I’ve built workbenches with more than 100 students. In every class, there’s one guy who wants to put a vise on every corner of the bench. Not because it’s a partner’s bench for two people. Just because he wants it that way. While I support your freedom to choose, I also don’t want to spend two weeks installing complex tail-vise hardware on your bench when we could be building furniture instead.
Before joining the top to the base, loosen the bolts and screws on the lower stretchers to create a little play in the leg posts. Align the top notches with the leg posts and tap the top into place with a hammer and piece of scrap wood, working evenly around the table until all leg posts are level with the tabletop. Tighten the lower stretchers and you’re done. A hefty thanks to Doug Merrill for this weighty idea.
You can bookend my 30 years of woodworking with two volumes. Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Shop: A Practical Guide to Traditional Woodcraft” (U of North Carolina P) marks the beginning. Today, Steven W. Semes’ “The Architecture of the Classical Interior” (Norton) makes sense of all the conflicting mishmash of “design speak” tossed about. Hope I have another 30 years in me so the Semes book will someday be a midway milepost in a long, rewarding journey.
Penland School of Crafts has been operating in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains for over 75 years. This book details how ten instructors – all experts in their fields – make some of the furniture for which they are best known. Each instructor is vastly different from the next, and the tips they detail are highly innovative yet understandable and useful to the amateur woodworker. The director of the school, Jean McLaughlin, says the aim of the book is threefold. “To give the reader insight into the creative and technical processes of leading woodworkers, to provide detailed, intermediate-level technical information, and to showcase a range of approaches to the material.” The book excels on all three levels. Even when Istrongly disliked the style of furniture being discussed, revelled in the unique approach the maker took to break new ground to complete the finished piece. If you would like to see how one-of-a-kind pieces of studio furniture are made, and start to add some new techniques to your arsenal, either take a trip to North Carolina or pick up this book.
Having done all this, I'm not sure I'd do it this way again. It might well be faster to layout the positions with compass and straightedge directly onto the top. Either way, you'll want to use a scribe rather than a pencil. Scribe lines are hard to see, and impossible to photograph, but the scribe and compass points click into them, allowing a precision that pencils simply cannot match.
The jaw for the front vise needed to be 10" long - to span the distance from the leg to the end of the top, 1-1/2" thick - to allow for benchdog holes to be drilled in it, and 5" tall. The end vise was mounted 3/4" lower than the front vise, and the screw and guide rods were thicker, so its jaws needed to be at least 6-1/2" tall. Again, they needed to be 1-1/2" thick to allow for benchdog holes, and 23" long to span the width of the bench.
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Comprehensive is the only word to describe this three-book set on joinery, shaping wood and furniture and cabinet construction. The three authors answer questions you didn’t even know you had. They also do it in a clear, concise and visually pleasing way. Even beginning to list the topics covered would be futile. Safe to say, if you want to learn about something that would fit under these three headings, this set will steer you in the right direction. Each book starts out with the basics and builds on that information, finishing off with quite advanced techniques.
Remove the jaws and route the edges that you could not route while they were still attached. Then use a roundover bit on all of the corners except the inner edge of the inner jaw of the end vise. Give everything a lite sanding, and apply Danish oil to the inner surfaces of the jaws. (By "inner surfaces", I mean those surfaces that will not be accessible when the vises are assembled - the inner surface of the inner jaw, that bolts to the bench, and the outer surfaces of the outer jaws, that bolt to the vise plates.)
If the holes of the first jaw are in the proper position, drill holes in the same locations on the other jaw. I lined the drilled jaw on top of the undrilled jaw, clamped things down, and then drilled about 1/4" into the undrilled jaw, to mark the location. Then I removed the drilled jaw and drilled out the marked locations the same way I did the first.
The last thing is to semi-permanently attach the bolts for the vises. Given the amount of work necessary to get to the bolt heads, once the top is joined, I had intended to tighten them up so they wouldn't spin, and lock them that way with blue Loctite. (That's the strongest non-permanent grade.) That didn't work. What I found was that the bottoms of the countersinks weren't quite flat, and when I tightened the nuts down that far, the ends of the bolts would be pulled far enough out of alignment that the vise bases would no longer fit. In order for the vises to fit over the bolts, I had to leave the nuts loose enough that the bolts had a bit of wiggle - which meant that they were almost loose enough for the bolts to spin. So I put Loctite on the nuts, to keep them from unscrewing, and filled the countersinks with Liquid Nails, in hopes of keeping the bolts from spinning. I considered using epoxy, or a metal-epoxy mix like JB Weld, but I didn't have enough of either on hand. It seems to be working for now, though the real test won't be until I have to take the vises off.
One aspect of the Windsor Design that is hit or miss is the vice. Notice we have to use the singular when describing it because this is the first workbench that we have reviewed which features only one vice. To make matters more frustrating, the vice cannot be repositioned along the bench. That said, the vice does at least have the largest capacity out of any we reviewed. At 7” capacity, the Windsor Design vice can secure any size workpiece you may have.