I’ve seen antique cabinetmakers’ benches that are sixteen and seventeen feet long, more than three feet wide, and supported by a dozen drawers and doors—and that weigh as much as a felled oak tree. In contrast, jewelers’ cabinets seem to be on a dollhouse scale, with tiny tools to match. For most of us, however, space limitations preclude the biggest, and the smallest are just not big enough.
Can you believe that this amazing wine rack the image below has been built using old wood pallets? Perhaps you can. Isn’t it wonderful that your old wood pallets can be reused to build something so beautiful and useful? I am not a drinker but I liked the idea so much that I just couldn’t resist making myself one. Although later I gifted it to my parents, who totally loved it.
I made my version of a Roubo bench over 20 years ago. According to the latest bench rules it is too tall, too wide, has too many vises (I use both sides of my bench and that might be a no no, not sure ), and has far too many holes. Did I mention that I have a double row of dog holes with a user made dual row wagon vise? I had no idea they were called a wagon vise back then. Being a tool maker and tinkerer at heart I just made a vise that I thought at the time was an original idea for the main side. Couple of dowels in a piece of wood straddling the two rows and I have a bench stop, or a different variation gives me a 3 point clamping system. If that isn’t bad enough it also has drawers on the bottom to store seldom used tools and supplies. Maybe if it had taken me a few weeks to drill all those holes and mount a few vises I would only have one vise and 8 holes too. I dunno
The edges of MDF are fragile, easily crushed or torn. MDF is also notorious for absorbing water through these edges, causing the panels to swell. In Sam Allen's original design, he edged the MDF with 1/4" hardboard. This edging is one of the complexities that Asa Christiana left out in his simplified design. I think this was a mistake. MDF really needs some sort of protection, especially on the edges.
Regardless of which type of screw you use, you'll need to flip the panel and use a countersink drill to on all of the exit holes. Drilling MDF leaves bumps, the countersink bit will remove them, and will create a little bit of space for material drawn up by the screw from the second sheet of MDF. You want to remove anything that might keep the two panels from mating up flat. I set a block plane to a very shallow bite and ran it over what was left of the bumps and over the edges. The edges of MDF can be bulged by by sawing or just by handling, and you want to knock that down.
Students in the beginning woodworking class learn how to use a variety of tools, including a band, miter and table saw, a drill press, a jointer and a planer. Through the lathe technology class, students become familiar with a number of cutting, scraping and finishing techniques. Successful completion of the course leads to a lathe certification for the wood shop.
I am blown away with their ability to teach, a rare characteristic in my opinion, even more so is their passion to do so. I feel that they are able to accurately depict the philosophies and ideas mentioned in your website. My expectations did not even come close to the actual experience I have been given, and that is only in a short short time! I can only dream of what the next 11 months will bring! I am convinced my decision to study at Rowden Farm is the best one I have made to date! Thank you! Much appreciation and gratitude!”
So drill the benchdog holes through the MDF layer. Begin by laying out their positions. You'll want these to be precise, so that the distances between the holes are consistent. The vises you are using will constrain your benchdog spacing. My front vise worked most naturally with two rows of holes four inches apart, my end vise with two pairs of rows, with four inches between the rows and eight inches between the pairs. Because of this, I decided on a 4" by 4" pattern.
In ancient times, the woodworker’s bench consisted of a plank or split log with four splayed legs. Descendants of those benches are manufactured today, usually with a top of hardwood slabs glued together. The norm nowadays is four straight legs supporting the bulk above, often with braces and a shelf below. Despite the improvements, the linkage to Greek and Roman antecedents is still evident.
@cahudson42 I bored the holes in my sandwich top with a 3/4" power auger bit with the drill in a portable drill guide that kept it vertical and in a way a bit like a plunge router. The guide screw of the auger was dead easy to centre over the laid out grid points. The holes are dead straight and clean sided. The auger bit was new which probably helped. As stated I have three rows from an end vise running the length of the front as well as from the front vise and holes in the front apron to support long pieces as well.
For a fun and comprehensive learning experience, take an online woodworking class in the WWGOA Academy. You’ll learn in-depth woodworking how-to, get bonus material, and enjoy custom benefits for class participants. You’ll never lose access to your Class; no strings attached! Check back often – as we’re adding new online woodworking classes regularly.
Another aspect that might irk some buyers is the fact that the capacity of this bench is less than great outside of weight. The top’s surface area is a bit on the smaller end, though its length is more in line with larger models. The width though is less than two feet which can limit some projects. Similarly, the vice capacity is the second smallest on our list at 4 ½”, though this too can be modded with optional additions.
After you have all the holes clean, set things up for your glue-up. You want everything on-hand before you start - drill, driver bit, glue, roller or whatever you're going to spread the glue with, and four clamps for the corners. You'll need a flat surface to do the glue-up on - I used my hollow core door on top my bench base - and another somewhat-flat surface to put the other panel on. My folding table was still holding my oak countertop, which makes a great flat surface, but I want to make sure I didn't drip glue on it so I covered it with some painters plastic that was left over from the last bedroom we painted.
Synopsis: No room in the garage? Basement not an option? Consider what Ken St. Onge did when he needed shop space: He bought a prefabricated shed and converted it into his full-time woodshop. Because a pre-built shed doesn’t need a cement foundation and is built in a factory, it’s much less expensive than building an addition or stand-alone shop on your property. It can have taller ceilings than a garage and bigger doors than a basement, both big pluses for a woodworker. You can put a shed just about anywhere, too. Here’s a soup to nuts look at Ken’s experience, so you can gauge whether a shop in a shed is right for you.