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derekcohen 02-05-2012 05:01 PM

Building a Bench in Perth
There was not meant to be thread on building a bench. I asked a few questions on a couple of forums, and it snowballed. Below is an attempt to pull these together for you.

My existing bench is 18 years old, has been modified many times over the years to keep pace with my changing approach to woodwork, and is showing its years. It is small - about 4'10" long. It is too wide - about 26". The top has been planed down so many times that the dowels I used to orientate the boards all those years ago are now showing half their thickness. Although the legs are spindly, the bench is really rigid as it is bolted to the wall (the new bench will be placed about 2 ft from the wall). The Record 52 1/2 vises are now hopeless. The front vise racks and the tail vise does not open unless you hold down the release lever while you turn the handle. And it is too dark. The Karri top may look exotic in pictures, but it does not reflect light well.

The bench has been a good friend but I still find it amazing that I managed to do so much work on it. I procrastinated and avoided building another as I generally dislike building shop furniture. Or using good wood that would better be used on furniture for the home. But now it is time for a new bench, a better bench.

I like the simplicity of a Roubo. I thank Chris Schwarz for his research and the information he disseminated. It has been educational.

Since building a Moxon vise (for dovetailing) a year ago I have come to recognise that my face vise needs (for planing edges) would now be best met by a leg vise. I plan to build one with a wooden screw (a most kind gift of Wilbur Pan), while the tail vise is a Benchcrafted wagon vise.

Generally I try and build as much as I can from recycled timber. I find a lot of old Jarrah roof trusses. These are dry and hard. They will be turned into the base.

Today I dug out the rafters that I thought would work best. These are 3"- 3 1/2" x 4"- 4 1/2" and around 80" long. I should be able to get four legs at 3" x 5". I am aiming for a 34" high bench.

The top is to be 4" thick, 21-22" wide and 6 ft long, built from European Oak (which means it likely originated from Eastern Europe). One of the members of my local ww club bought a shipment imported by a failed business, and was selling it at a cheaper price than the local Tasmanian Oak, which lacks its stability and texture. This was jointed and thicknessed for me, and has been "acclimatizing" (aka lying around) for several months. There has been minimal movement.

Two boxes at the top ... BenchCrafted tail vise and woodscrew ...

My intention is to build a wooden replica of the steel screw leg vise designed by BenchCrafted. The key feature here are the wheel guides.

derekcohen 02-05-2012 05:02 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Building the legs

I began preparing the stock for the legs yesterday afternoon, that is, finding boards in my wood pile for laminating into the desired 5" x 3" size. There were issues with the stock I have.

As I showed earlier, I have a number of rough sawn rafters approximately 3" x 4". Once jointed it became evident that only 2 legs could be created from two boards, and that the other 2 legs would require laminating 3 boards.

The two-board laminations would have to be joined edge-to-edge, and the three-board laminations not only joined edge-to-edge but include a face board to increase the thickness.

A central mortice would occur at the join. Not happy.

It is now Sunday. We spent the morning at the beach. This gave me a chance to switch off and think about the options. A little lateral thinking gave me the answer.

Choices ...

Firstly, I could go out and purchase Jarrah boards to make the legs. There a couple of reasons why I do not do so. It is not simply that these would be expensive. Expensive? Very! I estimate that each leg would end up costing about $125. That is about $500 for the legs, and we have not yet got to the stretchers.

Why is Jarrah (Eucalyptus Marginata) so expensive? Because it has been over-logged in Western Australia for over 100 years, with the timber being exported around the world for bridges and roads. The trees only grow in Western Australia - no where else - and the forests have been decimated. The logging continues, in spite of the frequent protests from the Greens, because the public generally places money above the environment. I really do not wish to support this industry, and 90% of the Jarrah I use comes from salvage - old roof beams, old flooring, etc. Some from the renovations in our house (all the roof beams are rough sawn Jarrah), and some from skips (dumpsters) when houses are demolished (but now there are businesses buying up the old timber - that's OK with me. At least it gets a second life, and I will - and do - happily purchase that).

Secondly, let us not forget the most important factor here - this is a workbench, not a piece of furniture for the home! Yes, I would like to build a bench that is as faithful to the principles of Roubo, and guided by the recommendations of my friends on the forum, but it is still just a bench. Anything I do will be totally overkill compared to the bench I have been using for the past 18 years. I must add that, prior to the current bench (skinny cretin that it is ), my previous "bench" was a door over trestles. This lasted 7 years while we lived in and restored our previous house. So I have had 25 years working with poor benches. I do believe that anything better than I had will last another 25 years, at least.

So ... I thought about what I had to work with, what wood I had on the rack, and hatched the following plan which I shall describe, and then go off and cut the parts to show you later ..

The solution is ... may be - I will hear from you I hope ... to create a sandwich with full width boards on the outside. Inside, the two sections I previously showed will be used, BUT one piece will be recut to sandwich a thick section which is centred in the fill. Now a mortice can be created in solid, un-edge-joined timber.

Since the added laminated with be about 3/4" thick each, I anticipate that the legs end up about 5" long x 4" thick.

Fast forward about 5 hours ...

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I try and re-use reclaimed timber. Here is an example. Woolly and twisted ...

One side gets jointed then, because the thickness of the other side is so uneven, I use the bandsaw to cut to the approximate thickness before planing out the saw marks ...

