The lowly work bench.
To a lot of people, including myself I must admit, we don't think much about our work bench. We toil away on whatever surface we can convince ourselves is flat and stable enough to work on.
At one time I had a worse work bench than the one above, an old door on two saw horses.
Then one day I was going down the road and seen an old kitchen table someone had thrown out. So I picked it up from the curb and carried it back to the shop, fixed a leg on it, and had a nicer work bench. As time went on I banged it up so bad that the top was terrible. So I screwed some plywood on top. As that plywood got banged up, I added another layer.
Somewhere along the way I threw together shelving under all that plywood. Then I added the pipe clamp vice on one end. It is a nice work bench. It did it's job. Let's face it though. It really is just an old kitchen table that I've built up around.
Please do not misunderstand it. This is a fine work bench. I am not at all making fun of it. It has served it's purpose well. I've always liked it because I can abuse it day in and day out, cut on it, finish on it, write measurements on it, and if it gets bad, add more plywood. This bench will probably be in my shop for years to come. It is my go to surface finishing. You may notice on the top where I have gotten stain all over the top.
Yes I am getting to a point.
For a couple of years now I have been thinking that maybe, just maybe, I'd like to have myself a proper, nicely built, solid work bench.
I've seen other's work benches. I've drooled over a few in various wood working magazines. It came to my mind a while back that the whole time I've been admiring all these benches, I was also making mental notes of what I might want in my own work bench, just in case I ever decided to take the time to build one.
Well, that day has come.
A couple of the obvious things I wanted in my bench were for it to be solid, and I wanted to use up wood that wasn't good for much else, just so I could say I did not waste expenses on it.
So I have had a pile of broken cotton wood planks in my shop for what seems like forever. I made it out of that. I ripped those broken planks into widths, working around cracks and bad imperfections, to get all the usable wood I could out of it. Then for the solid pieces I used Titebond III glue and screws to assure that it all held together good. Actually, I used way more screws than needed because I want it to hold together long after I'm gone from this world. I figure one of my kids will one day have a nice bench, or they can all get together and have one helluva wiener roast with it.
I wanted a wide bench. I wound up making it thirty inches wide and five feet long. I've looked at wide benches and like the split top design. This allows one to use clamps in the middle of the bench if you need to for clamping down items.
For each slab I glued up cotton wood to make them twelve inches wide, five feet long, and five inches thick.
On one end of the slabs I mounted a vice. In that vice I attached a block with double holes in it. This allows clamping straight in the vice, or placing dogs in the holes to make use of the corresponding double row of dog holes that run the length of the table for clamping long materials.
On the side of the other slab is another vice for clamping small items.
Both of these vices did not add to the cost of the bench. The one on the end was given to me by a friend who upgraded to a larger vice. The one on the side if a Record vice that my Dad brought to me from Georgia where he picked it up at a yard sale.
For sturdiness of the base, I set out to make it as beefy as the top.
The feet and the stretchers for the split top are five inches tall and four and a half inches thick. The legs are five inches wide and three inches thick. All of this was built in layers, with two of the three leg layers passing all the way through the feet and stretchers, and everything glued and screwed together.
Between the foot and leg assemblies I wanted to put drawers for storage. So instead of a simple stretch, I rabbited, glued and screwed two horizontal board and one vertical board up the middle. This created space for drawers on each side.
Then both slabs for the split top were rabbited a quarter inch to match the base. Then they were glued down and held firmly in place with seven inch long lag bolts.
At that point, I stopped and stained everything done so far with Minwax dark walnut stain and saturated it all with boiled linseed oil.
The drawers on each side are made of cottonwood and ride on three quarter inch runners that are glued and screwed to the inside of the base assembly. I used box, or finger joints as some people call them, to assembly the drawers.
I left the drawers light colored to contrast the bench, then added dark handles to contrast the drawers. I was actually torn on how I wanted to finish these until I got it all done. Then I stood back and looked at it and couldn't have been more happy with the result. So I went ahead and finished the drawers with boiled linseed oil.
You may have noticed that one side has four drawers while the other side has six.
This is because on the side with the dog holes I wanted two deep drawers for hand planes.
I have started making dividers for the drawers to hold different tools I want to store in them. None of this is glued or attached in any kind of way because I may change these layouts several times before I am happy with them.
So here it is again. I am extremely happy with it. I have pushed myself to the limit working hard on it. I think I have a bench that will, short of some natural disaster, out live me though.