My last project (Maple cutting board) has determined what my next
project will be - a workbench. The weight and clamping abilities of a
'real' workbench should make working on future projects more enjoyable
and less frustrating.
Here is what I am planning and would appreciate any advice.
The base will be constructed much like the bench in the Nov. '05 issue
I will be using PT-SYP because it is heavy and I have it.
The top will be a 1" Oak butcher-block table ($40 at second hand
store) on top of two layers of MDF. I think I will attach it this
Drill slightly oversize holes in one sheet of MDF then screw that
piece to the Oak using Liquid Nails as glue since the Liquid Nails
stays flexible. I will countersink the holes between the two panels
so the material displaced by the screws won't push the panels apart.
Drill holes in the second sheet of MDF and screw to the first, again
with countersinks on the backside. Wrap the top with Maple.
The front vise will be made using this hardware from Grizzly with the
inside jaw being the apron and the outside jaw being 3 layers of 3/4
The tail vise will be made using this hardware from Lee Valley and
will probably be similar to the Nyquist style vise made out of Maple.
The finished top will be 30x60 with no tool tray and 3/4 dog holes and
36" off of the floor. The 36" is higher than my TS but maybe that
will motivate me to build this.
I don't have a good feeling about this part. You can expect seasonal change
in width of a 30" wide oak to to be on the order of 1/4". The MDF should
stay fairly consistent. I don't think liquid nails is going to allow a layer
of the sandwich slide like that.
I think your top needs to be all solids or all sheet goods.
I don't know what a Nyquist vise is, but the rest of the design seems
doable. If you have not read it yet, get a copy of "the workbench book" by
Landis. It's about $20 and worth every penny. The Landis book explores all
sorts of benches: Euro-traditional, Japanese, plywood ...even a chapter on
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I'm concerned about that as well, what about this approach
Screw and glue it down tight along the center
Elongate the holes and screw with no glue going out towards either
Glue the frame only to the top Oak layer
Put a return on the frame so it wraps under the bottom layer of MDF
Going at it this way and using the 1/4" you metion would cut the
movement in half and make it a max of 1/8" over 15"
A Nyquist vise is similar in shape to this
except the part at the end of the bench closes at the same time as the
part on the front of the bench. The front part is also solid not a
box like a tail vise that uses this hardware.
The vise is detailed in "The Workbench" by Lon Schleining
About 28 years ago I built a unique workbench because I didn't like benches
against a wall, nor what most people considered a bench, particularly long
narrow benches. I still use this bench regularly.
The bench is 48" square, made of 3/4" fir plywood with two cupboards and 6
drawers in the base along with 4 electrical outlets. The top is made of two
layers of 3/4 firply with 1/4 birch ply topper as a work layer. Loaded it
weighs about 300 pounds and is solid as a truck. If I have to move, it can
be broken down to a number of pieces that will pass through a regular
doorway. This I have done once.
My question is: why two layers of MDF? You know that that stuff is twice
as heavy as plywood and it tends to take a "set" over time.
I'd be inclined to make a torsion box for under the butcher block top. To
do that, make a frame using some very straight 1X2 or 1X3 stock (poplar
should work well). Be sure to add cross members approx every 20". Glue,
screw and clamp the frame securely to a known flat surface (table saw?)
while it dries. Use 1/2" or 5/8" ply for the top and bottom glued, screwed
and clamped to the poplar frame and the known flat surface.
The torsion box should be MUCH lighter and stronger than MDF and, if
assembled correctly, should remain flatter for a long period of time.
I want to thicken up the top with something that will give the bench a
lot of mass, I want this bench to be HEAVY. I was attempting to plane
a panel that was clamped to the solid blockboard door that is the
outfeed for the contractor saw and was easily pushing the the TS
Maybe the bench needs drawers filled with tools to weight it down...
> I want to thicken up the top with something that will give the bench a
> lot of mass, I want this bench to be HEAVY.
Then don't screw around.
Laminate some 1x3 nominal maple on edge with epoxy and 3/8-16 all
thread and fender washers for internal take ups.
Don't even give TiteBond a thought. It is not in the same league with
When finished, head to the top shop and run it thru the drum sander
just enough to get flat surfaces.
It will be a heavy sucker, make sure your vehicle springs are up to
I have one of these waiting to be cut to size and fitted on the boat
Why use pressure treated lumber? Sawdust in the shop
is enough of a challenge. Pressure treated lumber saw
dust just doesn't seem like a necessary evil.
That oak top will want to expand and contract acrossed the
grain - even if it's all quarter sawn. If you screw MDF to it
the wood movement will either tear up the MDF or cause
the top of your bench to ripple - neither being desirable.
