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Thread: New Noden "Craftsman Package" Auxiliary Bench + Downdraft Top

  1. #1
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    New Noden "Craftsman Package" Auxiliary Bench + Downdraft Top

    I debated making two threads; one a review of the bench system and the other a project build for the downdraft top, but decided to put a combined thread here in Workshops as ultimately, this is a workshop enhancement. So this will be a two-part thread...building the Noden base and building the downdraft top for it.

    Folks who know me know I'm a big fan of adjustable height work surfaces and a Noden Adjust-A-Bench has been the base for my primary bench for many years now. The original design was all steel, very heavy and just plain does the job it's intended to do. Many, many folks use this system including a major name-brand furniture store/manufacturer. The one thing about the all steel setup is that it's certainly not inexpensive. Geoff Noden recognized that over time and recently introduced his new "Craftsman Hardware Package" version which includes newly designed steel parts for the raise/lower mechanism but has the buyer cut the rest from their choice of sheet goods. This option is more affordable yet has the same height capacity, etc. I had the opportunity to be one of the first to acquire one of the kits...in fact, my parts were essentially a "beta" set just pre-production by a week or three so that the product packaging and so forth could be verified. It was a timely opportunity, too, as I wanted an auxiliary bench for a downdraft sanding station that could double as a little extra assembly space for small projects, keeping my main bench clear for client work and bigger jobs.

    My original Adjust-A-Bench came in considerably larger and heavier packaging. No surprise about that given everything was made of steel and pre-assembled. The Craftsman Hardware Package came in this box...which was neatly packed and organized.

    IMG_6145.jpg IMG_6146.jpg

    Inside that box was a bunch of stuff...machined toothed rails, hardware for the counter-weight springs, nuts and bolts, etc.

    IMG_6156.jpg

    My box, being pre-production, didn't have written instructions as they were finalized after my build was nearly done, but Geoff has a playlist of videos that take one through the construction process. I watched them once through and had them available on my shop computer to touch on a few points as I worked through my build.

    There are a few components that one cuts out from sheet goods to assemble the bench base; two for each end that are different sized. These are simple rectangles of specific sizes and the two smaller ones also need an edge relieved so it interfaces with corner of the steel angle that it fastens to. You can use pretty much any saw you have or want to use to cut these panels. Me...I used my CNC. There are two benchtop supports that one also must create. I did try to do these from laminated plywood, but...that was a bad move, honestly, and I remade them after the fact with some scrap oak. I choose to use some nice 19mm/.7 5" MDO for my bench as I knew it would paint up smoothly, but you can use literally ANY nominal 3/4" plywood you want to or have available; exterior rough stuff through furniture grade veneer stock. Note...I cut the holes for the bolts on the CNC, but my pre-production steel parts had slight inconsistencies in hole placement, so I ended up plugging them and redrilling as shown in the instructional videos.

    IMG_6201.jpg. IMG_6203.jpg

    Drilling is fast and easy...clamp the steel to the workpiece in the correct place and use the steel as a drilling guide for the included .375" bolts used for the project.

    IMG_6377.jpg. IMG_6378.jpg

    Once all the holes were located and drilled, I pre-finished the sheet goods panels. You can use any color you want. You can even paint the steel parts if you want to. Whatever floats your canoe. Mine is...black...

    DLHP0947.jpg
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    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  2. #2
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    Once the paint was dry...bolt it together. The kit includes .375" bolts, washers and nylon nuts. Some clamps are used to keep the steel in exactly the correct places. Note that during this initial process, the bolts at the top will be replaced later with long threaded rod that is sized for the length of the stretchers which is based on intended bench size. It's best to tighten the bolts nicely, but not super tight for that reason.

    The larger panels go together like this...

    IMG_6420.jpg

    And the smaller panels that will nest inside of the larger ones end up like this...

    IMG_6421.jpg

    At this point, with all four components assembled, there are two sets--one for each end of the bench.

    IMG_6422.jpg

    Two spacers approximately 25mm/1" wide are attached to the wider leg units to space the smaller, moving components and some plastic "bearings" are attached inside of those for the sliding panel to move smoothly over as the bench is raised or lowered.

    IMG_6423.jpg. IMG_6424.jpg

    And that completes the leg component assemblies

    IMG_6425.jpg
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 03-18-2020 at 9:33 PM.
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    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
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    The final portion of the leg assembly is to put in place the latching ratchet system that holds the bench firm at the desired height and is also released with a foot pedal to lower the bench. First step is literally to install the step...err...the thing you step on to release the ratchet

    IMG_6426.jpg

    There are two round aluminum bars that are knitted together with a thin spring steel rod to create the spring-loaded ratcheting mechanism that engages with the teeth on the leg sets to set and maintain height. This part is worth watching the video more than once...it's not hard, but the steps are very specific.

