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Bench Building..a bit long winded

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beech1948

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I am going to build a bench in the next 4 weeks. Yes I know that sounds like a short time but needs must. I wondered if some of you very skilled people would be able to comment on my ideas. So far they are as follows:
1) Use only hand tools...well except for planer thicknesser and chop saw.
2)This is really a first bench for me as I previously used mainly tailed apprentices but I'm now moving to use more hand tools. So the bench is a real challenge to my poor skills. Previously used a stong assembly table with a small vice attached.
3)Bench based on "£A Good First Bench" at[http://www.terraclavis.com/bws/benches.htm].
4)Central rails would be lowered to permit mounting 8 drawers between top and bottom rail.
5) Vices would be Veritas double screw end vice (24") for front and rear...potentially cheaper than Record 521/2 with a more extensive vice jaw. However, Record is tried and tested and possibly more reliable.
6) Dog holes in four strips along bench to align with tail vice cheek dog holes...useful for cramping up wide glue ups + bar clamps. Maybe a few less..?
7) Timber. UMMMMM. With a name like Beech the choice should be obvious. However, I am concerned that my machine skills are very good but my hand skills are rusty. Beech cost about £500. Trouble is this is a learning experience for me and I am beginning to wonder if my hand skills would just butcher the beech. I wondered as per Bobs web site about using pine, ( Norwegian...slow grown..narrow rings straight grain few knots) or even a pine and ply mixture where top is ply. Using a hardwood may be a waste as I may not like or want this bench in a two or three years.

Look forward to comments please.

regards
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Anonymous

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Hi Beech

1 These are all I used on mine, well + battery drill, router and biscuit jointer for plank allignment
2 Very sensible to build a nice heavy bench, mine is 2.5" thick nd 1.8m long by 800mm wide. No movement or deflection - ever. Very satisfying!
3 Looks nice. Which vice at the front?
4 Never can have enough storage - I am currently hanging various shooting boards from under my bench
5 Veritas are a high quality manufacturer, I don't think you will reget the choice
6 I bored round dog holes in mine and then turned some dogs from oak that were a very snug fit. A few taps with a mallet drives them into place. I cut a flat o nthe front face at the top. Low cost and as good as purchased dogs but cost nothing :wink:
7 Depends on what you intend to do exactly. I would have thought that the only hand tool operations are to plane it flat (no choice here), chop vices in with chisels and possibly cut a few mortice and tenon joints.
Well, the flattening of the top is best achieved with a long plane (#6 or #7 but a #5 will be OK) along with winding stick (see DC books). The mortices and tenons may be a little tricky at first but I would suggest that you cut a half dozen test joints first to get a feel for it. Vice mounting is very easy and should not really prove to be an issue.

Good luck with an interesting project Beech
 

Midnight

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Beech...

that looks to be a good design to choose for your first bench; nice choice.

one thought springs to mind; if you're intending to lower the rails, consider adding a keel to stabilise the top of the structure similar to here..

http://forums.taunton.com/tp-knots/mess ... g=14194.22

Your concerns re material choice are valid ones; the fact that you mention them is proof enough of doubt, all the more reason to back away from the cost of beech. Personally, I'd consider a compromise; use softwoods to make the base, and reserve the beech for the buisness end. The additional mass of beech over softwood will greatly improve the strength and stability of the bench; the last thing you want when planing is a bench determined to do the hoochie coochie dance all around the workshop when you need the damn thing to hold still. Tony's right re thickness of the top; "there's no substitute for cubes", the thicker, the better..
additionally, make DAMN sure that the interface between the base and the top allows the top to expand and contract freely with seasonal changes in humidity; no matter which finish you use, if indeed any, it will move over time. If it's designed to let it move as it pleases (within reason) it should remain flat and stable. Breadboard ends are a nice way to "encourage" it to move in your prefered direction.

