Since getting my bench top laminated and flattened, I am now mentally moving on to the next step in it’s fabrication.
Actually, I think it may be more like the next two or three steps in the process.
Since finally settling on a design, species of material, and rough dimensions, I continue to read, and in some cases reread, various websites, blogs, and articles in an attempt to stitch together a more defined plan of attack for this workbench.
Common wisdom dictates that the entire building process should be though out, drawn out, planned out, and worked out well before a single timber is sawn into. This includes having worked the whole process of fabrication out to the degree that there is a definite order of operation to be strictly followed.
In theory, this is both admirable and sound advice. However, this is NOT the way I am proceeding with this bench. THIS bench is strictly “Seat O’ My Pants” type fabrication. We are talking serious eyeballing going on so far.
Normally, were I to be offering advice to someone else in building a workbench, I would be a huge proponent of the “plan it all out before hand” methodology. I would be the FIRST one to tell someone to have whatever hardware they planned to use on hand before beginning construction of their bench.
Alas, I both do not have my vise hardware, nor can I say that I am completely sure I am going with a 7′ long top, rather than an 8′ long top as originally planned. I know 12 inches may not sound like a lot to be so concerned over, but in a very small shop, it holds the potential to make a very, very big difference both in usability, as well as the all important “visually pleasing” aspect, so often referred to in this blog.
The vise hardware is dictated by finances, and the dimensions are affected by vise choice and placement. Were I to decide to trim the length to just under 8′ , I would have ample room under the bench to place the larger sized vises I have in my minds eye, while not adversely affecting the placement of the trestle base.
If I elect to scale the bench down to 7′ long, things begin to appear to get a bit more dicey. Margin for error shrinks exponentially, as the tops of the trestle base now become a real concern in vise choice, as they may end up right where the vise rails want to live. Difficult to describe, but absolutely one very good reason to have all of one’s hardware ducks in a row prior to beginning construction.
Thankfully, after having some contemplative alone time in the garage, I decided the it did not look like an 8′ bench would be horribly out of place or mis proportioned in the spot I have picked out for it’s eventual home.
Therefore, it would seem that my latest vise decision is both workable and sound. That being the use of two “Large Front Vise’s” from Lee Valley. One for the front left of the bench as described by it’s name, and one vise mounted on the end of the bench for use as an “end vise”. This is actually a very similar configuration as that which I had on my beloved first workbench. The difference being that I am proposing to improve the set up by using better quality vises for starters, and also a larger capacity vise for the front. Both of these issues are improvements over the Beloved bench, and should make for a good, strong, and more satisfying woodworking experience.
Another thing that I am doing with this bench’s construction that flies in the face of conventional wisdom, is that I am going to include a tool well on my bench. Yes, that’s right, I am going to include an honest to goodness, full length tool well on my bench. I know all the arguments against one, and also in support of one. In my mind, the plusses far outweigh the annoyance of having to clean dust and shavings out of the well each night. There….I have said it….so it shall come to pass….
Lastly, and I can almost feel the heat from the torches and the poke of the pitchforks now, I am going to put a finish on this bench. A good Tung oil, or boiled linseed, or just a simple Danish oil and wax. Blasphemous, I know. Frankly I don’t care. I do enough work with machines that the reasons for things like no tool well, and no finish become a moot point. What work I do do by hand and/or with hand tools will be well served by this bench. So why NOT build it the way I really want? Why NOT build a traditional bench in a non traditional way?
Perhaps I am on to something here……why not look at traditional woodworking with a jaundiced eye, rather than blindly following methods and practices simply because “we have been doing it this way for centuries”. This is not to say that the “old School” methods should be ignored though. They have been around for a reason….they work. No, I am only espousing a willingness to depart from these more time honored practices once the departure has been thought all the way through.
For instance, Tool wells ARE a traditional feature on Continental work benches. Over the years though, people began to feel that they were more hassle than they were worth. Shavings, small tools, screws and other detritus seemed to “collect” there, so therefore the tool well was just a catch all and superfluous.
Here is a thought…..how about CLEANING UP AFTER YOURSELF. Then the tool well will not be filled with all that junk, and thus…become USEFUL again. A little shop etiquette and self discipline go a long way here.
As for the finish on the bench top, traditionally, woodwrights demurred on applying a finish to their bench tops as it would often times make the top too slick to hold work . Some would go so far as to “add tooth” by using a scrub plane to abrade the bench top to increase the surface friction.
Since I plan to use bench holdfasts and bench dogs with my vises, as well as to have a good deal of the work that would be done with planes already done by stationary machines, there really is no reason why a couple of coats of a good quality, penetrating oil, with a good, hand rubbed wax finish, would be of any detriment to my ability to work wood on this bench.
Quite the contrary………IT PLEASES…..ME. So with my aesthetic sensibilities satisfied, it stands to reason that the net effect SHOULD BE an enjoyable woodworking experience.
So, dear reader, that wraps up my soliloquy and update on my thoughts as I freewheel my way through the remainder of it’s construction.
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