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.
For those who would like to have the benefit of a woodworker’s extensive experience with hand tools, this is the book to own. Crammed with practical information, it is the next best thing to looking over a craftsman’s shoulder as he works with his tools, asking questions and getting straight answers in plain language, seeing how each tool is held and manipulated to get the best work out of it. From bit brace, chisel, and mallet to saws, specialized planes, drawknife, and spokeshave, Aldren Watson describes in detail the actions of the tools basic to good woodworking. All the procedures are explicitly illustrated with handsome line drawings, and an appendix gives plans and dimensions for making a workbench and other necessary pieces of shop equipment.”
The next day, cut it flush. Use a block plane to ensure it truly is flush. This will be the top of the bottom layer of the bench top, so gouges aren't a problem. (Wiping up glue with a damp cloth can lead to stains and finishes applying unevenly. That won't be a problem here, either.) But bulges and bumps are a problem - they will keep the two layers of the top from matching up evenly.
Be careful. Single 24x60" sheets of 3/4" MDF are pretty easy to lift. A doubled sheet is manageable. The countertop - 24x72" panel of 1-1/2" oak - weighs something over 100 pounds. It takes real care to lift safely. The joined top - 3" thick of oak and MDF - is past the range that can be lifted safely by one person. Don't try. Get a friend to help, or rig a block-and-tackle.
The decision to be made with respect to the end vise is whether the support plate should be mounted to on the inside or on the outside of the stretcher. Mounting the plate on the inside of the stretcher reduces the reach of the vise - it can't open as far, because the support plate is back from the edge by a couple of inches. But mounting the plate on the outside of the stretcher means that we need to add some support structure for the inner jaw of the vise, which the legs would have provided if we'd mounted the plate on the inside.
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.
Cabinetmaking at the highest level is an art, a discipline, a philosophy–even a way of life–in addition to being a useful craft. In this book one of the greatest living cabinetmakers reflects on the deeper meanings of his craft and explains for less accomplished workers how the right attitudes toward materials, tools, and time can increase the joys of this complex activity. Craftspeople in every medium will be inspired by this account of getting started and developing habits that lessen the difficulties of a complex craft.
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…
Chan’s desire for strong, lasting, easily repeated joints using power tools makes for a fun and educational read. He also has a strong interest in traditional Chinese furniture, and shows how some of those joints can be cut with power tools. This book will not only teach you how to machine about 100 useful joints, but will also open your eyes to using new, fun to make joints in upcoming projects. Chan assumes readers know how to use their machinery and power tools, so he focuses on the procedures required to produce the included joints.
Stop it. Really. I mean it. Pick a height between your thigh and waist that seems right. You’ll adapt. Don’t worry about your back. You’ll adapt. If you are really uncertain, make it a little taller and then cut down the legs. After a decade or so, your work habits will put a magic number in your head. You’ll have built enough furniture that you will know your number. Until then, pick a number.
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?
A woodworker's workbench isn't a table, it's a work-holding system. It's not something you set things on top of, it's a tool that holds your work. Where a worktable might have a machinist's vise bolted to its top, a woodworker's bench is built to accommodate a number of different workholding mechanisms, such as bench dogs, planing stops, hold fasts, or board jacks, and will usually have one more woodworker's vises integrated into its structure.
Another aspect that might irk some buyers is the fact that the capacity of this bench is less than great outside of weight. The top’s surface area is a bit on the smaller end, though its length is more in line with larger models. The width though is less than two feet which can limit some projects. Similarly, the vice capacity is the second smallest on our list at 4 ½”, though this too can be modded with optional additions.