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Should I make my workbench entirely by hand?

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tibi

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Hello,

I would like to become a hand tool only woodworker and I am currently building my first workbench.

As I have a thickness planer I am deciding if I should build my workbench only with hand tools or I should take a shortcut and use a thickness planer for the opposite face and edge. I have 48 meters to plane with a hand plane ( the sum of lengths of boards only, not sum of board length x 4 sides), and I have done 80 cm so far (two boards maybe in 2-3 hours).

If I do it by hand tools, i might learn a lot more about correct planing ... new heurekas, etc. , but it will be a donkey work and take much longer. Is there anyone who has built his workbench with hand tools only? I am not time restricted, but hopefully it will not be a whole year of planing.

Another issue is sawing. My rough boards are 50 mm thick. Top is 2 m long. Legs and long stretchers are 0.8 - 1m long.At the thickness of 50 mm, how many mm would you remove by planing and how many would you use saw instead? What is the borderline for you?

Thank you.
 

Spectric

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I would like to become a hand tool only woodworker and I am currently building my first workbench.
This will stir some debate, raising the issue of "traditional woodworker", "real woodworker" etc etc but on the grounds of safety please don't wear sandals or work by candle light !!!!

Simple answer is this, the most important factor is your end goal and the journey to get there should be enjoyable, a pleasant experience that delivers rewards.

On this basis getting your new bench built efficiently and fast will then allow you to continue woodworking on said bench with or without power tools. You can make traditional looking wooden items and still use power tools to make life easier, so you have a P/T so use it, you don't need to slog away with a handplane as you will have plenty of time later to learn.

You say you have 50mm thickness but not what you wish to reduce them down to, if it is the top then leave as near to 50 but with good finish.
 

Cabinetman

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Well as you have the equipment I should use it, that sounds enough work to put you off for life! And you will be able to build more interesting things much sooner when you have your new bench so I wouldn’t feel that you have to do it by hand at all. Credit to you (in my opinion ) for going down the all by hand route. Ian
 

tibi

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This will stir some debate, raising the issue of "traditional woodworker", "real woodworker" etc etc but on the grounds of safety please don't wear sandals or work by candle light !!!!

Simple answer is this, the most important factor is your end goal and the journey to get there should be enjoyable, a pleasant experience that delivers rewards.

On this basis getting your new bench built efficiently and fast will then allow you to continue woodworking on said bench with or without power tools. You can make traditional looking wooden items and still use power tools to make life easier, so you have a P/T so use it, you don't need to slog away with a handplane as you will have plenty of time later to learn.

You say you have 50mm thickness but not what you wish to reduce them down to, if it is the top then leave as near to 50 but with good finish.
I am just reducing the boards to the thickness of the thinniest board. I have planned to have the thickness of 40 mm in my plans, but currently I can get the thickness of 42 mm while the boards are straight and parallel, so if no critical board is less, I can have the thickness of 42 mm. This applies only to the boards that will be glued to form base and stretchers. For the top, the thickness of individual board is not an issue, but for legs and stretchers (rails) it is.

In no way I want to resaw the 100-130 mm boards to get a thinner board, so I can only reduce the width of boards by using a saw. Some boards would need to get rid of 0.5 - 1.5 cm to get to the desired width. And my question was how many mm should I just plane away and when to take the saw out.
 

DBT85

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The whole reason I'm here and ended up building my workshop was because I started out building a workbench by hand.

I would suggest if you have the thicknesser then use it. I would have and should I ever come to do another bench I shall do it that way.

The joy for me in the bench was cutting the mortices and tenons, the housings for the legs and so on. I still have not flattened my benchtop properly and its been about 4 years!
 

grumpycorn

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I use mostly hand tools and have a thicknesser but no planer. You might find different, but I don't think you're going to learn much about planing when you're thicknessing boards. Planing one face flat, you will learn to plane more efficiently (though I think you'll learn it quicker than 48 meters worth!). Thicknessing down to size is just punishing for little gain in my opinion.
 

LJM

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You could have a look at Paul Seller’s hand-tool only workbench design.

