Time for a new bench! - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 02-03-2020, 09:08 PM Thread Starter
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Question Time for a new bench!

I'm looking for information with this one. My current workbench is 4'x2', with a leg vise. It's made of four layers of 3/4" plywood, so it's sort of a mini faux-roubo.

I've now moved into a much larger shop space (nearly 25'x25', up from about 6'x6'... I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do with all the space), and I'm starting to plan building a new, longer, workbench. Here's what I know I want:

- At least 6' of length. I've been able to make things work on the 4' bench, but two more feet would be really nice.
- A tail vise. I recently stuck an old, low quality metal face vise on the end of my bench, and I'm loving it.
- A good face vise. I mostly like my leg vise, but I've recently been wondering if a shoulder vise wouldn't suit me better.
- Suitable for hand tools. I'm still getting used to the idea that I can have power tools in my shop, since it's new to this space.

I have a slab of red oak, which I expect will wind up around 7'x11"x3" when I've cleaned it up, and I'm considering making a Frank Klausz style bench, using the slab for the front 10-11", and making up the rest with whatever I have handy. I've also considered a Paul Sellers style bench, which would certainly leave the oak for some other project. Yes, I realize these are basically opposite ends of the complexity spectrum. That's part of why I'm having trouble deciding.

So here's the question: What types of benches have you used? How did you like them? If you've used both style I mentioned, what did you like or dislike on each of them?

Thanks, all!
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post #2 of 22 Old 02-04-2020, 04:01 PM
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6'x6' shop space? Not much room to move around, much less build a project larger than a box. Respect.

Size aside, the weight and stoutness of a bench is very important for hand tool woodworking to minimize bouncing and racking.

My bench is 8'x3'. That's way too big for me, because the whole left side (I'm left handed, so my face vice is on the right) is just extra horizontal space for me to pile crap on. The 3ft depth is good, though I'd like a tool well to help keep the top clear. 5'x3' might be a better fit for me.

* that reminds me; I need to finish rebuilding my fried Sunbeam mixer. It's spread out all over my workbench and I can't get anything else done.

Geoff
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post #3 of 22 Old 02-04-2020, 04:43 PM
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A mostly undiscovered and forgotten bench.......

This bench was used by joiners in a previous century, often built on site from material available, but some have survived to this day. It's a simple construction and sturdy. See if it appeals to your hand tool woodworking:


A more popular style is this one from plans on Woodsmith.
https://www.woodsmith.com/search/?q=workbench+
I highly recommend slide out trays or drawers under any type of bench, construction allowing of course:

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)

Last edited by woodnthings; 02-04-2020 at 04:52 PM.
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post #4 of 22 Old 02-04-2020, 09:01 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AwesomeOpossum74 View Post
6'x6' shop space? Not much room to move around, much less build a project larger than a box. Respect.
Yep! It's a challenge. There was room for me, a sawbench, my workbench, and my Dutch tool chest. I could expand a few feet in each direction while I was working, but everything had to be back inside if I left. I built a pair of toy chests for my nephews in it, which was an adventure, especially trying to get 10' boards in for cutting. Final assembly took the whole floor space, and I had to paint them on the dining table!


[/quote]
Size aside, the weight and stoutness of a bench is very important for hand tool woodworking to minimize bouncing and racking.

My bench is 8'x3'. That's way too big for me, because the whole left side (I'm left handed, so my face vice is on the right) is just extra horizontal space for me to pile crap on. The 3ft depth is good, though I'd like a tool well to help keep the top clear. 5'x3' might be a better fit for me.

* that reminds me; I need to finish rebuilding my fried Sunbeam mixer. It's spread out all over my workbench and I can't get anything else done.[/QUOTE]

Hah! Yeah, the first bench I built was attached to a wall at the house I was living at, and was something like 10' by 3'. It was far, far, too big. Then I was on 4'x2' for five or six years, and I have a lot more experience than I did. I'm actually figuring on 6 or 7 feet long, depending on how the material breaks down, and about 18 inches deep, including a small tool well. I rarely use more than the first 12" of my current bench unless I'm doing assembly, and I've now got a separate table for that.

