Thursday, December 4, 2008

Next Project - Workbench

I feel like its time to start my next project. If you use hand tools you know how important your work bench is. Without it some tasks are darn near impossible and most others suffer. Right now I am working from a Harbor Freight bench I bought about 10 years ago when I first got bit by the woodworking bug. This bench weighs about 50 pounds soaking wet and is somewhat narrow. This makes it very difficult many hand tool tasks. Even after loading the bottom shelf with the heavy stuff I could find laying around (lunch box plainer and some other old electric woodworking tools) it's still very top heavy. Hand plaining across the grain is a real chore. So I have decided to build a new workbench.

I started this quest quite some time ago. Starting reading all the information I could on workbench construction. I picked up Scott Landis's The Workbench Book and later come across Chis Schwarz's Workbenches, From Design & Theory to Construction & Use. It seemed everyday there was a new thread about someone building a bench on WoodNet Forums. There was tons of information out there. I have read so much material written by Chris Schwarz that It feel like we were old friends.

After some thought I decided the bench design that would suite me best is the Holtzapffel Bench. At the WWIA Conference I took Chis's workbench class where he mentioned that this bench had the best tail vise configuration of all the bench's he has built. He really seems to love this bench, but for the life of me, I will never understand why he didn't include this bench in his book. I personally think this was a huge mistake.
Mostly this design is basic woodworking, nothing to complicated. It does however bring some challenges. The main challenge will be the wood screws on the face vice. If I remember correctly Chris purchased his screws. I feel compelled to make them. I can purchase the tool to cut the threads cheaper than I can purchase them. Unfortunately the only place I have found to buy the tool is in Europe. The biggest size tap & die I could find from US suppliers was 1 1/2". The European supplier goes up to about a 2 1/2". I will be using the 2" size. Here is a video Chris made describing this bench:

I think this bench is the best overall fit for me. I need a bench what will handle dovetailing and planing without a lot of set up. I'm pretty excited about the prospect of having a bench that doesn't try to flip over when I'm planing. I will be building my bench out some white oak that I have had air drying for about 3 years. This should be quite the project. I will try and take some photo's to post my progress.

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