The Jarrah "infill" was ripped to width on the tablesaw. There is now enough meat in the centre of each leg to accept a mortice ...

The wooden screw for the leg vise has a 2" diameter. This will easily fit into the 3" central section in these legs ..

The legs are yet to be glued up. Once done, final dimensioning will be done. The sides (end grain) could be stained to match the fronts. Or I am toying with the idea of mitering and wrapping boards around the infill.

The legs are now 5" wide and 3 5/8" thick.

Each leg weighs 10 kg (22 lbs).

The bench top is expected to weigh 80 kg (172 lbs).

Still to add in stretchers, chop, and end vise.

derekcohen 02-05-2012 05:02 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
One Change Leads To Another

I was asked why I chose the Benchcraft tail vise.

The choice of tail vise was made on a number of factors, one of which was the space available for the bench. My bench is placed against a rear wall in my garage/shop. The length of the bench is limited by a cabinet, to the left, and a door, to the right. It comes down to the longer the bench, the shorter the tail vise ... or, the longer the tail vise, the shorter the bench.

The Benchcraft tail vise is notable in that the handle remains in one position, that is, does not "screw out" or "screw in" in length. This translates into a short vise, which means I can build a longer bench. The bench size increases from a little under 5' to a little over 6'. This may not sound a lot, but it is a massive change for me.

I was initially planning on building my own version of the Benchcraft wagon vise. However, when Chris Vesper visited with me last year, he mentioned that he had purchased the BC tail vise. When I asked why he had not simply built his own - since he is a top class machinist - he explained that the design of the vise places great stresses on the mechanism (it screws at the side of the captured dog so as to run close to the edge of the bench), and that to accommodate this, the steel work needed to be heavy duty ... and that the BC was built like the proverbial tank. He did not believe he could replicate it. That sold me on the BC for the tail vise.

I hope to get to the bench dogs tomorrow. These will be rectangular, not round, so I have to prepare them before I glue up the bench top. Why rectangular? Simply because I believe that they will hold work more securely than round dogs. They have a broader face and will not twist. Plus, I wonder how many bench (dog) builders realise that the dogs need to incline slightly (I am using 2 degrees) towards the work piece? This is difficult to do if drilling for a round dog. Yes, it is possible to cut and angle a flat upper section of a round dog, but this thins and potentially weakens the dog, making it more susceptible to bending under stress. A rectangular dog is more work, both in planning and build, but it worth it. This does not preclude one from adding holes for bench accessories, such as hold downs.

So today I plan to finish off the legs. Their dimensions are 5" wide and 3 5/8" deep. I have cut the tenons, and what is left is to prepare one for the leg vise and all for the mortices for the adjoining stretchers. While I will not complete the base until after the top is done (as the length of the stretchers is determined by the dimensions of the top since all facing edges will be co-planar), I need to have everything ready to receive the top once it is glued up just so that I can work on the top.

To decide the length of the legs I first had to finalise the height of the bench. The present bench, which I built 18 years ago, was a remnant from a pre-handtool era. Much modified over the years to better deal with the demands of handtools, it still retained that one feature of the powertool user - height. It is 34" high. Too high for comfortable handplaning at my 178cm/5'10".

Chris Schwarz recommends the "pinky test", that is, the height of the bench should be situated where your pinky joins your hand when your arm is held at your side. I did this and the result was a bench height of 30". To test this out I place a double layer of bricks in front of the bench, and planed a board while standing on the bricks ...

Interestingly, this did feel so much better. It moved the focus of strength from my arms and shoulders to my hips and legs (which is what one is taught in karate). So the length of the legs was calculated for a bench top of approximately 4" thickness (it will end up a little under that), and the tenons were cut. Pictures of the legs tomorrow.

One other point: One change begets other changes. With the lowering of the bench, I shall need to build a new Moxon dovetail vise. The whole idea of the Moxon is to raise the work up high. The existing vise was built for a 34" high bench. To work with the same ease, the new Moxon will need to work 4" higher. Hence a new, taller Moxon.

derekcohen 02-05-2012 05:03 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
I Meant To Design It This Way!

That is what we all say to disguise a mistake ... yes?

I should title this "How not to build a bench"!

There has been some progress, but it has been a lot slower than I planned owing to changes made, and the repairs to these changes, and then being in two minds about the installation of the tail vise.

First of all, the bench top has now reached the stage where it is recognisable as a bench top. I glued the sections together to look like this ..

Next comes the dog hole strip. This was a little more complicated than it needed to be owing to the absence of the requisite board to build it. I searched Perth high and low for more timber, but there is no European Oak to be had in small qualities. So I decided to use the off-cuts from the bench build and create a modular system of dog holes. The advantage here would be the freedom to fit them into the system I will finally decide on. System? More on this later.

Building dog holes: The dog holes are 1" wide and 1 1/2" deep across the top. They are angled towards the vise at 2 degrees. The dog in the BC tailvise is the same size, and also angled forward by 2 degrees.

The dogs need to be centred in the dog strip. First the dog strip board is resawn ...

Then a jig was built for the router ...

... and the dog holes machined out ..

The "bumps" are to prevent the dogs dropping out of the dog holes.

Finally, the two boards were glued together ..

The result was a bunch of dog hole strips with each dog hole 3" apart ..

