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Workbench Design

My design for a new bench I'm planning to build

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Olly Parry-Jones17/02/2009 22:33:16
2776 forum posts
636 photos
Hi guys,
After Mr. Maguire's impressive bench build I feel like getting ready to crack on with my own workbench project fairly soon. Here's a sketch of the design I have in mind:

Dimensions are 1830mm long x 900mm high x 620 mm wide (the width is likely to change though). Top is 70mm thick.
 It has pretty much everything I feel I need from a bench, although I haven't yet mapped out the dog holes!

- What's a good width for a bench well? I've currently allowed 150mm but, I'm wondering if I should make it wider? I haven't worked out how to make a removable well yet either.

- Do you think the short rail on the ends actually adds anything? I was hoping it might prevent 'racking'; I recall seeing Ben fit a sheet of MDF to his bench but, I'd like to keep this one open if I can...

I may also narrow the top rail down to 70mm from 95mm - I like to use this space for storing shooting boards and bench jigs, maybe bits of timber I'm working on.
The lower space will be occupied by a couple of drawers at some point.
I've got a Record 52½ for the front vice but, I'm not yet decided on the end one... I can't afford the awesome Veritas. I'm still wondering if I can do somethign similar with a pair of single screws... Or, I'll just get another Record and pack out the other side! I guess that can wait until after the bench is together, like the drawers.
I'm open to your thoughts on this. Although I consider workbench design to be a very "personal" thing, I'd appreciate some advice with the points I've raised above.
Thanks for looking,
Mr Maguire17/02/2009 23:07:10
265 forum posts
1 photos
Blimey, your a bit of a wiz on sketch up... I think the design is excellent, and the extra rail will definatly prevent rack so i would keep that. Height is always an issue, if you use a a lot of planes it wants to be as low as possible so you can get your weight over the tool, if you use more power tools, it would probably want to be much higher so you can see you work without having to stupe, but like you said, workbenches are very personal.
Another idea, if you make all your rails flush with the front of the legs, and the legs flush to the front of your bench top, it gives you alot more clamping options.
I dont think it would hurt to add an other 1" to the tool wells width.
do you plan to use traditional joinery or are you using the dreaded bolt?
if you are using traditional joints, i would draw bore all the mortice and tenons, this will guaranty a rack free bench.
I cant wait for you to get started....I have a bit of a bench obcession
Olly Parry-Jones17/02/2009 23:24:15
2776 forum posts
636 photos
Thanks for your thoughts, Richard. SketchUp really is dead simple to use, with a bit of practice. You should give it a try sometime, it is free after all.
I did consider making the legs flush with the front, for the reasons you have stated. In this design, the edge of the top is 10mm from the face of the legs, which allows for expansion and contraction - and that's the reason I'm not going to have them flush, as my workshop is unheated (and currently, still, uninsulated...).
You're probably right about the bench height. My current bench is only 760mm high, which is okay for planing, maybe a little low. What I know for certain is that it's far too low for dovetailing!! (I'm just ober 6'1", by the way... Plus the hair!! ).

I'll be using bolts to pull the frame together in a knock-down style. The end caps/breadboard ends will be draw-bored in place, as I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear!
I've calculated the width by looking at the finished size I'm hoping to get from each board - 45mm x 10 boards = 450mm (plus tool well). I may still bump this up to 500mm, just in case.

I forget to mention that I'm thinking of adding some dowel holes down the length of the right-hand leg, which should help support longer boards.
Sparky18/02/2009 01:06:21
7631 forum posts
22 photos
Well Olly, It looks strong enough to hold Richards leg!
It looks a solid bench and very practical too...........look forward to seeing this being built.
Mr Maguire18/02/2009 09:53:55
265 forum posts
1 photos
something I did on my old bench was to add some of that router mat stuff on the bottom of the feet, it made an Unbelievable Difference to the amount my bench moved on those heavey planing tasks.
The holes in the legs is a good idea, I might go and do that on my own bench
Am sure you have already thought of this, but I have noticed that the front laminate section on the top is dovetailed into the bread board ends. Somthing i've seen happen before when the top shrinks is the frount part of the laminate (dovetailed part) comes off or splits as it cant go anywere as the rest of it shrinks...dose that make sence.
I think practical is a good word to looks strong enough to hold my bench, not just a leg
P.s. Am downloading sketch up as we speak...
Bob18/02/2009 14:55:45
85 forum posts
An easy way of filling in the well if you want a part time one, is to have the well the same width as the planks you are topping the 'bench with; so that you can just drop a length (or 2 or3....) of plank in to fill the well. If you want to angle the sides of the well then just keep the 'other half' of the piece for the drop in.
Olly Parry-Jones18/02/2009 16:24:56
2776 forum posts
636 photos
Richard, I'll keep that router matting tip in mind. What I have done is decided to add some 22mm thick pads below the feet - which will help it to sit level on an uneven floor. They'll only be screwed on so, can easily be replaced if they get damaged.
I understand what you're saying about dovetailing the front corners of the top, although I would've thought shrinkage would be more of a problem going across the width, not length...? I reckon dovetailing the back rail (behind the well) will be okay. I might heed your advice and keep it simple at the front though - dovetails are overkill if anything when I'm draw-boring the breadboards ends on anyway!

