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Woodworker's Bench Print  |  Back

From: book: Your First Workshop

Page 1 of 1

Two things distinguish a wood-worker’s bench: It has at least one vise, and it has at least one row of dog holes (either square or round) along the front edge. The presence of these two items transforms a table into a big, versatile clamp.

Most traditional woodworker’s benches have two vises: one set on the front of the bench near the left side (for right-handers) for most simple clamping operations, and a tail vise on the right end of the bench that’s used in connection with the dog holes. A wood or metal pin (the dog) set into one of the dog holes on the left end of a workpiece acts as a stop for planing. Put a dog in the hole on the cheek of the tail vise, and you can crank the vise to squeeze the workpiece between the two dogs for a more secure hold. A woodworker’s bench is optimized for using hand tools like planes, chisels, and saws. It offers a variety of ways to hold and support the work at hand.

A woodworker’s bench is optimized for using hand tools like planes, chisels, and saws. It offers a variety of ways to hold and support the work at hand.


HOLD PIECES IN A VISE

A vise holds the work securely for a variety of operations.
  SECURE WORK WITH DOGS

One dog acts as a stop; a second set in the cheek of a vise secures work.
This article is excerpted from Your First Workshop by Aimé Ontario Fraser.

HOLD CLAMPS

Secure awkward pieces with a combination of vise and clamps.

Built on the base of the bench used in the Essential Shop, this bench has all the features you need for advanced woodworking. This uncommon design (suitable for right-handers) uses an iron quick-action vise on the left end that functions as both front vise and tail vise.

The bench shown here makes use of a versatile metal vise on the left end of the bench to fulfill the functions of both a front and tail vise. You can stand at the end of the bench when you need the vise to hold small objects, and work along the front of the bench when working with long boards or planing.
SUPPORT BOARDS FOR PLANING

A wooden el clamped in the vise holds the board in place for easy clamping across the bench top.
This article is excerpted from Your First Workshop by Aimé Ontario Fraser.
WHAT TO BUY
Whether you build a woodworker’s bench or buy one, it should meet the size and height criteria of the Essential Shop workbench. Make sure the rods at the bottom of the jaw are at least 4” below the surface of the bench—if not, you’ll find it difficult to clamp wide boards securely. Look for dog holes 4” to 8” in from the edge. Traditional dogs are square, but round ones are more versatile.

Most woodworker’s benches have a skirt around the edges; make sure it’s at least 1½” thick to provide adequate footing for vertical clamping with big clamps. Look for minimal obstructions beneath the bench so you can clamp across the underside.

Though in-bench storage seems like a good idea, bench drawers are overrated. They’re not really that convenient for holding your tools, and they tend to fill up with dust and shavings. Plus, a few drawers full of tools can add enough weight to a bench to make it difficult for one person to move around the shop. Though you’ll store your bench against the wall and often use it in that position, you’ll frequently want to pull it out to the center of the shop for access to all four sides. If your floor is uneven, you’ll want large, sturdy self-leveling feet.

A light finish seals the benchtop against moisture and makes it easier to clean. An oil- wax, or oil-varnish finish works best and is easy to renew.


THE ADVANTAGES OF A QUICK-RELEASE CAST-IRON VISE
Old-fashioned wooden-jaw vises certainly look nice on a bench, but I prefer the utilitarian heft of a big cast-iron vise. First of all, they’re easy to install using lag screws or bolts. A few inches of heavy, non-compressible blocking between the vise and the bench get the rods well below the surface of the bench for easy clamping of wide work- pieces. The polished metal handle just feels good in the hands, is smaller, and doesn’t get in the way as much as the massive wooden ones on an old-fashioned vise.

But the best feature of all is the quick- release lever on the lower right side of the cheek. Put your palm on the center of the T handle, and whether you’re right or left-handed, it’s easy to squeeze the lever upward with your finger or thumb as your hand tightens to disengage the threads. Now the vise slides in and out so you can rapidly position your work and tighten the jaws.

This article is excerpted from Your First Workshop by Aimé Ontario Fraser.

 
BEST BENCH ACCESSORIES
CLEVER DOGS
If you go with round dog holes, you have lots of choices when it comes to dogs: short ones, tall ones, plastic ones, and even ones with threaded jaws. Bore another row or two of dog holes in your bench, and you can secure odd-shaped or even curved pieces.

BENCHHOOK
Because of the benchhook's unique Z shape, you can secure a workpiece to it for sawing with one hand. Simply hold the work against the back edge of the hook with your thumb in front and your fingers in back. Stiffen your arm and push. The lip pressing against the front of the bench keeps everything stable so you can saw.

HOLDFASTS
Holdfasts are a great way for supporting a workpiece in the middle of the bench. The old-fashioned one on the left wedges into place when struck. Turn the big brass knob on the holdfast to the right to lock it down.


COVER
Protect your bench with a 1/4" Masonite cover. It’s much easier to clean than your carefully planed and scraped benchtop, and it’s readily replaceable. Put it down whenever you use glue or finishing products and anytime you use your bench for nonwoodworking tasks like fixing the lawnmower.


This article is excerpted from Your First Workshop by Aimé Ontario Fraser. © 2004 by The TautonPress