Bob's Bench-A Decent First Week - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Bob’s Bench-A Decent First Week

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs, Workbenches

I’ve started on the bench, spending as much time in the shop as I could spare, and after a week and a day, it looks like I’m making good progress. The shop is messy, but there are now piles of parts where a stack of rough lumber used to be. I’ve probably spent about 25 hours actually working on it, it gets hard to keep track when I have to stop and take photos or shoot video. Here is a link to some previous posts showing what I’m up to: Previous Blog Posts. And here in a moment of neatness is where I was last Friday morning.

At the bottom of the pile are the two glued up slabs that will comprise the top, and the stack on top is destined to become legs, rails and stretchers. Even though milling rough lumber takes some effort, one of my favorite parts of any project is hitting this point. I tend to fuss over the rough milling, because if my parts will form a nice neat stack, it means they are straight and square. And if they’re straight and square, every step that follows will be considerably easier.

One of the purposes for building this bench, and documenting it on the blog and on video is to show that a good bench can be built with a minimal amount of machines, space, experience and skill. I’ve set up a space in a corner of the shop with a 6-inch joiner, a twelve-inch lunchbox planer, and a 1-3/4 horsepower hybrid table saw. This is a pretty basic setup, and although at times I’ve pushed the machines close to their limits, they’ve been up to the task so far. I designed this bench to work around these tools, matching parts and subassemblies to their limitations. So if you’ve been putting off building a bench until you have a massive table saw, an aircraft carrier size jointer, and a planer the size of a house trailer, find another excuse and get to work.

After rough cutting the 8/4 material to manageable sizes, I milled all the individual pieces for the top, and then glued them together in pairs. Each glued up pair took another trip over the jointer and through the planer. Three pairs were glued together to make each 3″ thick, 12″ wide and 8-foot long top section. Because these parts were all carefully made, the final assembly went smoothly. I put two straight pieces of material the long way across my horses, and then laid square pieces across them at about 12-inch intervals. This gave me a level platform for gluing, and stock this size doesn’t want to twist or bend.

One of the other myths to dispel about building a bench is that “You need a bench to build a bench”. Now that I have the tops together, I have a better work surface than I’ve ever had, and there’s no reason not to put them to work. Here’s a photo from around lunchtime Friday as I work on the mortises for the leg assemblies.

–Bob Lang

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Showing 3 comments
  • Rob Bois

    I’m eagerly checking my mailbox every day for the October issue. I almost started a new bench about three weeks ago, until I got an email from PW giving me a heads up this was on its way. This seems to solve all my problems. I only have a 6" jointer, 12" planer, and no existing bench. This bench seems like it was designed just for me – I can’t wait to get started on it.

  • Bob Lang

    The beginning and the end are the hardest parts. If I need to, I’ll use a roller stand to support the weight. Lee Valley has a really good one that I’ve employed a lot in this project. Making sure the jointer is in good shape before starting is a good idea, be sure the fence is square to the table and locked down securely. It’s also a good time to wax the tables and fence.

    For me, getting good pieces off the jointer is about understanding how the machine works and when and where to apply pressure as you feed the work. Cleaning up laminations like this, I first scrape off any excess glue. I want to even up the two pieces so I concentrate on applying pressure against the fence as I feed. After the first foot or so of the board is beyond the cutterhead, I move my hands to the outfeed end, putting pressure down as well as against the fence. The outfeed table is at the same level of the knives so I’m essentially pushing a freshly cut surface across the outfeed table, dragging the ragged end into the cutters.

    Hope this helps,

    Bob Lang

  • Chris C.


    Any tips for handling the laminated top pieces when
    you run them over the jointer again? with two pieces
    glued together, that is pretty large. On my
    6" jointer, I struggle a little bit with this type
    of operation.


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