    IMG_6427.jpg

    The final step is to install the two wood blocks that support the bench top and provide a way to mount the top to the leg sets.

    IMG_6428.jpg

    As previously mentioned, the two stretchers that go between the leg sets are size in length to be suitable for the size of the benchtop that's going to live on top of things. Since this is an auxiliary bench for me, the plan was for something just over four feet long and the stretchers were sized accordingly using the formula that Geoff provides. Note that one must also acquire 4 pieces of .375" all-thread that is also appropriate in length. The stretchers can be made in different ways but the general theme is that there is a means to contain the all-thread across the distance and that the ends be perfectly square. Obviously, they need to be exactly the same length, too. I chose to get a little fancy with my stretchers, making them from a "sandwich" of scrap oak with an embedded routed channel for the all-thread. I did this on my CNC machine so I could also personalize them, but a router table would work just as fine. So would a dado blade on a table saw. Pick your poison.

    A little "bench-on-bench action" after the new bench was assembled with the nice stretchers in place...

    IMG_6680.jpg

    Lastly...mobility. Very important for me. My main bench has the normal Adjust-A-Bench mobility kit installed even though that bench is rarely moved. This new bench needs to be mobile. Rather than waiting for the official setup and knowing that I wouldn't be doing any heavy woodworking on this new setup, I chose to make my own mobility kit with two pieces of steel angle iron and four .5"x13 post mount, double locking casters ordered from Amazon. It raises things up a little more than the standard kit would and it's always on the wheels, but for my purposes, that's just fine.

    IMG_E6702.jpg

    At that point, I threw a temporary top on the thing so I could use it while I developed my final design for the downdraft solution.

    You can see here a comparison of the original, all steel Adjust-A-Bench and the Craftsman Kit.

    IMG_6682.jpg IMG_6691.jpg

    I have to say, I'm really pleased with this setup and it's pretty darn sturdy even though some of the structure is made of sheet goods rather than steel. It's very stiff, but moves smoothly up and down.

    Speaking of downdraft...let's "go there" now.
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 03-18-2020 at 9:54 PM.
    --

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

  4. #4
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    I've been wanting a downdraft sanding setup for some time now, especially with the small box stuff I sell on ETSY and the guitar making activities I've taken up as a "hobby" within my woodworking. I originally intended for something somewhat quick and dirty, but while watching a recent video on YouTube from Chris of Highline Guitars, I "discovered" a neat table insert setup from Powertek, available from Amazon and even Home Depot. That's when my design started to gel...and this box arrived.

    IMG_6868.jpg

    The inserts are made of steel and have nice "rubber" supports for the workpiece as well as movable stops for when that comes in handy. A set of four is relatively inexpensive at just under $40. So having these in hand, I drew up a design in the Vectric software I use with my CNC machine (not necessary to make it that way, but since I have it...I use it...) that incorporated these plates, allowed for a flat surface insert for when using the surface for assembly and other purposes and had some accomodation for the 96mm grid of 20mm holes for additional utility in the shop.

    The field of the benchtop was made from 25mm/1" thick Extira MDF I had leftover from an architectural project I did last fall. Its additional thickness was nice since the inserts above require approximately 13/16" of depth to sit into the benchtop with the metal flush with the top. Rather than cut the whole panel out of a bigger piece on the CNC, I sized it on my sliding table saw first...any table saw that can support it could be used as well as a track saw, too. based on my design, the length of this panel was 1205mm long and 53mm wide. Since I knew I'd use some screws to reinforce the top's connection with the frame I'll be building farther along, I marked out, drilled and countersunk the holes for those screws prior to moving the panel to the CNC...they could then be used to hold the panel down to the machine bed for simplicity.

    IMG_6925.jpg IMG_6927.jpg

    I screwed the panel down on the machine lined up with one of the tee slots and then set my x-y zero to the front, left corner, matching what I had set in the software. My machine has a laser available for setting that point so I don't have to futz around with a vee-bit to do the same.

    IMG_6928.jpg

    My software design for this is a two-sided job...I wanted some rebates in the bottom to make the joints stronger for some internal table components, so I cut those first.

    IMG_6929.jpg

    Then I flipped the panel over to cut the top where all the "fun stuff" is located. Yea...boring shot.

    IMG_6930.jpg

    Speaking of fun...one of the things I appreciate about having this machine to use is this...nice, precisely located dog holes which then have the edges slightly chamfered. And fast, too.

    IMG_6931.jpg IMG_6932.jpg
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 03-18-2020 at 10:13 PM.
    --

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

  5. #5
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    Once the machine was done cutting, there was a big rectangular hole in the middle with a ledge that the downdraft inserts as well as the plain surface insert would sit in/on.

