…for another bench build.
Yup. With my massive French oak Roubo workbench squatting unfinished on sawbenches, I’m prepping stock for a second workbench I’m building on Monday and Tuesday for a DVD for Popular Woodworking Magazine.
The “high concept” for this bench is it’s “Pretty Woman” meets “Starship Troopers.” Wait, wrong blog. No, it’s figuring out how to build the maximum bench in the minimum time using easy-to-find materials.
This is a bench design that has been brewing in the back of my head for some time. I hear from a lot of fellow woodworkers that they would love to build a traditional workbench but don’t have a month of Sundays to do it.
So here are the design characteristics of this bench. It…
• weighs more than 300 pounds.
• has an 8’-long top made from clear European beech that is 3” thick.
• has a massive French-style undercarriage where the legs are flush to the outside of the benchtop.
• uses a single quick-release vise to handle most workholding chores (a second vise is optional).
• Knocks down for moving with a ratchet.
• costs less than any commercial bench that is worth buying
• takes only two days of shop time to build
• requires only a few simple machines and tools.
The trick to the bench is using beech kitchen countertops to make the benchtop. For this bench, I had to go deep into enemy territory. No, not Sawmill Creek. Worse. Ikea.
You don’t have to go to Ikea to make the benchtop – I have a second benchtop I made from a mahogany kitchen countertop I got from an architectural salvage place for $30. But I wanted to show the process with stuff that can be purchased easily.
Using the Ikea countertop, six 8’-long 4x4s from Home Depot and a bag of bolts from the local hardware store, the basic bench (without a vise) costs about $440 in materials.
The other thing I like about this bench is it requires a minimal toolkit to build. We’ll be building this with a benchtop table saw, a cordless drill and a few hand tools. Oh, and you won’t need any clamps. Really.
I’ll be posting photos and video on my blog at Popular Woodworking during the week so you can see how the thing comes together.
I have no clue when the DVD will come out – but they are very quick at F+W Media Inc.
This will (I hope) be my last DVD for at least a year. I’ve greatly reduced my teaching schedule for 2014 and am setting aside all these side projects (as fun as they are) to focus on writing.
— Christopher Schwarz
27 thoughts on “We Interrupt this Bench Build…”
I was wondering about those bench tops from ikea. Curious to see how this plays out. Although, I had considered doing the traditional mortise and dovetail tenon top to base connections with it. Do you think that would still be possible? Knock down is not essential for me, but buying a dead flat top is, since I lack a powered jointer and planer to mill board after board of SYP, and I honestly don’t want to do that much work with my hand planes. Also, I guess a wagon style vise would just be massive amounts of work trying to cut a square channel and slots out for the sliding block?
Oh, now you tell me! I could have waited for this instead of buying and building the FORP bench?
I joke of course! But this does look like it will be a good idea for a starter or auxiliary bench. I will file away for later use. J.
I used beech kitchen counter tops for my first bench. It works great and made a very solid top.
I just chopped the first mortise for the legs on my Roubo bench. I’m still staring at the dovetail part. I started trying to saw it, but everything was wiggling around so much it was hopeless. I need to find a way to stabilize it, Weebles woodworking sucks.
I’ll be interested to see how your new bench comes together.
Exactly what I’ve been waiting for. I need to have something better than my current plywood and 2x4a but have neither the time nor money for a proper bench. Can’t wait.
I have perused the halls of my local mega-Sweedish wood-eating machine, and have found quite a few things in there that can help for a workbench and other workshop projects.
Now off to the sinnin’ room for thirty lashes with a wet noddle!
I actually made a bench top out of two laminated Ikea counter tops a couple years but is now functioning as my outfeed table. IMHO you could not ask for a better bargain, very stable and flat right from the store and have remained so for the last couple years.
Ah, another “traitors project” – after the toolchest the bench. Very inspiring…
Heh, and you thought you got loads of grief over the plywood tool chest…
I have one of these in my shop right now and I’m interested to see how you attach the sections together when you double up the top sections.
I started builing a small workbench from a single beech countertop. The project has been stalled since a couple years now, unfortunately. My goal was to bootstrap the workbench in a corner of my appartment, using hand tools and existing furniture as workholding surfaces, but I ran into motivation problems. One of the big inconvenients with laminated countertops is that the grain is not in the same direction from one slat to the other, which makes planing a lot less fun, especially when you already struggle to hold the pieces properly.
Though not in the hand tool purist camp, a router and jig can make medium work out of flattening the top. Two coplanar rails and a crossmember that will not flex for the router to ride on are the basics.
Beware the beech counter tops. I used two of them to make the top for a room width curved desk for my office. The area where my computer sits has dried from the heat and the glue joints have opened to 1/16 inch. It seemed like a good idea at the time but I might have been wise to let the two large tops sit for a year or so.
While moisture is always a concern, I’m not worried a bit about the beech top. It is at 9.1 MC, which is definitely equilibrium here in Cincinnati during the summer.
The fir is at 15.1 MC, which is easily dealt with during the joinery.
Is there any reason that the short stretchers are above the long stretchers and also on the inside of the legs on this base? This looks to be the same design as the base on the Gluebo, only backwards. Having the low short stretchers on the outside of the legs gave a great place for that wheel modification you made, something I always thought was a great idea if you have a bench that needs to be moved a lot.
This base will be different than the LVL bench in joinery and materials. LVL didn’t bolt well when the bolt was flat on the face of the plies.
Anyway, I moved the short stretchers up to make them more useful for storage. You can clamp clamps there to store them. Bore holes in the stretcher and store holdfasts.
No flack intended, mind you. Just…
One wonders, if a woodworker doesn’t have a month of Sundays for a project, what would (s)he need a traditional workbench for?
