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Building a Work Bench

I did a trade for some woodwork with a guy who had a garage full of lumber and several nice hand tools. Most of the lumber was Oak.

I don't really like working with Oak. But I thought it would be perfect for a bench, and there was enough of it. I got lots of different lengths and widths. Most of it was 3/4". I forgot to take a "before" photo of the stack but here is a sample:



Now I intend to make a nice, sturdy bench, but its going to be more functional than artful masterpiece. Just something that I can really use with hand tools. Its my first bench, and there will be others later. So I really want this to be a quick project so I can get back to work on the stuff I really want to build.

Some may call this a "hack job." Call me a butcher, but I didn't even bother ripping the strips to the same width. As long as one side is flat, thats all that matters.

I started by rolling on the glue and clamping together sections of a half-dozen or so boards:



Then I glued up two of those sections:




At this point I have two sections that are less than 8" wide. This way they will fit on my 8" jointer to get one flat side.

Here is what the top will look like (It hasn't been jointed yet)



Here is the underside (notice the uneven widths)



The ends of the tool tray:



The sections laid out and ready for final assembly:




Don't worry, that endgrain will be covered with an end piece. For less than $20 bucks I got enough 4×6 and 2×6 Doug Fir for a very sturdy base. I also have a piece of solid mahogany re-claimed from an old desk for a bottom shelf, and a huge woodworking vice I got years ago at the flea market.

My friend the glue chisel…

On a side note, I thought I would take a moment to appreciate a very under-rated tool… My glue chisel. Its the old workhorse who doesn't whine or complain about the not so glamorous tasks like scraping semi-wet glue off a workpiece, gouging out a nail, prying double-stick-taped jigs apart, or popping bark off of a log.





Everyone should have a "glue chisel" ...someone's got to do the dirty work.
Blake,

This looks like it is going to be a great bench and cannot wait to see the progress on this. Great price too. But so help me god if you knock this out in a week I am giving up woodworking altogether!!:) I have been working on my bench for 10 months now and just now am I almost complete.
 

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More Bench Progress

Once I had my two larger bench sections glued up I ran them through the planer…



And chopped the ends square



I used my biscuit jointer to align the two laminated "slabs," since after this glue up it will be too big to run through my thickness planer:





Two slabs glued up:



And now glued up with the tool tray:



THE BASE

I spent $18.00 on 4×6 and 2×6 Doug Fir for the base at Home Depot:



A little shaping of the feet on the bandsaw, and oak pads added:



Mortise cut on the RAS (I do it this way because it is fast)



Leg assembly:



The assembled base (screws and glue… but the screws are well hidden)



A little preview of the whole thing together with the huge old Craftsman vice from the flea market:



By the way, the base alone is MASSIVE. It will weigh a ton with the solid oak top sitting on it.

The top will still get wide edges that wrap around all four sides. This will give the sides more surface area as well as make the top look more substantial (the base won't look so disproportionately huge.)

I haven't decided whether to stain or paint the base (maybe black?)... or leave it natural. I think something darker would look nice and de-emphasize the fact that I used construction-grade lumber.

Any thoughts?

Also, what kind of finish do I use on the oak top? Just oil?
Blake,

This is looking great. I am on the fence about painting the base. I think painting it black would look very cool & unique but at the same time leaving with just some oil as Todd and others have mentioned would look great too. Equally impressive as the build is the budget at which you are building this bench. What are the overall dimensions of the bench?
 

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Bench Almost Complete

More bench progress…

Here is the "tail" vice mortised into the end of the bench. You can also see how the underside of the bench looks with all the different widths I used:

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Clamping on the wider "apron" pieces front and back:

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And adding the end aprons with dowels:

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As you can see I painted the 4×6 fir base black:

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I leveled the table with shims under the feet and then bolted the legs to the floor:



And then the fun part began…

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I routed the edges of my vice jaws on the router table:

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The vices came out really nicely. I made the tail vice so it would span across the entire width of the bench. That way I could have bench dogs along both edges of the bench for wide clamping.

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Nearly complete… now all I have to do is add the dog holes, and a little sanding/finishing. I actually made it to the Sacramento Woodworking Show on Sunday and picked up some brass Veritas bench dogs.

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I think it looks really good with the black base.

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(See all the shavings on the floor!)

UPDATE:

Here are the links to the finished bench and cabinet in my projects:

Blake,

This bench is awesome. The black paint on the base was definitely the way to go. Great use of the end vise. As others mentioned really like the edge detail on the vises. This looks to weight a ton.
 
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