I wanted the left edge of the jaw of the front vise to be flush with the left edge of the top, the right edge with the left edge of the left front leg. So the amount of overhang on the left depends upon the width of the front vise jaw. The width of the jaw is, at a minimum, the width of the plate that supports it, but it's normal to make the jaw extend a bit beyond the plate. How far? The more it extends, the deeper a bite you can take with the edge of the vise, when, for example, you are clamping the side of a board being held vertically. But the more it extends, the less support it has. I decided to extend by 1-12", which gives me a 2-1/2" bite, and which should still provide solid support, given that the jaw is 1-1/2" thick. This means the top needs a left overhang of 12-1/4".
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My first attempt at making a cutting guide didn't work. What I ended up with worked fine for cutting panels, but the guide-strip was too narrow, and when the saw was extended fully for rough-cutting the 4x4's the clamp heads got in the way. So I made another. Actually, I made two more, so that I could cut one into shorter pieces that would be easier to handle.
For one, the bench itself is a good size. While its width as a tad short at just over 1 ½’, the length is a great 5’ long. Even better, this bench is made out of birch wood. Birchwood is similar to beech in that it is strong but soft enough to prevent inadvertent dulling of your tools. However, birch has a bit of an advantage over beech in that it is not a porous which makes staining on the Windsor Design a more worry-free affair.
My bench is MY BENCH. In other words, it’s a thing of evolutionary beauty. I built the top 10 years before deciding on and designing the base. I spared no absurdity. It is supremely stout and the much maligned drawers are accessible from either side. The larger drawers have dust lids and can be extended to provide support for large workpieces or as a step for climbing on top of the bench. The top alone weighs more than most Roubos. So NYAH! Did I mention that I designed it to fit in with the Arts & Crafts vernacular? Who said you can’t build your bench to be furniture? Beautiful as well as useful shop furniture? Just sayin…
You are absolutely right on your advise. When I was agonizing over how to build a workbench my good friend turned me on to your book on workbenches. I was planning on having an overhang until I read your advise about building a workbench and not a table. So the entire front and rear surfaces; top, legs and bottom shelf are all in the same plane to clamp my work to. The addition of a sliding dead man was also something that I would have never thought of on my own. Thanks again for your advise.
When the holes were complete, I flipped the legs and drilled the countersinks with a 1" Forstner bit. Trying to drill a countersink when the center was already drilled would be impossible with a spade bit or an auger, but Forstner bits are guided by their edges, not their center, so they can handle this job. On thing about Forstners, though -- they have a tendency to skitter around a bit when starting, before they bite. An easy fix for this is to drill a hole through a piece of ply, and to clamp that to your work, creating a jig that will prevent the bit from drilling in the wrong spot.
So drill the benchdog holes through the MDF layer. Begin by laying out their positions. You'll want these to be precise, so that the distances between the holes are consistent. The vises you are using will constrain your benchdog spacing. My front vise worked most naturally with two rows of holes four inches apart, my end vise with two pairs of rows, with four inches between the rows and eight inches between the pairs. Because of this, I decided on a 4" by 4" pattern.
Of course, few benches can be ideal, and this one does have some drawbacks. That being said, most of the disadvantages of this bench are minor annoyances rather than deal breakers. For instance, this bench does not include any kind of storage whatsoever. Though, it does have the option of adding numerous additional features like a storage area. Still, for the bench, you would expect a drawer at the very least, maybe a shelf below the main table area.
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