Also, good luck with the mixer. What's wrong with it?

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Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
This bench was used by joiners in a previous century, often built on site from material available, but some have survived to this day. It's a simple construction and sturdy. See if it appeals to your hand tool woodworking:
The incredible English Joiner&#39;s Bench - YouTube


A more popular style is this one from plans on Woodsmith.
https://www.woodsmith.com/search/?q=workbench+
I highly recommend slide out trays or drawers under any type of bench, construction allowing of course:
Watch This Before Building Your Workbench - YouTube
I've looked at both of those, and just re-watched the one from Rex Kreuger yesterday. His looks pretty much like the one Paul Sellers advocates, which is one I've considered.

I'm not a big fan of drawers, although I thought I would be. On my current bench I have a shelf about 5" down from the top (just enough for my holdfasts to clear it), and I keep a few things on that shelf. The lower area holds part trays with fasteners, a strop, and my smaller set of diamond plates. Each time I've tried enclosing anything down there, I've immediately given up and gone back to just a big open space. It's just annoying to have to unclamp something if I want to get to the screws.

Thanks for the suggestions, though! Input is always welcome.
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post #5 of 22 Old 02-05-2020, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by amckenzie4 View Post
Also, good luck with the mixer. What's wrong with it?
Started smoking on about the 5th batch of cookies in short succession. I haven't found any evidence of electrical burns or shorts. The scent was of dough, not silicone, so I suspect it was flour. The cooling air duct inlet is directly behind the beater shafts on the bottom, and there's no real filter, which I think is bad design. Overall, though, I think it just needs a good clean and lube.

Geoff
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post #6 of 22 Old 02-05-2020, 10:27 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah, that's not a great design choice. I know a guy who is running a free repair clinic every month or so, and we've seen a few old mixers that mostly needed cleaning. They're pretty solid otherwise, though!
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post #7 of 22 Old 02-07-2020, 07:46 AM
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I went through few work benches in my life,even after those still come up with ideals what I should have done. So I look at work benches as a never ending project.My latest ideal is,I see so many rolling tool boxes on CL.I wish I would have purchase several of those tool cabinets with drawers and put them back to back so that could use the bench from all sides and have storage. I would make a frame around all the tool boxes to fit,so that I could lay down to 3' wide solid core doors(another purchase off CL) then a sheet of MDF or sheet press board so that could replace it after all the clamping and gluing that takes place on top of a work bench.Put this bench is completely different than one of those craftsman style work bench.Just another ideal for that 25'x25' shop. Congratulations on your new shop,Pics???
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post #8 of 22 Old 02-07-2020, 09:14 AM
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My work bench's (3) in the past were of the same exact design. I built them as I relocated to different areas and plan on building it again. It was approximately 2' x 5' and more than heavy enough to take a pounding. Very little time is spent on my work benches. Most of my time is spent on my assembly table. My work bench is always located against a wall and my assembly/outfeed table is located directly across from it about 3 feet away. I am not a hand tool guy although I use them for a touch here and there.
Here it is in my woodworkingtalk photo album........... https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/memb...ums/workbench/

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post #9 of 22 Old 02-07-2020, 10:42 AM
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I built a Paul Sellers bench (build thread here) and have mixed feelings about it.


PROS
  • Simple build. Easy to follow instructions (also step-by-step videos on YouTube). It's impossible to screw this up.
  • Budget friendly. Doesn't use a lot of wood, not a lot of tools needed.
  • Very sturdy and heavy. Great for small hand tool work.
  • The tool well is awesome. Sits below the bench surface, so tools stay within reach, but out of the way.
  • Vise is very sturdy and well built.