If you're going to use screws into the oak, ovalize the holes
in the MDF to allow for some movement. That'll require
pan head screws - the bottom of the head being flat instead
Having the inside jaw of the vise flush with the apron of the
bench is a good idea. Usnig the apron of the bench as a jaw
isn't - unless you're apron is going to be 4-6 inches tall.
As for the dimensions of the top - 30" is a bit wide. Most
things you'll make probably will have one dimension that's
24" or less. A five foot long bench on the other hand seems
a little short, especially if you want to make a book case.
On the other hand - an 8 foot long bench is a PITA to walk
around in a shop with little unused floor space.
Regarding the height of the bench - what kind of woodworking
are you doing now or are planning on doing? If the bench is
for mainly hand tool work you want to have the top lower
so you can use your body weight to help the tool. General
rule of thumb is to stand up straight, put your hands at
your side, bend your wrist so your palms are down and parallel
to the ground. That palm height is what to shoot for - plus
or minus and inch.
A workbench is a tool to help you work wood. It's a pounding,
chopping base, a giant, versatile clamp, and maybe an
assembly bench. Understanding what it can do and how those
capabilities meet your woodworking needs is worth the
time to research the options. Ideally, you only want to build
only ONE real woodworkers bench so think it through before
deciding on details - or vise hardware.
Here are two sites worth going through.
And if you want to go through how the one I built
came to be, in more detail than you probably want
to slog through
Wow Charlie! NICE bench. I have a question about the shoulder vise
though. I thought the rod would go all the way through to the other
side of the bench, if I read correctly yours only goes through the
apron. Couldn't an overbearing woodworker use the leverage of the
vise to break off the shoulder?
Also how about the levelers? They didn't seem very substantial.
As for the bench I am building you raise good points and ask some
questions I can't answer yet. I'm a Newbie-Normite who is still
learning how to sharpen an iron and just bought some scrapers. I
don't have the PC 4212 yet or a decent back saw so have yet to cut a
dovetail. My next project could be a Cherry chest of drawers or
rescreening the patio door.
36" is a little high but I'm 6' and almost always have boots on in the
garage and the 34" of the TS always feels a little low to me.
I don't expect this to be the last bench I build, I see it as more of
an test/experiment to see what works and what doesn't.
Thanks. It was a very interesting project. I still can't
believe I made it. Must've been channeling a much better
woodworker already in The Big Shop In The Sky.
Well the big dovetail on the end of the shoulder vise arm deal with
some of that force. The AllThread that goes through the apron
has a 1" flat washer between the stretcher and the nut. If you
know someone who can pull it through about 1 1/4" of birch (or
it might be beech - World Wrestling Entertainment is looking for
him). Besides, the shoulder vise only needs to hold up a long
board on edge so you can plane it. That doesn't require honking
things down enough to stress the arm joint much.
But on the subject of the shoulder vise - I wish I'd cut the screw
down two or three inches. Stupid me - I went for max jaw opening
- even though I'll never actually need that capacity. That shoulder
sticks out a lot more than needed. Will be easy enough to fix since
neither the arm or the spacer block are glued. When it irritates
me enough I'll get around to it.
9/16th diameter with a 3" diameter foot - with 80 grit sand paper
cemented to the bottom of each foot - I think each can support\
over 300 pounds. That's not substantial enough?
The hand tools will come - all in good time.
Re: adding weight to the bench, if you turn the bench legs into
big torsion boxes by skinning both sides with ply, you can put
lead shot (or old lead tire balancing weights if you know anyone
at a tire shop) between the skins and add a hundred pounds or
more to each end. If you go the lead shot route, be aware that
they have to be put in while the "box" is laying down. Add the
shot with the legs/torsion box on the floor about where you
want them to be when the bench is done. Lots easier to tilt
the weight up rather than having to lift it up AND then put
it down - gently.
So 36" would probably work out fine for you. There's the potential
conflict with the table saw's outfeed wood alley. Maybe it's time
to build a torsion box to get it up where it's more comfortable
Everyone can always use an assembly bench so version one won't
become an orphan. My first bench was doubled up, glued and screwed
1 1/8" ply - 4x7 - without the 2x4 apron. Nice big flat surface.
Too wide though - 4' Clamp "N Guides wouldn't span that width. Had
to notch the apron to accomodate them.
The ironic thing about a woodworking work bench is that you almost
need to already have a woodworking bench in order to build one.
Enjoy gathering info, working out what will meet your needs and
building your bench. Life's easier with a decent bench.
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