... which I cut to fit the length here, but which I can re-configure as I wish later on (also, note the difference in size of this 75" bench top length versus the <60" length of my old bench) ...

The width of the bench here is 20". The final width is expected to be between 21" and 22".

What is the issue?

Essentially, there are two choices. Either the dog holes are placed as close to the edge of the bench (say 2 1/2", as above), which makes it easier to use when rebating, planing moldings, and other edge treatments ... or, the dog holes are arranged so that the vise can hold work over the rear leg, which is useful for work that requires hammer blows, such as morticing.

The problem is that you cannot have both systems. You have to choose. In the situation where the dog holes are close to the edge of the bench, they will be interrupted by the legs (which are 5" wide and 3 5/8" deep). Consequently, there will be dead spots along the edge of the bench. In the case of the dogs being situated at a distance to the inside of the legs, they will have to be about 3 1/2" - 4" out from the bench edge.

In the case that I go with the second option, I shall need to extend the width of the bench by 1 1/2". And no more European Oak. I decided I would use Tasmanian Oak as a substitute. It is interesting that Tassie Oak is not an oak but a Eucalypt, yet its colour and grain of the edge grain is very similar to the European Oak ...

The Tassie Oak is a little lighter in colour, but after a year I doubt that anyone would pick it out.

Now the other area I had a change of mind was the bench height. In an earlier post I wrote that a height of 30" appeared to work when planing. This was a result of using Chris Schwarz' "pinky test". Over the next couple of days the thought began to firm that planing is just one activity - I prefer a higher bench for detail work, such as the moldings I made with H&R planes - and that I have become used to a 34" bench height. I decided to compromise at 32".

Unfortunately ... I had already cut the legs for a 30" high bench. To make matters more stressful, the bench top thickness is going to end up closer to 3 1/2" than 4". The slight difference in thickness does not bother me, but this affects the bench height.

So now I began to obsess about how I could fix the legs.

Fortunately, when I cut them to length I left the tenons long - 2" in total. The final tenon length will be 1".

Here is one idea, which I shelved: molding made with the above-mentioned H&Rs ..

This was too busy for my taste, even if I stained the pieces dark.

I ended up with this ...

Back to the bench top. Here is the BC end vise (with dog hole strip) ready for installation. Just a final decision to make about the choice preferred ...

derekcohen 02-05-2012 05:05 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Progress Report

It is now two weeks since I began working on the bench. I suspect that my plans to finish it the first weekend were a touch optimistic

What has been frustrating has been the feeling that I get two paces forward, and then move back one. This is in part due to using Jarrah I have salvaged over the years - all needs to be laminated. For example, the stretchers are three layers each to reach the desired 2" thickness ..

I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, however. The top is nearing completion, and all the pieces for the base are essentially ready to go. I have estimated the final weight of the bench, and was shocked to discover that it will end up 182kg or 400 lbs.

Much of the time to date has been determining how to fit the Benchcraft tail vise (wagon vise). The first issue was that the oak benchtop's final thickness is 3 1/2" (rather then the 4" ideal for which the BC was designed). This is not a big deal as it just requires spacers to align with the 4" end cap (all in the instructions).

The second issue was to decide how far out to place the dog holes - in a continuous, unbroken line outside the legs, or broken by the legs but close to the edge of the bench? I decided to go for the latter. The bench dogs are 2" from the edge of the bench, each 3" apart, except for the area of the legs, where they are 6" apart. I also decided not to include a planing stop. Either I will use the first bench dog, or I will use a jig that uses the bench dog and a holddown.

(the bench dog strips were shown in the previous report)

So the order today was (1) form the tenon for the end cap, as this forms part of the tail vise screw installation, (2) rout out the mortice for the screw, and then (3) glue in the bench dogs.

I have watched a few videos on various blogs of the end cap tenon being formed with a circular saw and a power router. I took a slightly different route.

Firstly, I sawed the shoulders of the tenon on a sliding tablesaw ...

Then used a wide chisel to split the waste off ...

The first side I used my old Stanley #93 (perfect for a 1" deep tenon), as it could adjust from thick to fine shavings.

On the other side I used a Veritas skew block plane. This was a better choice.

Having then routed the slot for the tail vise screw, I was finally able to glue on the dog hole strips.

The side piece and end cap are both loose (they will later be dovetailed together) ...

derekcohen 02-05-2012 05:06 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
The Top is Complete!

Well, almost. The tail vise needs to be bolted in - however I can only do that later. All work is done in preparation.... which means the end cap is completed. How this was to be built was the subject of the last post.

The final length of the bench top is 75", which is a little longer than I expected. About as much as I could have hoped for. The width is 21", which is what I aimed for. Perfect.

So what about the end cap? How did this turn out?

In the end the design was determined by the wagon tail vise. This requires an end cap with strength as the tail screw will create pressure at that end of the bench. This means that the end cap does need to be bolted to the bench. I checked with Jameel, and he confirmed this. I took the easy way out here and used ordinary coach bolts. I did grind and polish the ends, but no one will notice ... just being a little obsessional

The important aspect with the end cap is that it needs to have the ability to move, to expand and contract with changes of the weather. One end is fixed (bolted) - which has to be around the tail vise - and the other must be left unattached.

