HARD, HEAVY, AND HANDY
Building your own workbench should encompass your needs.
SHOP OWNER: Dave Haynes
LOCATION: Elkhart, IN
Since getting into woodworking about five or six years ago, I always wanted to build a good quality heavy workbench. I saw the plans for a hard maple workbench in Woodsmith Magazine (Volume 29, No 173) and decided to build the exact plan from that article. I started in the second week of January 2009 and finished it in late February after 108 hours, about $700 of hard maple, and $200 of vise and other hardware.
In that issue there was a complete set of plans for building a traditional workbench. I thought it was the best-looking bench that I had seen that encumbered all the features that I wanted. It didn't have drawers underneath to get in my way and it didn't have many of the other features that were more specific to cabinetmakers, etc. It was a sleek looking, simple appearing hardwood bench with both a massive front vise and a handy tail vise. It was a bench with bulk that just so happened to look good, too! That's all I wanted and the image of that bench stuck in my mind until I finally decided to try to build it.
The whole project started with a load of hard maple that I purchased from Johnson's Workbench in South Bend, Indiana. The photo shows the lumber stacked on a bench in my shop after unloading it. This stack of maple consists of roughly 100 board feet of 8/4 and 24 board feet of 4/4. Can you say ouch to the pocketbook?
After the bases and top supports were completed, I moved on to the band saw to cut the bevels on the ends and to cut the relief on the bottom of the base pieces. The reliefs were cut on the underside of the bases to help the bench to be more stable and to prevent rocking on an uneven floor. This, too, was not all that difficult but for me it was kind of a tedious operation. I didn't want to cut over my marked lines causing an ugly relief. This shot shows me making the cuts on my recently acquired Ridgid band saw.
In this shot, both of the end pieces are assembled and glued up. When these were done, they were laid aside to await the completion of the stretchers. You can faintly see the mortises for the stretchers in the photo.
The top main slab was made up of thirteen pieces of 1 3/4" X 1 3/4" hard maple. The parts were all cut to rough length (approximately 1/2" longer than the finished length) and glued together in sections. There was one section containing four of these planks and three sections of three lengths each. Each section was glued up separately.
There was one length of the boards in each section that made up the planks that I took to the drill press prior to gluing them up in the slabs. The drill press was used to drill through these lengths to make the dog holes that would be used in conjunction with the front vise. After all of the dog holes were drilled and put into the glued up sections, the sections (or slabs) were then glued to each other and clamped up.
The finish is a fairly typical "home brew" that is used a great deal in the woodworking community. For those of you who might not be familiar with the finish, it is made up from equal parts of beeswax, turpentine, and boiled linseed oil. The wax shavings are mixed with the turpentine for a period of 24 hours (or until the shavings are dissolved) and then mixed with the linseed oil. This was the first time I had actually used the finish but was quite impressed with the look and feel afterward. They beeswax should help keep glue from sticking to the bench top so easily.
. . . Dave Haynes