Bob, I like your idea on filling the well. Only problem would be storing the spare timber afterwards.
Derek Lane18/02/2009 17:34:47
3219 forum posts
1004 photos
For the well why not have a reversible well so that you can have a completely flat bench or flip the well section over to revel the well hope this makes sense
Mr Maguire18/02/2009 21:32:15
265 forum posts
1 photos
Sorry Olly I should have made myself more clear. It was the cross grain that I was worried about. As the breadboard end is long grain and the top laminate sections are cross as the laminate sections shrink in width the front dovetailed section wouldn't be able to pull in with the rest of the top, and the glue line could end up splitting. Not an exact science but i've seen it happen before.
Sorry I can't help you with the tool well as I "personally" don't get along with them so I've never really researched them much. This doesn't mean that their a bad thing, just for me I try to keep my bench clear of tools as I seem to be swinging a plane around an awful lot.
Do you have any plans on how you'll join the top laminate sections together? I relied just on glue and put dowels between the dog holes.   If I was to do it again though I would have definately invested in a biscuit jointer just for that extra piece of mind.
Olly Parry-Jones18/02/2009 21:59:19
2776 forum posts
636 photos
Sounds like a great idea, Derek, I'll certainly bear that one in mind, thank you!
Thanks for clearing that up, Richard. It is unheard of for a joint to break using modern glues (normally the wood goes first) but, I think you're right and I will scrap the dovetail idea on the front edge; keep it simple, keep it safe.

When it comes to gluing up the top, I'm gonna rout a pair of grooves on each face of every board to take some 6mm plywood splines. They're work in a similar way to biscuits but, hopefully, won't cost me as much! Depending on the timber thickness, I might leave them a couple of mm oversize, glue the top up in three sections but skim each one through the thicknesser before cramping the whole lot up...

I personally wouldn't have thought of using dowels for something like this, that's the kind of situation, for me, where things can go wrong!! I'm glad it worked out well for you though. Did you use a jig?
Doug18/02/2009 22:03:42
3415 forum posts
35 photos
I`ve been wondering about the dovetails on the corners, a lot of the benches in the Scott landis book have these dovetails.
I thought it could lead to failure in one way or another, perhaps the professional benches are not sited were there are extremes of temperature/humidity.
Or are these dovetails not glued, with the chiseled part of the dovetail cut deeper than necessary to allow the tail to move inwards if the top shrinks across its width.
This part of the build is quite important to me, as i want a full width tail vice. I`m toying with the idea of using a central vice screw, with 2 round bars fixed to the front of the vice either side of the screw, which will run in linear bearings housed into the end of the bench to stop racking.
Mr Maguire18/02/2009 22:31:02
265 forum posts
1 photos
you have just said what i've been trying to say about the dovetails...
Mr Maguire18/02/2009 23:00:02
265 forum posts
1 photos
ply wood splines is a brilliant idea (why didnt i think of that) I also build my top in three sections and put each through the thicknesser...worked a treat. It was after that when i doweled it, if you look in my workbench album they is a picture of how i did it. I drilled right through each section with a long bit and whacked a long dowel through.
Bugger..that spline idea is going to be playing with my mind now
Olly Parry-Jones19/02/2009 09:20:52
2776 forum posts
636 photos
Baz, your tail vice idea sounds interesting. If you get to the stage before I come to doing my tail vice then, I look forward to seeing how it turns out.
I think chopping the waste out deeper between the pins is a good idea... As long as your joint does't have too many gaps! On my design though, I don't really think a dovetail joint is necessary when I'm gonna be drawing-boring the end caps on.

Olly Parry-Jones19/02/2009 09:34:36
2776 forum posts
636 photos
Okay, here's my revised design for the workbench:

Doesn't look any different to the last one, does it? Well, you're wrong!
These changes become more apparent when you look at the end view:

Before, I had the feet sticking out beyond the back of the bench - not a great idea when this will be going up against a wall. I've still got about 90mm sticking out at the front but, I'm trying to maximise storage width below here and I don't think it'll be too much of a problem, honestly. I probably will add the 'bullnose' (?) detail to the rear of the feet as well, it was easier to redraw them with a chamfer.
I've also lost the dovetails on the front edge of the bench and I've also taken the top rail down from 95mm to 70mm. The tool well is now 175mm wide and the back rail has been beefed up to 30mm.
Still got to draw in the tool well correctly but, I have a cunning idea as to how I'm gonna support it... Watch this space!

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