In ancient times, the woodworker’s bench consisted of a plank or split log with four splayed legs. Descendants of those benches are manufactured today, usually with a top of hardwood slabs glued together. The norm nowadays is four straight legs supporting the bulk above, often with braces and a shelf below. Despite the improvements, the linkage to Greek and Roman antecedents is still evident.
In the "Getting Started with Woodworking" video, the holes through the 4x4's were drilled from the back. That is, they start on the side opposite the precisely-positioned mark, and drill through to hit it. If they can do this, more power to them, but I can't drill through 3-1/2" of wood to emerge at a precise mark without a drill press - and not always then.
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.
The top is supported by the top ends of the legs and the top sides of the top stretchers. Stand your legs on end on a flat surface (like my door) and see if they wobble. If you have an end that isn't quite stable, use it as a foot, where the leveler will make it's flaws unimportant. Check the top edge of each stretcher for straightness. If one has a bit of a bow, use it for a lower stretcher. It's less critical that the shelf be well supported along its length.
The bench I will be describing differs from both of these in a couple of areas, the most significant of which is the top. Allen's top was made from three layers of 3/4" medium density fiberboard (MDF), topped and edged with 1/4" hardboard. Christiana's top was just two layers of 3/4" MDF. My top is two layers of 3/4" MDF edged with 1/2" oak and topped by a 1-1/2" thick edge-glued oak Ikea countertop. My top is more expensive in both time and money than either Christiana's or Allen's. If you're looking to build something fast and cheap, I'd recommend Allen's approach over Christiana's. The hardboard significantly increases the durability of the top.
Of course, I, on the other hand, with my Ikea oak countertop, probable went overboard in the other direction. Since I needed to trim the countertop to width,I figured I'd take off a couple of 1/2" strips to use for edging the MDF. I clamped the countertop to my bench base, and used the long cutting guide. I'd asked around for advice on cutting this large a piece of oak, and was told to try a Freud Diablo 40-tooth blade in my circular saw. I found one at my local home center, at a reasonable price, and it worked very well.
Mine is similar but a bit more robust. The top is a sandwich, two 18mm sheets of WBP ply with an 18mm mdf filling. The legs are mortise and tenoned together, the ends glued and pegged, the stretchers are joined with long bolts so it comes apart. I stiffened it by adding a very closely fitted cabinet underneath (it had to go in dead square) and it is now absolutely rock solid.
Colour Integration – Brian Newell creates a dynamic relationship between light and dark. Often, when contrast is employed, the focus is about the difference, but here Newell’s focus is about integrating the light and dark. This is achieved by using dark wood (Macassar Ebony), which also contains the same hue as the light wood (Pear), and by creating dark areas on the light wood from the negative space of the pierced carving and the pulls. (Photo by Yoshiaki Kato)
Line is defined by two points and is long relative to its width; it can be thick, thin, vertical, diagonal, straight or curved. Lines are often used to define a space, draw attention to a particular area and guide the viewer's eyes around a piece. To critically examine line in your design, look at the relationship between the lines, including ones which may be created in the negative space. How do they align? Do they lead your eye around the piece or do they stop abruptly and create disorientation?
Big Book of Scroll Saw Woodworking. This book is jammed packed with scroll saw projects. Sixty projects to be exact. Topics include working with patterns, choosing materials, and blade selection. The projects are from many contributing experts on scroll saw woodworking. You’ll learn to make puzzles, boxes, toys, baskets, intarsia, portraits. Projects range from beginner to advanced.
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As simple as its elements are, the workbench is more than a tabletop with legs, a well, and a few holes. Virtually everything in the workshop comes to rest on the bench at some point, even if only between operations at other stations. Planning and layout, cutting and shaping, assembling and finishing–all can be, and often are, performed on the benchtop. The better the design, and the better suited its size and configuration to your labors, the more efficient a tool it will be.
Geometric shapes are made from straight or curved lines such as circles, squares and triangles. Their easy-to-recognize and often symmetrical patterns offer a sense of order, efficiency, strength, formality, but to some may be seen as uninteresting. Squares and rectangles are the predominant geometric shapes seen around us, not only in furniture, but in all areas of life. A circle has no beginning or ending, making it complete and inspiring thoughts of nature, perfection, unity, initiation and inclusion.
Woodworker’s Visual Handbook. This is a book for people like me, who can understand an idea faster if they see it than read about it. Woodworker’s Visual Handbook has more than 1,300 illustrations and 430 pages of advice that visually explain such issues as how to install smooth-sliding drawers in frame-and-panel cabinets, how to lay out a complicated project and cut the joints, and the pros and cons of working with more than 60 species of wood (a topic on which author Jon Arno was an expert). There’s even a section on furniture styles, another topic Jon knew well.
You may even want to put yourself in the picture. If your workshop space already exists, find a large piece of cardboard, wallboard, or plywood that’s about the size of the workbench top you envision. Find a couple of stools or chairs, perhaps a few books, and turn them into stanchions to support the “benchtop.” Is it too big for the space? Is it large enough for the tasks you envision will be performed upon it?
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Thanks Chris! I found this page while looking for a link to your e-mail address. I recently finished your erudite volumes on workbench design, and am about to embark on my own bench inspired by your take on the Holtzapffel design. As my vices and planer arrive, I’ve been agonizing over whether to use SYP or rough maple for the top. I don’t have a big budget, so all-maple is not an option. But after reading your ten tips here, I’ll stop agonizing — all SYP it is! This is, after all, my first of what I hope are at least several handmade benches. Your scholarship and craftsmanship are truly inspiring.
I clamped the top to the side of the base, as I had done before, so that the edge with the knot would be easy to work with. I mixed up some ordinary five-minute epoxy and added just a touch of black epoxy pigment. I applied this freely. After about twenty minutes I checked on it and found that in the deepest spot the void wasn't entirely filled, so I mixed up another batch and added more. After that had cured for a bit I eased the top to the floor and applied a coat of oil to the bottom side. I planned on attaching the base to the top the next day, and I wanted the bottom side oiled to keep it from absorbing moisture.
The wide variety of landmark furniture pieces, no matter the style, is what makes this book so visually stunning. That, and the fact that all of the 84 pieces that comprise the collection are beautifully photographed and a short description about each maker and piece is included. Many of the great makers from the last 100 years are covered – Sam Maloof, Wendell Castle, Tage Frid, George Nakashima – as well as many lesser known makers. If you read this book one hundred years from now, I’m sure it would be as thought provoking as it is today. These are 84 great pieces, and this is one great book.
Time for Geometric Shapes – Neil Moledzki Tribute clock is a reproduction of a clock made by James Krenov. The sweeping curves and the impression we get of the clock weighing down the stand produces an organic and even animated feel to the piece. It should be noted that something that has an organic feel is not the same as having an organic shape. If we break the parts down on the clock, we can see it is made entirely of geometric shapes.
Building a bookcase or bookshelf is a fairly simple woodworking plan that you can get done in just a day or two. This is also a low-cost project as well and since the project idea is free, you don't have to worry about busting through your budget. Just follow the simple steps in the tutorial and enjoy your own company building a simple bookcase on this weekend.
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A couple nice qualities about this bench include the weight and vice capacities. The weight capacity of this bench is 330 pounds which is decent, though it will not wow you too much. The vice, on the other hand, provides a 7” capacity which is tied for the most on our list. That said, there is only a single vice, and it is not able to be repositioned. This can make things a bit frustrating for lefties as it is a right-handed configuration.