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Bench - mark 1 - buy or build

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RogerS

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I have read all the posts and read Scott Landis's book. I've read as many reviews as I can but I'm still pondering whether to build or buy. My trusty workmate Mark II doesn't really cut it any more.

My current thinking is :

1) whether I buy or build this first bench, it won't be the last. So my thinking is to buy/build something and just see how it goes/develops when in use.

2) I quite like the Kirby design in Scott's book...particularly that there is no well. I can empathise with his philosophy on that one.

3) I can't see any reason currently why I would need dogs. The small bench stops in the Kirby design will suffice I think.

4) I can't see any reason currently why I would use/need a tail vice.

5) For a first bench if I build then it should be much cheaper. I could choose a reasonable low-cost vice ...applying the philosophy of (1) above

6) but there again the Axminster medium bench is 'out of the box', seems to be reasonably well reviewed and if I never have dogs or a tail-vice then I might never realise what I'm missing!

7) If I build, given the philosophy of (1) and (5), it makes sense to build it in ..what..pine? Or perhaps beech at the front ...but then the price starts to creep up and before you know it, you've build the whole thing in beech!

8) So I'm currently leaning towards the Kirby design, Axminster vice and in pine.

But.......am I missing something that will make me curse within a few weeks ?

Going ever so slowly round in circles here :?

Cheers Roger
 

Alf

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Roger Sinden":3nw02tsu said:
Going ever so slowly round in circles here :?
Yep, I did that. So I bought one. I've given up on the whole building a bench to suit you thing; ain't no such thing as a perfect bench so I figured I might as well get used to one, good quality, example to last my lifetime and get on with the furniture making. Haven't regretted it, fwiw, despite everyone always piling on the guilt about how a woodworker should make their own bench. :roll: Apparently it's an opportunity to learn valuable skills. Sure; if you're a joiner or bench builder... :lol:

Cheers, Alf
 
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Hi Roger

I built my first bench several years ago and still use it. I built it from Pine and left off the tail vice. I also fitted a cheap 'main' vice.
I used 2.5" * 6" pine with 1"*6" planks underneath running perpendicular to the top. It has proved to be very strong and very heavy.

Since building it I have replaced the 'main' vice with a nice sturdy Record and have added a tail vice as they are indeed useful.I should have gone this way at the start :oops:

I built mine with circular section dogs which I made myself. The round holes are considerably easier to drill than sqaure ones :wink:

I will be building a replacement pretty soon as Pine is not really hard enough for the top and marks really easily. I could simply place some MDF or hardboard etc. on top to protect it, but I rather like the look of the solid wood. My replacement will be made of some undecided hardwood - based upon price :wink:
 

Chris Knight

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I think the ideal bench is like the ideal router table - a figment of the imagination!

However, I do value the array of dog holes that my bench has. It was the so-called "Joiner's Bench" from Sam Allen's book. and whilst I have been thinking about building a new bench, that is definitely a feature I would keep. It allows you (in conjunction with the Veritas wonderdogs) to clamp just about any shaped workpiece on top of the bench which is very handy.
 

Alf

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waterhead37":9xku8hxk said:
It allows you (in conjunction with the Veritas wonderdogs) to clamp just about any shaped workpiece on top of the bench which is very handy.
Chris, just out of curiosity, what d'you do if the work is thinner than the thickness of the Wonderdog's head?

Cheers, Alf
 

Chris Knight

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Alf,
Generally, slip a bit of thin ply or hardboard underneath. I usually have some lying around and am happy to chop a bit to the approximate outline on the bandsaw. Depending how much pressure may need to be applied to the workpiece - and therefore how much it could bend between supports, I can tolerate two or three such scraps to raise the workpiece high enough, so I am not forever using thin shim stock.
 

paisawood

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Roger,

How much time can you spare? If you can spare the time, then building is a worthwhile exercise and you will learn a lot. If you would rather use your time for furniture making then go out and buy a bench.

I made mine 3 or 4 years ago using redwood, with a substantial frame based on one of the designs in the Landis book. Hand planing and joining 3 by 2 sawn timbers for the top seemed to take forever although that won't be a problem if you have a p/t! Even apparently trivial tasks like letting the vices in took far longer than expected because of the scale of the work. I am now thinking of replacing the top with beech, but other than for aesthetic reasons don't have any need to replace the base, cupboard or drawers.