The attached end of the end cap is fixed with a dovetail and two bolts. The bolts run through the internal tenon (see earlier post). This area (half the tenon) is also glued. The remainder of the endcap is attached with a single bolt, which enters an oversized hole. There is no matching dovetail at this side of the bench as this would restrict movement.

See, the top is done! Flat.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. In this case, while the end cap looks clean and simple from this angle, I did go a little OTT with the dovetail that attached the face side.

I decided that since I did not plan another bench build for ... ever ... and that there was only one dovetail I could cut, I would do something interesting. There was only one shot at this and I would have some fun.

For those who are not interested in a short pictorial of building a half blind (half lap) houndstooth dovetail involving one h-u-g-e board, then simply skip to the end.

What made this even trickier was that I was struggling for space. I clamped the tail board in my Record vise at an angle, thus ...

... and was forced to saw the lines from the opposite side ...

Ok, here you are - the layout for the houndstooth dovetails. There are a couple of reasons for using this format. The first is that the end cap is 2" wide (to maximise the internal screw length) and 4" deep (to get the vise wheel below the bench top). Anything other than slim dovetails would end up looking blocky. Several "normal" tails would look too busy. Houndstooth tails could break this up.

Secondly, you may note that the tails are offset on the tail board. This is deliberate in order to centre the tails as the tail board is 3 1/2" wide and has to join a 4" wide pin board.

The tail waste is removed with a fretsaw ...

.. and then the remaining waste is chiseled out ...

Transfering tails to pins was fun!

In addition to the balancing act here, the kerf for the tails was so tight that a standard narrow marking knife would not fit. I quickly whipped out my Vesper extra-slim marking knife ... (I have to find space for a plug for Chris Vesper - great toolmaker) ..

Here is the extra slim alongside a standard slim marking knife ...

Time for the Blue Tape Method!

Place blue marking tape over the area where the marks will be transferred ..

Transfer the marks ...

Peel away the waste (at this stage I leave the short pins as long pins) ...

This makes it so easy to saw to the line. Here are my saw cuts. Can you see the kerfs?

Now you can remove the tape from the waste area of the short pins ...

At this point I deepen the kerfs with a kerf chisel (its on my website under Shopmade Tools) ..

Drill the waste to the depth of the pin. This will make it easier to split out the waste (rather than spend hours chopping it away) ..

Chop it out about 2/3 of the waste ..

Remove the remaining waste (this is basic stuff), using a backing board. Note that the short pins are still intact at this stage ...

Now you can pare them to length ...

If you are using a Moxon vise, as I am, lower the pins level with the top of the vise. The board may now be used to flush the base of the pins ...

Here you are, nice and tidy ..

Slight tangent ...

With so little room to move in I stumbled over the tail board, which went crashing to the ground, and dented the end near the tails. Fortunately the tails were not damaged. Still, not needed at this point.

I had to leave the dent wrapped in a wet paper towel for an hour or so to try and swell it out ..

It worked reasonably well. Then, without further ado, and with my heart in my mouth, I added glue to the pins and wacked in the tails. The result was decent, and so I set about glueing the end cap/side board to the bench top ...

What that .. can't see ... the clamps are in the way? OK ...

Decent job.

Regards from Perth


waho6o9 02-05-2012 06:03 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Most excellent work Derek, thanks for taking the time to show your progress on this fine bench.
The dovetail joinery is nothing less than awesome. :D

Chris 02-05-2012 06:57 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Great post, Derek, had to make another coffee half way through.
I love the dovetails. You seem to make them as easily as a Marmite sandwich.

bigfoot 02-05-2012 09:24 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
About time we had another bench build here! :)

I will pour over this in detail later. This is great entertainment for me.

"...I generally dislike building shop furniture. Or using good wood that would better be used on furniture for the home".

Derek, you will not be disappointed in the time and material spent building this. Its always good to renew the space of creativity. The shop should have a few "show off" pieces of your talents. Nothing like entering the shop for a little added self indulgence. ;)

derekcohen 02-07-2012 01:10 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Updating the bolts

I replaced the coach bolts. I was not happy with the idea of relying on end grain to support the threads.

I really do know know why - call it a senior moment - but I drilled out the first underbench bolt hole with a router. Noisy, the smell of wood burning, and s-l-o-w! Ugh!

The light came on, and I switched to a 12" brace with 3/4" bit.

It was amazing how much faster - and effortless - this was. The European Oak is so much softer than Jarrah. Once the hole is to depth, chisel a flat side for the nut.

The bolt hole is slightly oversized (for expansion) and is slightly deeper than the underbench hole for ease of tightening.

Here are the first two holes ...

Handpower rules!

Regards from Perth


Okami 02-08-2012 01:02 AM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
This is great Derek!
Seeing all these fine benches being made here is urging me on to make another:D
It seems pretty hard to find a decent hand brace these days. I haven't actually used one since my college days... I'd love to pick a nice one up, like you said, sometimes they just can do the job much better than a power tool.
I'm looking forward to more updates:thumbsup2:

derekcohen 02-11-2012 08:27 AM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Re-visiting the end cap bolts

Wood moves, expands and contracts as moisture levels change, whether it is a process of drying out or the humidity levels in the air. The need to ensure that future adjustment - when required - would be easy, has motivated me to redo the end cap bolts for a third time. There will be no fourth time.

