Ok, I’ve had my morning coffee and now it’s about time to get out to the shop to see what I can do to make that bench a little more pleasing to my eye. I like that Craftsman flair idea. That was my intent at the time I built it, too bad I got lazy and rushed the job. It’s not like I was going to make hundreds of benches for someone else and would never see it again. I should have taken the time to make it the way I wanted it to look. This could keep me entertained for awhile. I see major surgery in the forecast! Gotta plan it all out just right.
My advice? Don't do this. If you have jointer and a planer, use them. If you don't, seriously consider using dimensional lumber that has already been planed and sanded. If you are going to try to clean up construction lumber by hand, using a hand plane is a lot faster and more pleasant than using a belt sander. Except, of course, that to do a good job of planing a board you need a solid bench to hold the board, and you don't have a bench, yet.
Thanks! Great information. As an advanced novice worker, I finally decided to build my first bench a couple years ago. After reading several of your blogs knowing full well mortised dove tale leg joinery is yet beyond my capability, I elected to build Robert Lang’s “21st Century Workbench”. I also chose his VERITAS Twin Screw Vise in the face vise position. Used an old Craftsman face vise in the tail vise position. Constructed of laminated 9/4 x 31/2″ Pecan and 60″ long because of my small crowed shop. Super happy to this point. As I mature in woodworking I may live to construct one of a different choice at a latter date, but I’m 73 so we’ll see. Thanks again for the advise.
Applying the oil is easy. Put on some vinyl gloves, pour some oil in a bowl, take a piece of clean cotton cloth the size of washcloth or smaller, dip it in the oil, and apply it to the wood. You want the wood to be wet., you're not trying to rub it in until it's dry. Apply oil to the entire surface, and then go over it looking for dry spots, applying more oil as needed. After fifteen minutes of keeping it wet, let it sit for another fifteen minutes. Then apply another coat of oil, and let it sit for another fifteen minutes.
Being a lover of Japanese design and tools, I’m embarrassed to say I only picked this book up in the last year. I was anticipating a straightforward, almost encyclopaedic, approach documenting the history and use of most Japanese woodworking tools. I got that, but also so much more. The stories Odate tells of his youth and apprenticeship are truly jaw-dropping, and reveal as much about working wood in Japan as what life in a fascinating and secluded Pacific country was like when he was young. I was five minutes into this book, and I guess I had an astonished look on my face, when my wife politely asked how I was enjoying the book. I looked up in bewilderment, paused for about five seconds, and said “It would take me an hour to explain what I’ve learned in the last five minutes,” and went on reading. Even though this book has been around for decades, it’s worth reading today.
I know, if you had a workbench, you wouldn't be building a workbench. Even so, you'll need some sort of work surface, even if it isn't as stable or capable as a proper bench. The traditional solution is to throw a hollow-core door over a couple of saw horses. The advantage of hollow core doors is that they're flat, stiff, and cheap. I used a folding table and a hollow core door I had bought for a future project.
Workbenches have flat tops, though sometimes at the rear there is a cavity called a tool well that contains tools and components (and prevents them from falling off). One advantage of having the well set into the top of the bench is that, even with a variety of objects in the well, a large sheet of material can still be laid flat over the entire surface of the bench; the contents of the tool well offer no interference.
“The Wheelwright’s Shop” by George Sturt (Cambridge UP). Here is the real deal. At the turn of the 19th century, a guy comes back from college when his father falls ill and can no longer manage the old family wheelwright business alone. He realizes that he has stepped into a vanishing world of “kindly feeling” when the “grain in the wood told secrets to men.” Thanks to Sturt, the old English way with wood is still alive in the pages of this remarkable book.
If you're using drywall screws, you'll want to countersink the holes. Drywall screws are flat-head, and need a countersink to seat solidly. If you're using Kreg pocket screws, the way I did, you won't want to counter-sink the holes. Kreg screws are pan-head, and seat just fine against a flat surface. Both drywall screws and Kreg pocket screws are self-threading, so you don't need pilot holes in the second sheet of MDF.
For the router you'll need a a 3/8" straight bit, an edge guide, 1/4"- and 1/8"-radius roundover bits, and a flush-trim bit with at least a 1-1/2" cutting length. Bits of this size are available only for a 1/2" collet. Some routers are capable of using multiple collet sizes. I was fool enough to buy a router that only had a 1/4" collet. More on that, later.
I really like this. I've been busy designing my own workbench to replace the ropey old thing I currently use. You've made me reconsider exactly what I need a bench for - I think I've been more than a little seduced by the idea of a beautiful hardwood bench when, if I'm honest, I don't need one. My cash would be better spend on timber for furniture projects that my family can enjoy rather than a wonderful workbench that I can only use on the weekends.
1. In this post, you kindly remind us not to make it too deep or worry too much about the height. I presume you still believe a bench cannot be too long or too heavy? I’m with you — just asking if that’s actually still your opinion, since the bench above appears to be yet another six footer. (If longer is better, why don’t you build an 8 or 10′ for your home shop?) TYIA – remember, I’ve bought all my lumber to start my new bench, but I haven’t milled anything yet, so you’re really helping in an immediate way here!
I’m building my second bench. I built the first years ago with wood from old machinery pallets – mostly oak and maple. Mortised the legs into the base, and pegged ’em with 1″ dowels. Of course, the legs warped a bit, but that made everything tighter and stronger. The top is 2″ thick Ash, one board cut in half and joined side to side. Wrapped a maple apron around the top, and I think I screwed the top from underneath to the leg braces. Solid. Over time, built a cabinet under for 3 drawers and a small cabinet door. Works for me.
Much like the dimensions of a bench’s tabletop, the weight capacity will similarly affect what size of projects you can work on with your bench. A common weight capacity sits between 220 to 250 pounds. While this is okay, it will limit some heavier projects. Ideally, you should shoot for 300 pounds, though some benches can offer 500 pounds of weight capacity or more.
Cut the 6-1/2-in. x 3-in. lid from the leftover board, and slice the remaining piece into 1/4-in.-thick pieces for the sides and end of the box. Glue them around the plywood floor. Cut a rabbet on three sides of the lid so it fits snugly on the box and drill a 5/8-in. hole for a finger pull. Then just add a finish and you’ve got a beautiful, useful gift. If you don’t have time to make a gift this year, consider offering to do something for the person. You could offer to sharpen their knives! Here’s how.
One quality about this bench that is definitely lacking is space – both tabletop and storage. The Olympia Tools does provide an adequate shelf, but it does not come with any drawers, nor does it offer the option of adding them later. The table top is the smallest we saw at 50” long and 2’ wide, though the width is actually better than most of the other table we reviewed. Still, a significant chunk of that width is occupied by a trough. This trough is designed to hold smaller workpieces to keep them from falling or getting knocked over, but it removes about 6” of width from the tabletop.
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