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    Workbench design

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    Regeis
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    Workbench design

    Post by Regeis on Fri May 17, 2013 3:06 pm

    So I was reading Chris Schwarz's blog; 'lost art press', and found a set of images which totally changed my ideas for building a workbench.

    Previously, my design had been a split-top, huge, heavy design; I was trying desperately to think of ways I could fit it into the place I rent, let alone have space to build it.

    After reading Schwarz's book 'Workbenches: From design and theory to construction and use', I knew that the width of a bench became useless if it was too wide; you couldn't reach across it, so there was no point to the extra width apart from weight. The split-top design was intended to allow me to clamp things to more of the surface in order to get around this issue, but I was thinking the wrong way.

    On the blog, there is a set of images of a bench which, albeit poorly made and badly restored, had something I hadn't seen before in a bench: An extremely narrow top. The length was normal (6 or 7 feet), but the top was maybe just over a foot wide. I realised that such a bench would solve my space issues and not really suffer much compared to a 'standard' bench: any boards which won't fit on it are going to be big enough for me to sit on and plane on the floor anyway.

    So I warmed up google sketchup and started playing with designs. The current one is pretty blocky and chunky, but I like that; it looks solid. It's too tall at the moment because I need to calculate the ideal height to fit the wooden planes I use, but other than that the design does everything I want it to.

    I've already got the metalwork for the leg vise; I bought it in Germany from Dieter Schmidt's fine tools in Berlin. The material for the top is 1.5" thick laminated walnut which I got on sale a while ago from a kitchen supply store; I'll be layering two or three of the four slabs I have to make the top (probably two, thinking about it). This will result in a bench about 6ft long and just over 1ft wide.

    The frame is to be made from 3.5" thick sapele timbers which I purchased when on sale at B&Q (they were about £6 each then, but now they're £20ish), and will be composed of the two side assemblies (mortised and tenoned, glued up) and two long stretchers attached by tusk tenons so that I can knock the thing down (tusks not pictured). The top will be attached via bullet dowels set into the top of the frame (indexing to holes in the underneath of the top), held in place by gravity (it'll be heavy enough).

    The whole thing is designed to be tough, heavy enough not to rack or shift and yet knock-down, so that when I move to a new place it'll be easier to shift. It'll handle heavy duty workholding tasks and will make my work much easier to carry out than with the small planing board I'm using right now. I plan to use veritas wonder-dogs in the dogholes, as well as hand-forged holdfasts made by a blacksmith friend of mine; the wonder-dogs mean I won't need an end vise. I also plan on building a chain-tension system into the leg vise like the one made by ther 'Ancora yacht service', though I'm trying to work out if steel cable on rollers would work instead of bike chain on gears.

    Let me know what you think of the design; it needs tweaking but I'm pretty happy with this, having knocked it up in a couple of hours.

    [img][/img]

    The bench design alongside the blog image.

    [img][/img]

    The walnut I'll be using for the top.
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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by ferdinand on Fri May 17, 2013 4:21 pm

    Its beautifull! I love it! Reminds me of an old workbench i saw at the farm of a cousin of my wife. Congrats!
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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by Regeis on Fri May 17, 2013 4:48 pm

    Like I said, the photo is the inspiration; the sketchup image is the only work I've done on this so far; you can congratulate me when I've actually built the thing =P

    But I'm glad you like the design; thanks!

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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by Rizzar on Sat May 18, 2013 1:04 am

    Hey There!

    I am curious seeing your working progress.
    Always dreamed of a solid wood workbench.

    A thing about your design: The legs of the bench!
    Everytime I see a table or something similar that widens at the bottom I begin to wonder how to work on that.
    You will be running around that thing several hours, so I am sure it would be much more convenient (and safe concerning trip hazard) to keep the legs especially the feet as narrow as possible with the stabiliser bars so high that you can at least get your feet under them.
    If you are afraid of the bench´s stability on the ground you should consider tightening it with angles and screws to the ground unless it is not heavy enough to withstand your power.

    I worked with Sapele on some tillers of mine. I know it can be very low priced, but made the experience the wood grain itself can have a quite low cohesion (perhaps mine was too dry). I must admit I used leavings of a woodprocessing company and I didn´t pay much. The sapele I purchased from them was the outer of the trunk with hard and sapwood.
    The problem in special occured when doweling, so the dowels tended to break out grains on the opposing side.
    It seemed to me sapele was beside hard very brittle.

    I´d suggest you some more dense material like oak or ash with heavy long grain cohesion.
    I know it is a lot more expensive, but considering you want to use your bench for some decades you shouldn´t forcefully save money with the material in disadvantage of durability.

    Greetings Rizzar
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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by Regeis on Sat May 18, 2013 7:47 am

    I deliberately designed the base of the bench to be wider than the top; I don't feel that having a base just over a foot wide will lend the stability I need, and frankly I don't want this thing falling on me (or indeed falling at all; it's going to be heavy!). I'll be aware of the trip hazard pretty much constantly, and don't expect it to be a big issue; the bigger hazard would be a huge chunk of timber falling on me, or a tool slipping and cutting me when the bench tips.

