Workbench design questions

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JDW

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One consideration rarely if at all considered when it comes to bench design....

Cup holder ;)

More than once I've spilled my cup of hot java all over the project being worked on.

Irn Bru is worst, imparts an orange stain.

For this reason drinks are banned from my bench but when my coffee does somehow find it's way magically to somewhere near my work I have a but of protection because I use a travel mug with lid (to keep dust out mainly).

A cup holder though, I think I like that idea, cheers.
 

Jacob

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You could cut double tenons on your rails so you would have two 6mm shoulders, a gap of 6mm between your tenons and two tenons at 13mm which is 44mm in total. You will also have the added benefit of twice the glueing area which would be stronger than a single tenon.

You could also reduce the shoulder size to 3mm and increase your tenon thickness.....or.....
You could go with a bare-faced tenon on the inside and increase your tenon thickness that way.

Ignore all of that - I think I totally mis-read the post......

With regards to tenon thickness I think it should be 1/3 the thickness of the timber being morticed (the leg in your case), but that may not always be practical if your rails are much thinner than your morticed timber.
That 1/3 rule is just a rule of thumb for the maximum size of a mortice. Can make them less. I think my bench has 2" x 6" rails with 5/8" M&Ts.
 

Swiftedge

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I’ve started assembly as don’t really have much time during the week days and wanted to get on.

None of it is yet glued but I’ve assembled the base to get an idea of where I’m heading. I put the long horizontal beam through one of the 2x4s with a single shoulder as suggested. It will be sandwiched in between another 2x4 when I laminate them together. Then the cross support will go through the glued 2x4s. I’ll stick with my 13mm chisel for this.

I’ve already laminated the bench top, it’s in three sections currently. Strips of 4, 4 and 3. I was relying on this for most of the strength of the table, I’m not sure how I’d create a dropped down area for storage without laying some sheet material across underneath first. I have zero experience, so my opinion probably is meaningless, but I don’t see how these are good for keeping tools. Most planers look like they’d stand tall of the recess, as would many other tools. Few tools would roll away. If you aren’t laying wood across the drop then you might as well put the tools on the bench top. Personally I can’t see myself using it, but it’s mostly likely because I have nothing to go by.

Thanks for the sketch of the apron under the lip of the top. How would the leg come into this? Take a 1/3 width strip off the inside of the apron and 2/3 strip off a leg then push it on like that? The front of the apron should be flush with the leg shouldn’t it?

To attach the top, is it better to complete the base then lay the top onto it. Or flip the top onto the floor then attach legs one by one down into it upside down. The second way I think gives me more room to adjust legs if they aren’t perfectly square.
 

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Jameshow

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Good work mate.

Your 90 percent there to a solid bench!

Next scrub planes to flatten the top......!

Cheers James
 

yetloh

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Those wide aprons would be a big no no for me. I find it really useful to be able to clamp things down to the bench being able to use F clamps for this. I also like at least two rows of square, stepped dog holes along the front with trad wooden dogs and its easy to do with a router before you glue up the laminations. This makes for much more secure clamping using the tail vice and helps with clamping irregular shapes. Leaving off the apron also gives much more space underneath for a cuoboard/drawer stack because most workshops are short on clean storage. What's more, the weight of all the stuff you will put in the storage will do wonders for the stability of the bench.

Those through tenoned legs will end up protruding throufh the top as the top dries and shrinks and will add quite a bit of time if you want to ge them looking perfect. Lastly. I would consider a mortise and tenonned cross brace between front and back bottom rails.

Photos when it's done please.

Jim
 

Jacob

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Good work mate.

Your 90 percent there to a solid bench!

Next scrub planes to flatten the top......!

Cheers James
Top flattening dead easy with the trad design above. The front 'beam' gets planed flat in the ordinary way before you put it on the bench, or after. The back apron up-stand is then planed flat and straight to match the front beam
 

Jameshow

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Just thinking about workbench design and the use of wise aprons. Surely they came about to stop racking of the bench whilst planing. However we now have strong glues such as epoxy polyurethane and even PVA. So if your tenons are 4x4 square glued into a solid bench top do you really need a deep apron? Apart from being kosher on a forum!!!

Cheers James
 

JobandKnock

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I think I'd rather depend on a wide apron housed to take the legs in a nice snug fit (and glued or bolted) than a much smaller glued joint. The racking a bench ensures when planing can be quite a test
 
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Swiftedge

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Ahh, so frustrating. Screwed up in sticking the three laminated sections together. I think there must have been some curvature in the final piece so that it wasn’t completely flat with the others. It looks almost perfect but on the 4th section in there is close to a mm gap.