CONS
  • Limited material holding options. I added dog holes and plane stops to mine.
  • Vise is not flush to sides, limiting options there as well.
  • Not very wide (actual work surface is only about 12-13").
  • Can't really clamp anything to the bench.

Paul does EVERYTHING in the vise, so the biggest drawback to this design is just that - limited holding options. You can put a bar clamp in the vise and work on wider pieces, but for me it was awkward. Because of the tool well and aprons, you can't clamp pieces to the work surface - a feature I find myself wanting more and more.

My next bench will be a modified Roubo style. I feel like that design will address all the shortcomings of this bench.
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post #10 of 22 Old 02-07-2020, 12:36 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AmishElectricCo View Post
I built a Paul Sellers bench (build thread here) and have mixed feelings about it.


PROS
  • Simple build. Easy to follow instructions (also step-by-step videos on YouTube). It's impossible to screw this up.
  • Budget friendly. Doesn't use a lot of wood, not a lot of tools needed.
  • Very sturdy and heavy. Great for small hand tool work.
  • The tool well is awesome. Sits below the bench surface, so tools stay within reach, but out of the way.
  • Vise is very sturdy and well built.

CONS
  • Limited material holding options. I added dog holes and plane stops to mine.
  • Vise is not flush to sides, limiting options there as well.
  • Not very wide (actual work surface is only about 12-13").
  • Can't really clamp anything to the bench.

Paul does EVERYTHING in the vise, so the biggest drawback to this design is just that - limited holding options. You can put a bar clamp in the vise and work on wider pieces, but for me it was awkward. Because of the tool well and aprons, you can't clamp pieces to the work surface - a feature I find myself wanting more and more.

My next bench will be a modified Roubo style. I feel like that design will address all the shortcomings of this bench.
Thanks! This pretty much confirmed my thoughts about Paul's bench. There are a lot of things he does that look more awkward than they need to be. The cost and simplicity are definitely attractive, though.
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post #11 of 22 Old 02-07-2020, 01:09 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kroll524 View Post
I went through few work benches in my life,even after those still come up with ideals what I should have done. So I look at work benches as a never ending project.My latest ideal is,I see so many rolling tool boxes on CL.I wish I would have purchase several of those tool cabinets with drawers and put them back to back so that could use the bench from all sides and have storage. I would make a frame around all the tool boxes to fit,so that I could lay down to 3' wide solid core doors(another purchase off CL) then a sheet of MDF or sheet press board so that could replace it after all the clamping and gluing that takes place on top of a work bench.Put this bench is completely different than one of those craftsman style work bench.Just another ideal for that 25'x25' shop. Congratulations on your new shop,Pics???
Thanks! Sounds like it's not a great choice for my uses, but I'm always interested to see what other people are using!

And pictures! I'm still setting up, and don't yet have enough storage for everything. Most of my tools and supplies have basically been in storage for six years, so I don't have dedicated cabinets for everything, hence the boxes of stuff all over.

Left side of the shop:
Shop photos! by a_mckenzie_4, on Flickr

The open space at the end will be a lumber rack. The space is only about 9' long, but I rarely want to store anything longer than 8' for more than a week or so. There's a Rikon mortiser behind the metal pillar, and the wood with clamps hanging off it is the back of my workbench.

Right side of the shop:
Shop photos! by a_mckenzie_4, on Flickr

The two cabinets in the foreground are a project for a friend. Hopefully I'll have them finished in a week or so, and can get them out of the way! All the way at the right is a tool chest I inherited from my grandfather. It was in pretty rough shape, and I wanted it to be deeper, so I filled a crack in the lid, added about 3" to the height, and built tills for it. The next step is to paint it, and I'll have a chest for my general construction tools (rafter square, heavy hammer, some chisels, and so on).

Far right:
Shop photos! by a_mckenzie_4, on Flickr

This is the edge of the shop on that side. I'm using the odd nook initially as storage while I try to find places for everything, and eventually for some metalworking. I'm figuring to put a curtain up to cover it, so I can have a place to use a grinder that's not constantly covered in sawdust and shavings.

