You know the the saying, “Everything old is new again?” As you may or may not know, I have been in the process of building my workbench for over a year now and I have been struggling with the benchtop glue-up as I have fewer clamps than I would like and my boards for the top were slightly bowed. Well, after getting my copy of “Roubo on Furniture” from Lost Art Press a few months ago, something I saw in the plates, specifically plate 18 had my subconscious mind working. Specifically the “straightener” that Roubo talks about for edge gluing boards in figure 19 of that plate.
Suddenly a few weeks ago, It came to me, I could use straighteners to face join my benchtop boards and solve several problems at once. First and foremost, it would solve my clamping issue as 2x4s are cheap and would be sufficient for the task. Second, it will help straighten the bow out of my boards as gravity will do most of the work. Also, as a side benefit the top will be mostly flattened up against the upright boards called “twins” (some flattening work is always needed after glue-up).
I need to slightly modify the design to accommodate the wider face of the boards, so I would need to make wider wedges to ensure pressure is applied to the full width of the boards being clamped. The benchtops I am gluing up are only 11 inches in width so the twins do not need to be very long, in my case I am using 24 inch long boards. I am also going to apply paste wax to the twins inner surface to keep the glue squeeze out from sticking to them.
Below is my test setup with some narrower wedges, but sighting down the boards, they look very straight and no bow at all. I have looked for examples of this procedure for face gluing boards and I could not find any.
Thanks to Andre Roubo and Lost Art Press, I am back in the workbench building business and hopefully in a couple of weeks I will have a fully functional and beautiful workbench (not like the pathetic one seen in the background).
Tail Vise Rails resting on the bottom of the bench top for a test fitting
At long last, I am back working on my workbench. There was a brief delay because life happens. For reasons I won’t bore you with (cat fostering), I was unable to work in my garage for the past 2 weeks and I was not able to make any workbench progress. Fortunately, I am back in business and I made a major step forward yesterday. I finished the cavity for the tail vise to be installed in. I have the pictures showing the “finished” cavity below. Suffice it to say, I am glad to get that part completed so I can get on with the rest of the workbench. As you can see in the photos, I have not glued the boards together for the front part of my bench. I will probably do this tomorrow. Then I can start gluing the remainder of the boards together to finish assembling the top. Right now the exact dimensions of the cavity is not important. I will need to finish the top surface of the workbench before making any precision cuts to mount the tail vise. In the following pictures you will see the boards clamped together and then expanded to show how each one is individually cut to form the whole. I did purchase some soft maple to attach to the front of the bench because it will get the most abuse from clamping and other activities, so I decided to make it out of maple. Also, it will be dovetailed into the side maple piece which the tail vise will be attached.
Clamped without the Tail Vise Rails
Expanded to show each board
Yea!, My new Benchcrafted Classic Leg Vise is in. Unfortunately they must have run out of the unfinished vises, I am still very happy with this vise. The machining on their vise hardware is amazing. They are the best you can get…period!
Now to build a leg to put it in. Should be able to build a couple on Friday.
BenchCrafted Classic Leg Vise – Unfinished
3x5x22 Maple End Cap – Cat Inspected
I have almost all the materials on hand for my workbench. I am still waiting for my new Benchcrafted Traditional Classic Vise to get here, but I finished surfacing my hard maple end cap that secures the tail vise to the end of the bench. As you can see my shop cat is inspecting my work with aloof approval. It started out as a rough log and now it is surfaced on 4 sides, square and flat 3″x5″x22″ board. As you can also see, the benchtop boards are now acclimating in my shop. I will start laminating them soon.
2x5x6 Leg and Stretcher Stock
I was waiting for my “Southern Yellow Pine” SYP lumber to dry some more. I checked them with a moisture meter and it read 10%, that is dry enough to start processing them so I have ripped them to width from 6 2″x12″x6′ boards, down to 12 2″x5.25″x6′ boards that will be used for the legs and stretchers. I still have a LOT of surface planing yet to do on these boards. If I had a power surface planer I would use it. I do have 2 nice joiner hand planes that can do the job, albeit a bit slower and a with a bit more muscle power.
The only parts for the bench I have left to buy are the bolt hardware (used to secure the end cap to the bench) and the chop board for my leg vise. The chop board is going to be a 8/4 x 8″ x 36″ piece of hard maple. I will need to get that at the local lumbar yard. Depending on price, I may also get a 6/4 x 5″ x 6′ hard maple board for the front on the workbench. That will make a stronger front edge that I will be clamping to all the time and also will look nice dovetailed into the end cap.
I know this project is progressing a bit slowly, but I have never built a workbench before and I like to think about projects as I build them so I do not make as many mistakes. This workbench has some complications that have me really putting my engineering hat on. I am loving every minute of it. This bench will serve me well for many, many years and I can’t wait to build my first project on it.
This is a project that is way overdue. I’ve been working with my lightweight commercial workbench for way too many years. Last Friday I purchased 10 beautiful 5/4 x 5″ x 12′ boards of southern yellow Pine. I had already purchased my Benchcrafted tail vice about a year and a half ago. This tail vise is quite an expensive piece of machinery to have just laying around not earning it’s keep. So I have decided to go ahead and build my very own Roubo Workbench. In these pictures you’ll see the boards have already been cut in half and resting nicely on my two saw benches. I will be following Chris Schwarz’s plans for a 18th century Roubo workbench, modified as to fit incorporate my Benchcrafted tail vise. The finished Bench top should be 5″ thick, 20″ wide and 72″ long. This is going to be one heavy workbench. The overall workbench dimensions will be H 34″ x W 20″ X L 72″. I am using Chris Schwarz’s book “Workbenches – From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” as my primary source for plans and instructions. I also have Chris’s other workbench book “The Workbench Design Book – The Art and Philosophy of Building Better Benches”. He has republished his “Workbenches” book and it is available on his website at Lost Art Press.
My biggest conundrum at this point this how to mount the Benchcrafted tail vise. The issue at hand is, I have not glued up all my boards yet because I want to cut them out before laminating them so that I don’t have to hog out a lot of material later. It’s kind of like putting a jigsaw puzzle together in 3-D before you’ve even seeing the pieces. Not only that, the pieces don’t exist yet, and I will have to fabricate them correctly, so when it does go together, everything will fit perfectly.
I’ve been toying with the idea of making a 1/2 scale model, just so I know how everything will fit together. This is one of those projects I have to sleep on and think about for a few days before the solution comes to me. In the meanwhile I’m studying the plans, and I’m looking at my boards in the garage longing to have this bench finished.
Here is what the tail vise will look like when it is installed.
This will not be a very long journey, I want this workbench finished before the ghouls and goblins come out on Halloween.