The Quest for a Better Bench #1: Where I started and where we’re going...

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Blog entry by PlanBWoodworks posted 10-23-2017 03:27 AM 1240 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of The Quest for a Better Bench series Part 2: The best bench so far... »

Workbenches. We all have them. We all love them. Are we ever satisfied with them? Probably not. Or at least, I’m not. I guess to fully appreciate my current journey, you should know where I began.

I don’t think that I have a photo of my very first workbench. At least, not one readily available. However, I can paint the picture verbally. I wanted to start reloading. For those of you who are unfamiliar, reloading is building your own bullets. This was back around 2010 or so. Anyone who is a firearms enthusiast knows that at that time, ammunition was very difficult to find and expensive to procure. I got a wild hair one day and decided to build a reloading bench. The fact that I had a sum total of ZERO in the way of knowledge of or necessary equipment or components for reloading (or bench building, for that matter) might have discouraged a lesser (read wiser) man, but nonplussed, I bravely began blazing the path to being able to shoot more/cheaper.

Only the finest of materials would suffice for this bench, so I wisely chose either Lowe’s or Home Depot (don’t remember which) as my supplier. I, in my infinite wisdom, selected 3/4” pine boards as the beefy top to my first bench. I attached a 2×4 to the studs (at least I hope that I hit the studs!!!) in my garage, and the screwed 3 pieces of 2×4 into the top of that. I ran the 3/4” boards across those and propped up the front with 2×4 legs that were very poorly cut.

There you have it. My first bench. It wasn’t really level. It wasn’t really strong. It wasn’t really even a bench, but what it was was the first step down a road that I may never reach the end of.

It didn’t take me long time realize that I MIGHT be able to ever so slightly improve on my initial design.
I decided that if ever given the opportunity to build another, and really- after the solid construction of the first, would that time ever come…- I would build a solid base using 2×4s and 4×4s.

I thought that if I ever did acquire the equipment and components needed to begin reloading, I MIGHT want something a little sturdier. Luckily, a promotion and a move to a new house afforded that opportunity.

Upon arrival at the new house, I put my plan in to place. I wanted this to be the bench to end all benches. I built it – using only a drill and a circular saw – bigger than I intended. I cut down 6 legs from pressure treated 4×4s and framed those out with 2×4s. I hadn’t discovered the necessity of measuring at this point, so my bench ended up being slightly (ok- a lot) taller than I intended. 45” of tall. It was also 8 feet wide and 36” deep. As I said, it was to be the bench to end all benches.

Now, at that point, I actually did acquire reloading equipment and components, and certainly wasn’t strapped for space. My bench could comfortably accommodate 8-10 people and was plenty beefy. I had not yet discovered the importance of things like sanding, gluing, jointing or planing. Even without that knowledge, I knew that if there were ever an opportunity to refine my design (and at this point even I – as inexperienced as I was – knew that it wouldn’t be long before I would create a reason) I would make a few changes.

The opportunity to further refine my design presented itself relatively quickly. By this point, I had started edging into the quicksand that is woodworking. I had begun acquiring tools, but had no real method for storage. My refined workbench was going to be slightly smaller and would be butted up beneath a pegboard tool wall.

I still had not purchased a planer or jointer, but I had learned the trick of running the 2×4s through a table saw to knock the rounded edges off allowing the boards to be butted together without the “valleys” between them. This was the result:

Overall, I was thrilled with the newest iteration of my workbench. Little did I know that the journey was just beginning.

In the next entry, I will discuss the last bench that I built and its pros and cons. Then, I will discuss my most recent bench build and bring you along on the journey as I continue my quest for a better bench. Thanks for reading!

-- Why can’t I ever find my pencil???

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