Anatomy Of A Workbench

The workbench shown at right is patterned after a traditional cabinetmaker's bench, and is crafted from solid maple. The bench incorporates two vises considered to be standard equipment: a face vise on the front, left-hand end of the bench, and a tail vise with a sliding dog block mounted on the opposite end.

You can build such a workbench from a kit supplied with materials and instructions. You can buy the plans for a bench and order the materials yourself. Or, you can follow the instructions presented in this chapter and construct a bench to suit your needs. Whichever route you take, a workbench is assembled in three distinct phases: the base (page 50); the top (page 53); and the clamping accessories—vises (page 56), bench dogs, and hold-downs (page 62).

The top surface of most benches is generally between 33 and 36 inches high. The height that is best for you can be determined by measuring the distance between the floor and the inside of your wrist while you stand upright with your arms at your sides.

Finish your workbench with two coats of a penetrating oil-based product, such as tung oil. Not only do these products penetrate the surface and protect the wood, but the finish can be refurbished simply by scrubbing it with steel wool and recoating.

Attaching the end caps of a workbench to the aprons calls for a strong and attractive joinery method. The finger joint (also known as the box joint) and the dovetail joint shown at left are traditional favorites.

Face vise

Also known as front vise; jaw secures work against bench

Bench dog hole

Holds a bench dog for securing work on benchtop

Stretcher '

Provides iateral stability to bench; attached to the legs in one of several ways (pages 50 and 51)

Foot bottom edge is "relieved" with a recess for better contact with floor; ordinarily attached to the leg with mortise-and-tenon joints

Face vise

Also known as front vise; jaw secures work against bench

Bench dog hole

Holds a bench dog for securing work on benchtop

Supports top; top edge of arm at face-vise end relieved, in same manner as feet. Usually attached to legs by mortise-and-tenon joints

Build Heavy Workbench

Often laminated from a hard and dense wood such as maple or beech: boards that make up top should be selected, prepared, and glued up carefully to provide a perfectly flat surface

The workbench at left improved the standard design by incorporating a tilting tool chest under the top.

Bench dog

Used with tail or face vise to clamp stock; made of metal or wood. Tension spring keeps dog at desired height; after use, dog is pushed down below surface of benchtop

Sliding dog block

Connected to the tail vise screw, this movable block contains a bench dog that secures work on the benchtop

End cap

Separate piece covers end grain of top piece and supports tail vise screw

Tail vise

Moves sliding dog block to adjust damping capacity to length of work

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