Additionally, ensure there's plenty strength in the aprons, or alternativly, as you intend to fit drawers, consider a generous overhang to allow the use of clamps along the front edge; having a drawer or door too close to the edge of the top is a PITA... don't ask me why I know this....

If you intend to do the bulk of th work with hand tools...
Rule #1... RELAX..!!!!
It's nigh on impossible to totally screw up stock with a hand plane; just take your time and check your progress frequently with a good straight edge and winding sticks.
Rule #2... don't be afraid to ask....
personally I'd sooner help someone asking the same question repeatidly until they were happy they knew exactly how to go about what they're doing, than see them mess up... there's no loss of face in asking questions no matter how dumb they may seem; the only shame is being too proud to ask...
Rule #3... gloat like a goodun when it's done... need I say more...????

Just for the record, you're more than half way through the hardest part of the job... i.e. deciding you need a bench in the first place, and organising its manufacture.. the rest (so I'm told) is easy....

Enjoy it.... use it.... learn from it.... and make the next one better...

;)
 

Dewy

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I made my bench 10 years ago from 3"x3" pine legs and 4"x2" rails lapped into the legs and held with coach bolts.
The top is 3/4" ply with a carpenters vice let in so the hardwood surround on the top becomes the inner jaw of the vice.
It was topped with tempered hardboard which can be replaced when needed. My only complaint is that I made it an ideal height for using hand tools but in a garage it is 2½ inches above the table saw which limits me greatly.
When I get a new table saw I intend lowering the bench top to be a fraction below the saw.
I'd love a proper hardwood bench but work to the principle that if I can't make it myself I wont bother.
One thing about making everything yourself is that you can make everything to fit in the space availible having seen the problems with bought units.
 

Chris Knight

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A solid core fire door makes a good bench top- very flat, stable and not too expensive.

I patterned my own bench after the "Joiner's Bench in a book by Sam Allen. One aspect that has served me particularly well is the grid of round holes on 6 inch centres for use with the Veritas bench dog system. When I idly contemplate building an ultimate cabinetmaker's bench this is one design feature I would carry through.
 
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Anonymous

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Beech

Something I meant to say but forgot.

I would advise glueing the top up in small sections to create 3 pieces, say 12" each, that will go through the thicknesser once glued up.
By glueing up the boards into these small sections, you can run them through the thicknesser and flatten them as an assembly before glueing them together to make a top, say 36" in this example.
Cuts down on the planing of the top as sections will be flat and true
 

Alf

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Well really I can't comment, having bought one and all, but fwiw:

1) Use whichever tools do the job. :D
2) Confucious say "Man who make first bench always end up making second, so don't spend a fortune on the timber. Oh, and incidentally could you pass the rice bowl, please? What? No soy sauce? Confucious say he no eat here again..."
3) Ah, a galoot's galoot. Good choice. I assume you've seen BugBear's comprehensive page of workbench links?
4) Fair enough. A common technique, and what I should have done on mine if I wasn't such a lazy so-and-so. :roll:
5) When I went through my long and painful "I really ought to build it" workbench phase, I gave the vices considerable thought. The key thing with the twin screw jobbie seems to me to be able to get all round it to use its full capabilities. In other words, if it's going against the wall, the twin screw may be overkill. The Records are indeed tried and tested, and secondhand will beat the Veritas hands down for value...
6) Ah, dog holes... The key question here is; round or square? If you're doing round ones, you could start with less and add extra as you need 'em, no? Rather than making a swiss cheese from the get go.
7) Timber... Back to old Confucious again. The idea you need a whopping great thick top is definitely a 'Murrican one - 'cos they can afford it. You only really need the front area to be thick; the rest is just filler. Mike Dunbar did an article in FWW where the back of the bench top was just a piece of ply, and the enormous Shaker bench shown in The Workbench Book has progressively "lesser" timbers going from front to back. For peace of mind, probably just pine would be easiest from a monetry point of view. Pine is certainly fine for the undercarriage. If you didn't mind the difference in woods, you could try a beech piece at the front, the width of your P/T for instance :wink: and use pine for the rest. As you want to use handtools, that takes ply, fire doors etc rather out of the options I reckon.

