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What IS Your Workbench?

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What IS Your Workbench?
Like many professional woodworkers, I was usually too busy with jobs to spend much time on a good workbench, making do with plywood assembly tables, laminate outfeed machine tables, and maybe a bench with a couple of steel vises and power tool storage. When I closed my commercial shop, I decided to finally make a top end bench for myself. In fact, I made two. One for myself, and another, different bench, for the boat shop. I?d like to show my benches here, with the various ideas for work holding, and I?d love to see your benches as well. What kind of cool vises for carving do you use? Show us your shavehorses and specialty fixtures. Work benches have become something of a fad in recent years, sometimes and end in themselves, but I?m interested in the real work horses.

I?ll start with the boat shop bench, which is simpler than my hand tool bench. We needed a sturdy, loooong bench for our 20? x 35? dirt floor work space. The shop itself is just a steel quonset roof over a space between two shipping containers, with framed end walls. We eventually also cut a doorway from the shop into the container that serves as our tool room. When I closed my shop, I sold the big 3 phase stuff, but moved the smaller jointer, planer, and contractor type saw out to the tool room, and set up there.

The bench is set up along one wall of the container. It is 22? deep, and 15 1/2 feet long. I made the top from 2 thicknesses of 1? multiply (baltic birch) vacuum bagged together, with a big half lap to join the two 7-1/2 foot sections together. There is a 2? x 4? ash skirt on the front and two ends, dovetailed at the corners. The legs are fir 4x4 posts, set on concrete footings, and carefully leveled. Here?s how we did it-


A spacer is used to set the post distance from the steel frame of the shipping container, and the footing is poured.


I used a laser to set up the leg heights and wall support at the back.




After marking the heights, I cut the legs to length and notched them to fit the ash apron on the bench. I also cut dog holes in each leg.



The apron front is dovetailed to both ends. I used half blind DT's painful though they were, to avoid end grain at the tail vise. Looks good too. I cut the tails on the bandsaw, and the pins with handsaw, router, and chisel.







As you can see above, the ash skirt is dominoed to the plywood top. Below is the half lap of the two halves of the bench.



And the skirt boards are epoxy glued and clamped.



We installed two steel vises, one on the face, and one on the end as a tail vise. We then drilled dog holes in the top. Below, the bench in use, before dog holes.


Planing a scarf, with dog holes and steel holdfast.


And gluing up 25 foot long chines and sheer clamps, for the Point Comfort 23. That long bench is great!



I'll show my hand tool bench next time. Thanks for looking!
Jim


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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Great looking bench Jim.

Tom
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to

8 foot long split top Rubio I made two winters ago out of European beech. Tail vice by L-N and leg vise by Benchcrafted.

Last edited by:

Brad Bortner: Jul 18, 2020, 7:48 PM
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Good morning, Jim~


Great post! As you noted, some plans get deferred - sometimes forever.


When I built my shop ~ 2009, I had planned a long bench on the south wall and a rugged new main bench. Neither have happened...


BTW: This photo is from 2010. I have since added solar panels to the roof.






Other machines and cabinetry preclude a long (16' - 20' ?) bench. Instead, I have an 8-foot bench that houses my radial arm saw. Having lived with the radial for numerous years - and being disenchanted with its crankiness, I plan to move it to another barn (for occasional use, mostly for dadoes) and replace it with a sliding double bevel miter saw - on a 12-foot cabinet.


My decoy vise is just a machinist's vise mounted on the bias on the southwest corner. It allows me ample access from any angle for drawknife, gouges, rasps and sandpapers. Some operations require that the bird be mounted in a padded Jorgensen wood clamp held by the vise.







I built my main work bench over 40 years ago. Finances dictated particle board and 2x4s. I still plan to upgrade to better and stronger lumber - but the design has served me well.






A couple of features important to me:


My benches are at different heights - which allows me to avoid stooping too much. I have several pairs of saw horses of various heights for the same reason.


I have found that cabinet doors are not necessarily better than no doors. When I built the cabinet you see on the back left wall, for example, I planned for doors. But - living with it - I enjoyed the ready access for items I use frequently. The framing for the never-built doors rests comfortably up in the loft...