Some people (actually, quite a few) would rather build furniture than a workbench.
That’s an evil looking saw, Chris. First you buy a cheap and nasty plastic handled hard-point throw-away saw, and then you find yourself in IKEA! … it’s a slippery slope…AAARRGGHH!
My bench is exactly this design. The top is a 4000 by 630 by 40 European beech kitchen worktop, cut in half and stacked to get an 80 thick bench top, 2000 long. Legs made from 100 by 38 spruce
from B and Q, quick release vice from Axminster, dog holes drilled by hand with a 19 mm auger and brace, all joinery by hand, holdfasts from Tools for Working Wood and dogs from Veritas. Took 2 weeks last March. Still dead flat. Cost about £400.
I do hope you had the sense to at least leave the Roubo set up as a dry fit. If all that schlepping around through varied weather systems causes the wood to move enough that the joinery no longer fits together, (even with PF’s hat) you’ll be kicking yourself for a good long time. Especially if you let your dream bench get away from you for the sake of an Ikea slab.
Like most of us Chris has bills to pay. If he didn’t do what’s needed he would never have had the cash for the luxury French logs to start with.
Of course. I’m simply talking about keeping it assembled, dry, so the joints will move together. I’ve had projects that were stored in pieces, and when I finally got back to them, the wood had moved and the joints no longer went together. With all the time he spent working to be able to afford the time and the logs, it makes sense to store it properly, out of respect for that time spent.
I want to build a more traditional bench, but until I allocate the time, this bench might just be the ticket. I love the idea of buying countertop material from Ikea (although I like the color of the birch better).
Not knowing how you will be laminating the pieces together (I suspect strategically located screws from the bottom), how to do feel about going with three layers (4-1/2 inches) for those of us who would prefer more mass for the top? Besides the marginal increase in cost, is there a reason not to?
I feel hurt, taken advantage of. Actually, I feel exactly like when your best friend and fishing buddy goes and tells 50 people about the “secret location” where you both used to go and fish.
I’ve used “numerar” countertops (Beech version) for my Cafe–about 24 lin. feet for countertops in the service area, another 12 lin. ft. used for 24 x 24″ cafe table tops, and another 12 lin. ft for work table tops in the kitchen. That was 7 years ago, and the tops still look and perform well.
But the countertops are about the only thing I intentionally purchase from Ikea. I rely on others to purchase materials for me…. Yes, I “recycle” Ikea dreck that I find in the back lane or pick up for a buck or two at garage sales. Now some of you might wrinkle your noses at my methods, but here’s how I look at things:
Say I felled a nice maple or oak tree, had it sawn, and stacked and stickered the planks lovingly in my garage. It’d be 4 or 5 years before I could use the wood, right?
Now, I’ve made the observation that barf-icle board, mechanical fasteners, and dynamic loads make a recipie for failure. The Ikea dreck will fail and be tossed out–ready for me to “harvest”– looong before my stickered wood would be ready. Before I go on, I have to put in a disclaimer that the wood I “harvest” rarely goes for fine furnture or anything that I invest enormous amounts of time in, but it makes great wood for shop furniture, jigs, and other projects
Take for instance Ikea beds. If it’s solid pine, great, it’ll make good “project” wood, but all Ikea beds have the stapled-on-a-cotton-tape-1 x 4 bed boards that have a myriad of uses. I’ve made coopered toy chests with them, I’ve made several work tables with them using “modified” M & T joints. See, if you laminate 3 bed boards together, you have the opportunity to make “tennons” with very little effort. If you laminate 3 bed boards together, you have the perfect opportunity to make “mortises” with very little effort.
Take the “Poang” chair and matching footstool, slowly de-laminating in the back lane. Betcha you didn’t know that there’s enough solid beech between the two to make a 12″ bowsaw, now did you? Of course, you have to order the bowsaw kit from tfww with the turned handles, but Ikea provides enough solid beech for the frame and then some. I hope Mr. Moskowitz doesn’t read this though, there’s still a lot of tools I want to purchase from him, and I don’t know if he’d appreciate the source of my “European beech” for my saw…
The lowly white melamine (“foil covered” in Ikea-speak) wardrobe falling over at a drunken angle in the back lane, it’s bottom 1/3 water stained and grotesquely swollen? A cache for cup hinges and 75 lb-rated drawer glides…
I even practice “urban riving” with Ikea dreck. I don’t own a froe or riving brake, but you know that Ikea furniture stuff that’s about 11/2″ thick and you just know it’s two skins with cardboard honey-comb inbetween? It is….But the skins make nice drawer bottom material.. Hey, it’s nice slip-matched birch veneer, and a decent thickness of veneer at that. You just slice about 1/2″ from the sides and top of the Ikea coffee table, or computer desk, and then “rive” the skins off with a chisel, you can peel off the barf-icle strips and scoop out the cardboard honey-comb like a wet spider web with your hands, it’s that easy!
So, long live Ikea!!!!
Looking forward to the build, and can’t wait to add the DVD to the library.
This is exactly how I built my bench last year. I used 3 beech countertops (8 ft) from IKEA and laminated them together. As I remember, I got the countertops on sale for something like $60 each. The countertops were 1.25″ thick so I ended up with a benchtop that is 3.75″ thick overall. I used douglas fir construction lumber for the legs and the supports between the 4 legs. It has worked well so far. I had to drill some holes in the middle, and use bolts to clamp down the center of the laminated sandwich. I used C-clamps around the edges. I had to do all of the flattening of the top and truing of the edges with handplanes–it was a lot of work since I’d never done something like this before. I was learning on-the-job a little.
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