A Bench

Every week this semester I have written about a project I built that has marked a milestone in my development as a woodworker. The stool that I wrote about last week was built primarily over Christmas break, so it was my last major completed project. Going forward, I am going to write about important pieces I plan to build in the future. Of all the ideas I have, building myself a solid workbench is the most important and appealing to me. It may not be something I get around to for many years, but it will almost certainly do the most to further my development as a woodworker.

Although I am very grateful for a suitable space in which to work at home, it is far from ideal. My shop is centered in what we call “the workroom” at home. It’s a space in the basement that has always housed the furnace, handyman materials, and odds and ends. Below the pegboard of tools is a bench built into the wall about 2.5 feet deep with a top made of old dimensional lumber. It was never meant to be used for woodworking, but rather a spot for the homeowner to make the occasional repair. I’ve always done the best I can with the space. I built my lighthouses there years ago. In more recent years I do most of the layout, handwork, assembly, and finishing of my projects there. I’ve reorganized the pegboard over the bench to neatly hold far more important tools. And I’ve built jigs, such as the Moxon vise I talked about in an earlier post, and a bench hook for hand planing pieces of wood, which are critical to my work and make the bench less of an obstacle. Its major shortcomings are in flatness and space. A work space should be flat and smooth in order for woodworking to turn out well. Flatness is important for assembling pieces straight and square, and for ensuring that pieces of wood are actually flat and don’t just seem to be because they contact the surface fully. A smooth surface prevents carefully shaped surfaces from being damaged as they move around. Second, space: I can’t take a long piece of wood into the space to work on it without getting very creative to figure out a way to hold it. This may seem like a good thing, but more often than not the solution risks damage to the piece, the tool, or me.

I’m very excited to build myself a bench that won’t have these shortcomings. I don’t know what it will look like, but I do know it will have a solid, thick, hardwood top, be built on a timber base that I can easily tear down, and have clamping mechanisms built into it to help me hold my work. I want it to be simple, just like most everything I build, so every feature I build in will have a purpose. Building a bench on which to work every day is one of the dream projects for a craftsman, and although it may take me years to find the money, the time, and the space to do so, I am excited by the prospect and enjoy dreaming up the perfect design in the meantime.

4 thoughts on “A Bench”

  1. While not completely analogous, I feel your pain with not having an ideal work space. The only place I really have to work on my car is either my upward sloping driveway, or my tiny garage. On top of that, I don’t have any space to store any of my own tools, I have to borrow those of a friend.

  2. A nice workbench really does make all the difference! In my old house we had the whole basement tranformed into a lab, and it was great. My parents recently moved and in the new house there is no space to do anything. It makes working on projects or using tools so much more difficult. This project would definitely improve the efficiency, ease, and final product of your future projects.

  3. This sounds like a good ambitious project to have. The best workspace is one that you design yourself — my mom has devoted much of our basement to be her pottery studio, and she planned the entire layout, even building some of the shelves where her work dries (but not the main worktable). I can understand how building a worktable would be an important step, and hopefully you’ll have the chance to do it in the next few years.

  4. Love it. Nothing like dreaming of future conquests that will eventually become a reality. Hope to see the the bench some day.

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