Similarly, on my main bench, the shelves on the north side hold all of my small power tools. The open shelving allows for ready access - and return of the tool when not in use. Elsewhere in the shop I have doors and drawers for stuff that is better off away from dust et cetera.



I hope to build the miter saw cabinetry - with lots of drawers - this Winter....


All the best,


SJS

Steven Jay Sanford
Pencil Brook Farm
South Cambridge, NY
http://www.stevenjaysanford.com


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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Does a tailgate qualify?, lol
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Thanks for posting folks! Brad, that's a beautiful split top Roubo you have there. You went all out on the tail vise, too. I also used the Benchcrafted hardware on my leg vise, and love it.

Steve, nice shop and fixtures. I appreciate the interior shots. It's always hard getting around to building the benches and fixtures when you'd rather just be making the stuff. Particularly when things are working reasonably well already.

I meant to post a link before to a free download of Chris Schwarz's newest (and last he says) bench book. Chris has done a lot towards defining what things work well in bench design, and producing very readable text along the way. He's a good writer. https://blog.lostartpress.com/...mer_June-2020_v5.pdf

Like Brad, I kind of splurged on bench material. I wanted a bench for the rest of my life. I bought a load of 8/4 ash.



I glued two pieces together for the legs which are about 3-1/2" x 4-3/4". The top is made from pieces on edge, so the quartered face is up. Top is 3-1/2" thick. I glued the top up in 3 sections, first drilling all the dog holes on the drill press.



Gluing the legs up on my old bench. I built this bench in my first solo shop, and it held some very nice work, for all of it's inadequacies.



I wanted the bench knockdown, so it's easier to move (the top alone is about 180 lb). I made the leg end assemblies permanent, and used barrel nuts and long socket head cap screws to bolt the leg assembly together.





Here's the top all glued up, ready to flatten by hand.



The top sits on these big loose tenons at the front, and is lagged from underneath in through elongated holes for expansion contraction. The tenons keep the top and legs flush at the front.



The leg vise uses Benchcrafted hardware. Really expensive, but it works oh so smooth! I used the "classic" tommy bar set up.





I used a steel vise for a tail vise, let in flush to the edge. I installed a wood chop with dog hole, flush with the top.







Works very well. I did a bit of flattening on the top. My apprentice helped some with the cleanup.





It got a coat of Liberon oil, and went right to work.




It's still a work in progress, after 3 years. I need to build a drawer unit for underneath, set low enough so the steel holdfasts clear the unit. Next time, I'll show some other vises, shavehorse, and bench fixtures. Send us some of your carving shots!
Thanks!
Jim
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Tailgates work too. I've done a bit of work on the tailgate of my small truck, particularly in the boat yard!
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Some fantastic benches so far. There are some real craftsman amongst us. I'll add the ones in my shop.

Sinking the base into concrete is a new one on me. One thing that Steve said that jumped out at me was having workbenches at different heights. I did just the opposite. I put all mine the same height as my table saw so they support long stock.

The first two pictures are of the bench I just completed. 20' long and a bit over 3' wide and made from 100 year old barnwood oak I found on FB MP for 75 cents a board foot. Had to de-nail it but I think it was worth the trouble. I put cubbies overhead for tool storage. So far the system is working well.






The next bench is one of my earliest projects after buying a tablesaw and jointer. It too is oak due to cost constraints and availability in my area.





The third bench in my shop I picked the metal base up at a city school auction and made a pine laminated butcher block top for. It is a catch-all feel free to abuse me kind of bench.





The last bench is a restoration project waiting to happen. I saw it in an estate sale listing and thought I'd like to have the vise off of it. When I got to the sale turns out it had two vises and some really cool bench dogs. At that point I figured it was better to restore than toss just keeping the hardware. Turns out it is somewhat of a desirable collectible bench made by EH Sheldon. A previous owner let the bottoms of the legs rot off and them cut them off. It needs a lot of work but there is enough there to go from so restoring it won't be too bad.








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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Like I mentioned I built my benches at the same level and lined them up with the tablesaw to support some the the 17' bleacher boards I've been working with for the past few years. My stock is running low! The pictures below show my set-up. It has worked superbly for long stock.





