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Thread: Another newbie workbench question

  1. #1

    Another newbie workbench question

    Actually several questions.
    Hello to all as this is my first post after lurking for awhile. Thank you for all the great information I've gathered here so far.

    As I alluded to in the title line I am fairly new into woodworking and am assembling my first bench. Maybe prematurely I ran out and bought the Woodcraft 27 x 60 x 1 1/2 inch birch benchtop on sale and now am trying to figure out the best way to complete the bench. My first concern is whether it will be heavy enough or do I need to add some heft to it? If so, what is the best way to do that? I've thought about putting a layer of 2x6s under the top but I don't know if that is smart or even necessary. If it make a difference my plan is to start out with smaller projects using power tools wherever it's reasonable to do so. Thoughts?
    Secondly I wanted to solicit ideas on the best way to attach the top to the support structure. I saw another post which seemed to address thermal expansion but don't know if that is or should be a real issue. It does get pretty warm and humid in South Carolina.
    I'm also thinking about putting a skirt around the perimeter. I guess the objective would be to give me a little more real estate as well as better aesthetics. Of course that decision will be partly based on whether I add any of the aforementioned 2x6s. If I go that direction what is the best way to secure it to the top? lag bolts, glue, both? What about the potential expansion issue?
    Currently my plan is to leave about 2 inches overhang on the front and back and around 6-8 inches on the ends. I have my eyes on that 30 lb Wilton vise maybe in the future. I hope and assume the top will support the weight of that.
    I guess that is enough for the moment.
    Thanks for listening.

    Pete

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Dickinson, Texas
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    workbench.jpg

    I made a bench similar to this one by attaching a purchased top to the legs and support structure that I built.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    Peoria, IL
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    I suggest you start by putting the slab on a pair of good saw horses and use it for a bench. Then buy the book, Understanding Wood:A Craftsman Guide to Wood Technology by R. Bruce Hoadley, and The Workbench Book by Scott Landis. That will describe seasonal wood movement, and provide a wonderful resource for bench design. Since you have little experience, there is no correct answer to "will it have enough heft". If you plan on buying a selection of hand planes and do mostly hand work, no it's not heavy enough. Hand tool usage will require a lower bench than a power tool bench. Hand tool bench will require different vises too. Fastening BORG 2x6s to the bottom of that laminated bench will cause something to self destruct. BORG 2x6s can run around 20% moisture, are flat sawn, and are not good material to work with. If that laminated bench top can't support 30 pounds, how are you going to build on it and chop joinery with a chisel? Personally, I would have suggested you buy a Harbor Freight work bench until you find out how you want to work.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Perth, Australia
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    6,021
    Quote Originally Posted by PETER NOVINGER View Post
    ...I ran out and bought the Woodcraft 27 x 60 x 1 1/2 inch birch benchtop on sale and now am trying to figure out the best way to complete the bench. My first concern is whether it will be heavy enough or do I need to add some heft to it? If so, what is the best way to do that? ..

    Pete
    Hi Pete, and welcome to forum.

    Since you are planning to use the bench for power tools, rather than hand planing, mass is not a major issue. Rigidity is what we are after - sufficient rigidity and stability to perform the tasks we will use it for.

    There is no need to add extra mass - what you can do instead is (1) bolt the top to the wall. This is my preferred option. I did this with a light bench for about 20 years and it sustained itself through heavy hand planing. Of course, the bench was situation alongside a wall. Not all is this handy, so (2) screw a sheet of ply to the one side to act as a brace. This will stiffen it up and prevent any racking.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    MA
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    Welcome!

    And welcome to the hobby - jump in the water is fine.

    The first workbench I built used two sheets of plywood on the top. It was a great user and I passed it along during one of my moves and the new owner still comments how much use it gets. I modeled that bench from a set plan: "shopnotes"

    I just did a google search for "workshop bench plans" and found a link of 17 free plans.

    Certainly you can make a great workbench with that top. I would recommend the 2x4 approach, just be selective in what you purchase (I believe one of my current workbenches has a kiln dried douglas fir frame I got at the home diy store).

    Specific to your question, after building a frame from 2x4's with a top apron, I would simply attach using lag screws from below into the top.

    Personally I like drawers which would make a great second step to the project.

    Enjoy!!

  6. #6
    Thank you all for responding.

    Lowell
    Nice bench. It gives me some ideas

    Richard
    Those books look like great references. Thanks.
    Most of my work on the table will be assembly and power tool usage where it makes sense. Actually, the table is not laminated. It made from Birch using butcher block construction. I have no doubt that the table will support the weight of the vise. My concern was more about flex because of the 6-8" overhang. I really don't think it will be an issue but thought I would throw it out there for discussion.

    Derek
    Bolting the table to a wall is a great idea. Unfortunately that is not an option in my shop. However, I like the idea of using a plywood sheet for bracing. I may use that if needed.

    Carl
    I didn't realize that the species of wood would be that important for the bench support. Good to know!
    Also, I really like the idea of drawers. They're kind of like clamps in that you can never have enough. Maybe phase two.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    Peter, workbenches can be such a "personal thing" so be sure to give some careful thought about what you anticipate your needs are and what features you will want to incorporate to support them. There's no harm in building a sturdy base now and then working with the top you have until you determine that it does or doesn't meet your needs. I've been using my current bench top for many years now and am starting to seriously consider replacing it because I have a much better handle on how I use my bench than I did in the past. Whether I actually do that or not...time will tell.

