, or every planing load is trying to skew the workpiece sideways.
There's a lot to be said for the Veritas round-hole Wonder-dogs with their built-in clamp screws. I would favour square dogs over round for use in a moving vice, but those adjustable ones in a piece of thick ply with holes in are great for clamping awkward glue-ups.

It's a dog-carrier though, not a vice as such. Look at the iron screw kits (Axminster and Veritas) and see if they can give you something better.
It's also important to have adjustable dog spacings. A row of holes a few inches apart gives you coarse adjustment and a bigger range than the screw thread alone. A single dog in a vice facing doesn't have this - you rely on the other dog moving and you're always going to be working right on the end of the bench. I have over a foot or so of dog holes on my front moving jaw. I've even considered putting an asymmetrically placed dog hole in (3" and 5" apart rather than all at 4") just to get some rapid change in spacing without having to screw the vice in and out all the time.

I don't believe in convertible benches. They're always full of router when you want to plane on them, or full of crap when you want to rout.

You need something glue-resistant, especially on MDF as it otherwise tends to delaminate when you pick glue splashes off it. I've never had much luck soaking oil into MDF but wax and a hairdrier (just the cooking Liberon Black Bison) seems to do it. I also wax all my MDF jigs to keep the damp out.
Even better might be to make it from self-coloured MDF like Valchromat. More resinous, harder surface, better damp and glue resistance.
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|!Anybody got any pointers to designs for woodworking benches? |! |!I'm sketching-out some ideas for a woodworking bench top to fit on an |!existing sturdy metal frame. The top's going to be 1500x660 (overhanging |!slightly at each end), a tool well at the back, a quick release vice set |!on the front and a standard vice on the end. Probably also a removable |!panel to drop-in a router. |!Buying/laminating loads of Beech strips seems like too much work and |!expense so I'm thinking of laminating 3 layers of 18mm ply (or maybe |!MDF) and edging it with some 30mm wide Beech. There'll be a sacrificial |!layer of 6mm MDF on the top that will get changed when necessary. Does |!this sound sensible? |!Any suggestions for stockists of thicker ply? or HDF, or Beech kitchen |!worktops at a sensible price? |! |!Dave |!(I'll post this in rec.woodworking too)
I bought a B&Q softwood bench at about GBP35, and assembled it with *glue* and the screws supplied. I then *glued* and screwed plywood to the back and sides, and added plywood doors on the front. I also improved and strengthened the top. It is now extremely strong, and works well, for woodworking and metalworking.
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