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What made you choose you’re bench vs others?

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Forum topic by Thomas C. posted 01-17-2022 04:05 AM 1301 views 0 times favorited 47 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Thomas C.

8 posts in 138 days


01-17-2022 04:05 AM

Topic tags/keywords: bench design moravian nicholson roubo scandinavian holtzapffel schwarz anarchist sellers siemsen

I’m new to hand tool work and recently moved to a home with a smaller shop in it – 16’x10’.

So now I’m fighting which bench design do I think I’ll want and after reading and reviewing countless articles, blogs, and videos I’ve realized many people don’t say why they chose one form over another. My big projects will be jewelry boxes, picture frames, coasters/cutting boards, maybe some ring boxes.

I think I’ll like the Nicholson / Moravian designs and maybe add a moxon vise for detailed work.

Out of curiosity though what made you choose your design?


47 replies so far

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WoodenDreams

1592 posts in 1371 days


#1 posted 01-17-2022 04:37 AM

For the projects you mentioned, you can get by with a 2’×4’ work bench. I don’t do a lot of traditional hand tool work. My main work bench is 4’×4’ with three cabinet vises. Which doubles as a extension table to the table saw. I like the extra room on the 4’×4’ work bench to stretch out the work pieces. Or spread out pieces for multiple projects. I currently have three different small projects, spread out on this work bench.

You may need to consider the space needed for the bar clamps, while doing glue-ups for the cutting boards. My assembly and glue-up bench is 2’x8’. The bench I use for staining and finishing is 3’x5’. A small HomeRight Spray Shelter sits nicely on it, when I use the shelter. Both these two benches are in a different room than my main workshop.

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Aj2

4455 posts in 3258 days


#2 posted 01-17-2022 04:49 AM

I have a first generation Lie Neilson bench top. I made a beefier base then they offered.
I chose their bench after saw one at a woodworking show. At the time i didn’t want to make a top and their design was good.
Still glad to have it.

-- Aj

View Sylvain's profile

Sylvain

1676 posts in 3960 days


#3 posted 01-17-2022 09:58 AM

I have made for myself a (solid wood) Paul Sellers workbench:
https://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-workbench-plans/

- It is not difficult to make;
- it can be knocked down if necessary (I made it in my backyard before bringing it in my attic workspace and assembling it again);
- it is easily scalable (height, length, width);
- it can be enhanced with drawer, shelf, second deeper tool-well,...
- it is very stable and as it relies on wedges, it will remain stable even if the legs shrink a bit (I am not sure how the Nicholson of Chris Schwarz would do if the legs shrink);
- I made it with recycled pine.
- I used the height recommended by Paul Sellers. I am happy. If needed, the legs could be shortened.
Then as I follow the projects of Paul Sellers (see https://paulsellers.com/other-websites/), it is easy to work the same way has he demonstrates. (He is working most of the time in a quick release vise).
I am perfectly happy with this workbench.

I have also used it to make a Moravian workbench (https://eclecticmechanicals.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/themoravianworkbenchbywillmyers.pdf )for the son because:
- I was not sure he had space for a permanent workbench. The Moravian can be assembled/knocked down in less than 1 minute. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKI4aQtIRlg
- it takes a minimum amount of floor space when knocked down (2’ X 3’ max?);
- it is very stable; the components are nevertheless easily portable by one men;
- the son could work outside, weather permitting;
- the son could move it easily in any room for house work;
- the son could use it as a “buffet” table when doing a garden party;
- I had boards from an old picnic bench available for upcycling.
- I have adapted the dimensions to the material available.
- I used the height recommended by Paul Sellers. If needed, the legs could be shortened.
Finally it is not more difficult to do than the Paul Sellers one even if, at first, the angled mortises look intimidating .
Although, to keep the portability, one should use the leg vise and not install a quick release vise on it (too much weight). I have not worked with it but the son is very happy to have it.
Many LJ have build one.

some reflection about mass:
https://dblaney.wordpress.com/tag/moravian-bench/
Don’t miss the two last sentences ;-)

About height: there is a study which shows that the height which minimise pain in various parts of the body (back, neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, ...) is about 15 cm below elbow height (with your shoes on). For me it correspond to Paul Sellers recommendation.
If one find it too high for some tasks, one could always put a duck board on the floor.
Look for: The ergonomics and design of an inclusive best-fit solution to workbenches
by William F. Gaughran
Brunel university 2004
The second part is about able bodied persons.

