TRADITIONAL SHAKER STYLE WORKBENCH
This amateur goalie will see plenty of bench time now!
SHOP OWNER: Jim Shaver
LOCATION: Oakville, Ontario, CANADA
I built this bench over the course of two years, working on it on and off while I built other projects. This bench represents my attempt at making an authentic Shaker styled workbench.
Over the years, I investigated many types of benches. Many skilled people inspired me and I researched a few of theirs before I began this project. One of my key design needs was storage and the drawer design in a Shaker bench afforded me this. Once I decided to go with a traditional Shaker bench, I set out to begin building one.
I started by looking for examples of Shaker benches and ideas on how I could create my own. In the end, I used many sources for measurements and details. The Scott Landis Workbench Book was my prime source for construction details, in addition to looking under many other workbenches made by other fine woodworkers.
Dimensioned from the Landis book, the bench dog holes are 1 x 1 ˝”. I have some quarter-sawn white oak that I plan to use to make the dogs. I incorporated a track and slot into the front of the bench to later accept a deadman.
The bench is essentially all maple with some cherry ply for the side panels. The core of the bench consists of four laminated maple bench tops that my company was discarding (can you believe that!). I was able to salvage the tops and rip three of them into usable structural members for my bench; I even turned my drawer pulls from this same maple stock.
I scaled the bench down to a size I can fit into my shop - 30” wide by 80” long for the top, 56” long for the base, and an overall bench height of 35 ˝”. There are only 12 pieces of metal in this bench; six brass screws that attach the cover plate to the tail vise, and six lag bolts that hold the end caps to the top. Everything else joins by means of wood joinery. The top weighs between 200 and 250 lbs. with the base easily being 500+ lbs.
All of the drawers have through dovetails at the back and half blind for the front. I thought long and hard about cutting all of these by hand or using my Leigh jig. In the end, the Leigh jig won out and I have no regrets. I used 3/8” Baltic birch plywood for the drawer bottoms.
The drawers are all solid maple with selected curly maple for the drawer fronts. The maple drawer pulls are all hand turned from the bench top cutoffs. Making the first one was simple; making the other 15 to match was a challenge. A few in there are brothers and sisters of the first knob, but then there are also a few distant cousins! Finally, I matched all the drawer pulls and attached them to the drawers using a wedged split tenon method.
The bench has a traditional leg vise and a tail vise I built from the plans in the Landis book. Both utilize wood screws that I bought from Howard Card at Crystal Creek Mill (See the Dunbar Bench article in FWW #153 for Howard’s phone number or email at whcard@USDatanet.net).
The tail vise is all hand made. The dovetails were hand cut and I am pleased with their look. I also lined the tail vise faces with leather.
The leg vise is as traditional as they come. The adjuster nut at the bottom of the leg vise is very effective. Once assembled, I lubricated all the wood screws with bee’s wax. The wood screws that Howard Card makes are incredible and I highly recommend them.
The bench is finished with a combination of oils and varnishes. I finished all the casework and drawers with multiple applications of a hand-wiped homemade varnish. The vises and the top are finished with Tung oil and all of the bench elements then received a coat of paste wax.
Now that I have completed my bench I am looking forward to the many hours that I will work with it and sit at it, building projects and enjoying the simple fun of using something I have made.. . . Jim Shaver
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