It’s cold outside and winter has finally descended here in lovely Colorado. As the holidays approach, the siren call of workbench building has become too loud to ignore any longer. My latest rehab project completed and delivered, I find myself with an itch that needs scratching.
The latest completed project out of The Tiny Shop was a 1916 Brunswick phonograph.
She came to me in pretty rough shape. Strangely, I think it was the 3 or 4 miles of cheap lacquer that were heaped on this poor thing that protected it from the abuse and torment that only the ravages of time can bestow. Once I got it stripped down and sanded, it all of a sudden began to live again.
She had been manhandled a few times prior to my loving ministrations. Some of her veneer had been sanded through, some of her lines worn down. On balance though, I felt her to be more than worthy of the care and attention I put into her.
So, without gainful employment, and without a paying project for The Tiny Shop, what better time to embark on yet another bench building adventure?
I mentioned in a recent post that I wanted to replace the cobbled together, yet highly functional, table saw out feed table I have with a second workbench. Since I have been gradually returning to hand tool use and finding myself returning to the joinery techniques of my youth, it was a wonderful excuse to enter once more into the madness that is bench building planning.
If I remember correctly, the last time I wrote I was still hemming and hawing over which style bench to make. On the one hand, a scaled down and modernized version of the Scandinavian/Germanic/Continental bench was the initial go-to choice after flirting with a Roubo design and also a brief tryst with the Holtzanapffal design. Thematic and aesthetic continuity.
I set the idea for the second bench on the back burner for a little while though. I was really starting to feel hemmed in my shop space, and the thought of a cold winter in such tight quarters was all I needed to start pondering the ways in which I could get a little breathing room in there.
Above is the original configuration of The Tiny Shop. Functional, fairly efficient, and mostly very comfortable. However, the limitations of the space and the lack of adequate means to store lumber, were beginning to wear on me. Stacking boards on top of the Gorilla racks was a real pain in the ass. It ment I had to un-stack, and then re-stack the entire pile whenever I needed something that was not right on top of the pile. It also had a way of accentuating the closed in feeling of the shop. The ceiling is very low, and towering racks just make it feel a little….tight.
In mulling over my options, I was staring at the gorrilla rack system and remembered that it was made to be modular……thunder clapped, the earth shook. Why not separate the two sections, and set them side by side rather than one on top of the other? Duh!!!
So that is what I did. Above you can see the mayhem that this caused. The Tiny Shop turned into a mess that still haunts my quiet moments. The upside though,is that I was able to mount proper lumber racking on to my walls. These were perfectly sized for such a small space. While I wont be stocking up or nurturing a wood stash any time soon, the racks allow for good storage of lumber for projects in process currently. Perfect!
They also have the added benefit of creating the feeling of a more open space. Double bonus!
So, that little bunny trail project accomplished, I turned my attention back to the replacement out feed table.
It has become something of a return to the obsession that I had when building the S.S.Madcap bench of world renown. Back and forth I go between the various pro’s and con’s of each considered design. What should be the planned length? What should be the planned height? Blah, blah, blah.
As lumber buying time approaches, I find that the Roubo design keeps nagging at me. The down side is that anyone who has read Christopher Schwarz’s books, or who frequents the popular woodworking forums has built this bench. It is ubiquitous, almost cliche.
I WANT ONE!
Yes I could carry the traditional woodworking bench theme through with another copy of the classic form. But I have done that…twice now. Add to this that for all its zombie like devotee’s, there is a lot to like about the Roubo, especially for hand work.
To start, the roubo has some features that make it a better choice for the type of work I am doing lately and plan to do moving forward. For example, instead of having a large overhang of the top, the Roubo’s legs are flush with the top. this provides extra clamping surface that the Scandinavian design does not allow for. It is lower than the S.S.Madcap. The lower height not only being optimal for hand planing, but also perfect for outfeed duties…happy, happy, happy.
It is designed to be very stout. I will be building mine with BORG lumber, just like the S.S. Madcap was. However, this time around, I will be using 4×6 material almost exclusivly. The exception being the shelf below the top which will be made from 2×6 or 2×8 BORG wood. It is going to be an absolute beast just like the Nimitz class bench I built before.
The goal here is to do this on the cheap, but still make a handsome and useful tool for the shop. The discovery of Douglas Fir as a good choice for this type of build has been like a wonderful Christmas gift.
Sure it is fairly soft and not generally considered to be workbench material, but there are a lot of folks out there…a LOT…who would disagree, and go on to argue the liberating merits that a cheap lumber bench, made well, offers.
This bench will need a vise. These can be quite expensive and time consuming to build into the bench if done in a period correct fashion. Expensive but exceptional Benchcrafted vise hardware being the normal go-to in these applications.
However, it can also be done with minimal investment of time and money while delivering superior performance to iron quick release or traditional vices. More on this later.
Finally, the Roubo will be my first experience with traditional holdfasts.
Embarrassing in their simplicity, they are perfect for the needs of someone who is working wood by hand. Simple, effective, cheap, and super versatile. More on these later as well.
The dimensions for the new bench will be something like 80″ long by 24″ wide by 34″ high.
The top is slated to be around 3 1/2″ thick, the legs and stretchers 5″x 3 1/2″. More than enough mass to keep it in place for any hand planing and mortise chopping.
One last benefit to all this, I now have more material to write about here. Since I continue to look for any excuse NOT to write in the book I am supposed to be finishing right now, I think this may be a good jump start to get the literary juices flowing again….