I Think We Have A Winner!!! -or- Yet Another Workbench Post!!!

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Wandering around Google images last night, (get your minds out of the gutter people. The only porn I was looking at, was workbench porn…sheesh) I ran across this picture of a bench. Doing some research, I discovered that this is a LaChappelle bench made in Switzerland. I was smitten.

This is as close to the design of the bench I made , lo those many years ago. It has all the right characteristics that I am looking to build into this next bench, and is nearly identical to what I am used to using.

As of late, I have been fixated on Frank Klausz’s cabinetmakers work bench. The design is perfect for hand tool work, but more complicated than I had originally considered building. Because I rediscovered Jim Tolpin’s “Wrokbench Book” which has dimensions and drawings to work from, I was leaning to building the Klausz bench.

I did have some misgivings about building a bench with the traditional “dog leg” shoulder vise though. Mostly because I am planning to build it out of Douglas Fir or Southern Yellow Pine, which may not lend themselves to the vises that Mr. Klausz calls for in his design. The vise’s “arm” looks to me to be something of a weak link, and prone to failure unless built of much harder,more durable wood. Add to that the traditional “End Vise” on Mr. Klausz’s bench, and the challenge of building a bench built for the ages increases exponentially. Building a bench with these vises, requires that the builder really get it “right”. Zero room for error.
I DO love the design though. If you watch the video I posted last night of Mr. Klausz cutting dovetails using his bench, you can quickly see why he is so militant about this particular design. It is truly a thing of beauty.

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A thing of beauty indeed. One I very much want to build. However, there is something in the back of my psyche that nags at me to wait on building that design. It tells me that that bench’s time will come. When it does, it will be when my skills are better restored, better honed, and the ability to purchase nice, hard Maple stock for it’s construction will be there. To build this bench out of Douglas Fir will undoubtedly leave me feeling unsatisfied and wanting to go out and spend money I don’t have on the stock that this bench really deserves. If I am going to build it, I am going to build it right.

Back to the LaChappelle. Here is a bench that I can feel comfortable building out of something other than Maple. I can build it to be a WORK bench, and not a shop show piece. It shares a number of features of the Klausz bench in terms of overall scale and design, including the tool well along the back rail.
The tool well is the subject of much debate among aspiring bench building woodworkers. “Collector of detritus” “Catch all” “Unnecessary” are all arguments on the against side, while the proponents generally postulate that a truly organized and fastidious woodworker…..like me…..gain much from having one on their bench. Tomato….Tomahhhto.

For my needs, and wants for that matter, I like the idea. Having never had a bench with a tool well, and planning to locate the bench against a wall rather than in the middle of the shop, I am quite enamored with the LaChappelle design for my needs. If I were to be placing it in the middle of the shop, I think I would do without the tool well so as to provide a complete work surface accessible from all sides. Since I am in a shop space that is too small for that, I have to position it against a wall, so this lends itself nicely to the tool well design. I can live with it, work with it, and decide which side of the tool well debate I side with.

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So now, this is the latest finalist in my personal workbench design  showdown. The only thing I think I will change is the end vise. From a complexity, longevity, and ease of construction standpoint, I think I may just stick with a normal full length end vise purchased from Lee Valley.

Then again, I can absolutely see myself beg, borrow, and stealing to buy a German made or Lie Nielsen traditional end vise hardware kit, if I can somehow find the resources to spring for such extravagances. It would be nice to have on this bench. I could always repurpose it on the Klausz bench when I eventually get to build it……otherwise a normal, single screw, full width end vise, suits me just fine.

Another feature of both the Klausz and the LaChappelle, are the end caps of either end. They are almost like giant “bread board” ends. Since I plan to use Douglas Fir for the construction of this bench, having a pair of husky, cross-grain caps on either end should help keep the top flat and well behaved. Either that, or provide the means for catastrophic glue joint failure….

Either way, I think I am going to find out. I think, at least for now, that this is going to be “The One” that I build initially for the new shop. Nice proportions, simple, stout construction. Familiar look, feel, and hardware to my beloved first bench, the LaChappelle is the current front runner for my affection.

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2 thoughts on “I Think We Have A Winner!!! -or- Yet Another Workbench Post!!!

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