I have incorporated features from a discussion on the Ubeaut forum, plus added a design feature of my own (although no doubt this is not new - is there anything "new"? ... probably just re-inventing the wheel).

The probability is that, over time, the bolt and nut will weld themselves together through rust. Tightening the connection will be difficult unless the nut can be immobilised. One way is to remove enough waste to slide in a wrench or spanner. Another is to immobilise the nut from the outset ...

The forum suggested using a square nut. However, while it has its advantages over the old nut, a square nut still requires a spanner to immobilise it. So I have made a elongated rectangular nut, where the shaft runs the length of the bolt hole (and so is restrained by the hole, per se).

Here are the three methods I had used. From the left ... First I tried coach bolts. These were removed as I did not trust their holding ability in end grain. In the middle is the recently removed nut-and-bolt connection. Finally, on the right, is the new system, a bolt and elongated rectangular nut.

The nut plate was made from 1/4" thick x 1" wide O1 steel. Mike Wenzloff gave me an 18" length a few years ago. Nice to add a connection to a friend.

The second feature was the tapered ends to the bolt. Having used them this way now I can confirm that this makes connecting nut and bolt a much easier job.

Here is the set up ...

And here are the end cap bolts installed ...

Tightening now can be done completely from the end cap alone.

Regards from Perth


JimKirkpatrick 02-11-2012 09:30 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Derek, nice work! :goodpost: You are building furniture fit for a museum more than a workbench. I really love your solution to the end cap nuts. I can't tell you what a p.i.a. it is using a regular nut. I ended up grinding an el cheapo wrench to fit in the hole. Jameel should take note of this and incorporate in his build kits! :goodjob:

derekcohen 02-12-2012 01:09 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Update on the build this weekend.

I did not get as much time in the workshop as I would have liked. Still, there were some important parts completed.

As reported earlier, I replaced the end cap bolts.

Then I stripped the legs (they had a sealer), filled all the nail holes and places where resin had dried and fallen out (this happens a lot with some Jarrah), and then sanded smooth.

The bench was morticed to receive the legs, and the mortice and tenons for the front and rear stretchers were completed. Below is a dry fit. Now it is starting to look like a bench (Australian style - upside down :) ) ...

The leg mortices were really hard work. Each is 3" x 3/4" and 2" deep. I drilled out most of the waste, then pared to fit. Exhausting!

I am pleased the way the figure is presented. For ex-roof trusses, these are striking. These pieces were selected to show.

The stopped chamfer on the legs meant that I needed to match this where the stretcher joined. The legs and stretchers are all flush/coplanar.

Regards from Perth


derekcohen 02-20-2012 03:44 PM

What's on my bench ... progress report
What's on my bench ..? Well, a bench is on my bench.

If you have been following the reports, you will recall that I was last busy with the stretchers. The mortice and tenons are now complete. You'd be forgiven thinking that, since the legs are done, the stretchers are done, the tail vise is done ... then why do I not simply glue the base together and fit the bench top?

The answer is ... the leg vise and sliding deadman must first be built. The leg vise especially requires work to the associated bench leg, and this cannot be completed after assembly (without great discomfort).

Here is a picture of Jameel's bench to reference the parts under construction in this post:

Most of this post involves constructing the leg vise, so I will first get the sliding deadman out of the way.

Incidentaly, no excuses for the blended woodworking here. There is a time and place for both power and hand work.

The sliding deadman moves on a triangular section on the stretcher, and needs to mate to this with a V groove at the bottom of the board. Creating this V may be done with a chisel, but the task is easiest as two rip cuts on a tablesaw. In all the pictures I have seen of this being done, the deadman board is held vertically over the tablesaw. A much safer method is to do this with the board flat on the table ...

Raise the blade to the midpoint of the board ..

Mark the start point ...

Rip the one side, turn the board over, and rip the other side.

The right-front leg was drilled for holdfasts ...

The upper holdfast is positioned to focus pressure at the middle of the bench top, while the lower holdfast will focus pressure at the middle of the stretcher.

Now onto the legvise.

Wilbur made me a wonderful gift of a legvise screw, the twin of the one he has on his bench ...

Above you see the screw, handle, and parallel guide. Below is the set he sent me. Note that it did not come with a garter groove, which I have added, since it was not designed to work with a garter.

I had decided to add my stamp to the legvise, and one of the changes was to use a garter. The garter connects the screw to the chop, thus allowing it to move back with the screw. Without a garter, the chop is required to be pulled back by hand.

I will show the garter connection in my next post (as it is not installed yet), but here is the garter prior to being sawn out (it is, in fact, already completed). This is a stunning piece of Myrtle. It just ripples ..

The other change was to turn a new handle and post in Jarrah...

Building the legvise began with installing the screw block in the leg. The block is 2" thick. The leg is 3 5/8" thick. My preference was to mortice the block into the leg to a depth of 1 1/4" rather than simply screwing it behind the led. This effectively provides 1 1/4" additional depth to the legvise in use.

The mortice was drilled out and pared to size ...

The fit was very tight. No glue is used, but screws will be added. This will enable its removal, if needed.

The next step was to attach the parallel guide to the chop. This is positioned a little above the height of the stretcher. The chop will terminate at the parallel guide as I will be adding a roller for the guide to run upon.