Perhaps if I had a much stronger clamp I could have pinched it shut, but can’t get it together. The surfaces didn’t have anything on them, at first I thought a lump of something must have got caught in between but couldn’t see anything. Sprayed some glue at it hopelessly, as if it was going to run in and magically seal it.

Does anyone have experience of what to do next with it? Should I screw down a strip of wood from the point it starts to separate with the hopes this will stop it de-laminating. Or force it apart and start over again.

Real nightmare with the cauls at this point, had to unscrew them full width to slide the heavy pieces in from the end. So awkward. But then I didn’t want to spend £300 on clamps.
 

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Adam W.

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Run a circular saw along it and re cut the joint, plane it and glue it again.

You'll lose 5mm on the width and take that up by adjusting the mortice position........Put your feet up, Drink beer and drink more beer.
 

Jacob

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Those clamps look a bit flimsy. I'd use some heavy nuts bolts washers, say 12mm or bigger, not just thin studding.
Or lengths 25mm hardwood dowel but you'd have to lash the ends of the battens to stop them spreading.
Or fasten the ends with your studding as you've already got it but use broom handle dowels for the wedging
Then use folding wedges not just single ones, and hammer them in tight with 2 hammers, one in each hand.
Spread the glue over completely over both surfaces using brush, palette knife, plastic spreader etc. No bare patches
In one of those vids he uses his hand! What a .! Youtube is very unreliable.:LOL:
It's much easier and more reliable to just glue one piece at a time and the next one only when the glue is set. May sound slow but could be a lot quicker than wrestling with 6 or more slippery pieces with everything going wrong and the glue going off!
You can do it simultaneously, ; 11 pieces in your pic - glue 5 pairs together, then glue these in 2 pairs of 4 plus one of 3, then 2 fours to make 8, then add the last 3 to make 11. 4 steps not 10. Took me some time to work that out!
 
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Bojam

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Have a good look on both these forums and online as there are some amazing designs that havIe taken the basic woodworking bench to another level. You have 20mm dog holes that are good for alignment, microjig clamps and slots for holding down and so many good ideas out there. If I was making one tommorow it would be a modular design that would reduce floor space and incorporate a router plate so as I could save space and not have a stand alone router table. I would use the Incra positioner which would allow me a precise fence for the router but at the same time you could use it instead of parallel guides to locate a track for a plunge saw to give acurate and repeatable cuts.

Thanks for sharing the link to these videos Roy. A super nice and versatile bench! I built a modular Ron Paulk inspired bench with two 1800 x 480mm torsion boxes that bolt together. I made it more stable by sitting the top on some heavy duty, solid-wood sawhorse tables from the plans in Josh Finn's modular bench article (rather than the foldable plywood sawhorses Ron Paulk suggests). I have a router table insert mounted in one quarter of the top. I used the UJK parf system to put a grid of holes across the top (need to finish the holes along the edge of the router table section). I have a fence and other accessories from Benchdogs.co.uk and UJK for tracksaw cuts, clamping, assembly, etc.

Jambo_workbench.jpg
Jambo_workbench2.jpg


If (read: when) I come to make a new bench, the ideas from those videos will definitely inform the design. I like the vertical dog holes up the side panels and the slots for the microjig clamps. I have an INCRA original jig for the router table at the moment (as well as the UJK fence pictured), which is very useful. But, of course, I'd love to upgrade to the LS positioner in the future. Your idea of using this to align tracksaw cuts is excellent, especially for those like me without a table saw who rely on the tracksaw for highly accurate and repeatable cuts.
 

Adam W.

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When I built mine I laminated three pieces at a time, then glued them together once they were dry. As Jacob said, it takes longer, but is quicker and more accurate in the end.
 

yetloh

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I think I'd rather depend on a wide apron housed to take the legs in a nice snug fit (and glues or bolted) than a much smaller glued joint. The racking a bench ensures when planing can be quite a test

I have two benches, one commercial and one I made myself, neither have wide aprons and neither racks under pressure. A thick top, 4" legs and substantial rails, well jointed and good glues are all that is needed. Deep rails appeal to the belt and braces instincts in us, but the benefits of omitting them far outweigh their real world value in my opinion.

Weedy clamps are a snare as the OP has discovered. T bar sash cramps are expensive but, if you are into furniture making for the long haul, are a great investment and worth every penny. I suspect most purchases of them follow the sort of experince that the OP has suffered.

Jim
 

Swiftedge

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When I built mine I laminated three pieces at a time, then glued them together once they were dry. As Jacob said, it takes longer, but is quicker and more accurate in the end.
That’s what I’d hoped with this. I’ve built it up over the last three days. 4 pieces 24 hours, then another 4, then 3. Rather than adding on a few to the bulk I did each set separately, that way I wouldn’t have to readjust the cauls for every expansion.

