Raphael Berrios is one of our Foundations of Woodworking scholarship students in Spring 2016. He also took our Timber Frame Tiny Home course and brought home one of the structures to finish for himself (you can follow his progress on his blog! Here’s what he had to say about what led him to PTSW, his experience so far, and thoughts for the future:
A workbench needs to be heavy enough that it doesn't move under you while you're working, and stiff enough that it doesn't rack itself to pieces under the forces that will be placed upon it. It doesn't take many hours of planing a board or hammering a chisel for a worktable made of nailed 2x4s to come apart. Traditional bench designs use mortise-and-tenon joinery, which is strong and rigid, but not really suited for a novice woodworker who doesn't already have a bench.
I'd decided on an oil-and-wax finish. Oil finishes are by no means the toughest. In fact, they're really rather pathetic, so far as protecting the wood goes. But they're easy to apply, and not even the toughest finish will stand up to the abuse that a workbench will suffer, so it's more important that it be easy to repair. Wax is usually used to add a high gloss. On a bench, it's there to keep glue from sticking.
All-in-all, the Windsor Design workbench is a nice companion, especially if your budget is limited. It is not as deeply designed and perfected as the other two benches, as there is only one vice, the bench dog holes are drilled through the surface (allowing debris to fall to the top drawers) and the drawers can be a little flimsy if you are not using glue for assembling it, but for the price they offer, there are plenty of perks.
Mine is similar but a bit more robust. The top is a sandwich, two 18mm sheets of WBP ply with an 18mm mdf filling. The legs are mortise and tenoned together, the ends glued and pegged, the stretchers are joined with long bolts so it comes apart. I stiffened it by adding a very closely fitted cabinet underneath (it had to go in dead square) and it is now absolutely rock solid.
The course successfully meets the needs of multiple experience levels in a safe, well equipped, spacious, congenial, and educational environment. All instruction and lab experience is under the personal direction of master woodworkers as well as one or two additional experienced woodworkers/teacher assistants who are on hand during all lab hours providing roughly a three-to-one student-to-instructor ratio. Intermediate to more advanced students should not be put off by the fact that beginners are also included in this course. Check out some of the work done by our alumni in the Alumni Furniture Gallery to get an idea of what our students are capable of.
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With the top laying on the floor, bottom side up, the next step is to flip the base upside down, and attach it to the top. I followed Asa Christiana's design, in using s-clips. When I stopped by my local Woodcraft, though, they only had two packages of ten, so I didn't use as many as I would have, otherwise. For the top I put four on each side and two on each end. For the shelf I put three on each side and two on each end. If it turns out that I need more, I can always add more.
I know, if you had a workbench, you wouldn't be building a workbench. Even so, you'll need some sort of work surface, even if it isn't as stable or capable as a proper bench. The traditional solution is to throw a hollow-core door over a couple of saw horses. The advantage of hollow core doors is that they're flat, stiff, and cheap. I used a folding table and a hollow core door I had bought for a future project.
I agree that even at 12x12, things'll be "cozy" inside. That's OK. Keep in mind that this will be a general purpose hobby shed, not just a wood working shed. Even 12x8 would be plenty big enough for building 1 meter wingspan bungee launched RC gliders. And for the electronics projects I do, I only need enough workbench space to do some soldering with a 3rd hand (for electric guitar pedals). If I need more room than the shed offers for wood working projects, I'll just roll the table saw down a ramp and do my cutting outside in the sun.
I agree that I might quickly outgrow a 12x8 shed. Lowes also offers a 12x10 Rancher (same style, but more room), but the 12x10 is 9 feet, 4 inches high, and my community only allows a maximum height of 9 feet. The 12x8 is exactly 9 feet high. I'm afraid of getting "out of spec" if I exceed the height limit and then getting in trouble with the Home Owner's Association. Having said that, 12x10 would be about the biggest size I could get for the available area in my back yard, so even if I hire a shed contractor to do this, the shed would have to be 12x10 or smaller.