Rather than use a blind tenon, I decided to use a through mortice and tenon. It occurred to me that it would be easier to judge the exact position for the matching mortice in the bench leg if I used a through mortice in the chop. This would fixed with a wedge (and possibly pinned - do you think it needs both?).

Of course a through mortice is a more difficult joint than a blind mortice - epecially in a show side ... and I did not have another board that I could use as a chop. I certainly did not was to stuff it up, but I knew I would not forgive myself if I chickened out!

The chop and the sliding deadman come from the same Jarrah board (I bought this at the Perth Woodshow 7 years ago, where it had been freshly slabbed). I like the idea of matching colour and figure on these two pieces. As an aside, they are 1 3/8" thick. Jameel mentions that his chop is about 2 1/2" thick, and does not recommend a chop below 1 3/4" thickness as he is concerned about flex. Well I can assure you that this chop will not flex! At 1 3/8" thickness it is all one can do to lift it! :)

Here is the mortice for the parallel guide. It was drilled an then pared to shape.

I am happy with this fit ..

Now you can see how easy it is to transfer the mortice from the chop to the bench leg ..

OK, this one I used a router to remove the centre of the waste (You really don't think that I was going to chop out 3 3/8" of hard Jarrah !!!!) ..

... and pared away the remainder ..

.. to fit the parallel guide ...

On the bench ..

(Aside: the light coloured Jarrah on the side of the legs will be stained to match the dark Jarrah on the front and back).

That's where I am up to at this point. Next weekend I need to groove the underside of the bench for the sliding deadman, then drawbore the mortice-and-tenons for the legs, and glue them up. Then fit the tail vise, shape and fit the leg vise, shape and fit the sliding deadman, make dogs .......

Will I make my 6 weekend build deadline?

Regards from Perth


p.s. anyone actually watching this thread?

joraft 02-20-2012 04:43 PM

Re: What's on my bench ... progress report

Originally Posted by derekcohen (Post 78651)

p.s. anyone actually watching this thread?

Are you kidding? Watching your bench build has been fascinating!

Derek, thank you so much for taking the time to post it.

(The photography ain't bad either. ;) )


waho6o9 02-20-2012 05:48 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
p.s. anyone actually watching this thread?

More than you realize. Thank you for your consideration Derek. :D

RogerSavatteri 02-20-2012 06:06 PM

Re: What's on my bench ... progress report

Originally Posted by derekcohen (Post 78651)

p.s. anyone actually watching this thread?


I'm at the edge of my seat.
thank you for sharing!
Wonderful work!


derekcohen 02-27-2012 01:40 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
The Phoenix has arisen

Well I guess it not quite a Phoenix, but the bench build was in threat when I left off at the last report.

I had reached this point ... the top was looking good, and I was ready to assemble the base.

And then Perry, my ex-friend, discovered that I had inserted the dog strip back-to-front! Bugger. Looking through old photos I realised that the dry run had them the correct way, and I had marked them for the glue-up ... and then misread my markings. Bugger again.

A repair was complicated by the fact that the dogs angled 2 degrees ... now in the opposite direction!

Many on the forums recommended that the best way to deal with this was either to fill in the dogs and drill them for dowels, or to try and insert a shim and re-chisel the dog angle. It struck me that few were willing to start again - to cut out the dog hole strip and re-make it. Modifications as repairs are rarely satisfying. It is far better to have the Real Thing, even if this means pushing the envelope to do so.

Reshaping the dogholes is not practical. It is not just that they slope at 2 degees on both sides of the shaft, but that the head of the dog faces the wrong direction. Even if you turn this around, the support for the dog hole head is now absent. I don't want patches.

The plan was to remove only the dog hole strip as far as the last dog hole. There is no need to touch the side board or the area for the tail vise, and the latter includes leaving the dovetail well alone.

I must say a big Thank You to Perry who came over this weekend to help. I really could not have done this without him. The bench was rotated several times. Most importantly, Perry made sure I did not get anything back-to-front! :)

The main working tool here was a powered router. A series of guides were built to use with a bearing bit. The sides were deepened in a progressive manner, working to a few mm of the final dimension for the dog hole strip.

Top ..

Bottom ..

... keeping well away from the tail vise area ..

I had managed to beg another 4"x2" board in European Oak, and this was turned into a new dog strip with dogs 3" apart. This was an upgrade on the previous dog hole strip, where I joined pieces together having run out of this wood. It had look OK, but there were joins if one looked carefully. Now the strip was one continuous piece.

Checking that the strip ran in the correct direction!!!

A temporary planing stop while I fine tuned the insert ...

Here we are, glued up, the strip a little proud of the bench ... Perry looking on. Thanks again Perry.

That was Sunday night. I finished work today and had a few hours free. The first thing I did was plane the raised strip flush with the bench ...

Even with a close inspection it was not possible to see that there had been a repair.

I am delighted with the way it turned out. On a high I decided to nail together the base.

While preparing to draw-bore the stretchers into the legs ...

... a novel way of inserting the draw-bore pins occurred to me. I ran the pins through my pencil sharpener ...

to taper the ends ...

After a coat of oil the base ended up like this (I must point out that the flash does accentuate the figure) ...

One detail for now - the sliding deadman lower guide. This is screwed on to the stretcher. The idea is that I will not have to lift the deadman over it (when fitting the deadman), and this should translate into a fit with closer tolerances) ...