Good luck

David
 

Midnight

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Roger..

have a think about how you work, as that is the prime influence re which design is best for you. If you use machines to do your stock prep, there's little point in a full blown cabinet-makers bench as it'll be way over-engineered. On the other hand, if you use handraulic methods, a modified card table winna last 5 mins before it gives out... horses for courses yea..??

Have a think about the ideal height for you... bear in mind that store bought are built to suit Joe Average...

Have a think about any additional features you want; are they available in any store bought designs??

I have my own views based on an interpretation of my own needs, heavily tempered through lack of budget and capability... I've found what I hope is the right combination of capacity v's compromise for me...

last thought... irrespective of whether you buy or build, these things are wood, not stone; if there's something that doesn't quite work for you, change it... it aint rocket science..

:wink:
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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have a think about how you work
Well said Mike. If you hadn't, then I would have.

Roger, for some a workbench is not necessary (perhaps all they really require is an assembly surface), and for others it is the main tool that they own.

I am predominantly a hand tool guy so the work bench is a vital cog. But I also work from my garage, and the bench has to go up against a wall, so the design of the bench must reflect this limitation (although one of the advantages to a bench against a wall is that you can bolt it to the wall itself, and this creates great stability. So a lighter bench can do the work of a heavier one. But I digress).

Yesterday I was visited by a new woodworker-in-training. He has only power tools (except for a blunt block plane) and the bench is going to be an afterthought in his case. He just wants one because everyone has one.

When I began more dedicated woodworking about 15 years ago (as apart from just odd jobs around the house) and began to equip a workshop, the bench I built reflected my bias towards power tools. It was a simple Karri and Jarrah bench, basically a laminated MDF/Karri top on a Jarrah base. And I still have it. One day I will build something that resembles my dreams, but the fact is that I (like Alf said) have accommodated to what I have. The bench has undergone several modifications over the years, such as the inclusion of two face vises. This enables me to clamp boards across the front for edge jointing. I can also work from both sides of the bench, which helps as space is limited. Then about a year ago it dawned on me that if I clamp a hardwood board between the two vices, I have the worlds largest twin-screw face vice. Just perfect for cutting dovetails.

Here is a picture of the bench up close, from a storage point of view. The tool well is at the wall side. There is a pine/MDF fold-down assembly table to the left.

http://www.wdynamic.com/galoots/4images/details.php?image_id=1155

A second view enables you to see the vices used for dovetails:
http://www.wdynamic.com/galoots/4images/details.php?image_id=1194

I can get away without a tailvise because I have a great bench stop:
http://www.wdynamic.com/galoots/4images/details.php?image_id=1197

Note that this bench now works for me, but there are much nicer/better/user friendly/prettier/more solid/more appropriate benches out there. Just build what you need for now. If you are not absolutely certain in yourself what type of woodworking you plan to do for at least the next decade, then avoid buying something. And build one to get yourself by. You will then be in a better position to learn more about the way you like to work.

Hope this helps.

Regards from Perth

Derek
 

Alf

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Midnight":2u2n1n07 said:
Have a think about the ideal height for you...
Would that be the ideal height for dovetailing? Or planing? Mortising? :roll: :lol:

<small digression>Incidentally, was anyone else taken by the "bench on bench" in FWW?

Cheers, Alf
 
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Roger

Forgot to mention. My bench used to be situated in a garage where a car resided overnight. Bloody annoying bu tno choice :twisted:

I made my bench with two removable legs at the front (sunk into deep mortices) and 5 gate hinges at the rear attached to the wall. The bench is solid and should I feel the need, I can remove the front legs in 20 seconds and fold it against the wall.

Also, the tray at the rear has a removable base which is vey useful when trying to clamp stuff :wink:
 

Jorden

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My bench is about as simple as they come, a 1000mm kitchen base unit one end and a 500mm kitchen base drawer unit at the other with a 500mm gap between, all joined together with a thick kitchen worktop. I've drilled out round dog holes along the top to go with the end vice I fitted, and there is a front vice in the gap between the two units. The gap space also has a router mounted underneath it to give me a 2 metre wide router table when I need it, or if I lower the router, a clear 2 metre wide bench. The bench is very strong and copes very happily with me bashing out oak dovetails on its top.

The secret to this sort of bench is taking care that the units are scribed and secured to the floor and wall well. The cost - as cheap as you like, if you visit the 'bargain corner' of your local furniture shed.

Dennis
 

ike

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The secret of a good bench is simple - mass and ridigity. Get that bit right and you're 3/4's there. Personally I think there's a lot of b******ks spouted about the "perfect" workbench.