    IMG_6933.jpg

    And then it was time to test the fit...I purposely made the initial cut "tight" so that I could sneak up on it for a no-slop fit.

    IMG_6934.jpg

    I did need to lengthen the rectangle just a little bit to accomplish my goal, so a small change on the toolpath that just shaved the edge make things fit exactly like desired.

    IMG_6935.jpg

    So the top was completed and I could take that revised sizing for the "hole" and then use it to create the flat panel insert from another piece of the same scrap material. That dimension was inset about a half millimeter so that it could be installed and removed without a pry-bar and the edges of the insert were relieved the equivalent thickness of the ledge left at the bottom of the top to support the insert(s). Yes, calipers are your friend here. I did have to do a little fine tuning later...

    IMG_6937.jpg IMG_6938.jpg

    Since the flat insert would essentially be unsupported other than at the edges, I put some reinforcement on the bottom of it, both the piece shown here and some solid stock later during final assembly.

    IMG_6939.jpg

    The ledge is a bit thin, despite the material being 25mm/1" thick, so I chose to reinforce that with some scrap .5" MDF for good measure.

    IMG_6940.jpg
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 03-18-2020 at 10:23 PM.
    --

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

  6. #6
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    Ok, top done...time for the frame and the rest of the support structure. I have a bit of 5/4 pine left over from the equestrian locker door project, so rather than spending more money on material, I chose to stick with the theme of using what I have for this project as much as possible. The material was flattened and milled to 30mm thick, followed by straight lining the edges as close as possible to full width.

    IMG_6941.jpg
    Attachment 428320

    Those pieces were then ripped in half width at the bandsaw...I didn't want to waste even a hair of material more then necessary so I could keep the components as wide as possible


    IMG_6943.jpg
    Attachment 428321

    A quick cleanup and making sure they were all exactly the same width was accomplished at the thickness planer...I like using this technique as the feed rate is slow enough that the edge is pretty clean, widths are all exactly the same and the edge requires minimal sanding

    Attachment 428322 Attachment 428323IMG_6944.jpg. IMG_6945.jpg

    The two long components were crosscut simultaneously to get exactly the same length
    IMG_6946.jpg
    Attachment 428324

    While the end components theoretically would be the same length as the wide of the top panel, I don't leave things to chance and made sure to confirm the measurement before cutting them in the same manner

    Attachment 428325 Attachment 428326IMG_6947.jpg IMG_6948.jpg

    As I did with my recent locker door project, I chose to assemble this thang on top of my CNC bed because it's absolutely flat....my main bench needs a new top and I'm still formulating the design for that. Those dog holes come in handy here, too, because I can use them with some scrap and screws to "clamp" the MDF panel down sung and perfectly flat.

    IMG_6949.jpg
    Attachment 428327
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 03-19-2020 at 7:46 PM.
    --

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

  7. #7
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    The frame was assembled around the top panel using glue and long screws in countersunk holes. Additional solid stock was inserted inside to support the top and cross pieces were glued and screwed inside the ends to serve as the mounting area to the Noden bench legs later on. I let that sit overnight.

    IMG_6950.jpg IMG_6951.jpg

    I mentioned fine tuning the solid insert earlier...I guess there was some variability in the material but I had to do a slight tape shim on one end to get the solid insert to sit flat. It was at this point I also added some additional reinforcement, already mentioned, to the bottom of that panel for good measure since it is unsupported other than at the edges.

    IMG_6953.jpg IMG_6954.jpg

    Ok, flip it over...time to work on the collection chute setup which I first laid out the old fashioned way after taking exact measurements from the bottom of the assembly, even though my intention was to cut the pieces using the CNC. It always pays to measure twice, if you catch my drift...

    IMG_6955.jpg

    I then transferred those measurements to the software...which took about five minutes total...and cut the angled sizes and the center piece where the DC port will live.

    IMG_6957.jpg

    Those components assembled into this...which is intentionally low profile to allow for full clearance under the table. Only the port will stick down below the bottom of the frame components.

    IMG_6958.jpg

    Finally, two panels were cut at the table saw from scrap .5" plywood with 10 angles on the ends to close things up.

    IMG_6959.jpg
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 03-18-2020 at 10:52 PM.
    --

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

  8. #8
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    The last thing to be done on the bottom of the assembly was to locate the holes for the bolts that will mount it to the Noden leg set. I used a piece of scrap material to get the exact spacing lengthwise (easier than using a tape) and measured the distance between the holes. That allowed me to calculate the position for the four holes relative to the centerline of the work surface as well as the lateral offsets from the centerline and then drill some pilot holes

    IMG_6956.jpg IMG_6960.jpg

    At that point...plug the countersinks, eat lunch and then sand things down flush.