Does that help? Doubt it. :roll: As Mike says, ask, ask and ask again if you want to. Although where he got this strange idea you can't screw it up with hand tools heaven only knows. 'Course you can; it just takes longer. :wink:

Cheers, Alf
 

beech1948

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I'm bowled over by your responses and the time and thougfht you ahve all put into your replies. Thank you. To keep this shortish I just wanted to recognise some of the ideas that I am going to use. If your idea is not there bthen don't feel slighted its just my sense of choice being exercised. It was probably a great idea for someone else to use.

Tony,
Use Veritas twin screw vice at front and rear. Also if I use these then I will not need end caps as the Veritas rear vice jaw has to be fitted all the way across the bench and even over lapping the bench side pieces. I've never really liked the Record vices even though they are probably very good. Also chose to use round dogs but to start with a few dog holes and add them as needed. Probably add in a holdfast also as I have used one of these on my assembly table.

Dewey,
I've decided not to use ply or hardboard for the top. They would be good choices but I don't think that for me they would fit in with sense of aesthetics. But drawers and frame below bench will be ply for carcase with a face frame. Great point about bench height being such that it can be used with table saw or also in my case an assembly table. Ummmm some serious thought needed here.

Midnight,
I'd never heard of the idea of a "keel" down the centre of the leg frame upper parts...ummm..need to think that through re design but the logic seems sound.

Alf,
Thanks for Bugbear link re bench resources. I* found this about 3 months ago. Very useful and inspiring. Really good comment about the dog holes. As you say why create a swiss cheese effect until its needed. I also just finished researching the issue of bench top thickness. Your idea of several different thickness of bench components seems a great one. I'm off to get out my drawing board and draw this up full size to try to visualise the cross section.

I did say I would try to do this all with hand tools but my first instinct is still to get out the CAD, switch on the power and use the tailed apprentice. Now what do I remember about geometry, school tech drawing and how to use my brothers old drawing set.

Thanks for all you input
 

Argus

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I made a bench about 5 years ago in solid 2 inch beech that came in waney edged slabs from a little wood yard in Hampshire, and no, it was not expensive at the time, though I did give it a year or so to dry out once I had dimensioned it. because I thought it may move a little.
I cut it to 4 inch wide boards which is about right.

It has no drawers, just legs, but that's my choice, you could put anything underneath.

It is a 'continental' pattern inspired by something I read in a book, with shoulder and tail vices, both Veritas screws from Axminster, if I remember correctly.

The top was made separately and has big dovetails fitting breadboard ends and the dog holes were made in a 4 by 4 beam that forms the front part of the top. The beam was cut in two pieces and one of them forms the tail vice.
It has one row of wooden dogs angled about 5 degrees and fitted with small springs so they don’t drop. I’ve never needed anything more except a couple of round brass dogs, but I don’t use them often.
One important thing with a shoulder vice is to brace the top sections back to front with 12mm threaded rods.

Any regrets? No. Best thing I ever did.
I wondered why I never made one before and put up with the combinations of old doors, workmates and packing crates I used in the past.

Any modifications? Yes. It’s about 6 feet long – if I made another I would probably make it a couple of feet longer.

If you’re in Crowthorne, you’re about 3 miles away from me in Finchampstead, so you can come round and have a look at it to get some ideas if you wish.
 
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Anonymous

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i need some inspiration for benches i picked up a nice 52 1/2 for £25 8) just need something to attach it to in the form of a bench :oops: . Those of you that have built your own what dimensions did you go for , i was thinking 2000mm x 600mm (6' x 2') .Drawers & shelf ? i thought about an idea to incorporate something like a keyboard shelf type thingy (only a bit more substantial with recessed holes for sharpening stones to slide out when you need a quick fettle :lol: good idea or not ?
 