What is only good enough for a professional woodworker is not necessarily vital for lesser woodworking mortals (but of course nice to have or even gloat over if one is sad enough).

BTW, I knocked up my bench from pine and some reclaimed timber. The top is boarded with 2x8 red wood (from packing crates) and 3/4" plywood. The whole thing weighs maybe 200lbs with a 10-1/2" QR Record vice attached. The ply top is sacrificial - I screw into it etc for jigs and fixtures etc so it doesnt' matter if it gets hacked about, burn't, painted etc - I just sand it off occasionally with the belt sander.

It was cheap and does what I want (most of the time). But that's not my point anyway. As mentioned, it's all about your own needs (or wants).

Sorry for the ramble.

cheers

Ike
 
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I can understand ike's post. My bench is two pieces of 12 x 2 fastened to bracing 'boxes' made of 4 x 1 and on 4 x 4 legs. Oh yes, a piece of 3 x 1 across the back to stop stuff falling down the crack. And a Stanley vice. It's about 5' long, because it was a 10' length of 12 x 2, and the top is about 33" off the floor (quite high for most, but great for me). Cost me about $25 and an hour's work back in 1992. It's been dismantled and rebuilt in three different locations.

The legs are shorter now than when they were new:
1st installation was on a slightly sloping floor to let the water flow out of the garage, so the left legs were longer than the right.
2nd installation was in an old basement where the coal used to be, and the right legs became about as long as the left but one was longer at the front.
3rd installation (current) is in the old garage where the floor is (surprise) almost level.

I somehow can't justify the huge cost of a manufactured bench, even though they do look really nice. I'd rather buy some tools, or a nice plank or twenty. :lol: Does looking nice make your work better? :?

My only complaint is that sometimes it's not big enough, but that's because it's a handy flat surface where other stuff gets put until it finds a home. It does have a lovely shelf underneath for my screw box, my nail box, my circular saws, my planes and my chisels. And the floor under that has some interesting stuff, I'm sure...
 

Sam Salter

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Roger,
I had the same dilemma 18 months ago when I started getting into this hobby.
I didn't know enough to know what I needed, but I decided that building the bench would get me well & truly "in at the deep end" & give me lots of experience quickly. So I picked a design from a magazine (American Woodworker) that I thought was doable & looked useful & got stuck in!



This is the result: My first crack at building a piece of furniture; a really useful bench with lots of storage; and a finished project that I'm quite proud of & gave me incentive to try other things. There are some things I'd do differently, but not enough to build another in this lifetime. It's real useful too - I didn't realize how much I needed the bench until I started using it.

sam :)
 

Noel

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Nice job Sam. Looks even better than the AWW one! Is it on casters?

Noel
 

Midnight

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<whistlin...

now that's whatchya call a proper bench..!!!

way t go Sam.!!!!!
 

Midnight

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Would that be the ideal height for dovetailing? Or planing? Mortising?
short answer... whatever turns your crank...

longer answer... whatever you spend the most time doing... One of my musty old books has a sketch of a neat mortising stool; looks kinda like a trestle with a fork tail at one end, the idea being to drop the work onto the stool, sit on the work and have at it..

I guess if you're stuck with having to mortise at the bench, we could always sand you up on a wee box... :p
 

Dewy

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After years of using a steel framed woodworking bench, that my father in law gave to my eldest son when he was young, I made my own when I put the garage up 11 years ago.
I have no idea how a car could get in it as it is a few inches higher than the back garden which is 15" higher than the drive.
I should have ordered one with a concrete panel front instead of wooden doors which have been permanently bolted shut to prevent them ever opening. ;)
The bench was made from 3x3 par for the legs and 3x2 for the frame which was fitted with 3/8" coach bolts.
The top is 3/4" plywood covered with hardboard.
A 6" vice was built in with the rear of the vice level with the bench front which was wrapped with hard wood so timber being worked on would be held against the front of the bench.
I made it 36" high, which is a comfortable height although I now intend cutting a couple of inches off the legs so it is a fraction below the table saw.
It gets in the way at the moment in such a small space. :(
I know it would have been better with morticed joints but after more than 10 years hard use it has always been as steady as a rock.
It was copied from the work benches the firms carpenter had made many years before.
My thought was that if it could stand up to 20 plus years in a tool room with all the heavy work often done then it would easily stand up to home use.
The shelf about 6" off the floor holds all the short length of timber (60") that build up and can still be put to good use.
 
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