Sturdy, knock-down workbench
Clever construction makes small work of big joints
Synopsis: This beefy bench borrows a lot of details from benches that have come before–Roubo benches, timber-framed benches, and most specifically, the Moravian workbench. It’s heavy, portable, and straightforward to make. By laminating the parts for the base, you get a nice heavy workbench, capable of taking a beating, without having to buy expensive thick stock. It also makes the mortise-and-tenon joinery much simpler.
When designing this bench, I pulled on old clichés: big, beefy, bombproof, versatile, stout, smart workholding. I shamelessly took from what came before, especially the Moravian workbench and its angled legs. But I wanted something heartier, so I turned to Roubo benches for proportions. Timber framing then lent a hand with the big knockdown joint. The result is a heavy, portable bench that works so well because, at its core, it’s so unoriginal. I even took the top from my old bench.
This article will focus on building the base and vise. The base’s thick parts are built up by laminating two pieces of 8/4 stock milled as little as possible. The benefit of this lamination isn’t just the lower cost and extra weight, but easy mortise-and-tenons as well, removing some of the pain of working thick parts and adding efficiency instead. The top is just a top, so I won’t spill much more ink on that.
The lumber species are all over the place—white pine, oak, ash, and cherry—but with reason. First, much of it was free, so the price was right. But even if I had bought all the boards, they’re common, affordable North American domestics, so my wallet wouldn’t have taken a huge hit. Then there’s the second, more important reason: The parts straddle the line between workability and weight. The mortised members are pine, while two thirds of what gets tenoned—an easier process—is heavier oak or ash.
Well, the cherry vise chop may not straddle that line. That board was a perfectly sized off-cut from a coworker. Without that serendipity, cherry feels a little premium. But it sure does look nice.
the lamination is the cheeks, and each front board creates the shoulders. The result is huge, fast, bareface tenons. Just be sure to cut all the front boards—the shoulders—to the exact same lengths. Otherwise, the shoulder-to-shoulder dimensions will be off, and your assemblies won’t be square.
First, though, make the legs. Each gets three mortises, two stopped ones for the short stretchers and one through-mortise for the long stretcher. Here’s another benefit of lamination: Instead of cutting this big, deep through-joint in solid stock, you can just form it in each half before glue-up.
To start, clamp the halves together. Then drill for and install alignment dowels. Doing this when the halves are clamped together guarantees the dowel holes line up. Next, lay out the through-mortises on an edge. The dowels make sure the legs go back together exactly as they are now, letting you pull apart the halves to complete the layout.
From Fine Woodworking #293
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