discussion of anything related to tools

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Re: Workbench

Postby ToneWood » Tue Jun 18, 2013 1:01 pm

gavin wrote:Look out for a school getting demolished. You can score big time there with old work benches being discarded. Ask your local education dept if they are re-building any schools.
Or look on Ebay or Gumtree. If one is local you'll get it for a song...

Several of the local schools were demolished and rebuilt in recent years - but no sign of school benches in this area on ebay. I recently discovered what happened to at least one of the old benches: somebody (presumably a Design Technology related teacher) had turned wooden plates from an old workbench and put them is the school's "silent auction" to raise funds for the school! Pity they didn't put some benches in the silent auction too!
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Re: Workbench

Postby jrccaim » Wed Jun 19, 2013 5:55 am

ToneWood wrote:I used to live near a cycle path in the US which had huge piles containing thousands of old railway sleepers. Seemed like a waste, they can be expensive in the UK (e.g. from garden centres). All used and tar/creosote coated though and very rough and splintery - I suppose you could stick a piece of plywood or masonite/hardboard on top for a flat, smooth finish.

Railway sleepers, or ties as they are called over here, are nowadays pressure-treated wood. (In the UK creosote has been banned by the Eurocracy in Brussels. I cannot say that they have banned tar.) In my limited experience if sleepers have been replaced it is because the railway considered them unsafe. Cracks, rot, whatever. Now you can always take a scrub plane and plane away the defects. An unbelievable amount of work to get through the first 3mm or so, and not much better thereafter. This is a lot of effort. The good news is that it does not have to support a train, just our work, so you can plane away to your heart's content. I am not sure I would do this. I think I would take a chain saw and mill about 3 cm off the sleepers. Furthermore sleepers are just over the standard railway gauge, which is four feet eight inches and one half. Unbelievable dimensions, caused by the width of a horse's rear end. (Again, the romans sort of standardized it. So you takes what you gets.) So say a meter eighty. This is an uncomfortable length for a workbench. I would prefer something like 3-4 meters. So I would have to patch. Not impossible. Just difficult.

On the whole, I think the place for used sleepers is the garden, not a workbench. Traditional benchtop is beech. For most of us pine will do quite well. If you can get oak more power to you. Or beech. All will work. After all, it sits indoors. The occasional dab of lineed oil will keep it up to snuff.

But if I build a new bench, I should probably build a Robous-style workbench - and that's too much for my modest skills at the moment. So nothing gets done! (A new blacksmith recently opened about 1.5 miles from my home & a metalwork artist about 7 miles away, so might be able get somebody to make me a bench hook).

Be aware that any workbench is a lot of work. By now I have built four of them. All worth the effort. All mortise and tenon construction. No power tools at all. But a real Roubo style workbench is a whole h*** of a lot of effort because of the solid top. Got to find something like 20 cm solid slab of hardwood. Then there are the tricky double dovetail joints involved in fastening the legs to the top. And BTW what I think your smith really should make you is not a bench hook; I suspect you mean holdfast and a very useful thing it is indeed. Do not mean to discourage you. More power to you and all that. Some stuff on the net, of course; google up "roubo workbench."
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Re: Workbench

Postby ToneWood » Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:25 pm

Yes, I don't underestimate the amount of work, or skill, required to make a bench - that's why I'm still using Pa's, worm-eaten though it is. :)
I saw a video of a Roubo-building class in the USA - great idea, share tools, experience and a large flat-bed pick-up truck!
Finding the right timber is probably key. Was surprised to see big timber at the small local builder's yard recently. Although
I live in an area where big trees are felled or fall over from time to time, including beech which I believe is traditionally used
and oak which I believe is also sometimes used traditionally. But transporting it and processing it into usable slabs would be a daunting task,
requiring some heavy equipment.

I know several good professional carpenters. If good, suitable wood was to come my way, perhaps it would be prudent to get some expert help in for the key
structural joints. No doubt they would make short work of it. I'd probably go for a very basic version too (sans tool trays, drawer, tool boxes, end vices, etc.)
- even the characteristic traditional leg-vice, which would certainly be v. nice to have/useful, is probably not essential for my modest needs.
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Re: Workbench

Postby ToneWood » Mon Apr 14, 2014 9:51 pm

jrccaim wrote:...Be aware that any workbench is a lot of work..."

Yes! I finally got around to replacing the badly worm-eaten legs on my father's old workbench this weekend but it turned into a long but ultimately satisfying slog.
Old bench: with one leg 1" longer than the others and woodworm, the later cross-bracing stiffened the wonky frame. Not sure how old it is, somewhere between 20 and 50 years old (the oak beam across the bottom of the back probably older).
OldBench.jpg (100.3 KiB) Viewed 5282 times

Most of the old bench was worm eaten - including the plywood top - except for the new timbers I added for a shelf and X-bracing a year or two ago. So I ended up building an entirely new bench, re-using only my own shelf & X-bracing timbers + two short end boards (which were probably pressure-treated).