Next weekend I should finish the bench. Just the leg vise and deadman to complete (80% done) and the tail vise to screw on. Then the dogs to machine. The shelf has to be made. And a few other odds-and-ends.

Regards from Perth


derekcohen 03-05-2012 02:33 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
The bench is basically done. Just a few lesser pieces to build - the dogs (well, you cannot use the tail vise without them), the parallel guide pin (made one in steel ... hated it, and will turn one from Wandoo, a very hard timber), and the tool shelf.

I left off last weekend with the new dog strip installed. First chance I had on Saturday I chopped the last mortice (that the new strip had removed), and drilled the holes for the pegs to attach the top to the legs. I am not draw boring the top as this would make it very difficult to undo should I ever need to break the bench down.

And then I grabbed Jamie, my 19 year old son, and we lifted the top off the old bench, turned it over, and placed it on the base. A little wiggle ... a jiggle ... and the mortices dropped over the legs tenons. I had a bench.

Man, this is one solid construction! Even without the pegs being driven home, it was impossible to move. The pegs, by the way, were made from Oak. I thought that Jarrah would look too busy.

I slapped on a couple of coats of oil ...

The top is flat .. flat .. flat ..

The Benchcrafted tail vise (wagon vise) ...

Hey Wilbur, this bit is for you. First of all, another Thank You for the vise screw.

For the information of others, Wilbur purchased a pair of screws from "someone", who made them for him. This was not one of the current vendors, such as Big Wood Vise. The main differences were that the diameter of the screw is 2" and that it is a two-piece construction (the screw and the hub are separate). I decided to personalise the screw by turning my own hub from Jarrah to match the chop. In one of his emails to me, Wilbur pointed out that glueing the hub and screw together did not work well, and that he had added a dowel through the hub. Great idea! I needed to make my dowel removable (to dissemble the legvise), and so I drilled through the hub and screw shaft, then threaded the screw shaft for a bolt ...

The bolt head was removed and a slot sawn for a screwdriver ...

Here is the legvise complete ...

The garter is made from a stunning piece of curly Myrtle, which links to the Oak top.

This was also used for the leg glide rollers (I cannot praise highly enough this idea from Jameel. Until they were added, the leg vise was struggling. The rollers transformed the construction. It now slides back-and-forth with ease, and holds thin boards tightly with little force) ..

The leg glide begins as a through tenon. This is rounded at the front of the chop ..

The leg glide (from inside the base) ...

The sliding deadman runs on a triangular strip that I screwed to the top of the stretcher (rather than sawing the stretcher to a triangle) ..

This allowed for the removal of the strip when installing the sliding deadman, and in turn this meant that I could create a tighter fit with less play. In practice this worked extremely well. The sliding deadman moves very freely and still remains flush with the stretcher and legs. Tip: round the ends of the tenon for less resistance.

The deadman and the leg vise were buit from the same board. They are 1 3/4" thick.

So ... finally, the big picture ...

We'll finish it all off next weekend. So far it has been 7 weekends, including one in which the dog strip was replaced.

Regards from Perth


Wonderwino 03-05-2012 10:02 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Spectacular finish, Derek! What are you going to do with the old bench now? :popcorn:

bigfoot 03-05-2012 10:20 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Derek it looks great!

derekcohen 03-05-2012 11:31 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth

Originally Posted by Wonderwino (Post 78925)
Spectacular finish, Derek! What are you going to do with the old bench now? :popcorn:

Anyone who wants it can have it ... as long as it is collected - no shipping! :D

Regards from Perth


neilc 03-06-2012 02:49 AM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth

That is one beautiful bench. Nice 'save' with the reversed dog hole strip! The true testament of a craftsman is someone who can gracefully recover and you never know they took a detour!

Thanks for sharing the in-process pics.


Okami 03-06-2012 03:59 AM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Fantastic Derek! And done in record time too:thumbsup2:
Some of these bench builds have been going on for eternity:D
As was mentioned, a very good come-back from the dogstrip error, that's good craftsmanship.
So.. What's the first project to grace the new bench?

derekcohen 03-06-2012 04:12 AM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Hi Okami


The bench is not quite done. a few things to do. Plus I have an idea for a tool tray that is different (keep you in suspense!). I have a dovetail saw to review (Glen-Drake) and am also evaluating a set of pre-production handlemaker rasps for Liogier. I got sucked into a plane-building competition on SMC. That is going to test me to the limit as I plan on building a full-on wooden plough plane with bridle adjustment (just won a set of 8 vintage tapered blades on Ebay). Then I can get back to furniture. You asked! :eek:

Regards from Perth


derekcohen 03-12-2012 03:53 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
I was hoping to have finished it all the past weekend, but did not get much workshop time. Too many social events. In all I had about 2 hours, and in that I made the dogs. Now the bench is a working bench.

I will complete the shelf and a few odds-and-ends after this coming weekend, which is the annual Perth LN Hand Tool Event. Chris Vesper is staying over and we are both presenters all weekend.

The old bench has gone to a new home. I offered it to the first person to cart it away. Hopefully it will give them good service for a few more years.

I did take photos of the dog-making procedure and will post them, if anyone is interested.

Here is a picture of the bench with the Jarrah pieces used for the dogs. It may interest some to note the 2 degree angle (facing the tail vise) ..