But equally, you can mix it up; do some by hand as a useful exercise, but do the bulk with the tools to hand.
 

tibi

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I use mostly hand tools and have a thicknesser but no planer. You might find different, but I don't think you're going to learn much about planing when you're thicknessing boards. Planing one face flat, you will learn to plane more efficiently (though I think you'll learn it quicker than 48 meters worth!). Thicknessing down to size is just punishing for little gain in my opinion.
That is my reasoning as well... learning is in planing one face flat and planing the edge square to the face. planing the width and thickness of the opossite edge/side to a scribe line is not that difficult. So I would waste too much time just removing waste material on this big project. I want to do it by hand later on smaller scale projects, but this is way to big project to start with.
 

Argus

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Why not build it by hand? If you have the time, patience and strength.........

One thing is important before you start, though, is to pre-think what you need and project that to what you may need in times to come. After all, there's no point in making the perfect bench until your craft evolves - or you move house and you need something different!

There's an excellent book on the subject by Scott Landis:


It's been around for 30-odd years and a new edition is just out by the Lost Art press. It's an excellent read in its own right, even iif you never make a bench at all, it's full of great ideas on benches of all sorts and sizes and has some useful project plans at the back.

Next, as you have a thicknesser, why not use that first to dimension the stock, then carry on with the important bits - the joints etc - by hand? Much more sensible ..... at least, that's what I did.

I made this one about 25 years ago, and I'm still using it. My previous bench was retired when this was completed.

I had a stock of waney-edged Beech that was dimensioned though a band saw and then a thicknesser down to 2" X 4" which formed much of the top and the legs were separate 4 x 4. When the main stuff was thicknessed, it was planed flat by hand, various joints in the ends and the vice were cut by hand - the top was glued 4 x 2, while a few dowels were added as locators to avoid the bits moving when clamped.


Reading Landis' book, I went for a full set of square dogs and a shoulder vice. The dogs were made from some apple wood that I had cut down.
Since then I have added some holes in the top as needed for a pair of bench-hooks.

One thing that's important is to think ahead when moving workshops.
This breaks down to two very large (and rather heavy lumps); the top and the base section.
The various ironmongery I bought from Axminster.


What would I do differently?
Not much............
Possibly a bit more top-length would be useful.

Here's a glamour shot when it was new.

Copy of IMGP0014.JPG



Good luck.
 
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John Brown

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I think it's entirely up to you. I built mine mainly by hand from left-overs. Three of the legs came from a large pallet, and the main work top was some unused 6 X 2 ripped in half (on a table saw). It's not pretty(as far as I remember - it's covered in stuff right now), but it's fairly solid.
 

Droogs

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Until age, wear & tear and Oesteo Arthritis along with RSI forced the issue, I did everything with Irn Bru powered tools. Now I am a hybrid woodworker. All the donkey work is not worth the effort and pain to do by un-powered means. Now I use tools powered by zappiness to prepare stock to about 1mm over dimension and finish up with hand tools. I hardly use a screwdriver these days as I am not a masochist so use a battery drill/driver.
The stuff I make is on the lines of baroque and beidermeyer furniture with lots of inlay and veneer, the fancy bits are by hand and the structural pieces are by powered tools. I have made several benches over the years and the last was a Roubo "ish" style all done by powered tools apart from flattening, smoothing and then toothing the top. You will get the important bits for the bench build and it's use far more easily at this stage by using the machines you have such as accuracy, repeatability and rigidity once put together. So many people go for a visually fancy bench and seem to forget the 2 main points about making a bench. The first is that it is only a tool or a jig, just the same as a drill or a chisel to enable you to make things. The second is the point of the exercise of making a bench is not the bench but what it allows you to do once it is made.

