The woodwork bench is a must have piece of equipment for woodworkers to apply their trade, and hold their work pieces securely. There are numerous styles of benches for the woodworker, each reflecting the kind of work performed by the woodworker.
Every quality crafted woodwork bench will have two features. These include a heavy rigid construction to firmly hold the piece of wood during working, and the ability to hold the work firmly in place at a comfortable height and position. These two features will allow the woodworker to freely use both hands holding tools.
A quality woodwork bench will usually be a medium weight design to allow easy mobility. It will provide solid, torsion resistance and have the ability to support a variety of accessories including a vise on either end, or on its face.
The Best Bench Characteristics
When considering the purchase or construction of a woodwork bench, it is important to choose hardwoods that are easy to sand and polish to a smooth, silky finish. Choose a wood that is easy to cut and simple to assemble. Some woods, including maple, are highly resistant to scratches and dents, making it an ideal choice for a solid workshop bench.
Tight-grained woods including maple, cherry, poplar and others will hold fasteners and screws tightly in place keeping the wood workbench firmly secured. A dense grain wood will have low moisture content, avoiding the cracking and working that often happens in lower quality woods during extreme weather conditions. Close-grain hardwood has the ability to support many times its own weight, and can resist torsion forces that often twist a soft wood bench out of alignment.
A solid tight-grained hardwood workbench is ideal for every kind of woodworking class. The workbench can be protected by applying a penetrating wood sealer, covered by a clear polyurethane coat. It is always best to select a wood based on its overall stiffness, and avoid selecting it merely because of its species.
Building a Work Bench
Often times, woodworkers will build their own workbench as the first piece of equipment in their workshop. The built workbench is often a product of their own design, or following a set of blueprints purchase at the wood working store, or online. Many times, woodworkers building their first workbench are in the early stages involved in learning the woodworking craft.
Copying a design can sometimes be the ideal solution for building a first workbench. However, it is important to ensure that the design allows for a variety of key functions that are known to make holding the work product easier. This is important because woodworking tends to be a solitary effort, with other individuals rarely around to hold work product on the bench.
It is always best to use a tested design, based on the type of work that will be performed. A workbench design for building furniture and cabinets would be significantly different from doing automotive work, such as rebuilding transmissions and engines. It is important to remember that a woodwork bench will have significant torque applied to its top and sides.
The Benefit of Stout Joints
Strength and durability in a workbench is essential to ensure that it remains firmly in place while the woodworker is working. It is best overbuild the workbench and incorporate solid stout joints. Without a doubt, a through-tenon and dovetail joint is best. The joints should be sized to properly fit the massive scale of every component the woodworker uses.
If mass cannot be incorporated into the workbench, then the size of the joinery should be increased. This is important because applying racking force when working with wood on the bench can easily tear it apart if it is poorly constructed.
Bench Size Matters
The overall dimensions of a woodwork bench is critical to its performance. It is best to avoid any bench design that is too short in length or lightweight. In addition, it is important to avoid a bench design that is too tall and/or wide. However, the bench should have as much length on the top as possible.
Before construction, it is important to understand exactly where the workbench will be located. Measure the space first, before constructing the bench. Length is an important factor to incorporate in the design. Alternatively, benches that are too wide used in a one-person shop can make it nearly impossible to perform every duty.
The best quality feature on a designed bench will allow the woodwork to be held in three specific ways. They can grip the wood allowing the woodworker to manipulate the edges, ends and face of the piece being crafted. Most commercial benches fail miserably on this feature.
Incorporating a shoulder vise, ideal for dovetailing, a leg vise, quick release vise and/or twin screw vise can make work significantly easier for the woodworker. This is because working the board’s long edges can be tricky on nearly every type of bench. Not having the ability to properly hold some pieces can make it challenging to work with long pieces including face frames, doors and long boards.
Every clap-friendly bench is an ideal feature of a quality made woodwork bench. This is because any component interfering with clamping work held to the bench top can be a challenge to overcome when applying the woodworking trade. Constructing or purchasing a bench with shelving, drawers or cabinets below can provide adequate storage to hold equipment and tools. However, if the bench top is too small, it may be impossible to perform clamping to hold would work pieces firmly in place.
Finally, it is important to avoid fancy finishes. Any shiny finish can easily allow the work to slip or move over the entire surface of the bench. In addition, a film finish easily cracks when being struck by a dead blow mallet or hammer. Instead, select an easy to apply finish that provides protection without leaving a thick film. This can include a varnish/oil blend (Danish oil) or a quality boiled linseed oil.