Here is one of the dogs (they are all identical), with a head dimension of 1" x 1 1/2" x 5" long. They are faced in suede leather.

The dogs all recess flush with the bench top when not in use ..

I really like the ability to raise them to a height that is needed ...

The leg vise runs very smoothly. I am waiting on pieces of suede leather for the inner faces as these are a bit slippery and work pieces can be moved. I tested the grip with a temporary leather insert, and this made a significant difference. Anyone with comments here is very welcome. ..

The bench in its new home ..

Regards from Perth


Poto 03-12-2012 04:42 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
That's one seriously elegant bench, Derek. I love the dogs, too - the fact that they can be placed flush with the benchtop, or raised to any height. Very versatile.

I'll look forward to seeing the wonderful things you make on it.

derekcohen 03-26-2012 05:11 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
I declare this bench finished.

This bench is done. Time to move on.

I am very happy with the way it has turned out. Somewhat relieved and always a little amazed when things work out. Here are the finishing touches, plus a road test to illustrate the work holding areas.

When we left off last the bench had reached this stage ...

I returned to the fray on the weekend. The first task was to build the shelf. This is made of 5/8" thick (after levelling) Jarrah. I glued the panel up last week. Its weight adds another 10 kg (22 lbs) to the total, bringing the final weight of the bench to 192 kg or 422 lbs.

I was planing the panel with The Dreadnought (36" Jarrah jointer). The quickest way to flatten I know ...

... using one bench dog and a makeshift stop, when I decided I was going about this in the wrong order. Get the round dog holes done! So I sharpened up a 3/4" Jennings bit and brought out the 12" MF brace ...

I do like this brace. It has the simplicity of a Spofford, but with bling :)

Soon I had lined up a series of holes opposite the square dogs, each 1" in from the far side of the bench ...

I have chosen to use the brass Veritas dogs. A slight modification is the addition of suede leather on the flat face.

These are long enough to pass through the bench top.

The purpose here is to plane across the bench ...

The bench is now 12" from the far wall. This allows the use of a jointer or jack plane without danger of hitting the wall. It was not possible to work this way when the old bench was attached to the wall.

The new shelf ..

It will hold tools such as a shooting board, Moxon vise, and bench hooks.

Alongside the last two square dogs I added two rows of round dog holes. These are coplanar, enabling a short or long bench stop to span the bench. I have yet to make a couple of stops that will be clamped in the leg vise. The following one was co-opted into use in the short term ...

The leg vise was given a layer of 2mm thick suede leather on each side. This makes a huge difference to the work holding power of the leg vise. It will now clamp pieces securely with little force.

One other point about the leg vise - add the supporting wheels to the glide, as designed by Jameel Abraham, and this will create a smooth running screw, even the wooden one on this bench. I can spin the handle, and the chop will slide in-or-out freely.

My old bench was 34" high. For my height of 5"10" the "pinky test" of Chris Schwarz would point to a bench height of 30" as ideal for planing. My concern, however, was that there are a number of tasks that need to be done at a bench, not just planing. Would the bench be high enough for marking and other detail work? In the end I decided to compromise on a height of 32".

Marking with a gauge is comfortable ...

The Moxon dovetail vise is positioned against a dog, and clamped down by two holdfasts at the rear (which may assitionally be used in any of the round dog holes)..

Marking dovetails is also fine, but sawing is less comfortable at this height than before. The saw has to angle upward and I can feel my wrist having to cock more than I like ..

Cross-cutting (the tails) is another comfortable position ..

A bench hook clamped into the leg vise allows chopping to take place over a leg ...

It has never been this easy to hold work to plane a rebate along an edge ...

I scratched my head for a while how to hold the short ends. Then I remembered I had a tail vise! Easy peasy ..

Finally, the sliding deadman, along with the new Veritas surface clamp, made it easy to hold the completed box for planing ..

So what was the first project being built on the new bench? It will become a tool tray, one that will attach to the wall instead of the bench. I want to leave the edges of the bench free for clamps, if needed. To the tool tray I will add a section to hold a few chisels and backsaws that are in current use. That is for a later date.

The completed bench ...

Thanks to all for your suggestions and advise along the way.

Regards from Perth


JimKirkpatrick 03-26-2012 08:24 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Derek, Your bench is gorgeous and you sure know to make purdy dovetails! Bow DownBow DownBow Down. I LOVE the box.
PS, Is that a Superchute 2.0 I spy beneath your bench?

derekcohen 03-27-2012 12:36 AM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Is that a Superchute 2.0 I spy beneath your bench?

:Laughing2: :Laughing2: :Laughing2:

Jim, the Superchute 1.0 was based on that shooting board. Mine is the original. Version 2.0 of the Superchute went a different route. I hear it's good ... but mine is better :D ... however not for sale!

Go here for more pics:

Shooting for Perfection

Regards from Perth


Okami 03-27-2012 02:13 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
That's a really handsome Bench Derek:clapping1: I've enjoyed watching Your progress on it.
Bet You'll be drilling more holes in it later.. my old thing has holes everywhere now:D

joraft 03-27-2012 03:21 PM

Re: Building a Bench in Perth
Yes, thank you for this thread, Derek. I enjoyed it very much.

The subject is of special interest to me since I'm planning to start my own Roubo build this year.


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