Beginner - Building a bench should or should not be my first project? - Page 2 - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #21 of 32 Old 10-31-2019, 06:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jags217 View Post
...................... I spoke to my father, who has much more experience than me.................
Youtube is a great place to get ideas and see what is out there. Just dont always do it the way the videos do it. I have seen the most unsafe practices out there. Also seen a lot of designs with many flaws on youtube. This is where you can draw experience from your father.
Best of luck in whatever you choose

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Retired woodworker, amongst other things, Sold full time cruising boat and now full time cruising in RV. Currently in Somerville, Tx
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post #22 of 32 Old 10-31-2019, 08:33 PM
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I realize you've already decided to build your own, so this is likely of more interest to other newbies.



When I started woodworking, I bought a workbench on sale from Harbor Freight. about 5 ft long by about 22 inches. I then added a fold down second segment behind it. The ply in the pictures gave me a wider area to attach hinges. The top is masonite and replaceable with a good coat of wax on it. It comes with four drawers and it easy to assemble. It also has a light weight vise on the far end. Since then I've added more wood to the inside of the sides and ends so it's easier to clamp things down. I can use it for assembly, or for hand planing and it stays put.

I've seen the same workbench for more than double the HF price on other sites. For me, it was a good alternative, and it's held up for the last 12 years. If I want to, I fold the back side down, but most of the time it stays up. Back then I thought I might build one, but this has worked so well for me that I'm unlikely to do that.

Since you're fairly new to woodworking, I thought you might like to read the attached pdf on the 18 major (and minor) things I learned that accelerated my learning curve. It's 10 pages, but also has pictures. I wrote it so other newbies would be able to avoid some of the painful and expensive experiences I had. This is such a great past time. Just don't try to do everything all at once.
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post #23 of 32 Old 10-31-2019, 11:34 PM
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I would definitely recommend that you build a bench! Make the first one simple though untik you get to know your likes and dislikes. I did primarily hand tool woodworking on a bench made with a single layer mdf top, construction lumber with dowel joinery with angled cross braces. I simply used pipe clamp vises for the first year, with a "twin screw" face vise made from 2 pipe clamps set into the skirt, and a pipe clamp end vise with dowels to keep it from spinning. I later added a wagon vise made from a veneer press screw. It worked well and I built some really decent stiff with it! I absolutely couldn't have built my current Moravian workbench without first having a bench to build it with. Flattening a laminated bench top with hand planes (that you may or may not have learned to properly use and sharpen) and no bench to hold it steady for you seems like it would be very difficult and not very fun. Maybe consider an English style bench with 2x boards as the top and front rail, not even typically glued up.
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Last edited by jeremymcon; 10-31-2019 at 11:43 PM.
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post #24 of 32 Old 10-31-2019, 11:53 PM
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I will say, though, that the bench you're hoping to build does look like a pretty simple build. But see how he used a work mate and a workbench to make it? You'll have to have some way to get your work up to your level and held steady. Also - I'd skip the square dog holes and go with round. Also consider face gluing 2x12s instead of all those 2x4s. You can just run screws in from the underside to hold them together, then remove the screws once the glue is cured. Much less cleanup and you don't have to have a small army of clamps already on hand.
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post #25 of 32 Old 11-01-2019, 12:19 AM
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We bought my spouse one of those Harbor Freight woodworking workbenches. She practically begged for one a few years ago, and I finally relented and bought it, under the strict condition that I could build or buy my own proper workbench in the future, no questions asked.

-> If you wait for the right sale moment, you can get that Harbor Freight woodworking workbench for $125. We did.

I hate it. I hated it before we bought it. I still hate it. Here are some of the things I don't like about it:

* The vise is useless for anything I try to use it for. I bought a good woodworking vice last week. I have not checked to see if it can be attached to her workbench.
* The dog holes are 5/8 inch. Standard 3/4 inch bench dogs and nearly all workbench accessories don't fit.
* The dog holes are drilled through to the green felt-lined drawers underneath.
* The drawer slides suck. HF sent replacement slides for the worst drawer, but none work well.

Here are things I like about it:
* It is cheap. The good part of "cheap" was the price.
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post #26 of 32 Old 11-01-2019, 11:28 AM
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post #27 of 32 Old 11-01-2019, 11:42 AM
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More of a hobby/assembly table ^ ....

That's OK for limited force applications, but it won't work with a vise or any substantial forces like from hand planing. It's meant to fold up, and that's what it will do.
Build or buy was the original issue, if I recall?

https://www.grizzly.com/workbenches

Grizzly Industrial has a few dozen work benches in all price ranges IF you want to buy a ready made one OR use a ready made top on your own lower base. The top is the hardest part to make, and to get flat and level, so a finished surface would make some sense. The large glue up I did when making a door took several long clamps, a hand plane, a power plane, and belt sander and some straight edges to test to flat. I also needed to straight line rip the planks:
https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/d...1-4-ply-55717/
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The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #28 of 32 Old 11-01-2019, 12:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrRobert View Post
There are so many ways to do this. A couple sheets of MDF or plywood will make a decent top and be flat enough. A base can be built of construction lumber.