They are fairly flimsy, but the 3 sets seemed to come together really well. I like the idea of cutting with circular saw and redoing. Should I assume this is a failure and go straight to cutting it, or try stressing it and see if it holds better than it looks?

I’ve never heard of folding wedges. I think my m8 metal rods might be too weak for more force, they already bend.
 

6x4

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Thanks for the sketch of the apron under the lip of the top. How would the leg come into this? Take a 1/3 width strip off the inside of the apron and 2/3 strip off a leg then push it on like that? The front of the apron should be flush with the leg shouldn’t it?

No, don't shave your legs. Seriously as others have pointed out, stout legs are what a bench should be about.

When you first mentioned aprons I though you were building a trad 'English' bench (a bit like Jacob's picture) , with aprons used to provide clamping surface for longer boards on edge in the vice and also provide a joinery solution (the dado which houses the outside face of the legs).

_If_ you're building one relying on the thickness of the top to house some chunky mortices to stiffen the whole structure (more like a French/Roubo bench - there folks, I've used the R word) then I'd question if you want aprons? My current bench is 3.5"+ thick with legs blind morticed into the top, no apron, the front edge of the of bench and legs are all coplanar and I have dog/holdfast holes as another poster has mentioned above. The apron sketch related to a previous trad bench I built.

I can't see from your pictures if the 3x2 top is 3" or 2" thick, 2" is probably too thin to work with no horizontal supports underneath (especially across the laminated grain and if you've got integrity issues with the joints) and might need a redesign to the more English/trad style with a cross rail. Also to echo someone above, through mortices probably have issues here due to wood movement

If you still need to use a design with aprons, keep the legs intact, set them into the inside face of the apron(s) 1/3 of the apron thickness and if you want a full coplanar front, built out the lower legs to the same level.

There are lot of resources on the the web/youtube and some good books, but to start with the free stuff try searching through

Paul Sellers/Woodworking MasterClasses - builds a workbench from construction timber, I think the full series is on Youtube. This is a Trad bench, not everyone agrees with Paul on everything ( me included) but this could be an instructive series

Chris Schwarz/Lost Art Press/Popular Woodworking - Google will return a number of videos on building a French/roubo-style bench. You may also find Trad/English or 'Nicholson' bench styles. ++ FREE someone also posted last week on this forum that Chris's latest workbench book was up on the web for free download. I haven't checked this myself but it's likely to be worthwhile.

Richard Maguire/The English Woodworker - has subscription video series building both a French and an English style workbench - pragmatic and hand-tool based. Some of this may be shared out there as teasers

And to your last point, flip the top, place the legs on it and use them to mark the mortices, it looks like you're already adding rails/stretchers to the base so use that assembly as the reference for those mortices, don't just try to measure.

Good luck
 

Jacob

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I’ve never heard of folding wedges. I think my m8 metal rods might be too weak for more force, they already bend.
Folding wedges - two wedges instead of one - together but working in opposite direction.
 

JobandKnock

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Deep rails appeal to the belt and braces instincts in us, but the benefits of omitting them far outweigh their real world value in my opinion.
They are a lot more than belt and braces though, as stated by another above they provide you with a vertical reference and clamping surface which can be really handy when doing joinery tasks as opposed to cabinet work. Ideal for clamping doors, or boards to be edge shot to. Which is probably why most British joinery shops still have them, although having used a Scandinavian bench in the past I can understand why they British joiner's bench isn't the best for some tasks
 
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Swiftedge

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Hopefully posting this link isn’t against forum rules. This is what I think I’m going for:

I hadn’t seen this one before. I designed mine with an amalgamation of ideas after watching some but not loads of design videos.

I like the way I’ve seen people use the side apron with holdfasts and dogs which was the main reason I added it, rather than for structural support. I haven’t the budget for putting vices on at this point and I’ve seen them used with just a side stop for planing.

Because I don’t yet trust my joinery I thought it best to add the front leg support along the bottom to help it remain solid, even though this isn’t on the traditional English workbench design.

I’m rethinking doing the through mortices for the top, but if I don’t do it this way how can I insure the bench benefits from the strength of the 3” thick top still?

In the link I can’t see how he has attached his apron. Comments mention dado and dovetail on it, but this isn’t visible in the pictures. It just looks like he did what I was intending originally, cut a notch out of the leg. There mustbe more to it or they’d fall off.
Perhaps I could do the split top like this one, would save me fixing my broken lamination as I already have the two pieces in the right size, 7 2x3s and 4 2x3s.
 
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