Getting a good workbench usually takes loads of money, time or both of those things.
But what if you tried to be really clever and you used inexpensive construction and home renovation materials to build a massive traditional bench for a fraction of the cost of a commercial bench and with only two days of shop time?
That is what we’re trying to do this week at Popular Woodworking Magazine as we film a new DVD on building a bench that hits all the right notes.
And here’s the rub: We really have to do it only in two days (Monday and Tuesday). After that, we are getting kicked out of the studio for another video project.
In fact, I got a little stressed out today when one of the lighting bulbs fried out and we lost about 15 minutes of time while the staff replaced it.
The two-day bench – dubbed “Two-bo” by Executive Editor David Thiel – uses beech countertops to create the benchtop. That saves us about 20 hours of shop time with a typical bench build. In fact, we had the top all laminated up before lunch (and had also filmed all the introductory stuff for the DVD).
By 3:30 p.m., I had the base dry-fit and ready for cleaning up – the base is made from fir 4x4s. Everytime I build a bench from Douglas fir I swear it will be my last. I really dislike the stuff. It is stringy, difficult to rip and does not like to be handplaned at all. Of course, this stuff is a little wet (15 to 18 percent moisture content) because I bought it on Friday. So that might have something to do with it.
On Tuesday, we’ll bolt the bench base together and… well, we’ll do everything else – including finishing the sucker.
While it sounds like we are in good shape, filming the construction of the bench has been a slow process. I am showing three different ways to cut the joints for the workbench – with a table saw, a band saw and 100-percent hand tool. Switching gears like that slows us down (and messes with my head).
But I suspect we’ll beat the clock. Truth is, we have to. At some point tomorrow they are going to start knocking down this set and begin to paint the walls white.
— Christopher Schwarz
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