The following is not meant as a slight in any way.
By what you say, the stage of your knowledge and skill are not high enough to make a bench of a quality that will be a good as it really should be to enable high standards of work on the projects made on it especially if at the same time you are learning hand tool skills. You will always be fighting the inconsitencies inherent in the bench when working on future projects. this will lead to you wanting to make a new bench and hating how you cocked up the first one rather than enjoying the process of making the thing you want on it.

hth
 

thetyreman

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it can be done all by hand, but prepare for a good workout! I recommend having at least a no 5 1/2 or longer plane for it, the only reason I didn't use a planer/thicknesser is because I don't have space for one but if I did I'd use one for sure for the grunt work then plane it by hand.
 

paulrbarnard

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I built mine using hand tools but would certainly have used power tools if I had had them. That said I did try to re flatten the top at a future date with a router sled and screwed it up royally. Perhaps it is just as well I used a method that makes you screw up slowly.
 

xraymtb

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I did mine entirely by hand - Link - however I started with some laminated beams that were 'flattish' to begin with. It was still a long old process and I don't think I would have finished it yet if I had to plane everything from scratch. In fact it's still not finished - I've yet to cut the ends square, finish the shelf, or properly flatten the top (the front half if flat - the back half isn't quite).

If you have the thicknesser I would say use it - you'll get plenty practice creating a flat surface by hand anyway and it will cut down a huge amount of work. Don't let the workbench be the thing that takes up 2 years and stops you building the projects you really want to!
 

tibi

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I will then use the thicknesser to to the opposite side and edge. I will need to plane the first face & edge by hand, as I do not have a jointer, so that is a lot of work too. But for making the first face/edge flat and square you need to remove less material than thicknessing it to the final dimension on the other side, so it might be a lot faster.
 

Sandyn

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As I have a thickness planer I am deciding if I should build my workbench only with hand tools or I should take a shortcut and use a thickness planer for the opposite face and edge

I don't think anyone can really answer your questions except you by trying it. There is nothing to loose and a lot to gain by using hand tools. Why do you want to make things? is it for the pleasure of making them or just to produce the item. There is a difference. Try it, see what feels tedious, then use tools for that part.
I am 98% power tool guy. I rarely use hand tools, but I just want to get things done quickly and made reasonably well. I get pleasure from design and building, but I wouldn't hand plane a bit of wood when my planer will do it better in less time.
 

TheUnicorn

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i see no real benefit in building by hand, yes you would hone some skills, but it is a big laborious build, I'd just build it in the easiest and most efficient way.

your time and energy is surely better spent making workpieces?
 

TheTiddles

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Do what you like! But I’m guessing someone used a chainsaw and a lorry to get the tree out the woods, so you’ve already used machines
 

Trainee neophyte

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I am of the opinion that just asking the question show which way you want to go, but only you know your own mind.

I am all about the end result, not the process, but I don't have the time to be a purist. If owning a hand made bench is the end result you are looking for then power tools are out, but if making stuff on a bench as quickly as possible is the required outcome then use all the electricity you can get your hands on. One thing you may want to remember: while you know what method was used, the wood couldn't care less, and within weeks your bench will be buried under tools and projects and no one else will be any the wiser, either.
 

Ttrees

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Keep the thickness of your stock as hefty as possible.
I'd be looking to laminate on strips underneath to make up as much thickness.
Just the same as keep the wood as long, for as long as possible rule.
What would you do if the timber decided to move after you'd finished dimensioning?
It might just end up at you're planned thickness as is.

Another thing, and an important one is how you plan on doing the glue ups,
enough clamps, presumably in stages,
How many stages?
Are you going to use a batten to keep the stock flat.

I made a mistake of attempting to have the dog strip section oversize, so could be planed down on both top and bottom afterwards.
This meant that I couldn't use a batton, and wouldn't ya know it, the timber moved during clamping, and grabbed before I could get all the clamps off.
Lesson learned.


As to your hand tool vs power tool query, IMO this question has not been answered
as we don't know a few things for the question in the first place.

What material you're working, supple pine or soft timbers or rigid hard stock?
Have you got a bench to plane on already, is it good enough to trust?

I've never used a thicknesser, but think it might be a safe bet to get things truly parallel,
should it be set up very well, should you be working tough stuff.

You might wish to plane them afterwards anyway, better to get the machine to find the
parts which may fool your eyes should you not have a perfect setup.
That can happen to the best of them, and anyone who says not I don't believe.

If still keen on the hand route
You could prep two oversized timbers for lamination, say you do plane two lengths up.
Will they sit on the bench without a gap, even when flipped over, even when the opposite faces are checked?
That test is checking that three faces are spot on, which is enough to chase you're tail.
That may be your answer IMO

Tom
 

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