Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Workbench Build Diaries (Pt.4)

At one of the last weekends time had come.

The tools had been packed. The old cabinets were empty.

Off we go!

The biggest challenge of having a new workbench was not to build it. The most challenging part was the logistic. Not because it was difficult, but I feared the effort. Clean up is somehow a waste of time. Or, I should better say that you can spend this time with more productive tasks.
But anyway, it had to be done and I have found a good procedure.
So I started to pack some boxes. During the packing I already sorted these things out, which I would not need any longer.
That done, I could move out the content of the cabinets in a few minutes and store it somewhere temporarily.
Last step was to remove the wall panels.

Old empty "bench"

Then I have disassembled the old cabinets and cleaned up the working area. All in all it was done faster than expected.
I already had space for the new bench. So I have set up the new cabinets in place.

New bench cabinets

The cabinets have been aligned and leveled. That done I have connected the cabinets by some screws.
Due to detailed preparation that all was done pretty quick. So I asked myself "and now?".
Well, the bench top has to go on top.

The new bench top

This was not an easy task. The bench top is approximately 30 - 35 kg (66 - 77 lbs) - and I had no helper.
Anyway, I did it. The top at the right place I started to mount the fastening bars. Four bars means lifting up the top four times.

Fastening bar detail

It was a good feeling to have the benchtop in place now. But something was missing. Yep, the vise.
So I started to mount the new vise. Not that easy without some help. Another 15 kg of weight by the way.

The new vise "mounted"

As I had it in place I recognized two things. First of all I didn't got it flat to the front edge. A quick check with a square shows that I have got an issue with squareness on the under side of the bench top.
And the second issue I recognized was, that I have forgotten to buy the necessary screws.

New vise in detail

.....another visit at the big box store to get the missing screws......

New vise mounted

After a few strokes with a block plane, the edge was square from the underside too. But the vise did not sit close to the edge. I double checked the inside of the vise and recognized that at the inside of the vise bar is a slight hump. Filing that down meant too much effort so I decided to remove a bit more material at the lower edge of the bench top. That done it sits perfectly.

At this point it was the right time to do the final tasks at the bench top. That was squaring the ends and oiling the top.

Squaring the bench top ends

I gave the top two coats of linseed oil varnish. I've chosen the varnish because it is drying much quicker than pure linseed oil.

Treating the top with linseed oil varnish

Bench top oiled, mounted and ready to go

So I could start some jaw liners were needed. As the new vise is a bit larger than the old one and I had some racking issues too, this time the liners will be shorter than before. They are in line with the bench top and one of them is covered with leather (left in the picture).

Added some jaw liners one side leather covered

The last things I have done so far. The wall panels are mounted again. So it already looks like a creative workspace again.

Wall panels mounted

Next Steps

The cabinets and the bench top in place does not mean that I'm ready. There are a few more things to do.
First of all I will mount the face frame. Not too difficult apart from the fact that I don't know how to clamp it. Maybe I will have to use some nails.

I will have to build six drawers and one door. I have decided to use modern drawer runners. They are easy to use, stable and comfortable. Additionally it will simplify the construction of the drawers. I just have to build some boxes and can add a front panel.
I've thought a while if I should build a traditional web frame but it seems to be too much effort. 
Maybe I can spend the time for some more useful details like sliding tills in the drawers, or some other interior. 

That said I have bought some runners and a couple of boards for the drawers. I will build them whenever I've got time and I would like to.

Actually I'm completely unsure about dog holes. Shall I, or shall I not drill a row of holes at the front of the bench top? And what is the best location and spacing?
I think I will need some, but I don't know where they are positioned best.

Alright folks, that was a big step forward for me. Not completely done but ready for the next projects.

Stay tuned!


  1. Do you need holdfast? Yes. How many holes and where? Let your style of work dictate it. Unless you use a tail vise, you dont really need a full row in front. You will find a few in the back useful if you use a pied de biche. Dont forget planing stop(s) Either using dog holes or a dedicated one. Bottom line, holdfast locations are a bit of a personalised thing.

