There is one question in woodworking that has no correct answer. The question? How high should the top of my bench be? Any answer will only be right for certain tasks. Optimize the height for planing and it’s too low for dovetailing. Make it a comfortable height for running a router and you’ll need stilts to put furniture together.
One solution is a set of bench blocks. Mine were cobbled together from plywood about 8 or 9 years ago and I use them all the time. At left I have one stuck to the benchtop behind the board held vertically in my vise. That prevents the board from flopping back and forth and I can saw without bending and making my back hurt.
It’s just a box with one open end. The exact dimensions aren’t important. If you make two or more, make sure they are all the same size. Used in pairs you can elevate an assembly a few inches above the bench. That will give you room to place clamps and can keep you from cutting into the benchtop. If you’re careful when you cut the parts, you can use them to clamp pieces together and hold them square to each other as I’m doing in the photo to the right while I mark my dovetails from my pin board.
I screwed a scrap of pine to the top of one before trimming out the waste between the pins with a router. I raised the board in the vise to meet the top of the block to provide a stable platform for the router. The scrap keeps me from chewing up the edge of the block as the router exits the cut. If I remember right, the top and bottom are about 8″ x 12″, the short side pieces are about 3″ wide and the cap on the closed end overlaps the other parts.
The open end also makes it easy to hold one or more blocks to the bench. In the photo below one clamp is able to hold both blocks to the bench with one “F-style” clamp. I screwed my miter block to the upper bench block so I could cut these little moldings at a comfortable height.
When I put the molding around the top of the Voysey mantle clock I made for the cover of the August 2013 issue, I had just enough room behind the miter block to set the work piece. That allowed me to mark, cut and check the fit of things without stooping over or wandering all over the shop.
If you have a few minutes and a little bit of plywood, you’ll find the time spent in making a set of these blocks to be a good investment.
If you like what I do, and want to snap up a bargain, check out the “Building Furniture with Bob Lang” collection in our store.