My only regret: having procrastinated too long.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn (and that is nice)

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KelleyCrafts

5320 posts in 2199 days


#4 posted 01-17-2022 11:01 AM

Sylvain pretty much hit it on the head.

I have a roubo, solid hard wood, amazing bench etc. you can see it in my projects. However, I didn’t start with this bench. I started with the Paul sellers bench and used it for many years. And I think you should start there. It’s not insane expensive to make and you will learn what you need/don’t need, want/don’t want and what works for you.

The height of my last bench sucked. I have some lower back issues so I need a bench that’s a little higher. I didn’t know that until I worked on my Paul sellers bench. Vises, what do I wish I had that I didn’t already have…incorporate those in the final shot. You find you hate hand tool work, change the design all together.

Loads of questions there’s no way you have the answers to right now. Paul sellers workbench is a serious perfect starter bench. Moravian might work too for you just think it through.

Just my .02.

-- Dave - http://kelleycrafts.com/ - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

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controlfreak

3751 posts in 1062 days


#5 posted 01-17-2022 11:43 AM

I am a Moravian bench fan here. Built it out of mostly Southern Yellow Pine with some red oak for the small side stretchers. White Oak for the leg vise and maple screw from lake Erie tool works. I also bought the wagon vise form Will Myers and highly recommend it. I like that I can break it down by myself if I ever need to move it. It is very stable and solid for hand tool work. I ended up making it just shy of my table saw height (SawStop jobsite) to double as outfeed table and not obstruct table saw work. It feels like a good height to me. I have the exact same size shop as you and often need to slide it a bit to make the most of my small space. Any bigger or heavier and it would be a problem. It was my first big non-plywood project and was a really fun build. Tip, get 2×10 or 2×12 to make the laminated top by ripping out the center portion of each. You are never going to get all the boards dead even in the to so don’t stress over it. Get a good edge on a hand plane and go at it to flatten it. I also had the “I need a bench to build a bench” issue so I made the top first and placed if on saw horses to work off of. Good luck and have fun.

View Robert's profile

Robert

4989 posts in 2941 days


#6 posted 01-17-2022 11:54 AM

In the early 90’s I purchased a video on “Make a Dovetail Drawer” by Frank Klausz. It was the first time I ever saw a Scandinavian cabinetmakers bench, and I knew eventually I would make my own.

That didn’t happen until nearly 25 years later. After using the bench for 6 years, I’ll give you my thoughts. Overall, I am very happy with the size and utility of the bench.

The tail vise has become a little loose, mainly b/c I believe the build rails have shrunk a bit. Easy fix, just not enough of an issue to bother with it. Had to do over, I would bite the bullet and go with the quick release hardware.

Shoulder vise. This is the one aspect of the bench I’m a little hesitant to recommend, only b/c it does take up some room, and for some people, the vise jutting out might be an issue. Again, had to do over, I would use a twin screw or a built in Moxon.

The Scand bench has served me well for both hand and power too work.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Kudzupatch's profile

Kudzupatch

395 posts in 2669 days


#7 posted 01-17-2022 01:46 PM

I simply looked at what I do and what I wanted to do. Then I decided how I wanted the bench to hold the wood.

For me that was end vice with dog holes for planing the face of the board.
A vice for holding board so I could work on the end.
A sliding dead man to go with the vice so I could hold the board edge up and work the edges.
Dog holes for clamping to the table.

-- Jeff Horton * Kudzu Craft skin boats* www.kudzucraft.com

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Sylvain

1676 posts in 3960 days


#8 posted 01-17-2022 02:09 PM

I also had the “I need a bench to build a bench” issue so I made the top first and placed if on saw horses to work off of. Good luck and have fun.

- controlfreak


I used a workmate to make my first workbench-top, then pinched it on the workmate to make the other components.
It is a good recommendation to start with the bench-top.

Trestles without using a workbench to start:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U7e6HaffLE

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn (and that is nice)

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

6183 posts in 3811 days


#9 posted 01-17-2022 02:18 PM

I decided on a Roubo, after many years working on a flimsy bench that would walk across the shop when hand planing. I wanted a beefy and stable bench. I don’t regret my decision. I was a little bit apprehensive about the wagon vise instead of an end vise. That turned out well also, I don’t miss the end vise.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Tony1212's profile

Tony1212

696 posts in 3195 days


#10 posted 01-17-2022 02:42 PM

My bench isn’t a traditional bench. I did a lot of research and came up with a mish-mash of requirements that I wanted in my bench.