    Comming along nicely


    1. Hi Bob,
      thanks for your opinion. I would like to use a holdfast but couldn't in the past. So I will think about a few holes in the back row. Didn't have a tail vise nor planing to have one, but I'm using a Veritas wonder pup and a surface clamp from time to time. Planing stop is a good point.

      All the best,

  2. Stefan,

    Pretty much an echo of Bob's comment: Without a tail vise there is not a lot of need for a row of dogs along the front edge, maybe one someplace close to the vise for use as a planing stop and one or two others to the right also for planing stops.

    If you use holdfasts, as you work the holdfasts will tell you where to put your dog holes and how many.

    Looks good, and BTW....Been there and done that. It is never easy to do big projects in a one man shop.


    1. Hi Ken,
      you are right. I first will think about some holes for planing stops in the area of the vise. That seems to be a good starting point.

      Thanks and talk soon,

  3. Hi Stefan,

    I remembered an article of Chris Schwarz. I needed to search a while, since I thought I read it recently. Obviously it was in November, time is running by ...

    Here he is sharing his toughts about the right location of the holes. Since you are working much with hand tools that might help.

    On the other side Paul Sellers isn't using them but only his front vise. Since you have almsost the same vise I would maybe give it a try without boring holes.

    My bench is a German "Hobelbank" with square holes but I do not use them often. I would prefer to have dog holes for a holdfast.

    Good luck with the decision ;-)

    Take care, Jasper!

    1. Hi Jasper,
      thanks for caring and the effort. I will have a look at the post again. But I don't like to follow Mr. Schwarz blindly. Don't get me wrong, he is an excellent writer and I like most of his stuff. Mr. Sellers work holding methods sometimes look a bit awkward.
      The truth for me is somewhere in the middle. I guess I will start with some holes for a planing stop around the vise and then will do a few holes in the front (for dogs)and the back (for holdfasts).

  4. That's a really heavy, solid top, Stefan. Must feel good to have it together now. I don't use holdfasts, but I do have a tail vise, so I put a row of dog holes parallel to the front of the bench and in line with the vise's adjustable steel dog. I use them all the time for planing surfaces. The spacing of the holes depends on how far the vise opens - you have to space them so boards of any length can be clamped.

    Looking good. Congrats.

    1. Hi Matt,
      thanks for compliments.
      How far are the holes away from the front edge at you bench?


  5. Curious to know how the drawer and cupboard behind the vice open.
    Bench looks solid and will last a lifetime.

    1. Hello Frank,
      the top shelves will stay open. The reason for this design is exactly the vise bars. The other two shelves will be used for storing saws, bench hooks and so on.
      The drawers will start below the vise so that there is just the handle in the way of the top drawer.
      I guess that was the question. Unfortunately that can't be seen clearly in the actual pictures. As I'm doing the drawers I will give an update of this.


  6. Hi Stefan,

    I built a rather unusual bench as I wanted to work from both sides. I have two tail vises and two face vises. I ended up with 84 dog holes.

    The one thing that I have really liked about this set-up has been the use of holdfasts (from Gramercy) and hold downs (from Lee Valley). I use these quite a lot and like that I can hold things wherever I want.

    The Veritas ones are really cool, but also really expensive. Thank goodness for Christmas gift cards.,41637

    1. Hi Jonathan,
      great bench. And now I remember that I have already read about your bench build a while ago. You have spend some effort into the vises (recoloring if I'm right, similar color as the new car!?).
      For sure I will not drill 84 holes. But I will do some and your bench dogs are great. Maybe I can adopt this idea.

  7. Hi Stefan,
    What is the name on that vise? It looks like a copy of a record 52/52 1/2.
    Looks like your first use of the bench will be making drawers. Maybe that will help you sort out the dog hole issues.

    1. Hi Ralph,
      unfortunately I don't know the manufacturer of the vise. I bought it at Dictum in DE and it is a Taiwan copy of a Record 52 1/2. So it's a 9" vise. The quick release mechanism is not integrated into the spindle handle but you have got a dedicated lever for this. But I think that was usual at the old Record vises too. At least I saw that on some pictures in the internet.
      I've chosen that one over the Czech manufactured one, because it has a lower height which was ideal for my cabinet construction.
      For sure the drawers will be one of the first projects :-)