Midnight

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I've been working on sketches for my own bench for a while now; it's not exactly what my ideal would be, but given the limitations of my shop I reckon it's about as big as I dare make it..

I'm looking at rough dimensions of 2100Lx750Wx915H, enclosing the base and filling it with drawers, no tool tray. I've already finished the Nelson tail vise I was working on a few months ago, intending to use a simple face vise and sliding board jack for edge work. I didn't learn till much later that what I've been doodling was a right handed version of Konrad Sauer's bench, preferably without the stuck on drawer fronts... :shock:

I've penciled in beech as the material for the top and structural elements of the base; it would be nice to enclose the back and sides with raised panels but that will depend on time available. I'm committed to using square dogs in conjunction with the tail vise, used in conjunction with round dogs in line with the face vice; additional round holes in the left hand overhang would let me use hold down dogs when working with boards beyond the capacity of the dog hole strip. As yet, I'm undecided whether to chance my luck on using a couple of wide boards for the top, or to laminate.
 

Pete W

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Mike (and, indeed, anyone else with an opinion)... can you explain your thinking behind using both round and square dog holes in different places? Is it just a 'style' thing, or is there more to it than that?

Just curious :).
 

Argus

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Dogs:

This is my opinion.
It is not so much round or square, a more important question is, wood or metal?
I have both on my bench but use the wooden ones about 99% of the time. The reason is that if I am using a blade, I would rather dig it into wood than metal if it slips! Also you can throw a wooden one away when it is too bent and battered and make a new one.
Another question that needs answering is, round or square? It all comes down to the bench hole as even round dogs have a flat face, other wise you get indents in your work. It’s easier to dill a hole in a new spot than it is to cut a square hole. But, in my opinion, I prefer square holes because they are bigger, exert more pressure across a wider area, and don’t clog up with debris as much as small round ones.
Needless to say I have both…. but a good big square wooden dog is more use to me than a small round metal one.

Photos:

I’ll have to clear the clutter from it first! If you’re interested, I’ll take some pics and write a little sketch about it when I get 5 minutes!

Alf,

That’s an interesting pic of the old bench in Pennsylvania in your link. German inspired design, perhaps. Mine is a similar size with the exception of the wooden threads (mine are metal, though I do have a big screw box). I did not include slaves in it because I can’t get on with free standing ones, but wished later that I had built some in. My solution was to make a bolt on slave that screws into the end of the tail vice and gives me scope to plane up to 7 feet on the edge. It hangs on the wall when not in use. My bench also features a shoulder table beside the shoulder vice with a fifth leg underneath that allows me to hammer downwards when carving and to cut dovetails on; there’s a screw down bench-hook right behind it.

The book I mentioned you probably know of, “The Workbench Book”, by Scott Landis.
My bench, with a few personal mods, is based on the one in it by Frank Klausz.
 

Midnight

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Pete.

The dogs took some thinking about. I wanted something with a bit of meat behind it to firmly hold the board along its length; square dogs are perfect for that. Their disadvantage is that they're geared to work best with boards that have been crosscut square. In addition, I wanted a lighter duty dog capable of working with irregular shapes (waney edges) to "pinch" the board across its width; the round dogs are perfect for this as they'll rotate in their hole to suit the profile that they're applying pressure to.
That's about it... square dogs to use with the shoulder vise, round to work with the face vise...
 

Argus

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HELP!!!!!


I was intending to post a few photos of the bench I posted about this week.

How do you do it? If I press img.... nothing happens. How do you attach them. Any file size limits?

The pics are on my hard drive. I can't seem to find out how to load the up.

Argus
 

Pete W

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Thanks for the info, guys.

My bench has round holes, but the dogs are all 'square heads on round pegs', so I couldn't see the rationale for square holes :? .

Pete (who must get around to making some hold-downs for the bench)
 
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