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Bench (Good/Fast AND Cheap)

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Project by BlueRidgeDog posted 01-09-2019 03:32 PM 10004 views 28 times favorited 34 comments Add to Favorites Watch

They always say good, fast and cheap: Pick two. Well I think this bench has all three. I am sharing here in case someone is approaching a similar project and is looking for ways to make a great bench for not too much time or cash. All in is about $350 for vise parts and lumber. So about $350 and a weekend and you are good to go.

Many more images are here, as well as steps that are implied.

In short, I used Southern Yellow Pine (recommended in the holy grail of bench books) as durable, hard, inexpensive and obtainable. Buy larger boards in the structural section of the big box store and rip out parts that are clear. Once ripped, they were jointed and planned as normal lumber.

The top is laminated in two sections. The “field” is one big chuck and the smaller front section that will feature a tail vise and dog holes is a second section. This allows you to mill and work the smaller section independently.

The basis is a simple frame of glue-laminated posts and stretchers, with large stub tenons made on the posts during the glue up. Tenons on the stretchers are cut on the table saw then mortises are hand cut on the legs.

Mortise locations are marked on the monster top based on measurements, but it is fitted to the legs to verify. Once marked, they are hand cut as well with a good bit of help form a drill bit and/or router. Make them at least big enough as you don’t want to put the top on and off many times to test.

Once the top was glued onto the legs, the flattening process is a good workout. I did a few passes with a scrub plane, then a joiner ending in a smoother. It really is only 45 minutes or work. You could do the top in smaller sections and pass them through your planner, but I really don’t want to abuse my planner that way and don’t mind hand work.

I had some scrap ash and cherry that I used to make vise chops and end piece to hold the tail vise assembly. The end piece is simply held on with a spline joint. The tail vise is sort of a kludge but works surprisingly well. Each vise is about as cheap as you can find. No, they are not quick release. Just turn them.

The front vise chop is long…way longer than recommended, but I wanted the room and I use a block to fight vise rack and am very satisfied. The bench side chop is bolted on so it can be swapped out in the future.

After assembly each joint was double pegged for extra strength in the event that there is any movement during drying (construction lumber is wet stuff).

The bench has proven to be worth the time and cost as it is the perfect work holding tool for hand work and power tool work.

Hand work holding:

Power tool work holding:

Not only did it make doing hand work so much more effective and efficient, I was stunned at the speed that it gave to power tool setups, especially routing.

As an aside, the holdfasts are from here and are perfect. My bench top is 4.5” and they hold well. You have to sand them when new….sand rotating around the rod, not up and down.

I think some folks get hung up on the details of a bench. First it has to exist, i.e. any bench is better than no bench, second, it simply needs to hold work. It is a big elaborate clamp. It doesn’t need to hold tools, or lights, or flowers for that matter. Make something solid, massive and with enough work holding capacity that you can move on to the work at hand. This is the best time in woodworking to use the KISS principle.

Changes I may make: I may ditch the tail vise for a front vise on the end with dog holes in the chop. I have room for a deadman and plan on putting one in when needed. Right now I don’t have a need – dog holes in the legs have worked well. I will put some additional dog holes in the bench field at some point.

Front Vise $100
Tail Vise $40
Lumber $180
Holdfasts $40





34 comments so far

View JohnMcClure's profile

JohnMcClure

691 posts in 1122 days


#1 posted 01-09-2019 03:54 PM

I like this! Mine is good enough but if/when I have space/need for a new one, I hope to remember this approach.

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View TWegs's profile

TWegs

64 posts in 1097 days


#2 posted 01-09-2019 03:57 PM

Awesome job on this. It should last you a lifetime. I love how you hand-planed it flat. Overall the project shows excellent craftsmanship in both machine and hand tool skills. Are the rails joined to the legs with mortise and tenon joints? Thanks for sharing this.

View christherookie's profile

christherookie

126 posts in 3528 days


#3 posted 01-09-2019 04:26 PM

Just when I finally feel ok with my old junk table, I see this…looks like I’ve got a spring project!

