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Post your workbench

Adrian Lopez

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I'd like to see pictures of your workbenches and learn a bit about the way you use them. Which features get the most use in your shop, or see less frequent but important uses? Which could you easily do without? Is there anything you'd change about your current setup? Is your bench self-made, custom-made (by a third party), or a standard factory model? How does it fit in with the rest of your shop?

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There are some great factory benches out there, but I never liked the feature of a tool well, this just seems to waste a lot of useful bench top. Some factory benches seem quite narrow front to back unless you are spending a lot.

Having used both, if you can get the wood, making one is probably better. It gives the opportunity to have the size you actually want, the height you need, and customized how you would like (L shape can be very useful). It's possible to buy worktops intended for kitchens, made of beech or bamboo. These make for a very solid and heavy inexpensive top, which can be drilled anywhere for dogs, hold-downs etc.

Though similar to other branches of woodwork, instrument making has some different needs. Whatever you decide to do, I would recommend screwing it to the wall for solidity, and bracing the frame.

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At the moment, my primary workbench is being used to hold debris, some from non-instrument related projects:


By far the most useful item is the large Jorgensen clamp, which I use with many different fixtures to carve, scrape, graduate, set necks, shape fingerboards... basically everything except varnishing (which happens on the bench to the right, out of the photo).  I made the bench myself, extremely solid and bolted to the wall.  Another important feature is lighting... the swing-arm light is most important, then there is an overhead spotlight turned on by a switch in the bank of switches in the lower right of the photo.  There is also general shop lighting (LED's) and a portable light with LED and incandescent bulbs.

Then there is the other "workbench", just completed (and part of the reason the other bench is a mess), to convert from a laptop to a min-PC (fanless, solid state) and related keyboard (sealed) and monitor.  For CNC work, obviously.  It's all mounted on the infeed table of my 12" jointer, with enough clearance so I can joint most things without taking off the computer stuff.  Long boards can be fed under the keyboard, if necessary.


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Here is the English style bench I built.  The top and legs are doubled 2x10 lumber, so this thing is rock solid.  Weighs over 200lbs.  You cannot wrack the frame no matter how hard you are working on it.  It is also vice-less.  I use bench dogs and the crochet attached to the front to securely hold any piece.  Adjust much faster snd more flexibly than a vice.  Also have a plane stop built into the top that pounds up from underneath.  Being left handed I mounted the crochet and plane stop opposite side from the usual setup.



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Bench space is in hatch marks.  Shelves are dotted.  Bench island is in chessboard.  Dashes are hutches on top of a cabinet.  Inside features not to scale -- but close.  Woodworking on the left of the half wall and machine room on the right.  Two areas are also separated by clear warehouse curtain strips which keep AC, heat from being wasted in the machine room.


workshop floor plan.jpg

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I'm not fussy about benches except that they should never be large enough to hold a bass. The one thing that's non-negotiable is that it needs to be immovable. To that end most of mine have been screwed to the wall, making the base much less important. I also don't like skirts on the top--a full-thickness top is easier to clamp things down on (I wouldn't like Shunyata's bench at all, with that weird panel on front). And I like a sacrificial 1x2 screwed to the front to take the immediate tool abuse from handwork against the front edge---trimming bridge feet, drilling string holes in pegs, etc.

Regarding the base, the more drawers the better. And I like to sit there, knees under, when I work, and every hand tool I want to use should be no farther than a long reach from my stool.

Two parallel-arm lights, one on either side near the back, with old filament bulbs. Softish floor (linoleum, wood) so my tools survive a drop. 34.5" high, for me. Good iron vise, like Don's, somewhere on my right. I think that's about it.

Of all my shop iterations, this was my favorite. I made the bench in 1990 and still have it, though it's serving in my tool room right now. I would prefer it to what I have both in the pretty show shop at work and the basement at home. When STRAD was featuring workshops, they asked for a pic of my bench, and never followed up, which I thought was hilarious. It wasn't made of fancy dovetailed wood, with all the hoo-hahs, all it did was work perfectly. Not good enough for them; no useless glitz. :-) Someone looked at the drawers recently and was scandalized that they were put together with drywall screws and glue. It's simple: I wanted to make violins, not spend half my life making a bench. :-) Thirty years, and the drawers are still as solid as the day they were made.

The 2X2 at calf height is for clamping. When I am working on the outline of a plate, I clamp it to the bottom of my bench with my knee, foot on that rail. A little ankle move tightens and loosens the clamping. Very secure and fast.




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I confess to swiping the idea from jewelers:
What we do seems more similar to what they do than to guys planing and assembling big flat pieces of oak. I didn't see a need to copy any furniture maker's bench ideas. About the time I was setting up my shop I took a watch to get fixed, and when I saw the guy's bench, I immediately saw that a beefier and lower version of the same thing would be perfect.

https://www.riogrande.com/searchresults#t=products&sort=relevancy&layout=card&numberOfResults=36&f:categoryfilter=[Tools %26 Equipment,Benches %26 Accessories,Workbenches]

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Please excuse the trainwreck - at my commercial shop, my work area is visible from the showroom and that helps me keep on top of the mess. Since being displaced to my home basement by Covid19, this is what I'm working with. Most work actually happens at the stamped metal desk bought from an out of business KMart for $50. Lots of storage ready to hand, plenty of real estate including the pull-outs, which I initially thought would be useless but are quite handy. The carving bench is a 2 ¼ maple top from Grizzly, the base of which is made from big box Doug fir, glued, screwed, and bolted. Not pretty, but sturdy, and doubly so when bolted to a wall back at the "real" shop. Veritas tail and front vises, both of which are nice hardware if fussy to install. At least I only had to do it once!



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32 minutes ago, Shelbow said:

You are all lucky that you have actual workshops, I just have a rickety bench in my bedroom filled with crap.

...well, look at the bright side; you have a rickety bench AND you can only move up from there! :)

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Mr Darnton mentioned he wouldn't like the skirt on my bench because it would make it difficult to clamp items to the top.

While he is right in one sense, one must realize that "clampless and viceless" is the entire proposition of this bench.  With bench dogs and the holes in the top and skirt you can do all the same things that you do with a vice or clamps.  Usually it is much faster with bench dogs, and some things are much easier.

Nevertheless, this bench is a commitment to a different way of working... but one that is just as effective.

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