Another New Fangled Workbench #2: Installment one, Thanks to the trailblazers and some basic layout and preliminary thoughts

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Blog entry by MichaelW posted 04-01-2008 07:58 AM 2376 reads 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Installment two: Getting to know the planing beam Part 2 of Another New Fangled Workbench series Part 3: Lessons from the planing beam »

This is actually the original first post in the series. I am obviously learning how the blog tools work. So for part I start here and then go back to read part II… Part III and thereafter will hopefully appear in the correct sequence.

I have benefited greatly from reading posts on this and other sites so this is my first attempt to return some knowledge to the community. First I would like to thank Jeff for his detailed and informative posts as they aided me greatly in addition to the copy of the Fine Wood Working (herein FWW) article with its openness to interpretation or ambiguity depending on your perspective. Thanks as well to David on his site the folding ruler show for an example of the extreme New Fangled Workbench (herein NFWB).

A short background on my fascination with this bench. I have been working with a group of students and a professional guitar builder in the Seattle area for a little over a year on building an acoustic guitar. My intention was to gain a deeper perspective on the instrument I love to play and along the way I became fascinated with woodworking, particularly with hand tools and tradition. So in acquiring several hand planes, chisels, and scrapers, I found myself in need of a bench to use them on. I started out with a free bench from a garage sale and before I knew a little about hand tools had put pegboard and hung tools on it only to discover that when I clamped anything to it or used the vise to hold something to work with hand tools, the greater portion of the tools on the pegboard would come crashing down. After reading several different books on workbenches, I came across one that referenced this bench in FWW and saw the video on the website. I knew at once this was the bench I wanted to build as it emphasized function and thrift.

I have watched the video better than a dozen times and made many notes on my multiple paper and pencil drawings of the bench and components. I am closing in on a bench that is 8’ long and 3’ high, 28” across plus perhaps another 6” for a tool tray eventually. As Jeff mentioned in the last installment of his blog, I am considering that some day I may want to move this so am toying with the idea of tusked tenon joints, or perhaps bed bolts if I chicken out or the traditional type of joinery seems to be ill-suited for the materials.

I have a few pictures to post, but it looks like I have to figure out the protocol here of having them appear within the blog. Hope to remedy that in the next post. I put some up on flicker, but can’t quite figure out how to get the direct link to make them appear here. Any hints on making this work from Flickr appreciated. It is literally in the 111th hour so will stop here for now, but pick up again hopefully soon.

-- Michael, Seattle, WA

7 comments so far

View jcees's profile


1079 posts in 4609 days

#1 posted 04-01-2008 02:56 PM

Bench building is a rite of passage for a woodworker. It’s a tool on which ALL of your work will most likely depend. Make it any way you want and specific in the way it holds your work. I am also building a bench [my own design] and like you, it has morphed many times on the page before AND during the process. Good luck, and keep us posted w/pics.


BTW, if you add an exclamation point to both ends of the link, it will show the pic. Another LJ taught me that a couple of weeks back. Sweet!

-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View MichaelW's profile


30 posts in 4558 days

#2 posted 04-01-2008 03:03 PM


Thanks for the encouragement and the exclamation points. Will add a little more info later today!

-- Michael, Seattle, WA

View MichaelW's profile


30 posts in 4558 days

#3 posted 04-01-2008 04:50 PM

The initial Douglas Fir framing stock I purchased at a local lumber yard here stickered and acclimating in the garage for about a month. You can see the edge of the bandsaw in the extreme foreground I used to rip the stock.

On the left on the floor is a laminated beam I got from a local salvage business that I plan to use for the table next to the well. One side is pretty flat already that shouldn’t be too much work to true up with a plane… famous last words. I also like the heft of it and the fact that the glue up is already complete. Both ends of the beam have about a 3/8’ to 1/2” cut in the middle that may help keep it from cracking like the hole and slots in the design of the NFWB stretcher and legs. I am planing on adding a second stretcher between the secondary legs and beefing up the dimensions of the secondary legs to support the heft of the beam.

I think you can make out the end grain in the photo and when I ripped the bigger boards, I was shooting for the more vertical grain in the edges of the boards. Prior to ripping them, I did notice some twist and cupping, though ripping a more vertical oriented grain section helped settle that some.

I don’t have a table saw and not much room for one if I did, So I used my 14” bandsaw. It was a bit tricky to rip such long stock, but I got a portable support on the front end and then used a chopsaw on a stand for the roll off. This required careful attention in the transition point as the weight of the board pivoted on the fulcrum, and mindfulness of the blade and my hand position, but I got them through. I did decide as a result of this to purchase some additional 2×4 stock that had more vertical grain and was successful in snobbishly picking through the premium quality studs.

After ripping the initial stock, I cut it to pretty close to 8’ length on the chopsaw to make it easier to manage around my small garage and put some duct tape over the ends. On the left side of the top of the sawhorses are two off cuts I probably won’t use in the bench and the other wood on top is the additional stock I bought for the remainder of the bench. In the background on the right you can see the bench I have been using which is perfectly fine for many things, but not so good for planing and other tupes of hand tool techniques.

This final picture shows the newer stock I purchased. I spent a lot of time drawing out the bench and the dimensions of the components with paper and pencil and figuring out the length of the legs, stretchers, “skis” ~what I call the horizontal runners under the legs, they might have a more formal name in workbench parlance. The board I selected for the secondary legs has some cracks in one end, but I think I can cut that section off and the rest should be serviceable to create two legs. This particular board may be a little wide for the secondary legs, so I may rip it back, but will see when I get that far. I thought the postits were a pretty good strategy since I have to be away from the project for periods of time, hopefully it will be helpful for picking up where I left off when I can get some more time with it.

Well that pretty much does it for my first installment. Some of the things I was a little perplexed about were how high the bar clamps would stick out of the top and if the front clamps would be high enough to mate closely enough to the front of the bench to get a good head on clamping direction of force. Then I realized, oh yea, the mdf is 3/4” for the panels so that helps place the upper pipes when I lay out the holes for the supports. I elected to use the larger 3/4” size pipe clamps as I liked their handles better.
I also cleaned up the pipes with some wet/dry sandpaper to take the rust off and after drying them up put a little rub of camelia oil on them… some handtool afficionados recommend this for keeping handplanes in good shape and when I checked them a month later I was pleased with the results.
The position of the pipeclamps for the planing beam relative to the wedge and rail coming off of the well wasn’t very clear to me from either the FWW article or video, but Jeff’s blog was very helpful with all his sketchup drawings. Thanks again Jeff.

-- Michael, Seattle, WA

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4798 days

#4 posted 04-01-2008 09:16 PM

Interesting blog! I will be following this one.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 4904 days

#5 posted 04-19-2008 07:00 PM

Thanks for the shout out, Michael. It’s good to see another fella undertaking the project. I look forward to your variations. I know this much. You will be glad you let the lumber acclimate to your shop environment and dry out a bit. It will make a considerable difference when you mill.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 4651 days

#6 posted 05-29-2008 07:15 AM

looks like a good start

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View Hersh's profile


106 posts in 4525 days

#7 posted 10-06-2008 12:55 AM

Thanks for sharing your information and adventure into workbench building.

-- Hersh from Port Angeles, WA - Gotta Complete That Project!

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