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RichardH

Woodworking bench build

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Well, you can't build anything else until you have a bench, right?

Having moved house earlier in the year, we've had a lot of jobs on the go.... and a nice space for me to tinker in has been fairly low on the agenda! Anyway, we now have a reasonably weathertight shed/garage in place (about single garage size - 3.6m x 5.8m external dims), so I'm now looking to get some shelving in there and - most importantly - a workbench. No car will be in there - just the ride on mower etc.

I have some decent sized offcuts of laminate worktop (650mm deep), and had thought to use those as the bench top - any reasons not to do so? Should I be looking to use double thickness 18mm ply or similar instead? Any recommended depth for the bench - is 650mm too shallow? I'm intending to run the bench along from the single side door under the window to the far end. 

 

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Can you imagine doing all that you want to do on the bench in the kitchen? If you can, then a kitchen worktop will do you.

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You really don’t want a bench to be too wide unless you have a specific reason for it. My working surface is only 450mm although I have a 250mm tool well behind it with a further 200mm surface behind that too incase I need the width but in 40 years I only ever have a handful of times. With a narrow bench you can do stuff like clamp something to it from the rear so it’s out of your way and things never get to far away so you have to stretch 

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Sounds like a plan to me. My workbench has an 18mm birch plywood top that has suffered years of abuse and is still performing well. If you decide not to use the worktop (although I don't see why not) you certainly wouldn't need to double up on the plywood.

Very nice shed. I'm envious. I can recommend LED battens for the lighting.

Edited by stevie

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I've built quite a few benches for myself over the years and they have become more simple as I realise that (for me anyway) is better. Chris Schwarz in the U.S. has done a book and many articles on the subject (when he was editor at Popular Woodworking) - worth a quick Google.

A few things I think worth considering:

- frame stiffness - really important, especially when using hand tools.
- work height - CS goes rather low but kitchen worktop height (900mm) is usually too high. My current is about 820mm I think. Hand tool users tend lowish, power tool users a bit higher, a compromise is always involved.
- depth front to back - 20" is enough. Tool recesses are loved or loathed. I'm the latter - just fill up with shavings and lose tools in them.
- vices - I have 2, a face and an end. On my current I have 2 Record 52 which is the smaller 7" and is way powerful enough even when making a door. The 7" is faster to use, a little more compact and can be found with quick release (I use that all the time) and an option of the pop-up end stop (on my end vice). I use that with 3/4" dogs along the top for clamping panels etc when planing.

Generally I like quite small benches (current is 6 foot). I made an 8 footer with sliding deadman etc once but it was bigger than necessary.

So basically I would say fairly hefty legs and stretchers (for mass and stiffness), can be softwood but chunky is good.
Personally I'd be using solid softwood top, 3 x 2 turned on edge, 10 of those bonded together then planed flat. Reason for that is mass (always very good in a bench) and stiffness (I mainly use hand tools though).

Benches are fascinating to me - I've made several commercially for other woodworkers and it becomes a thing - I just need to do another one... that kind of thing (quite like basses then). But I'm happy with my 6 footer now - I called it the Hemingway after 'The Old man and the Sea - that line about humility. It's a humble bench but a real good user.

Do have a look at what Chris S has written (he's a bench obsessive) and I can do some pics of mine if it's of any interest. btw, the Records can be found on the bay around £30-ish,, but look for the QR ones.

Here's a thread on the Hemingway build

https://www.ukworkshop.co.uk/forums/post1007933.html?hilit=hemingway#p1007933

Edited by Soledad

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@Soledad The pictures have gone from the Hemmingway thread, could you post one here?

Our previous house had a huge double garage, with a massive 9'x2' bench under the windows which was 2/3 carpeted with contract carpeting.The previous owner was a rally enthusiast and this was his engine rebuild bench. They apparently often have rubber on top to prevent slipping but his was carpeted instead. I didn't do much woodwork on it, but the carpet did stop little screws from bouncing away if I dropped them.

I now have a tiny L shape of kitchen worktop crammed at the back of the garage in this house, and I had to sell my pillar drill 😥

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10 hours ago, stevie said:

Very nice shed. I'm envious. I can recommend LED battens for the lighting.

Thanks - this is what it replaced - the benches were chipboard and completely banana shaped from water getting in through the roof - in some places water had worn right through the chipboard (though it was quite atmospheric working in there with the rain hammering on the tin!)

Yup - LED lighting strips FTW - still waiting to get power over to the new shed (it's a bit further from the house, and to be honest the way the power was fed to the old shed made me scared!). 

