Building first bench - The English Woodworker

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3 Jun 2021
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So following on from SteL's thread on his English style workbench (HERE), I have decided to create my own thread, it probably won't be as detailed or as many pictures, but I will see what I can do. This will again follow Richard Maguire's The English Woodworker design (HERE).

I decided to make this type of bench for three reasons, one, I liked the simplicity of style in the final result. Two, I plan to do it all with handtools and so larger thicker French Roubo benches don't seem as manageable, and three with today's prices of wood such a build would cost a small fortune. I play to build it 1800mm so just shy of six foot long as this is the maximum length that means once built I could get back out of my mid-terrace workers house if we ever move.

I was planning (and probably still will) on doing everything ala Richard (apart from I bought PAR boards as I think/hope that will be a real timesaver), including the wooden screw vice, although have considered the Record 52 1/2. My reasoning being that I plan to only do handtool work in the shop, and so will be doing a lot of stock preparation so being able to clamp the boards deeply in the vice for jointing edges will be useful. Likewise having a wide gap between screw and guide will allow me to drop long and wide (say 10 inches) boards for dovetailing straight down between the screw and guide, and clap them easily, something I couldn't do with the record. Although I maybe missing a few things, either benefits or negatives of each. Would appreciate any views from those currently using a wooden screw as to whether they work well or if you'd use something else next time?

Timeline? Who knows lets see how it goes. This is my first handtool project. I have made things with powertools like built in wardrobes, bookcases and cabinets, but this has always been from sheet goods, so solid wood with its movement, knots etc. is new to me. The decision to move away from powertools was because with two under 5s running around I was unable to do much machine work as all the children wanted to do was be around and I felt it unsafe. Running machines past their bedtime would also be antisocial for the neighbours, but also keep them up even longer, so I've decided to move to handtools only.

And here's my first question, more will certainly follow and apologies I am very much learning as I go.

One of the boards turned up with a large crack right down the middle (see pics), the company refunded me for it, but I was planning on using it for the top rails, in the plans this was 184mm wide, for simplicity I am using 210mm boards for all wide stock (top boards, aprons, top, rails). I was therefore thinking about cutting the board in two removing the central part with the split and joining together with glue, I would do this with a tracksaw (and on my very first post have already broken the handtool only aspect, oh well - I ain't rip sawing 1.8m of 50mm thick wood), and would cut out a piece approximately 30mm wide. This would only be a bit smaller than the original planned width, but my real concern was could this jointed board cause me issues later on, will it be weaker or any other problems?



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As Long as you create a clean joint line the joint will be strong im also currently making a trad english workbench and most of timber I've used most would consider firewood and All pieces are laminated
Looking forward to this thank you, do you know I think if it was me I would just take a handsaw straight down that crack, doesn’t matter if it’s not straight, just follow the crack, and then just glue it back up, worth a try and it’ll only take you 5 minutes. Good practice steering a saw as well.
Good luck, James. I'm also looking forward to it. It makes me want to start another workbench! I have just started watching Richard's French style workbench videos. The missus would kill me with the number of unfinished projects I have around the house and garden, though. She caught me watching it last night and wasn't impressed!

I too have strayed from the hand tool only ideal. I have to admit that I bought a bandsaw a few weeks back. I'm on a slippery slope!

I think you'd get down that plank in no time with a handsaw. I've just got a cheapo disposable rip saw and that flies through. A few of the planks I bought for my bench had similar cracks in places. I spent ages trying to work around them and deciding what bits looked best and where to hide the ugly bits. I didn't even consider removing them - not that I could have anyway because I only owned 4 small clamps then.
I too have strayed from the hand tool only ideal. I have to admit that I bought a bandsaw a few weeks back. I'm on a slippery slope!

Nothing to worry about...... It's possible to do all your sizing and preparation by hand, but, many of us don't have the evening time or the strength!
Alternatively, prepared PAR stock costs a fortune and is often sub-standard.

If you have a band-saw big enough to handle raw material together with a thicknesser (don't forget a chip remover - many thicknessers will choke without one) that's all you need to pursue an all-hands-on approach.

I'm still working off a solid bench in Beech which I made about 30 years ago from an idea in Scott Landis's Workbench Book, which I note is now back in print with Lost Art Press.
One good bench will last a lifetime. Don't skimp on weight - you don't need it to bounce, but a solid bolt-on top can be an advantage if you move.

Good luck, with the benches, all of you.
Started chopping in recesses for leg assemblies and wedges in mine I'm going mainly the hand tool root for most things have used a small table saw for some dimensioning


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Holding in place with just the wedge so my sizings not too bad


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Thanks for all the comments and support, cut down the board and have clamped it up. Will be off for a weeks holiday, but hope to get cracking when I get back.

Once last comment do people drill pilot holes for the nails? Sure I've seen Chris Schwarz mention it somewhere, and he suggested using a tapered drill bit, especially for cut or wrought nails.
for cut nails yes always drill a pilot hole or it will split, sometimes quite dramatically.