Bench Work

With all the necessary cleaning / drying taking place in the shop, it was a good opportunity to do some bench maintenance.

On the one hand my bench is nothing to write home about. It was born of affordability combined with very limited skills and equally limited tools.

On the other hand, write home about it is exactly what I did. Getting a bench set up was the first step I took in starting this hobby. Even though I’d read all about what good benches were like, making the decision to reconcile myself with what I could do versus what was “right” was a big mental accomplishment.

The core of my bench was purchased used from a school shop. A 1 1/4” thick slab of particle board on a rickety metal frame. I knew the composite board itself wouldn’t stand up very well at all, and I also knew that if I could add significant mass to this bench it would make up for a lot of it’s other shortcomings.

So I cleaned it up as best I could, took the measurements, and bought a large sheet of ¾” MDF and another large sheet of ¾” Oak veneer plywood, glued the three layers together and trimmed the edges as best I could. I ordered 2 of the Gramercy holdfasts, bought a ¾” drill bit to make dog holes with, and I was in business. Soon thereafter I picked up a face vise, and started to build my tool collection while doing projects along the way.

The bench doesn’t need much maintenance, but still there are a few things that need done. I’ve never finished securing the bench to the legs. So far it has been held in place with these four screws, one on each corner.

OldScrews

There are two front rails that sorta might provide some lateral stability, but there haven’t been enough bolts in place for them to really have a chance of working.

Today I’m solving all of these problems. With the help of my neighbor we’ve flipped the bench over. I’m attaching the top to the base with 20 2” long heavy screws.

NewScrews

I’ve got 12 small bolts holding the lateral braces in place. Everything is tight. While it was easy to get at I also cleaned and regreased the threads on the face vise.

BenchFlipped

Getting the bench balanced on the floor so the top is level is no small task. The basement floor where my shop is at is a bit ridiculous. It is buckled extremely throughout, and level no where at all.

With that done, I avoid entirely an issue I’ve heard other woodworkers discuss at length: the proper height of a workbench.

You see, I can shift my feet no more than an inch in any direction, and completely change the height I am working at.

With the bench taken care of, it’s time to reorganize the shop some.

It’s good to have this all finally taken care of.

BenchBack

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5 Responses to Bench Work

  1. Jeff Branch says:

    “making the decision to reconcile myself with what I could do versus what was “right” was a big mental accomplishment.”

    I know what you mean. My workbench is a Josh Finn style workbench (Google it – there is a small cult following for the bench design). It is very simple and definately unconventional. But it was affordable and I did not want to glue-up and flatten a bunch of boards.

    Is your bench 8′ long? I wish my workbench was that long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wesley Beal says:

      I’m pretty sure, when/if I get around to making a new bench, it’ll be Mike Siemsen’s. This video of him showing how to use it without any vises really sells me.

      Like

      • Jeff Branch says:

        I agree. I hope to build a new bench later this year and this video won me over; but I wonder if i’ll miss the convenience of a vise. I am not sure holding a board and then wedging a hold fast at the same time is easier than having a vise.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wesley Beal says:

          It’s an easier leap to take since, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll have the face-vise on hand and can go ahead an install it, after what ought to be some reasonably do-able bench modifications.

          Like

  2. Wesley Beal says:

    Wow. That is a different design! Yep, my bench is 8′ long, 30″ wide. 30″ is a bit wider than I’d choose, though I don’t think I’d a lot narrower. I find I use the whole thing.

    Like

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