The Bench

No doubt about it. One thing leads to another.

When it comes to picture frames, I prefer something  fairly substantial  in a floater-style (e.g 3″ X 1/5″) stained dark – almost black. Hard to find – so I began making my own years ago.

But making them seems to entail a lot of sanding. And I hate sanding. And so do my neighbours I’m sure.

So I decided it was time to give the power tools a rest and explore the quiet swish of hand tools. After playing with a little Stanley block plane for a while I decided to make the leap and invest in a nice Veritas 5 1/4 hand plane.

The first thing that was immediately apparent (aside from my skill deficiency) was the flimsiness of my existing workbench. Hand planing is tricky enough without having to to do so while following you workbench around the workshop at the same time. So, if hand tools it was going to be, the first order of business was going to have to be a solid workbench.

I thought about buying, and might have been sorely tempted if Lee Valley had the model I fancied in stock.  They didn’t, and wouldn’t have until September. Now, when I started this little adventure,  September was a long way off, so I decided to bit the bullet and build. I convinced myself that building one’s own workbench was every serious woodworkers right of passage. Not something to be bought off with a mere swipe of a Visa card.

I’ve been swiping that Visa card pretty good ever since.  Not just the wood.  Hardware, dado blade, Fostner bits of every dimension, and so on.

The wood is poplar, which is about the least expensive hard wood available. But there is a lot of it in this piece. The trestles are made of doubled-up 2x4s with 6X1 stretchers. The top is laminated 2x2s with doubled-up 2×4 skirting and end-caps. This beast must top the scales in the 350lb range.

TAILVISE Workbench w models

But, I’m happy to say this thing does not flex one millimeter. There are six 1/2″ threaded steel trusses running through the stretchers.  Once cinched together, these create an immensely strong connection (They also mean that, unlike glued mortise-and-tenon joints, the bench can be readily disassembled).Workbench in Place

I have two Lee Valley bench vises. A “regular” sized one at the front and a large one as a tail vise with jaws running the full width of the bench.  I used spar varnish for the trestles and a linseed-oil-beeswax mixture for the top. The latter provides a working surface that is less slick than the varnish and easier to renew after it gets banged up a bit

…Which may be some time off.  After the hours I put into this, I expect I will be handling it with kid gloves for a while yet.