There will eventually be at least a half-wall about where I was standing, to limit the spread of my stuff. I'm thinking of putting a lumber rack on that, as well, so that I can store boards for whatever I'm working on there, rather than mixed in with everything else, or on the floor.
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post #12 of 22 Old 02-07-2020, 03:42 PM
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Great beginnings...be sure to add a lot of lights if it's not a problem. After awhile I'll be watching for your post that you've run out of room!
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post #13 of 22 Old 02-07-2020, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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Great beginnings...be sure to add a lot of lights if it's not a problem. After awhile I'll be watching for your post that you've run out of room!
Better lighting is high on the list! I'm unemployed at the moment, so things are being prioritized by "what can I do with what I've already got?" criteria. Once that's changed I'm switching to LED panel lights. I should be able to just replace the bulb fixtures that are already there, so it should be pretty easy.

There's a list, though... we'll see how the job hunt goes!

I expect I will run out of room sooner or later, but I doubt it'll be very soon!
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post #14 of 22 Old 02-08-2020, 07:33 AM
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  • Vise is not flush to sides, limiting options there as well.

Can you explain more?
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post #15 of 22 Old 02-08-2020, 11:01 AM Thread Starter
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Can you explain more?
A common recommendation from most bench designers is that the rear jaw of the face vise should be flush with the bench and, ideally, the leg behind it. That means if you want to clamp something longer than the vise can support, you can clamp the other end to your bench without needing spacers. And even if it's not that long, having the material pressed against the front edge of the bench top will stabilize it when you're planing, drilling, or whatever.

On Paul's bench, the rear jaw of the vise sticks out an inch or two, so it's not flush with the bench. That means that clamping works very differently, and if you want to attach the far end of a piece to the bench for extra support you need a spacer.

So in one way it limits your options. On the other hand, it does open up some other options, like clamping pieces that aren't actually flat.
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post #16 of 22 Old 02-08-2020, 01:35 PM
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Got it. Thanks. I assumed that Sellers' vise was flush to the bench.
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post #17 of 22 Old 02-08-2020, 01:41 PM
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Here's a visual...

PIC #1
The vise protrudes out from the apron. Ideally, it would be flush so that you can clamp longer boards to the aprons. Some aprons on these Nicholson style benches even have dog holes to help support the piece (reference pic).

PIC #2
Paul teaches his "clamp in vise" method. Here you can see I've done just that, put a clamp in the vice to hold this small piece. On most benches, you'd use a tail vice and a dog to do this. There are any number of ways to secure your work on a bench - Paul just prefers to do it all with this vise.
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post #18 of 22 Old 02-08-2020, 04:39 PM
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I built my vise from solid hickory and flush to the bench save a strip of luan so the face is replaceable.
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post #19 of 22 Old 02-08-2020, 10:21 PM
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My bench seems to address most the problems of concern above.



A face vice installed on the end for a tail vice, and a shoulder vice on the front.

The legs are flush with the sides of the bench, so clamping and support are easy with items big and small. You can see they also have bench holes so I can use bench dogs to support the work piece. The shoulder vice is mounted with a pivoting face that adjusts to irregular shapes.







Here is a picture of the bottom. The sides are 4 inches thick, the middle, about 2 1/4, which allows the use of clamps along the length of the bench like in the picture above with orange quick clamp.



Bench is about 24x60 inches. When I built the bench I was planning on a need for clamping large pieces like doors. This is the bench I came up with after reading a few books and figuring out what was important. My own adaptation. If you would like to make something like this for yourself Iíll try to explain how I put it together. You have something flat that needs securing to a bench, this work bench will do it.
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post #20 of 22 Old 02-09-2020, 09:50 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, Terry! How do you like the shoulder vise? I'm pretty sure I'm going to wind up with one, but I'm not sure how I'll like it after a leg vise.
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