Popular Woodworking 2007-06 № 162, страница 28

Popular Woodworking 2007-06 № 162, страница 28

This rig serves as the assembly bench in the Popular Woodworking shop, but if you put a vise on it somewhere, it probably could serve as a workbench in a production shop. It is simple and allows great flexibility for clamping. But some basic operations with this setup would be tricky.

During the last 10 years, I've built a number of classic bench forms, and I've worked on craftsman-made and commercial benches of different stripes. I've been stunned by how awful some workbenches can be at some tasks, and I've also seen brilliantly realized designs.

And now, after all this work, I've concluded that it doesn't matter what sort of bench you have as long as it performs a set of core functions with ease. I've boiled down these core functions into 10 rules for building (or buying) a workbench. As long as your bench obeys these rules (or most of them), you will be able to hold almost any work-piece for any task with a minimum of fuss. This will add speed and enjoyment to your time in the shop and reduce the amount of time you fuss with setups.

Do You Even Need a Bench?

Before we get to the rules, it's fair to say that a lot of the best commercial woodworking today is done on benches that disregard many of these rules. In production shops, it's rare to find a traditional bench used in a traditional manner. More often, a commercial woodworker will have something akin to a clamping table, or even a door on sawhorses. And they can turn out high-quality work that will blow you away.

In 2006 I was teaching a class in hand work at a school where Thomas Stangeland, a maestro at Greene & Greene-inspired work, was also teach-

ing a class. Though we both strive for the same result in craftsmanship, the processes we use couldn't be more different. He builds furniture for a living, and he enjoys it. I build furniture because I enjoy it, and I sell an occasional piece.

One evening we each gave a presentation to the students about our work and I showed an image of the enormous French workbench I'd built the year before and discussed its unusual history.

Thomas then got up and said he wished he had a picture of his work

bench: a door on a couple horses. He said that a commercial shop had no time to waste on building a traditional bench. And with his power-tool approach, all he needs is a flat surface.

It's hard to argue with the end result. His furniture is beautiful.

But what's important here is that while you can build with the door-off-the-floor approach, there are many commercial woodworkers who still see the utility of a traditional workbench. Chairmaker and furniture maker Brian Boggs uses more newfangled routers and shop-made devices with aluminum extrusions than I have ever seen. And he still has two enormous traditional workbenches that see constant use. Before Kelly Mehler opened a woodworking school, I visited his commercial shop and got a chance to inspect his vintage bench, which saw daily use.

The point is that a good bench won't make you a better woodworker, and a not-quite-a-bench won't doom you to failure. But a good bench will make many operations easier. It's simply a tool: the biggest clamp in the shop.

This French-style workbench weighs more than 325 pounds. The top is 4" thick. The legs are 5" square. All this mass absorbs vibration and makes every cutting operation smoother.

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