Bench making question

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My bench-making videos and blogs have stirred many, many questions worldwide and are indeed challenging the woodworking world of mis information to simplify what has always been simple until the interconnecting worldwide web of fractured information. This has fascinated me in that we have managed to resurrect what was probably the most well used woodworking bench in Europe. A bench that was almost lost in this ever fracturing and disintegrating world of global economics. Locally, this bench was used in every joiner’s shop in Britain. Cabinet makers (UK furniture makers), boat builders, joiners and carpenters relied on this bench and made ninety-nine point nine of them from softwoods such as spruce, pine, fir and so on. Was that because we didn’t have hardwoods? Of course not. Pine was the premier wood. We had all kinds of softwoods from the USA sent over as ballast and stock rather than empty ships….

Q:

Hi Paul

For the bench with two tops and well in the middle, how do you get the two tops to be flat and at the same level as each other, or doesn’t it matter? Do you get one side flat and free of wind and then use winding sticks to transfer it over to the other side? Do you somehow figure out which side is the “low side” and do it first? I’m definitely going to do the one-side bench so I can learn to walk before I try to run, but am curious and maybe it will help people more advanced than I am.

 

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I wanted to at first say this may seem to complicate what’s simple, but that’s not true and would seem dismissive of a genuine regard for discovering the truth. Firstly, we do plane the underside of the bench top to make it dead flat and out of wind and so we used the winding sticks in the video to make sure they were flat and without twist. Surprisingly, doing the same to the opposite face will indeed most likely create a parallel face too, but there is no guarantee without measuring the thickness because of course it could be out of twist but out of parallel too. This then means measuring or gauging the thickness with a marking gauge to establish exact thickness. Alternatively, you can secure the two bench tops and use winding sticks over the whole. This works well too and you will be surprised how quickly the two sides can be levelled even with a #4 Stanley smoothing plane. I have found that levelling and truing takes les than 20 minutes even in a bad case scenario, so I say do not worry. The most important surfaces are indeed the undersides of the bench top sections because if these are twisted, so too your bench will stand twisted on the legs and you will need to shim one leg. It is important not to make a twisted bench because what you make on it needs to stand or lay flat.

4 comments on “Bench making question

  1. That may seem to make sense but in reality there is a greater chance for slippage the more width you add. This then creates twist that must be removed. It is very simple to laminate these tops as can be seen from the videos I have made. Sometimes we think problems into being when they are not there. I have most likely made and overseen the making of around 500 of these benches in the last 50 years and that’s never been a problem at all.

    • That’s why I asked. Because I didn’t know it. It is so great that you share your knowledge and experience with us. I’m especially grateful for the benchmaking series. All other people suggest such over-the top designs:’You’ll need at least 250 pounds of hardwood and the benchtop needs to be at least 10 cm thick. Shorter than 240 cm? Forget about it!’ Commercial banks of this style cost at least 1000 €. Building them requires a real machine park and/or a workbench. And there’s the problem: ‘How to build a bench without a bench?’ So: really Thank You alot! for showing us, how to build them with just a few handtools in our gardens, garages, basements, attics or whatever. I’ll start to build mine in February when I will have the time for that project. After I’m finished I’m going to pay for woodworking masterclasses to make the projects and learn by doing that. I’m really looking forward to build my wallclock, although I will probably not build a clock but a weather station with hygro-,thermo- and barometer.

  2. Paul, I think what you have written here about workbenches in general is very much so. The hype about workbench design, looks etc. is a bit over the top. In the end of the day the bench need to do what you need to get done. Meaning holding workpieces securely so that you can do the work – whatever it is: planing, sawing you name it. With the hype around benches comes the unavoidable question of which wood you have to take and I think it is very bizarre that everyone is talking hardwoods here. One feels like “2nd class woodworking” if you even mention softwoods… BUT I much prefer having a dent in my workbench instead of the dent in my project piece when I accidentally slam something against the bench… good luck with your hard maple benchtop… I suppose those thinking that way are building workbenches not to use them but to show off a beautiful piece of “workshop furniture”.
    Anyways, as much as I like your design (I started laminating the tops this weekend) I am curious to know your opinion about other designs like and especially the Roubo. I can generally see both benches being as functional as the other with the slight difference of a more difficult built of the Roubo. OK, it has no tool well (the reason why I chose your design) but besides this what are your thoughts?
    Thanks in advance for bringing some more controversial opinion into the woodworking community Paul, which I much appreciate and like! Keep this attitude and mindset up!!!

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