You can also buy a pre-laminated butcher block counter. I know Woodcraft and Grizzly sell these fairly reasonable, but this is something to search as it can be a discard from a demo and people will sell them cheap.

Good Luck!!
1) MDF IMO is inadequate by itself because it drapes like a noodle unless it rests on a very flat and true base. Interestingly, most plywood has a different challenge: Regular plywood generally comes with a certain amount of twist and likewise requires a flat and true base in order to be flat enough. One workaround for the plywood is to use a high-count plywood like hardwood cabinet grade or Baltic Birch plywood. Beware: There are varying qualities of these (the Chinese ones flat out suck) with varying degrees of cost from extremely high to moderate, and of course the cheap options are not nearly as good as the expensive stuff.

2) I thought this premanufactured laminated top idea was good and bought a Woodcraft top. The first one was not flat, so I exchanged it for a replacement, which after a couple of years, I have noticed that is no longer flat. It's a lot of money for something that fails at one of its primary functions.
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post #29 of 32 Old 11-01-2019, 02:17 PM
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Workbench is THE most important tool in the shop (besides your brain)

Quote:
Originally Posted by jags217 View Post
Hey all, thanks for the advice everyone came out to give. I decided to build my workbench myself after all. I intend to use pine to reduce costs and make the work easier. My intention is to use the plans mentioned in my first post, since they're very simple.

In the opposite direction of reducing costs, I'm looking for a vise that will mount flush with the face of the bench. So far I've seen a few different options. Sjobergs and Rockler have vises that screw into the bottom of the bench and use the bench face as one of the clamping surfaces. They seem pretty decent, and probably the easiest options from an installation perspective. The Veritas twin screw requires a tall skirt on the bench, which I think I don't want. The Lie Nielsen twin screw looks the prettiest to me. However, it seems to want a 4" thick bench top, and seems to have the most challenging installation of the three.

I think my plan right now is to start with the Rockler, and someday once I'm more confident in my skills, install the Lie Nielsen instead. Thoughts?

Firstly, I commend your sensibilities here, as IMO the bench is the single most important and most used tool in the shop (a pencil and measuring stick come close). Plus, like you, while I have a lot of power tools, I am moving to more and more hand tools because the feel in the hands is very satisfying and hand tools are much quieter and don't produce hazardous dust. FYI, dust control is its own expensive specialty. Many people don't realize that big stationary power tools came to us retail/hobbyist users from the furniture manufacturing world, and those tools take a lot of setup and jigging steps, in exchange for great repeatability in large production runs; in other words, those tools are often not a good choice for one-offs and limited runs, whereas hand tools can be at least as productive.


There have been a number of really excellent insights made by prior posters in this thread, including your father's excellent guidance:
  1. Workmates (the original version) are super as noted, because they can be used singlely or in pairs. To clarify a previous Workmate suggestion, the plywood top(s) can have a 2x4 or 2x6 screwed to the backside of the plywood as "strong-backs" that get clamped by the Workmates' clamping action, and this very effectively holds the big work surface in place against heavy activity. The Workmates solution is superb because A) They are cost effect, B) they are immediate, C) they fold flat for storage/transport, D) they are multi-functional
  2. The Ron Paulk bench and its variations are very nice for small shops, but these will require the use of certain power tools for fabrication.
  3. The torsion-box work surface is fantastic and easy to fabricate with limited tools and/or means. These tops are quite good for the Workmates IF you build in reinforced areas that can accept the screws for the strong-backs.

Two suggested resources for your journey: Christopher Schwartz's seminal book on workbenches (https://www.amazon.com/Workbenches-R...s%2C184&sr=8-1), and Fine Woodworking's very fine, and perhaps more practical, book on workbenches (https://www.amazon.com/Fine-Woodwork...2625047&sr=8-7). Incidentally, the FWW book has a "New Fangled Workbench" article that I recall may strike a good balance for someone in your shoes who is starting from zero, although certain of Schwartz's benches are of ancient enough roots that they too are excellent for a zero start point.

So your thoughts about which vise are important, but understand that designing your way into this bench allows you to eliminate mistakes while working on paper instead of with your wood, and this is why one or both of those books should be your starting point. To whit, a thick top is pretty essential for a solid vise mount and this should therefore guide your design decisions. Likewise, Schwartz discusses a variety of holdfast options that sidestep the vise question and why that may be a good idea -- this can be a huge cost savings which allows you to spend those dollars on better wood or additional quality tools for your kit.