Lastly I'll show a few pictures of some vises I've acquired, in addition to the two Sheldon vises on the vintage workbench. I found a Record 52 1/2 on Cl a few years back. Best vise I own. The vise on the catch-all workbench is a Yost, and also on that bench is an EH Sheldon vise. It is unique in that is doesn't use a threaded screw to clamp. Instead it uses a toothed rack and cam handle that puts a crazy amount of force on the jaws. This vise has become collectible in recent years.





One more thing. I saw Jim cuts his dovetails on the bandsaw. I haven't cut that many but I use the bandsaw as well. Just recently I traded an extra dust collector for a Powermatic dovetailer. It cuts half-blind dovetails. The missing drawers in my long workbench will be made using this new-to-me machine.



Eric

Last edited by:

Eric Patterson: Jul 19, 2020, 7:11 PM
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Very Nice shop Eric.

Tom
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Good morning, Jim~


Astonishing workmanship!



Two thoughts on this general topic:


1. My "style" (I'm being charitable to myself....) of work precludes nicely-finished benchtops or floors. My continual use of adhesives, paints, sealers and solvents threaten every surface. So, I view each surface as a maintenance "opportunity". Two or 3 times each year I scrape down and sand the tops of my 2 main benches - the heavy work bench and the lighter and lower assembly bench - and then roll on fresh semi-gloss latex - with my "official" shop colors, of course. The maintenance takes about an hour each. I pick a time when I can let the new paint cure for a day or so before the tops go back to earning their keep.


2. I was heartened to spot the milk crate 'neath your fine bench. I have collection of them - matching colors - that hold my cut-offs. They keep lumber sorted by species. I have 8 or so beneath my radial arm bench right now. They will still have a place once I replace the RAS bench with a new one for the compound miter saw.


All the best,


SJS


Steven Jay Sanford
Pencil Brook Farm
South Cambridge, NY
http://www.stevenjaysanford.com


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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
WOW y'all?.I now have some serious workbench envy and workshop envy. MAJOR ENVY!!!!!!!

My workbench is just put together using the 2x4 basics system.



Dani
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
All~


The Bench of George Williams ( a far cry from a mere tailgate....)






All the best,


SJS

Steven Jay Sanford
Pencil Brook Farm
South Cambridge, NY
http://www.stevenjaysanford.com


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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
No need for envy Dani. Although Eric's Taj Mahal is over the top. I'd be afraid to get sawdust or wood chips in that work space.

Eric, all I can say is wow!

Steve, your shop remains my ideal. As soon as I am finished with an addition on the house, I'll be enlarging an outbuilding on the farm into a woodshop.

Jim, excellent work on both benches. I doubt that you'll have any problem with holding work securely or having the bench move while you are planing or doing other work. Very nice photo documentation of your build. I am a hand tool kind of guy since thats my training. I also like to sneak up on fit so I tend to use power tools to do the real rough work and then resort to hand tools. Tolpin was my instructor and he urges work benches at individual heights for the work that will be accomplished there.

At the risk of overloading this thread I can add a few pictures of my build if other would like to see the process.
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Brad, please show us the build pics! I'd like to know more about your split top Roubo. Hard maple? Benchcrafted design? Tail vise hardware?


Since the photos of my bench, I've added a sliding deadman, too.

Steve, I love this photo. It's obvious some serious work is getting done there.


Eric, that shop is truly awesome. I'm hoping when I move I can find a place with some decent space. I think I said before that both my wife and require serious work space. Makes it more difficult when on a budget, for sure.

Dani, it's clear that real work happens on your bench as well.

I'm glad to see this thread got legs. It's a lot of fun to see how people work as well as what they make! I'll post more myself later. We had a fire this morning on the CNC bed. I guess the tool overheated. Lots of smoke, and it burnt the table bed. Didn't go up the dust collector at least. I can't get my chisels going fast enough to start a fire, luckily.
Thanks again,
Jim
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Jim, that space has been occupied since 1975, and I estimate close to 8000 hunting stool have left their mark somehow! Bandsaw is around the corner.
george@runamuckdecoys.com
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Well since you asked. I started with a bunch of 8/4 steamed European Beech. I found it ironic that I could buy European Beech on the West Coast cheaper than hard maple or other native hardwoods.