13 hours ago, Christine said:

You really don’t want a bench to be too wide unless you have a specific reason for it. My working surface is only 450mm although I have a 250mm tool well behind it with a further 200mm surface behind that too incase I need the width but in 40 years I only ever have a handful of times. With a narrow bench you can do stuff like clamp something to it from the rear so it’s out of your way and things never get to far away so you have to stretch 

Very good points. I was intending the bench to be fixed to the wall (which is currently the open 4x2 studwork of the shed itself - I had intended to put ply or pegboard on the wall behind it to stop stuff falling behind), so options for clamping from the other side would be tricky, but I might make some sort of accommodation for that, as it sounds very sensible.

I think the main reason for not using worktop (which is in 3 approx 1.5m lengths) is that I read comments about it being hard to clamp to because of it being slippy - but that's easily fixed with some matting. It will do for the first attempt anyway - I can always rethink if it doesn't work out right.

The comments about height are helpful too - thinking about it, at my old place I put the bench in at "worktop" height, and it was hard to bear down. 

 

IMG_20190419_110827.jpg

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Here we are. This one is all beech (oak wedges for the stretchers so it can knock down). I'm still using this one after 4 years so that's a good sign :) The big one in background was the 8 footer, twin screw vice etc. Too far to walk from one end to the other...

 

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Here’s a pic of mine, 4” beech tops and 4” square Welsh oak frame along with 2 rows of Lignum Vitae bench dogsIt’s quite high just above waist height as I used to get a bad back with my old one. This one is about 30 years old now and still as good as new 

 

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12 hours ago, Soledad said:

Here we are. This one is all beech (oak wedges for the stretchers so it can knock down). I'm still using this one after 4 years so that's a good sign :) The big one in background was the 8 footer, twin screw vice etc. Too far to walk from one end to the other...

 

h3-1.jpg

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I don't really get GAS when I see photos of basses... this though :D 

I like the storage stuff under the window - what's the thinking with how that's laid out? 

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I'm sure my tables aren't what you're after (useless for anything bigger than a bass), but behind is a board into which I've glued those little super strong magnets.  I put all of the things I use every day so that they are right there.  It works brilliantly, everything is held really securely, even the file and the heavy straight edge.  It may not be pretty, but it is simple and works really really well.  The screwdrivers just live in holes, and the endless rolls of tape live on a piece of off-cut plastic piping.  

IMG-20180116-121531.jpg

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It's a bit more crowded than this now with an extr, much bigger, lathe, shaper, larger bench drill and CNC milling machine...

Mostly 600mm deep, but I don't do a lot of the brown stuff.HPIM3114.thumb.JPG.777bd1e85c26bbf23195e9c7463238d8.JPG.

HPIM3113.thumb.JPG.c160200c88b6d8fa6eeb2cb7a37caaf0.JPG

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The only reason I can see not to use laminate worktop, and it might not bother you anyway, is that the surface is harder and more slippery than a wooden surface, stuff tends to slip around a bit, piece of carpet would fix that though but it's worth bearing in mind. 

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17 hours ago, Stub Mandrel said:

It's a bit more crowded than this now with an extr, much bigger, lathe, shaper, larger bench drill and CNC milling machine...

Mostly 600mm deep, but I don't do a lot of the brown stuff.HPIM3114.thumb.JPG.777bd1e85c26bbf23195e9c7463238d8.JPG

Is that a Rob Roy lurking in the background?

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Very nice, well done on the Highly Commended award. Is there much Titch in it? Frames and running gear with your own body and power transmission?

I'd like a lathe, but to be honest I can only think of a couple of projects that I'd need it for, and I probably wouldn't start them anyway.

Edited by Si600
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27 minutes ago, Si600 said:

Very nice, well done on the Highly Commended award. Is there much Titch in it? Frames and running gear with your own body and power transmission?

Just Tich hornblocks! Plus I calculated the motor power to give approximately the same hauling power as a Tich or Rob Roy.

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Does moving on from building a bench to 3 1/2" guage locos count as a thread derail, or a thread rerailed? 😉

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On 13/09/2019 at 20:46, LukeFRC said:

I like the storage stuff under the window - what's the thinking with how that's laid out? 

I aim to get the things I use most as close as possible - so all the marking tools, mallets, scrapers etc. On the 6' bench I have 2 cantilevers screwed underneath (2" x 2" anything) and they project out the back about 6" or so. I built a long box which sits on those and lies so top is flush with benchtop. Put several dividers in and keep all the smaller and much used tools in there, including 2 small planes, marking knives, gauges, squares, pencils, mallets etc etc. Basically I aim to not move around! Planes under, saws very close by, chisels the same.
The good old 80/20 rule - i use 20% of tools 80% of the time - put those within immediate reach.

I know benches and workspace is a personal preference thing, but it all works right for me.

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