    IMG_6961.jpg

    And.........we have a completed project, outside of the plastic port that will arrive from Amazon on Monday since I forgot to order it earlier in the week. Silly me.

    IMG_6962.jpg

    Sanding configuration:

    IMG_6964.jpg

    "Other" configuration:

    IMG_6966.jpg

    I'll add that while I originally didn't intend to put any finish on this, I changed my mind. I have a partial container of some Varithane polyurethane left over from a client project that I was, um...forced...to use poly on, so I started to slather that on. I'll do one or maybe two more coats in the next few days and it will be ready to rock and roll once that little plastic thing arrives so I can hook it up for dust collection for sanding.

    IMG_6967.jpg
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 03-18-2020 at 11:01 PM.
    --

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

  9. #9
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    Jim, very nice project and write up.

  10. #10
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    Great write up. I'm not in need of another bench, but I'd love a downdraft sanding table. I think your build will work beautifully for the basis of mine. Thanks for the effort and time to write this up.

  11. #11
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    Lisa, you are correct that the general design of the downdraft top I made will work in any kind of appropriately designed support structure...it could even be built into a stationary bench attached to a wall. What I really like about this design is that it's versatile with the inserts...for forty bucks, the Powertek inserts are convenient and full featured. Yes, one can drill a lot of holes, but the plates have those nice rubber-like standoffs already incorporated to protect the workpiece and also permit full air flow. And since the plates are easily removable, one can reconfigure the bench for other purposes. I'm now considering making another insert that has my pocket screw setup, um...setup. I used to have threaded inserts in the old miter bench, but that arrangement is now gone. I don't want any metal in my new main bench, so a logical location would be on a panel that can slip into this new work surface. I'm sure I'll come up with additional idea over time and since I have the file, I can quickly cut another insert that fits in just a few minutes.
    --

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

  12. #12
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    Love it. I'm rethinking making a new top for my workbench. I think I'll steal much of what you have done and incorporate the downdraft piece into it. Do you have the dimensions for this piece?

  13. #13
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    Chris, including the aprons, mine is 1265mm x 590mm, or just over 4' long and about 2' wide. The aprons are 30mm thick and 115mm tall. It's not big enough for a main bench, but was perfect in size for my planned usage of the bench setup.

    Each of the four panels is 6-11/16” x 16-1/2” and the flange measures 13/16” thick.

    -----

    As I mentioned in my reply to Lisa earlier today, the idea of an insert for my Kreg pocket hole jig was under consideration. I executed on that today as I had just enough material left from the half-sheet of MDF used for the top and solid insert. I've had this jig for a LONG time and it does get use. As I noted, there were threaded inserts in my old miter bench that I could quickly fasten it down to when it was needed. The downside to that was I still needed to throw some pieces of scrap wood on the surface to support "wide" pieces like those for casework. It worked, but wasn't terribly elegant. For this time around, I'll recess it into the table so it's flush, making the table the support for wider pieces. This is my jig for those who have not seen the older, metal ones:

    IMG_6973.jpg

    To make this insert, I had just enough material to size the panel on my saw, rather than cut the perimeter out on the CNC. I could use the same toolpaths for the lipped edge and "Grab" holes and just added a nice pocket for the jig. Workholding was slightly different for this method...strips of .75" scrap were used to contain the workpiece laterally as shown here and a single screw was driven into the table through the center of the panel to keep it from lifting (it's quite heavy anyway) while I cut the "grab" holes. That center point would be inside the pocket that would eventually receive the jig and not mar the visible surface.

    IMG_6972.jpg

    The "grab" holes were then used as a path for a long screw through pieces of scrap to act as clamps while I cut the ledge

    IMG_6975.jpg. IMG_6977.jpg

    It was time to flip it over to cut the pocket for the jig. The same hold-down technique was used, leveraging the "grab" holes for a non destructive path for the screws. The pocket was too tight lengthwise, but I realised that there were some rough edges at the bottom of the cast jig base. Once I took a file to them, it slipped in nice and snug.


    IMG_6978.jpg IMG_6979.jpg
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    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  14. #14
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    The panel was reinforced with a piece of scrap plywood on the bottom and I put a very thin shim in the pocket to bring the jig up to level with the surface of the panel, screwing it in to confirm the fit.

    IMG_6980.jpg IMG_6982.jpg IMG_6983.jpg

    The last thing to do was to confirm it slipped into the table nicely and it did. It will need some minor shimming to bring it level...I may use screws for that.

    IMG_6984.jpg

    Meanwhile...several coats of finish are nearly cured on yesterday's work and it looks great!

    IMG_6976.jpg
    --

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

  15. #15
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    That looks great, Jim. Note however that I'm not seeing the attachments on this particular post (https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread....39#post3002239). It just has "Attachment 428320", etc., and all of those are listed as invalid.
    And there was trouble, taking place...

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