Glue up was fairly straight forward.



I used my 15 inch planer to surface the faces and they hand planed them dead flat with my Lie-Nielson #7. You can see how tight they glued up.



I hand cut all of the tenons and mortices in the legs.



I hand rived 3/8 inch white oak dowels for draw boring. This picture shows the pin and the tight shoulder on my tenon. Between the titebond III and white oak pins, these joints will never come apart.


Last edited by:

Brad Bortner: Jul 20, 2020, 11:34 AM
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
I cut all of the dog holes by hand.



Then I made the block for the tail vise to the specifications from Lie-Neilsen. I did use a spiral bit in my router to hog out most of the waste. But I was extremely nervous the whole time.



Mounting the tail vice requires threading the top and precisely mounting the rail hardware.



I turned a beech handle for the vice and cherry knobs. and mounted it with a leather jaw face.



Then I cut it to length with my crosscut panel saw.



Planed again once mounted on legs with my #7. Yes Dave, its dead flat to within a few thousands.



The almost finished bench with many of the tools I used.


It was a great project, something I have wanted to build for 40 years. It is sturdy enough to pass on to my grandson's grandson. Yes there is a makers mark on it.

Last edited by:

Brad Bortner: Jul 20, 2020, 11:57 AM
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
 
Carving & work benches, in my small cellar shop

The bench behind the red carving vise, is a furniture makes bench, from the late 1800's, or very early 1900's.

All painting done upstairs, in the small painting nook, with very good north light.

VP

















"Art does not reproduce what is visible - but makes things visible." ~ Paul Klee, artist, 1920
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Really nice work, Brad and Vince. Thanks so much for sharing your pics!
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Vince

That looks like a nice old English style bench. A big front apron is the give away.

Code

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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Vince, that's a very nice carving setup you have there. I have an old red Fuller #5 steel vise, quite a bit like yours there. I like the idea of putting it on a heavy, cast iron stand. I'd really like to get going on some carving, but that will have to wait for a bit, I'm afraid. Getting the house ready to sell takes priority at the 'mo.

Thanks again for showing us your setup.
Jim
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
Brad Bortner wrote:
Vince

That looks like a nice old English style bench. A big front apron is the give away.

Code





Brad,

Thanks for the info, it is much appreciated.

The house is 100 + years old. From what I have been told, the bench has always been there, and most likely brought in when the home was new.

It has not been put to good use for many years. I feel privileged to be able to use it, and care for it as best I can.

Sure wish I could look back, and watch it used for it's proper intent and design. Lotta history there.

Hopefully the work I do will add to it's patina & history.


Best regards
Vince











"Art does not reproduce what is visible - but makes things visible." ~ Paul Klee, artist, 1920
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
 
Jim,

Thanks for the kind words.

A good friend made the steel stand, and attached the vise a few year ago. Works very well, sure wish I had it many years earlier. Better late than never.


When I look at the benches, and work areas shown on this post, I just shake my head in amazement, way outta my league.

From what I see you are staying very busy and productive, and there are only so many hours in a day.


Lots of master craft folks on Duckboats. Very inspirational.

Brings joy to many, especially during these trying times



Best regards
Vince











"Art does not reproduce what is visible - but makes things visible." ~ Paul Klee, artist, 1920
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Re: What IS Your Workbench? In reply to
I had wanted, before the thread dies, to show some simple fixtures that I find useful on and around the bench. I'll make a couple more posts, and if anyone else has some specialty stuff to show, please do!
One of my oldest shop fixtures is this set of plywood beams I made back in '86 or so. My first boat, a Penguin Class dinghy was built on the 4 x 6 x 12' laminated beams. I've used them literally hundreds of times for setting up boat jigs, laminating scarfs and parts, and shaping spars, as well as for low trestles to stage cabinetry elevations on. I would say this pair of beams is the most used shop item I have.



Here they are in '86, with my first boat on top of them. My poor wife is doing some fairing here.



And used as a spar bench.



Next is a shave horse, that I have used for making paddles and shaping spindles, legs, and what not, for chairs or stools. My friend Chris Bickford made this one, and I have been using it for several years.











I have some more vises, bench hooks, and holdfasts, which I'll show next time. Thanks for looking.
Jim