Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Before the Plane

As I was writing yesterday's post on the #5 plane I realized something. Planes are hard to use without a workbench. Many things are hard to do without a workbench, sometimes including building a workbench. A kind of chicken and egg paradox can exist in these situations. I have posted about my workbench before in another post and was thinking that for a beginner in hand tools, which I was when I built it, it is easy to construct with a minimum of tools and works pretty well for hand tool work. I'm not saying it's the ultimate bench but it got me started and I'm still satisfied with it.

I think you need the following tools to build the bench:
  • Saw (either circular saw or handsaw)
  • Jigsaw
  • Drill (or bit brace and bits)
  • Screwbox and tap (for the vise screws)
  • Router with 1/2" straight cutting bit
And here is the bill of materials that I came up with (my bench is 5 ft long):
  • Three 2"x6"x10'
  • Four 2"x6"x8'
  • Two 2"x4"x8'
  • 1 sheet voidless birch plywood
  • 8/4 rock maple, approx 8ft by 10" (vise material)
  • Rock Maple dowels, 1.5" dia
  • Oak dowels, 1"
  • Carriage bolts, nuts, washers, various sizes
  • 1/4 in lag bolts
  • Wood or deck screws, 2.5"

After determining the bench height relative to my height and the length for my space I began construction with the legs. I'll do my best to describe the construction process.

The legs are doubled 2x6. For four legs first I cut 4 pieces to the bench height minus 1.5" for the top. Then I cut 4 pieces to that length minus the width of the 2x4 that was to become the foot. Once I had those 2 different length pieces for each leg I line them up with the top ends even and clamped and began to lay out the haunches that would hold the 2x6 stringers to the top of the legs. I also determined the position of the stringer near the bottom of the bench.

The other end of the bench looks similar.

From the photo above you can see the general arrangement. Please note that there are two 2x6 at the top. Also notice that on the foot the 2x4 in the back is full length while the one you can see is sections to fill in.  This makes a system of lap style joints that help keep things solid.

To make things easier on myself I marked where the bolts were to go for the stringers and using the router cut a 1/2" by 1/4" deep groove each leg piece at the bolt position. When the two halves of the leg are glued and screwed together the grooves in each half form a 1/2"x1/2" square hole for the bolt.
Once the glue was dry I cut the notches for the stringers.

I then cut the sringers to length. The top outside stringers are longer than the inside ones and the bottom ones. The inside and bottom ones are flush with the legs on each end but the outside ones extend on the right side to support the end vise. I then cut the 2x4s for the feet to length. 

Marking the bolt holes in the stringers consisted of putting the stringer in place, sliding a bolt into the leg and hitting it with a hammer to leave a mark. The I drilled them with a hand drill.  I then bolted the frame together and also attached the feet. I didn't use glue at any of the bolt locations in case I wanted to take it apart. I did use glue and screws where the foot sections are laminated together.
That pretty much covers the base construction, tomorrow we'll cover the top and vises and I'll recommend a few changes from how I made my bench that I think would make it better.

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