The new bench cost ~£35/$58 + legs. I bought 1 sheet of 18mm shutter plywood for the bench-top and one long plank: 16'x1"x6" - for the skirt. The skirt is deeper & thinner than the 2x3's on the old bench - so easier to nail and it makes the frame more rigid - more expensive though (£11 v. £7) . For the legs: 3"x3" sweet chestnut purchased last year - which I dried in my garage, turning it regularly; I'd hoped to use at least 4x4's but these were all that were available at the time (seem pretty good though). For all the other timber I just used offcuts and timber from an old bed that I had put aside.

The old bench was about 5'x 26" x 36" - a good size. However I have 6 foot of space where my bench is placed, unfortunately marred by large pipework in the corner:
I used my wooden-framed turning saws for most of the cutting. Wow - the depth of the blade makes a big difference: the first saw I used had a regular vintage blade and I could hardly get it to turn at all but when I switched to a saw with one of my new (home-made from a bandsaw blade) slimmer, shallower blades, finer 10TPI blades it worked great - just as you'd expect a turning saw to.
Pipes&NewBench.jpg (83.23 KiB) Viewed 5282 times

The plywood sheets are 8'x4' and I only had a small car on Saturday, so the lumber yard kindly offered to cut it down for me; after careful consideration I opted for 2 pieces 6'x2' plus an offcut of 2'x4' - enough for the entire bench space with a double thickness top (2x18mm=36mm) - with some judicious cutting to fit around the pipes. [Would 36mm of ply be enough to support a big French-style iron bench hook and/or wooden bench dogs? Should I seal the plywood somehow?]

The slightly thicker legs and double thickness top add mass. The deeper "skirt" adds rigidity but makes refitting the bench-vise challenging.
NewBench.jpg (79.55 KiB) Viewed 5282 times

It took the best part of 3 days to clear the bench area, remove & disassemble the old bench, work out design and purchase materials, assemble, install and tidy up (cleaning up took about 1/4 of the time!!). Fortunately the wife was away for most of it! And, in the end, I used basic nailed construction (fairly small nails at that) but it seems very solid. I don't enjoy carpentry but I am pleased with the result - and it wasn't too awful (fortunately there was no rain the entire 3 days). And, I just realized, I didn't use any power tools (the lumber yards certainly did though ;)).
Last edited by ToneWood on Tue Apr 22, 2014 1:55 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Workbench

Postby ToneWood » Mon Apr 14, 2014 10:26 pm

Left to do (not much):
- I am going to tack on a back-board* (I have a piece of wood off an old bed that is just the right size & shape) and...
- Some sort of (plastic?) flexible "skirt" to stop things sliding off by the pipes (Not sure what to use - suggestions welcome)
- Cut the 6" front skirt to re-fit my Record woodworking vice (my second vice, a small, old, damaged but handy metal engineers vice will probably not make if onto the new bench :( ).
- Need to get an electrician in to fix some things, so thinking of adding a pair of new power sockets to the right-end of bench (useful for cleaning car too) and a fluorescent tube overhead (to help my declining eye sight!).

*BTW I came across the concept of "pocket hole" guide/jig joints and was thinking of purchasing one of these guides (seems expensive @ half the cost of my new bench!) to fit the backboard (+ other repair work).
USA made Krell mini Jig Kit:
Videos: /
Anybody tried this gizmo/technique? The feedback & reviews I've seen so far are very positive (although not so for a similar all metal guide offered by Silverline & others for less than £5).
I would likely use regular dry-wall screws rather than Krell's "special" square drive screws though.
Last edited by ToneWood on Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Workbench

Postby anobium » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:10 pm

The Kreg jig is a wonderful piece of kit. You will find endless uses for it, but I suggest you buy the basic model as illustrated.
Re: screws, just use drywall /plasterboard UK screws which I have found totally satisfactory,
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Re: Workbench / Krell mini-jig / sealing top

Postby ToneWood » Mon Apr 28, 2014 1:34 pm

Thanks anobium, I did just that :).

Krell mini-jig
Received my Krell jig - I like it :). Little bit fiddly to position at first (need to set collar & position jig for wood-depth) but then quick, simple & consistent. The connections do not seem as strong/firm as I had expected but they are crisp, clean, uniform & reversible. Didn't take long at all to fix the back board - I used 3 x 1" dry-wall screws and was able to drive them all in by hand using a regular screwdriver (no electric screwdriver or T-bar required). Pity the kit doesn't come in a storage box/wallet, to keep the bits together & protected (apparently the drill bit can shatter if dropped - V. hard but brittle perhaps?) - I'll probably make a case/box/wallet for it.

Sealing the workbench top
I decided to oil the top of my workbench with linseed oil to help protect the porous surface. I oiled it lightly on a warm day, so that it would dry quickly - my fear is that, if damp, it could easily go moldy (happens to tool handles if you don't allow them to dry completely before exposing them to damp conditions (e.g. shed). I'm planning to go over it with some homemade beeswax polish: melted beeswax with just a little linseed oil added -- I have found that if you add too much oil (>>50%) and the surface becomes tacky for ages(/forever?).
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