Sunday, October 17, 2010

Building a New Workbench Top

The final glue-up.

After using a good, hard maple workbench at Jeff Headley's workshop, it became clear to me that I needed to upgrade my own workbench before I would be able to do the chiseling and planing I'd need to do to complete the Winchester style Chippendale desk I started in Jeff's class.  So I bought a copy of Chris Schwarz' book on workbenches and read it through, then decided that rather than building an entirely new bench, I could do quite well by building a new top and installing it on my current base, which is made of 2X4s laminated into 4X4s. 

Ready to plane.
I began by buying and acclimating 8-foot 8/4 hard maple boards.  With the help of a friend, I jointed and planed these, then ripped them to 3-inch widths.  This is the only time I have had trouble with my SawStop contractor's saw.  It ripped the first half dozen boards smoothly, but after that point it began to stall until it refused to cut at all.  I later discovered that the motor was overheating from the hard cutting.  It finished the job the next day with no hitches. 

After cutting the boards, I stood them on edge and glued them up in sets of three, then glued up those sets until I had a nearly complete bench top.  My plan was to attach a six-inch apron to the front of the bench.  Before doing that, I installed a Veritas twin-screw vise and front jaw to the apron to be sure it would fit.  Once that was working well, I disassembled the vise and completed the final glue-up.

Low-angle jack plane.
That's where things stand now.  What remains is to plane the bench top smooth and level, even up the ends of the bench (they are a bit uneven at present) and install the new top on the old base.  I'll use a Lie-Nielsen low-angle jack plane with a toothed blade to take the roughness off the top, then complete the job with a low-angle jointer and smoothing plane.


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