Time for a real bench

tvrgeek

Scott
Corporate Member
I have always suffered with my outfeed as my workbench. MDF, etc. I have a good Record vise and a Griz end vise I can reuse.
So, going to build a heavy stable jointers bench of some sort. This will be a lifetime-bench. Built my share of 2 x 6 throw aways.

General woodworking, cabinet making and whatever trouble I get into.
I will have 360 degree access.
I will still have a large outfeed to use for assembly. (About 5 x 5) or larger including the saw top.
Leaning to the English pattern. Smart? But also thinking part of it needs a kneehole for sit-down work. Side or end?
What is the advantage of a leg vise? Deeper board?
Is a recessed tool tray really that handy?
Thinking about 24 x 60. Good size?
How thick to make bench hold-downs dogs work. I have only used pegs but never the "J" hold-downs.
Guessing hardwood for the top. Maple? Would a replaceable melamine top skin to be handy.
No longer need to be the same height as the saw. What is your favorite height?
Is just buying a segment of maple butcher block counter top economical?
It will have a lower storage for chisels, marking, and everything I can fit in.
 

tvrgeek

Scott
Corporate Member
Or would something modern like a T-track grid be more useful>
English, Classic European, Shaker, Rubo... All have features I like. Some I don't understand.
Split top I gather is t p keep tools close but protected?
 
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mdbuntyn

Matt
Staff member
Corporate Member
Having gone from a Record QR vice to a leg vise, you're correct about the advantage of a leg vise.

Based on how shavings and chips end up on my bench, I'm glad that I don't have a tool tray, YMMV.

24" x 60" will be fine, as long as it's heavy enough to stay put.

¾" holdfasts will work in a 1½" top, but they work better if the top is thicker. I use 1" holdfasts, and my benchtop is a little over 3" thick. My next bench will have a thicker top.

As long as you don't use something too soft, any wood will be fine. My bench is made from SYP 2" x 12"s and SPF 2" x 6"s. If the bench is too hard, you (might) run the risk of denting whatever you're working on.

I'm just over 6', and ended up with a 34" tall bench. Build it taller than you think, and you can make it shorter later.

For a deep(ish) dive on "Nicholson" and "Roubo" workbenches: "Workbenches: From Design and Theory to Construction and Use" by Christopher Schwarz.

For an overview of different workbench styles: "The Workbench Design Book" (Schwarz) or "The Workbench Book" by Scott Landis (new edition available at Lost Art Press)

You can download a free pdf of Schwarz's last workbench book, "The Anarchist's Workbench" (the link is towards the bottom of the description) The Anarchist's Workbench
 

Wiley's Woodworks

Wiley
Corporate Member
Random thoughts on your new bench design:
  • The most important feature will be the bench's weight. With all your hold-down ?s, looks like you might be doing some planing or hand sawing. A lightweight bench, ie smaller, will scoot all over the place. Storage cabinets will help; larger top will help; putting non-skid top pad or drawer liner on the feet will help. I put a 4 x 4 with drawer liner underneath my bench feet, and the extra surface holds my bench in place.
  • If you have the room a 72" top will prove to be appreciated over a shorter top. 24" wide is adequate, and I would put a tool tray (~8" wide) on one side.
  • Make sure your lengthwise support rails are indented far enough to allow clamps to grip on the underside of your top.
  • Beech is the most common wood in European work benches. SYP is a great low cost wood to use. I've seen bench tops that look like $300 charcuterie boards. Remember, this is a work bench. Rather than put any thin, flimsy, probably soft top surface on the bench that will get hogged out by the hold-downs, just wax the top after building so glue won't stick.
  • I recommend two (end and side) vises because you can drill the outer jaw for bench dogs and then drill matching sets in the top. I use my front vise to hold small power tools that are mounted on plywood bases all the time.
  • I'm 6' 3", and a 36" high work surface saves my back over a full day bending over the bench. I could go to 38" and not sacrifice any leverage.
  • If you use any bolts, lag or machinists, make sure it's easy to tighten them after some use. The bench will loosen up. Nails won't hold. Gluing plus bolting is optional.
 

cobraguy

Clay
Corporate Member
Agree with Matt. Read Chris Schwarz's workbench books for both an understanding of traditional workbenches and some pros/cons of the different types. Haven't had a chance yet to read Landis' work, but I've never been disappointed with anything from Lost Art Press. Besides the good input from this group, those books are the foundation from where I'm building my workbench design. Now I just need to make room for it and get busy.
 

tvrgeek

Scott
Corporate Member
I'll see if I have room for longer.
I was thinking of legs splayed to the ends for support.
No problem on the joinery. Nails are for hanging things on.
Yes, it will be heavy even before I put in drawers for all my chisels, gouges, measuring and stuff. Lots of stuff.
I do have a bad back and bending over is what kills me. I'll test with my old Workmate. I have raised most of my tools to 36. BS actually needs to be higher.
Probably will have retractable castors.

I'll look for the books. Ah, got the PDF. I have a ton of other stuff to rebuild for the new layout, like the entire DC system, move a lot of electrical, outfeed table, router table, and yes, even a machinist workbench for the other side as my current one is too long.
I think I have seen several designs for the leg vise.

Plaining, sawing, joinery, fixing everything I did wrong on the power tools. I have visions of doing some fret work to make Chinese vase stands now I have a lathe. Biggest mistake I gather is not planning ahead for the vises. The "boss" wants her cross stich thread cabinets, a few display cases, well the list goes on and on.

