It’s deer season here in Northern Kentucky. That means I have to wait in line at the butcher’s shop next to camouflaged hunters waiting to get their deer “processed” into deer goetta and deer sausage.
It’s also “Meagan Bench” season. Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick recently completed her workbench using laminated veneer lumber, which is on the cover of the November 2009 issue of Popular Woodworking. And yesterday, reader Meagan Kilrain sent me photos of her new workbench.
It has several interesting features that are worth discussing and thinking about. Let’s take a look.
Kilrain (or Meagan II, as we will now call her around the office), used Glulam beams left over from a restaurant remodel for the top, and construction lumber for the base. The legs are 4x6s treated construction lumber left over from summer landscaping. The stretchers are untreated 2x6s. The vise chop is scrap from an Amish sawmill.
The Gluelam is some good stuff. It can come in nice widths already glued up for you , one of Kilrain’s was 12″ wide.
If you choose to use treated lumber in a bench, I think you need to be cautious. There are some nasty chemicals used to make the wood weather-resistant. I’d make my cuts outside, wear a monkey mask and avoid sanding it.
I might be a little overcautious about treated lumber because of personal experience. I visited a lumber treatment plant once, and it was like a big pressure cooker. They put the lumber and chemicals into a huge tube, seal it up and infuse the wood with the stuff. One of the workers at the plant noted that oftentimes small mammals would wander into the tube while the door was open to check it out. And then they never checked out, if you catch my drift.
Kilrain put one of the Glulam beams at the front and one at the rear. Between the two beams she made a tool tray. Most people know I’m not fond of tool trays (perhaps because I just make a mess in them), but Kilrain definitely scores points for making the bottom of the tray lift off to make it easy to clean and for clamping access.
This is a feature on Bob Lang’s 21st-century Workbench, and he quite likes it.
The base is super-smart. The bottom stretcher is flush to the front of the legs. But the top stretcher is not. Kilrain makes everything work with a dose of cleverness. The deadman hooks onto the top stretcher. This gives her the ability to clamp things at the front of the bench. And it allows the deadman to slide back and forth while keeping its front flush to the front of the legs and bottom stretcher.
Also, points for the little scallop detail below the front stretcher. More curves ahead.
The Leg Vise and End Vise
Kilrain says this angled leg vise came out of her lack of confidence in mortising the leg. The results are pretty hard to argue with. Instead of making a mortise for the parallel guide, she made a dado in the side of the leg. Then she covered that over with a wooden plate. Instant mortise! And it’s easy to tweak the joint for a good fit on the guide.
The vise screw is on the other side of the leg. And the swoopy curves of the vise are nice , plus there’s a little cherry flash at the bottom of the oak chop.
The end vise uses the Eastern European hardware you can get at most woodworking stores. Kilrain discovered the same thing I did when I installed this vise for the first time about a decade ago:
“The installation learning curve is straight up the first time around.” she wrote. “If I ever do this again, I’ll opt for a ready-made end vise.”
All in all, it’s an excellent bench, especially considering the scavenged materials. It’s completely functional and looks good to boot.
– Christopher Schwarz