View BlueRidgeDog's profile

BlueRidgeDog

499 posts in 261 days


#4 posted 01-09-2019 04:47 PM



Awesome job on this. It should last you a lifetime. I love how you hand-planed it flat. Overall the project shows excellent craftsmanship in both machine and hand tool skills. Are the rails joined to the legs with mortise and tenon joints? Thanks for sharing this.

- TWegs

Yes. The stretchers have some very large tenons going into the legs, then pegged.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

16186 posts in 3100 days


#5 posted 01-09-2019 04:48 PM

Terrific build!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

10872 posts in 2933 days


#6 posted 01-09-2019 04:57 PM

Well thought out approach to the bench build. I’ll agree with most of your approach except the exclusion of a leg vise. I do have a face vise in the end vise position and it works well.

Nice build, should be a good place to work.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View PPK's profile

PPK

1508 posts in 1291 days


#7 posted 01-09-2019 05:08 PM

Really nice. looks quite similar to mine. (But yours is better)
There’s something really rewarding about having a good bench to work on.

-- Pete

View pottz's profile

pottz

6001 posts in 1466 days


#8 posted 01-09-2019 05:12 PM

a good well built bench can last a lifetime,so it pays to do it right the first time.yours looks like it will stand the test of time.love the tutorial you made should really help someone wanting the same kind of bench.nice job.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View BlueRidgeDog's profile

BlueRidgeDog

499 posts in 261 days


#9 posted 01-09-2019 07:51 PM



I ll agree with most of your approach except the exclusion of a leg vise.

Agree but the hardware for a decent leg vise is more than the entire bench cost. I can convert it one day as the bench side chip is flush with the leg.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

16186 posts in 3100 days


#10 posted 01-09-2019 08:05 PM

I ll agree with most of your approach except the exclusion of a leg vise.

Agree but the hardware for a decent leg vise is more than the entire bench cost. I can convert it one day as the bench side chip is flush with the leg.

- BlueRidgeDog

Depends on what you consider ‘decent.’

$25 for a used (but entirely serviceable) leg vise screw is good, fast and cheap.

And I’ll add this: I’m amused at the numbers of ways there are to get around simply setting a pin at the base of a leg vise. It’s so easy, even a cave man can do it. But there’s criss crosses, wedges, chain drives, etc. (all at their own $ figure) out there to eliminate the simple requirement to pull and re-insert a pin. It’s not even needed that often at my bench.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View BlueRidgeDog's profile

BlueRidgeDog

499 posts in 261 days


#11 posted 01-09-2019 08:27 PM



$25 for a used (but entirely serviceable) leg vise screw is good, fast and cheap.
- Smitty_Cabinetshop

I have been keeping an eye out for a chunk of acme threaded steel.

View jonah's profile

jonah

2075 posts in 3780 days


#12 posted 01-09-2019 08:37 PM

I think I have you beat on the cheap front:

http://lumberjocks.com/projects/102843

I like yours better, though.

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

10752 posts in 1620 days


#13 posted 01-09-2019 08:52 PM

Great looking bench BR Dog. I’ll have to agree with comments on a leg vise. I teetered back and forth between a face vise and a leg vise and ended up doing a leg vise using the Lee Valley tailvise screw. Never realized what a beast a leg vise was until I had one :-) I’m with Smitty on a simple parallel guide with a pin too. All the fancy hardware is nice but putting a pin in and out suits me fine. A simple roller on the back side keeps it sliding in and out smoothly.

I like your wagon vise design. Simple, cheap and effective. I may end up ditching my end vise in favor of a wagon before all’s said and done. Thanks for posting!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

10872 posts in 2933 days


#14 posted 01-09-2019 08:54 PM

I agree with Smitty. You can find screws and nuts at flea markets and the like. I chose to buy a Lake Erie screw and Benchcrafted criss cross and bench bolts. I knew at some time I would be moving And i wanted a simple breakdown set up.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View BlueRidgeDog's profile

BlueRidgeDog

499 posts in 261 days


#15 posted 01-09-2019 09:20 PM



I think I have you beat on the cheap front:

- jonah

Indeed. I can’t do under bench storage…I sit at mine A LOT and my legs go there!

My bench is over 200 pounds, so it is a fantastic thing that simply never ever moves when I am using it.

showing 1 through 15 of 34 comments

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