    I suggest you make your bench base project something that you can add to your skills while fulfilling a long term shop need. Use quality and beefy material and solid joinery. That will make even a piece of plywood perform as a steady work surface!
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Lasalle,Ontario
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    292
    Woodworking benches, shop lay out and tools can be very, uh, fluid. If you make a base for your bench baesd on piwer tools thats fine and you can make any style sturdy for a low price. If you put a lower shelf on an open bench and decide to try planing you can put non skid pads under the legs and pile the weight on the shelf yo prevent skidding. When you find a style of work that you will not wander to far from plan a more permanent bench around those needs.
    Some of the fun of this hobby is switching gears and then switching gear.

  9. #9
    Jim, Mike,
    Thanks for the advice. I'm looking forward to some fun times creating things in the shop. I've been thinking about shop tools, benches and layout for awhile now and need to break out of the mind set that once it's done it's done. It sounds like a lot of woodworkers spend almost as much time creating and modifying their shop as they do making projects and that's okay. As long as we're enjoying what we are doing.
    Thanks again.

    Pete

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    SoCal
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    19,311
    Welcome. Lots of good stuff here and workbench threads yield a lot of response. This is because they are as different as we are. What works well for one person may be a handicap for another. Your first workbench is rarely your last so you have the advantage of starting cheap, moving with confidence knowing that a second generation will undoubtedly occur and gathering a lot of knowledge with this bench that you will apply to your next.

    My first bench had these things which did not work for me:
    - Top too thin
    - Aprons that were wider than the top was thick making edge clamping awkward.
    - Drawers underneath that left no gap between the underside of the benchtop and the top of the drawer unit so I could reach under.

    Other than that it worked pretty well and cost me about $100 to make. Second bench was about $250 but, was too large (I overshot in compensating for the previous bench that was too small). My current bench was about the same cost as the second if you don't count the vises but, that could be a whole other tread

    Things I learned I needed (which may have nothing to do with what you need) . . .
    - Thick top to support holddowns and other work-holding fixtures.
    - Mass to resist movement.
    - Edges that allow ample clamping locations.
    - A gap between the underside of the top and anything below for ease of working below the benchtop.
    - Drawers for items frequently used at the bench.

    Here's the current version which may even be the last. This was right after the end vise went on. More dog holes were add for that vise.

    TNNW End Vise (22).jpg

    Have fun and enjoy the ride. Don't be too casual but, also don't stress too much over bench No.1.
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 02-01-2019 at 9:34 AM.
    She said “How many woodworking tools do you need?”
    I said “Why? Do you know someone who is selling some?”


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    DFW, TX
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    Quote Originally Posted by glenn bradley View Post
    Here's the current version which may even be the last.
    Glenn, really nice looking heavy bench. I see that you have a hardboard top. What is under it?

    Chris
    It's never too late to have a happy childhood.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Northern Illinois
    Posts
    350
    First, I installed the same (mine is 30" X 60") Woodcraft top on my workbench although I don't know what it is actually made of. It is very stable (although I control humidity as much as possible in my basement shop in the Midwest). It is also sturdy enough (thick enough) to take almost anything; pounding, planing, power tools. I don't feel you'd need to add anything to make it "beefy" enough.

    I made a base out of maple. The legs are glued up maple 4" X 4". The stretchers are 3/4" maple (maybe a little more than 3/4". I assembled the legs and stretchers with threaded rods with recessed nuts holding the whole thing together rather than using mortise and tenon joints. The bench as remained rigid and sturdy in the 4-5 years I've had it finished. I have not yet needed to tighten the nuts up to increase rigidity.

    I used three cross pieces on the top of the legs/stretchers. I'd have to look at it to see exactly how I attached them but the top is held to these crosspieces with table clips which allows some movement of the wood. I was worried this method wouldn't be strong enough but it worked just fine.

    I also made cabinets inserted in the space under the workbench built inside of a plywood box. Because of these cabinets, the top, and the maple frame, the bench is quite heavy and doesn't move easily.

    If you are interested, I can try to take some pictures of the leg structure.

    Anyway just wanted you to know that the top should be sufficiently stable and rigid for almost any use. I use my workbench a lot for power tools work and, because of that, made it 36" high. Height, though, for me was the big dilemma and will depend, to some degree in your height. 36" works great for me and I'm 5' 8". Seems to be a good heigh for me for both hand and power tool work.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Michigan
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    516
    As said, this is only your first bench, don't spend too much energy trying to get it perfect. A simple base from 2x lumber will be fine, the low cost makes it easy to scrap the base when you decide to modify it later. That is a pretty good top for many purposes. I predict that you will have it for a long time. (I have 3 benches in my small shop)

    Two features I like;

    The top has plenty of edge space to allow clamping things down, I even have a split top for more clamping. 6" of end overhang is fine.

    Wide open space underneath gives me a spot to push sweepings and scraps.

  14. #14
    Glenn, Randy, Tom,
    Sorry about the delay in responding. I've been offline for awhile.
    Thanks for the votes of confidence. I'll probably be using a little bit of wisdom from each of you. I'll start out pretty simple and add features and modifications over time. It's nice to hear I'm on a relatively decent path to a good workbench.
    Thanks again.

    Pete

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