- As inexpensive as possible
- No fancy dovetail joinery, because I didn’t think I was capable of doing it very well that at the time
- Drawbored mortise and tenon joints for the base (I was using old 4×4s for the legs, so they probably wouldn’t shrink too much, but the drawbore made the joints tight and kept them tight for 7 or 8 years by now)
- The legs had to be co-planar with the front of the bench so I could use the legs and other cross members for clamping large boards
- The top was 4 layers of a 3/4” plywood with a sacrificial 1/4” plywood top. Thick enough to use traditional holdfasts
- A front vice with dog holes in the chop
- An end vice with dog holes in the chop
- A grid of dog holes that span the length and width of the bench to allow the vices to be used for clamping
- It had to be at a height that was comfortable to me to use both hand tools and power tools (It’s slightly too high to do a lot of hand plane work, but I can throw a 2×10 on the ground and stand on that if I have a lot of hand plane work to do)
- No tool wells, because I know me, and it would just get filled up with junk (in fact, my bench top is usually full of stuff but I have to clean it off to use it)
- Two shelves to hold jigs and sharpening equipment
- Approximately 2ft wide because I just cut the plywood in half then added hardwood to cover the plies.
- 6 feet long, and I’ve never wished for anything longer.

After 7 or 8 years, I’m still very happy with it and have no desire to build a new one. It’s sturdy as hell

The end vice is pretty much unused nowadays, due to shop overcrowding. In fact, I’m most frustrated by my lack of space to use the bench in all the ways that I had envisioned using it.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

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Lazyman

9615 posts in 2848 days


#11 posted 01-17-2022 02:58 PM

I am in almost done building my adaptation of Chris Schwartz’s Anarchist Workbench which is his adaptation of a Roubo. I went back and forth between it and the Moravian design but ultimately settled on the Anarchist approach because of the Hovarter quick release vise hardware that I chose. I didn’t think that it would work well with the Moravian design.

BTW, If you go to Chris Schwartz’s web page for the Anarchist Workbench, he offers his ebook “The Anarchist Workbench” for free. In it he reviews most of the common workbench designs which might help you make up your mind.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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Madmark2

3444 posts in 2048 days


#12 posted 01-17-2022 03:09 PM

Bench? My “bench” is my saw top. Flat, stable, solid as a rock.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View controlfreak's profile

controlfreak

3751 posts in 1062 days


#13 posted 01-17-2022 03:20 PM

Lots of good stuff here, makes me want to go out to the shop and start customizing my bench. Right now I am using the stretchers as my clamp rack.

View Bearcontrare's profile

Bearcontrare

373 posts in 597 days


#14 posted 01-17-2022 04:07 PM

First, You will probably build more than one workbench in your lifetime, for various reasons, moving being among them.
Second, You will not know which workbench features you do and do not like, until you have used a workbench for awhile. When you’ve got the features you like down, you can build your next bench.
For these reasons, I suggest building your first workbench from whatever material is handy adapted from a design you think you will like. I say adapted, because you can make variations based on your own meeds and wants. And, yes, building the top on sawhorses, and working from there is an excellent method to follow. You can use the top to work on while building the other components.
Whatever you do, make your workbench AT LEAST 36 inches high. 36-38 inches is a good height for most woodworkers. Trust me, your back will THANK you for it. Forger the Knuckle Nonsense. Your kitchen counters are made at 36 inches because that height was determined to be the best ergonomically for the average height person.
You can watch Paul Sellers pull a plane across a board with a string and produce shavings, if you don’t believe it. You just need to keep your tools sharp, which you should do, anyway….

-- Barry, in Maryland

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SMP

5315 posts in 1366 days


#15 posted 01-17-2022 05:22 PM



I am in almost done building my adaptation of Chris Schwartz s Anarchist Workbench which is his adaptation of a Roubo. I went back and forth between it and the Moravian design but ultimately settled on the Anarchist approach because of the Hovarter quick release vise hardware that I chose. I didn t think that it would work well with the Moravian design.

BTW, If you go to Chris Schwartz s web page for the Anarchist Workbench, he offers his ebook “The Anarchist Workbench” for free. In it he reviews most of the common workbench designs which might help you make up your mind.

- Lazyman

Good recommendation here. I overanalyzed the same thing for a couple of years and eventually went with Richard Maguire’s english joiner bench. This was before Schwarz finished the Anarchist bench book. chris Schwarz has made several of every bench imaginable, even ones you’ve never heard of. So he has taken the good arts of each style and combined them into one. Kind of doing all the work for you.

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