Vises: Like most things in life, quality costs. Less costly vises can be very frustrating to use and can adversely impact your work product. This happens at such a fundamental level that I have found other places to cut corners -- Schwartz has very enlightening commentary on all this. The Lee Valley, LieNielsen, and Benchcraft (costly DIY components) produce vises that are what I target in the new/retail arena. There are excellent Craigslist options, but more research is required as some of the older traditional brands have sold-out to cheaper lords. BTW, Benchcraft has a great free or inexpensive plan for a wonderful Roubo style workbench available for download.

There are some relatively inexpensive composite means to get a bench, which utilize construction grade materials. One that I am considering is to use LVL members laid flat on a sturdy base, which I get the lumber yard to accurately cut to length for me, and then top these with a sheet of melamine covered MDF. These are not Home Depot items or tasks, for this you'll need a high quality lumber yard. The LVL top is thick, heavy, forever flat and straight, and can be tooled like solid wood (with power tools (don't kill yourself or your nice hand tools on this material)), and the melamine surface is sacrificial and renders the LVL's perfectly flat.

An important thought: Like everything in woodworking, do not be afraid to do things over. In other words, woodworking is an iterative process that benefits from its own mistakes -- plan on having to redo things. Your workbench is no exception to this reality, so plan on this first one being a dry-run for a better one, and so on; you'll probably have a couple of iterations as your skills and work style evolve. At this starting point, more economy could be a good thing.


Have fun with this great project!

-- Bradley

Last edited by Scurvy; 11-01-2019 at 02:21 PM.
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post #30 of 32 Old 11-01-2019, 02:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Agnostic View Post
We bought my spouse one of those Harbor Freight woodworking workbenches. She practically begged for one a few years ago, and I finally relented and bought it, under the strict condition that I could build or buy my own proper workbench in the future, no questions asked.

-> If you wait for the right sale moment, you can get that Harbor Freight woodworking workbench for $125. We did.

I hate it. I hated it before we bought it. I still hate it. Here are some of the things I don't like about it:

* The vise is useless for anything I try to use it for. I bought a good woodworking vice last week. I have not checked to see if it can be attached to her workbench.
* The dog holes are 5/8 inch. Standard 3/4 inch bench dogs and nearly all workbench accessories don't fit.
* The dog holes are drilled through to the green felt-lined drawers underneath.
* The drawer slides suck. HF sent replacement slides for the worst drawer, but none work well.

Here are things I like about it:
* It is cheap. The good part of "cheap" was the price.
HA, I bought one of these from a different vendor before HF came on the scene, and agree with most of your experiences! Those 5/8" dog holes are demented .

All is not lost though, I will simply apply a newly fabricated top directly to this sad bench's existing top, with better dog holes and vise, and call it a day. The vise issue might take some fussing.
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post #31 of 32 Old 11-01-2019, 03:02 PM
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Ok, more from my thoughts, considering that you are thinking about a "temporary, get me going" solution, and things that I don't think have been covered enough in this thread:

1. Your surface needs to stand up to moisture, e.g. water, oil, finishes, etc. I doubt MDF/particle board would suffice, unless you finish/seal it. Your bench will be subjected to moisture eventually, as you lay drinks, lubricate your sharpening stones, finish your furniture pieces, etc.
2. I think edge gluing two 2x12s for your top isn't sufficient, as they would allow too much bounce, and would tend to sag unless you support in the center. There is a reason for face gluing multiple 2x4s, as the resulting thickness (3.5") provides much more stability, and the added weight reduces lateral wobble. Adding aprons to your top will help with stability, especially if you go with the 2x12s.
3. You will want a proper woodworking vice, and be able to attach it to your top. It's really a no-brainer, and once you really get into project building, you'll understand what I mean. Mine is CONSTANTLY used.
4. You need a minimum of 3 feet of work space in front of your bench. Ensure you add that to your planned work area, along with the bench itself.
5. Think about bench height, even for your temp bench. You will be standing and bending over your bench for long periods. Saw horses may not be tall enough.

Here's how I think I'd tackle this quandry:
- For your limited space (11x10x8), I was thinking a 5' long, 16" deep bench might be right. Your workspace (for you and bench) is now 5' x 5' approximately. You should be able to place this in the center of your space and work comfortably around it.
- Build just the top, 2x4s face glued, and add apron(s) if desired. Place on sawhorses or other stable support. Install a vice. For ~$200 (wood and vice) you now have your temp workbench and can start building your other projects.
- When you're ready to go more permanent, you've already got the top, so you can begin building the frame (legs, etc.) If you want to deepen the top, glue more 2x4s, and/or add a tool well.

As a side: Adding 2x8 aprons to both front and back will enable you to install drawers later.
Also, bigger is not always better. My bench is 8'x3'. I appreciate the depth when I'm working on a piece, but the 8' length just makes it a "just toss it there and I'll put it away later" shelf.

Last edited by AwesomeOpossum74; 11-01-2019 at 03:13 PM.
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post #32 of 32 Old 11-07-2019, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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I pulled the trigger and started work. Follow the comedy of errors here if you're so inclined.
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