On 31 Mar 2005 17:54:17 -0800, "Never Enough Money"
Why not do both? This the question I ended up asking myself when I
started mine a couple months ago. I read somewhere someone saying how
the first 8 inches of the bench took most of the wear. So why not
make the first 8 inches solid hardwood, and the rest something
cheaper. I went with 3 layers of MDF, with the top layer being
Obviously you need to construct the understructure with this in mind.
The two parts need to be independent of each other, such that when you
resurface the hardwood part you can shim it back up level with the
rest of the surface. And when it comes time to resurface, you can
just run it through the planer and you're done. Also a few years down
the road you can always replace the rest with hardwood when money
But more directly answering, I think 4 layers is overkill. My 3
layers of MDF over a 2x4 (on its face) frame is dead solid, but I'm
only spanning about 2 feet. One half of the base is a cabinet, the
other half is open shelves. In dealing with either ply or MDF you
need to provide a base that you can get flat. To me a poor man's
bench should always have some sort of storage under it, cuz a poor man
doesn't have room to waste.
Here's the progress so far:
You'll note that I don't have enough clamps, but the drill press
wasn't bolted down ;) Finally found a job a Ryobi was good at.
I've actually gotten a little further than that. There's plywood on
the end and the drawer is in. I've been using it like this for about
a month and so far the melamine has held up well. My intention is to
do the really nasty stuff on the plywood at the end, the hardwood for
most everything else, and the melamine for assembly. The way I have
it doesn't allow for a front vise, but you could certainly design it
to. There will just be a tail vise, but I haven't decided whether to
use a real tail vise or a front vise as a tail vise. It would have to
be a really small front vise to work.
All told I have about $120 in it including the oak for the top.
On 1 Apr 2005 06:08:44 -0800, "Never Enough Money"
I started talking about this in my original reply to you. I'm not
entirely sure and it's getting to be time where I have to make a
I had originally intended to have the cabinet and shelves on opposite
sides from where they ended up. This would have allowed for a front
vise in the normal position, at the left. But because the bench is up
against a wall at the left I thought a vise there didn't make much
sense, and that it made more sense to have the cabinet side there.
So really my only option now is a tail vise. The question is just
whether to use a real tail vise - I would use the kind with the metal
guides, the traditional way is just too complicated - or use a face
vise as the tail vise. I am leaning toward using a face vise since I
figure it would be a bit more flexible, which is important given that
it will be my only vise. But it will have to be a really small face
vise, 6-7" wide at the most so then I think maybe it won't be that
much more versatile than a true tail vise, and a true tail vise is
better at specific tasks.
So pretty much I keep going round in circles on it. The cost is about
the same either way. I've never even had a decent vise before. So in
a way I'm lucky that whatever I decide I won't know what I'm missing
from whatever I gave up ;) Heck I could even not have a vise at all
and still be happy.
Btw, Ray is my dad. Haven't quite turned into him yet ;)
Have you thought about a leg vise, oriented to be a tail vise (or
maybe even two, one in each direction on the same leg)? Strong,
flexible, relatively easy and inexpensive to build (I've seen a good
example with a common pipe clamp used as the screw).
See http://www.terraclavis.com/bws/benches.htm (scroll down a couple
of screens) for a good discussion of vise alternatives.
Nice bench in progress!
Alex -- Replace "nospam" with "mail" to reply by email. Checked infrequently.
The thing I don't like about the idea of a leg vise is it seems like
there isn't very much it can do that can't be done just by clamping to
the skirt of the top. Never having used one maybe I'm just not
getting it. Using one as a tail vise is a pretty nifty thought
though. Would there be issues as far as holding a bench dog though
because of the changing angle? And on my bench the leg is pretty far
from that end, I'd have to add another post to make it work I think.
If I used a face vise as the end vise then I could still add a leg
vise on that corner as a front vise. That's something to think about,
and something I could add later without having to plan for it now.
Haven't give tha much thought. In the case of Baltic Birch, I'd
probably just sand it flatter but it wouldn't be perfect. In the case
of building my own maple slab, I'd plane sections before gluing
sections together, then I'd use a joiner hand plane if there was any
unflatness left after the sections were all glued up.
Or I could just buy a maple slab and plane it a little, if needed......
Depends what you're doing on it. It's nowhere near as good for heavy
chiselling, but for most woodworking then 2 plies
of 3/4" is generally considered adequate (with a good perimeter frame).
Put a layer of 4mm MDF over the top too, glued down lightly in spots. Then wax
it it. Every decade, replace the MDF.
I opted for a "traditional" type tail vice only with the metal sides.
Installing it wasn't real easy, but I'd bet it was easier than the vice
without the slides. Now I can put a board between the dogs, give the vice
1/4 turn and can pick my benchtop up with the board i just clamped in there,
so it holds VERY well. I bought the larger imported one from woodcraft, (1
1/4" screw i believe) Installation took some trial and error, but if you
get a similiar one, I'd be happy to help out with installation questions,
(as they are not provided with the vice) so you don't make the same mistakes
I did at first. I even have the pieces left from the first attempt in the
shop with the *right* measurements on it! For my front vice, I went with the
Emmert patternmakers knockoff sold at woodcraft. It's a big heavy SOB, just
what i wanted for the front and I've been quite pleased with it also. It
got recessed into the front of the benchtop so the front of the rear jaw is
just slightly proud of the front of the bench. FWIW, my bench is 2 1/2"
solid burr oak, and it's PLENTY strong enough to beat on all day long, and
I' guessing 4 layers of ply may be overkill. --dave
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