Last Thursday I put the finishing touches on my new workbench, just in time for a Friday-morning photo session. The plan was to shoot on location, and editor Christopher Schwarz and I were discussing the plan. The one item not resolved was actually moving the bench from our shop to another shop with a more photogenic parking lot. Chris proposed moving the bench completely assembled, and I said “why don’t we just take it apart and move the pieces? I think that will be easier.”
His response was, “that will take 45 minutes or an hour; it will be quicker to just throw it in the truck.” Never afraid to disagree with the boss, I said “It won’t take that long, this will come apart in 10 or 15 minutes, and we won’t need more than two people to carry the parts.” We went back and forth for a few minutes. “No you can’t,” “Yes I can” led to “No way,” “Absolutely.”
I don’t remember which of us was the first to say, “Want to bet?,” but the introduction of that phrase changed things from theoretical discussion to practical demonstration. The stakes were settled, and the time set for the following morning. As news of the contest spread through the office, it was mutually decided to record the proceedings on film and video.
When I designed this bench, I kept the component parts few in number. The two top slabs are held to the leg structure with four lag bolts coming up through the top rails on each end. With those bolts removed, the tops were placed out of the way on a rolling cart, and I went after the four lags that secure the lapped dovetails at the end of the upper rails. With that task accomplished, I put down the wrench and removed the boards that make up the lower shelf. Those pieces are half-lapped and simply sit on cleats attached to the rails. When those were removed and stacked, I grabbed the hammer.
I lifted the idea for the joints on the ends of the lower rails from an old drawing of a Nicholson bench. There is a dovetail-shaped slot in each leg, and half a lapped dovetail on the end of each rail. The rails slide into the slots, drop into position and a wedge is tapped in from the outer side of the leg to lock the joint together. This is a surprisingly strong connection, and if the joints loosen over time all I need to do is reach down and give the end of the wedge a rap with my hammer. Tapping from the other direction removes the wedges, allowing the rails to move up and out. One of the wedges escaped my grasp and went scooting across the shop floot, costing me about 10 seconds of time to retrieve it.
Here’s a look at the joints coming apart, and the two leg assemblies and lower rails were added to the pile. Elapsed time: 6 minutes, 30 seconds. Putting the bench back together is nearly as fast. It went back together for the photo shoot, and apart again for the return trip to the shop. At the moment it’s not assembled. Another challenge has been issued, and we’ll soon gather in the shop, stop watches and digital cameras at the ready, to see how fast an old man can move putting the bench back together.
Details on building and using the bench will be included in our October issue, which will be on sale around the first of September. In the meantime, there will be more about it here on the blog as I put it to use. I’ve enjoyed building this bench, and I’m looking forward to using it.
, Bob Lang