Here are some more progress photos and some more “teaching moments.” I am going to inject some of my philosophy at this point, as many will understandably think it is a bad idea to trying to build a proper workbench before getting a few more years of experience and skill. Everyone seems to recommend against doing that. My experience might help another fairly new woodworker decide when they have reached that point, and maybe others could add their views. For me, this bench is a real stretch, but I am having a blast doing it, mistakes and all.
As mentioned earlier, I had originally started the bench before deciding to go with the Benchcrafted leg vise. Although I didn’t buy Chris Schwarz’s workbench book (which I do regret), I did read several books and did a lot of research on the Internet before figuring out which way to go. I wanted to start with something modest and use it to learn. A hard maple top, but fairly thin. A sturdy but not massive base.
At some point, the Roubo caught my eye, mostly because I could visualize using the leg vise. My prior attempt to hand plane on the MFT was awful and short lived, and I have not done much in terms of clamping things to the front of it. I got the Sjoberg portable moxon vise thing, which is really nice, but that device sitting on top of the MFT still wasn’t doing it for me.
So, I decided to get the Benchcrafted leg vise. Yes, it is expensive. But it was no more expensive than the mistake I made when I bought a benchtop jointer (my first jointer) that was out of warranty by the time I figured out how to use it and realized it had a bent table that couldn’t be adjusted. I figured I could build a bench with the leg vise now, and in a few years build a better one with the same hardware. The “buy once” concept.
Once I reviewed their construction tips and got the plans, I realized my legs were WAY too small, and repurposed them for the upper and lower short side rails. They were a little less than 3” by 3”. I repurposed the lower long rails into legs, which were still smaller than the Benchcrafted Roubo plans. At that point, I decided to make the leg for the leg vise larger than the other three. Of course, changing the plans created its own set of problems.
After seeing Edward’s post on his bench, I decided to go with the wagon vise as well. They say every vise has benefits and disadvantages. My thought was to just pick one of the many types and learn to use it, just like I bought and learned to use (and still learning) the Domino after never having cut a mortise.
After doing the new legs, I cut mortises to accept the long rails, using a Forstener bit followed by Japanese bench chisels. That experience made me think Dominos would be better to join the short side rails to the legs. I had not discovered the mortise chisel by that point.
Here is a photo of where I ended up.
As you can see, the 10x50 Dominos on the lower rails didn’t have enough clearance for the large that joined the long rails to the legs. So I cut them off by about ¼”. That made me think the Dominos would be too weak to prevent racking, but I put that on hold.
I then installed bed bolts to join the long rails to the legs. Drilled the pilot holes on the bench press and then a really long auger bit:
Back to the racking issue, I decided that the overall frame strength would be much better if I used wider upper rails rather than the 3”x3” ones I had. The Domino 500 also didn’t have enough depth to drill mortises on both sides of those rails while referencing from the same inside edge of the leg, and I was not too sure of my skill to do the second row without referencing from the same edge. This was my solution.
I trimmed the 3x3 on the band saw so that both parts would be flush with the edges of the leg. When doing the glue up, I also glued the two rails together for added strength.
Obviously, there is a problem with that photo. Two sets of Dominos for the wide rail, but only one set of holes. Had to go back and fix that. But, this is how it ended up on the dry fit.
I did the dry fit using full length Dominos, and you can see them peeking into the mortise near the top of the photo.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how one of the upper rails was crooked in relation to the leg for the leg vice, when pretty much every corner was at 90 degrees, having measured several times. Finally I remembered that I had made that leg wider than the others, so the upper rail wasn’t flush with the outside edge of the leg. Fortunately, I figured that out before I drilled the Domino mortises into the leg or began planing the end of the rail.
Last night, I glued up the end with the leg vise. Everything was square, right off the bat. Large mortises on large legs seem to be much easier to square than the shop cabinets I had previously built.
This morning, I chamfered the bottoms of the legs, drilled pilot holes on the bench press for the three holdfast holes on the one leg (need to buy a long ¾ auger bit), glued it up, installed the bed bolts and tightened up the entire base unit, and clamped the newly glued end.
Everything seems rock solid.
Tomorrow morning, I will finally be ready to move the base off the sawhorses and onto the floor, put the two tops onto the base, and then re-install the leg vise chop so I can cut it down to the proper height. For now, I am planning to rest it on top of those slider things that furniture movers use, so that I can slide the workbench around the garage until I can see where it will work best.