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Building an awesome workbench

Perth Wood School Woodworking Lessons 10

Come and build your very own super sturdy workbench!

Your woodworking work space at home won't serve you very well without the most essential piece of equipment which is of course a very sturdy workbench.
Building your own bench is a far better option than buying one as it is far easier to build a bench to your own height requirements than it is to modify a shop bought one. The correct working height is critical in order for you to be able to use hand tools such as planes and chisels correctly. A bench that is too high will make it very difficult to use hand planes effectively. A bench that is too low will very often result in a sore back.
There are many different designs for workbenches around and it can become quite confusing as to which design will suit your needs. Whatever design you choose, a great bench should posses the following characteristics.

  • Stability and rigidity are vital. A bench does not necessarily need to be super heavy, but it should stand firmly on the floor without rocking and it should be so rigid as to not shudder or vibrate when working a piece of timber with hand tools.
  • Numerous ways to hold your material securely. A great bench will provide several different options for holding your piece of timber while you work it with hand tools. A good quality front vice is a start, but also consider strategically placed 'dog holes' so that you can insert bench dogs into your work surface to butt lengths of timber against.
  • Dead flat surface. Ensuring that your bench top is very flat across all dimensions is important. It is rather difficult to assemble a project correctly and ensure that it is square if your bench top is not flat. A No.7 hand plane is the perfect tool for flattening bench tops that have developed high spots.
  • Not too big. While you might think bigger is better, this just doesn't hold true with work benches. Consider the kind of projects that you will be building most of the time and size your bench appropriately for the size of components that you think you will be working with. Most importantly of all, consider the amount of space that you have in your existing work space and make sure that the bench you build will leave ample room for you to move around carrying materials.
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