    The sapele should be easily strong enough; the timbers are -very- thick, and I've had some experience working it; it's a -little- splintery, particularly when working with thin pieces, but with this size it should be just fine. The main reason sapele is splintery is due to the interlocked grain, but the structural strength of it should more than suffice, provided I'm careful not to split it. The grain in the large timbers is pretty straight, too, which will help.
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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by kenh on Mon May 20, 2013 6:01 am

    Love the bench design. Best of luck with that.

    Too bad it's so big. If I built one like that it would barely fit in the cockpit of my boat/home and to actually use it, I'd have to learn to walk on water next to the hull!
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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by Regeis on Mon May 20, 2013 8:17 am

    Thanks, Kenh! In comparison to most benches, this one is a weeny; the big split-top Ruobo-style benches which benchcrafted sell are more than twice the width of this and at least a foot longer. They'd be far too large for me, and from what I've read you have even less space than I do! My final exam is tomorrow, so from then on I'll be free to finish the LARP crossbow build I'm working on and get started on this bench ^_^ A blacksmith friend of mine has commissioned a set of lever-action greatbellows for his forge after that (he's paying me with a set of hand-forged holdfasts and probably some ticklers). I'm really looking forward to having time to make some shavings and sawdust! Hopefully I'll manage to not go over the top and end up making firewood, too...
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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by Regeis on Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:40 pm

    So it's been some time since I last got some work done on this project, but I've finally marked out the leg assemblies and started chopping the first mortise!

    I'm drilling out some of the waste with a brace and auger bit (1" diameter), but it's tough going. A single 1" hole through these 3.5" thick legs took me half an hour!
    I'm pretty out of shape, but this should go a long way to changing that, given that there're a lot more holes to be drilled after this one.

    I'm then chopping the rest of the waste out with a 1" bevel-edge chisel. I could buy a 1" framing chisel, but I don't seem to be having trouble keeping the bevel-edge straight in the mortise right now, so I don't feel the need to buy a huge framing chisel which I won't use after this project.

    It's loud, it's tiring and it's sweaty work, but it's much more satisfying than using machine tools, and I'm getting a workout!

    " />
    " />
    " />

    This is the first mortise I've ever cut, and obviously I've not finished it yet (it's a bit late now and the neighbours might get annoyed), but let me know what you think so far!
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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by Regeis on Sat Jul 20, 2013 2:25 am

    [img][/img][img][/img]
     
    Here are a couple of pictures of the first mortise completed. It's the first joint of this kind I've ever cut, and apart from a bit of tearout which I glued and clamped back down, I'm pretty happy with it. I worked from both sides, attempting to eliminate tearout but this area got torn when I cleaned the walls with my 1.5" chisel. I'll be more careful next time =P
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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by Regeis on Sun Jul 21, 2013 12:07 pm

    Here's the second mortise on this piece, I decided to just chop this one out instead of drilling, so let's hole it's just as easy to keep straight =P I didn't get through the whole thing due to annoyed neighbours, but will continue tomorrow. Don't worry, I won't post up every mortise on the whole project here; I'm just excited to finally be working on a project!

    " />

    " />

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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by chaz on Sun Jul 21, 2013 12:46 pm

    Regeis,

      Looks very nice. As a suggestion you might drill a series of holes just less than the width of your mortise and then use a rasp and a file to clean up the walls to your specifications ........ probably a lot quieter than hammer and chisel. You have already proved to yourself you can do it the hard way.
    However, the effort and method is up to the craftsman.

      Keep going.

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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by Regeis on Sun Jul 21, 2013 4:16 pm

    I initially intended to use that method, using my brace and auger to produce the holes. As it turns out, the brace is much more physically challenging to use than the mallet and chisel approach, so I just went on ahead and chopped them out.

    I can't afford a pillar drill and, to be honest, I find the hand tool work very cathartic. I find machine tools very noisy and intimidating, and don't really enjoy using them because of that.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by chaz on Sun Jul 21, 2013 4:56 pm

    You are doing fine, your skills will sharpen don't forget to sharpen your tools.

    Chaz
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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by Regeis on Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:35 am

    I chopped the first blind mortise into the front-left leg today, ready to accept the upper stretcher. I still need to chop the mortises for the long stretchers, cut the tenons for this side of the frame and bore the holes for the vice screw to fit into. Then it's off to B&Q for some more decking posts!

    I'm really loving making progress on this project; it feels great to actually be building something after planning it for so long. And once it's done, it should be much easier to build some crossbows! =D
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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by Lightly on Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:24 am

    Regeis;

    As I am extremely interested in a narrow bench for the same reasons you state, let's see more of what  you made!

    Best;
    Lightly

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    Re: Workbench design

    Post by Hermit on Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:41 am

    Reguis,might I suggest you check your augur bit for sharpness?a razor sharp augur bit will make auguring out a hole a much more pleasant task.Augur bits can be sharpened with a small triangular file.Check also the screw thread on the tip of the bit,if the tip is broken off ,or badly blunted,it will make auguring difficult,especially with a blunt bit.I hope that the relatively narrow width of the bench does not lead to instability problems,I understand that you have space considerations tho',but if it works for you,then it's good.There is something about a joint made with hand tools,that is perfectly fitted,that is very satisfying.........good luck with your project
                                                                            Hermit.

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