Ah-Ha, sitting here, I just figured out where to move all my screws and nails to.
 

Oka

Board of Directors, Vice President
Casey
Staff member
Corporate Member
My Table is 75" it is a tad long but the one thing I would have changed is would be make the width narrower (32" wide) and added the tool trough.
Leg vise is nice but for me, I do not use it as much as I thought I would. I do recommend having the face of one side of the bench come down 5 inches with dog holes.
I built the top with 8/4 stock and 2x8 frame support............ it does not move. The entire table only has one screw in it and the only bolts I Used was on the legs so I could easily disassemble if needed.

All the other comments everyone has suggested are excellent.
The tail vise is something to consider, but think about what you really are going to do then decide on vises and layout based on the need

Here is a link on vises - Vises
 

Trey1984

Trey
User
Having gone from a Record QR vice to a leg vise, you're correct about the advantage of a leg vise.

Based on how shavings and chips end up on my bench, I'm glad that I don't have a tool tray, YMMV.

24" x 60" will be fine, as long as it's heavy enough to stay put.

¾" holdfasts will work in a 1½" top, but they work better if the top is thicker. I use 1" holdfasts, and my benchtop is a little over 3" thick. My next bench will have a thicker top.

As long as you don't use something too soft, any wood will be fine. My bench is made from SYP 2" x 12"s and SPF 2" x 6"s. If the bench is too hard, you (might) run the risk of denting whatever you're working on.

I'm just over 6', and ended up with a 34" tall bench. Build it taller than you think, and you can make it shorter later.

For a deep(ish) dive on "Nicholson" and "Roubo" workbenches: "Workbenches: From Design and Theory to Construction and Use" by Christopher Schwarz.

For an overview of different workbench styles: "The Workbench Design Book" (Schwarz) or "The Workbench Book" by Scott Landis (new edition available at Lost Art Press)

You can download a free pdf of Schwarz's last workbench book, "The Anarchist's Workbench" (the link is towards the bottom of the description) The Anarchist's Workbench
Just downloaded... Can't wait to read
 

tvrgeek

Scott
Corporate Member
Quick skim. Lots to think about, but what I had in mind is not dissimilar from the Anarchists bench. I have an old ( when still good) record vise and a new not so good but workable Grizzly face vise. I may leave one of them on the old outfeed table as "another" . Once and a while, I want one on the opposite end of normal.

Anyway, out to see how much my mini-split lines are going to impinge on my long board trap door in the wall behind the TS.
 

NOTW

Notw
Senior User
My $.02 as I built my latest bench last year. I went with a split top Roubo style bench and at some point I will take the stop gap out and replace it with a solid piece as I almost never store tools in the gaps and it drops dust and shavings on my hand planes below. The top is made out of heart pine and is almost 4" thick, the legs are made from SYP BORG lumber and work fine. For vises I went with a yost vise with benchcrafted criss cross for the leg vise and the tail vise is from Will Myers and I truly love this vise and along with the bench dogs I made i probably use it more than the leg vise. I drilled a series of dog holes and use the Gramercy holdfast and have no issues with them. It is 24" deep and 72" long I didn't want to go too much longer because I find with more space I pile more junk up.
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
My bench is 18x60x45. Legs are 5 inch square, top is 3 inch thick with 3/4 dog holes. All hard maple. It doesn't move. It does everything i need. I don't have room for anything bigger. I can plane a full size door or a 1/4 x 1/4 chop stick equally well on this bench. Haven't found anything that I wish I had done different. I can take it apart and load in my Honda CRV in about 15 minutes.
E32CD456-9AB3-4D70-B0B0-A8F1DAC9ACB8.jpeg
 

tvrgeek

Scott
Corporate Member
Mike, which lag vise hardware did you use. I noticed quite a few. Some simple ( and inexpensive) some insanely priced.

I like the idea of a sliding board with holes in it across the front.
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
I think the screw is Rockler, I traded some work for it so not sure where it came from. Probably about $30. I made the bottom hardware myself about $10.

I have thought about adding a sliding holdfast board. Haven’t needed it bad enough to make one yet.
 

Rwe2156

DrBob
Senior User
Scott, I didn't read all the posts, but my suggestion is to research this a lot before you decide. Holding methods are the basics, the rest is really just style. The Landis book is excellent.

My working bench is a Scandinavian type, with a shoulder vise and tail vise. The top is 16" wide it is 82" in length.
In my work the tool tray is a shavings/clamps collector also good at hiding rulers, pencils and small parts. Eventually I will either add to the top or simply cover the tool tray.

No doubt the Roubo is a good, sturdy bench, lots of ways to equip with vices, etc. But I think the dovetail/tenon leg joinery is not only totally unnecessary, but a real pain to get right. I would make a couple trestles and mount the top to that. The dead man is nice, but if you plan on under cabinet storage, could be an issue. A bench slave will perform the same duty. The split top is good, not so much for tool storage, but for slipping a clamp through.

Lots of people like leg vises, personally I like a shoulder vise better as the full width of a board can be clamped. The down side is that it protrudes from the bench - not an issue IME. I'm a big fan of tail vices or at least a wagon vise over an end vice for bench dogs.

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Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
DrBob,

I really like that bench slave, probably not the best name considering the times. But, I will be building one in the near future.
 

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