This is the abridged version of my Minimebo work bench posts (see previous posts), an overview collected in one place.
I have a smallish (9′ x 8′) area to work in and I wanted a hand tool work bench. I came up with this 5′ x 14 1/2″ 105 pound bench made out of reclaimed Fir 4x4s (milled to 3″x3″) construction lumber. The lumber is pretty nasty stuff but it was free. The monster knots on the top surface were cut out [to about 1″ deep] and patched before lamination. There is also some cedar and spruce in there and a little maple and oak. Finish is varnish over gallons of BLO (since work is clamped, slickness hasn’t been an issue). Total cost was under $50.
Height is 33 1/2″, about 1/2″ over palm height (I’m 5′ 6″). The height is good for face planeing and sawing but not high enough for carving so I use a stool (which is more comfortable anyway).
The bench has two vises, a leg vise and a wagon vise. Both were built with stuff I got at the scrap yard plus machined bits.
The leg vise cost $7 (Acme screw and nut, my attempts at making a wooden screw were a dismal failure). I copied the Benchcrafted Glide as much as I was [cheaply] able. The chop is blue spruce (I think) that fell down in my yard and is riddled with [epoxy filled] knots.
The wagon vise is a rather complicated bit of work, again copied from Benchcrafted. I found a 1 1/8″ stainless steel acme screw and bronze nut for $20 and machined an aluminum carrier for it. Travel is 7″. The dog strip was made from pieces of oak, rather than routed out of one board. The bench is fully populated with 13 square dogs. I used bullet catches in the back of the dogs as keepers. The screw has a right hand thread so the action is reversed (turn counter clockwise to tighten) but doesn’t bother me (of course, after I built it, I found a left hand threaded stainless screw, oh well). It works, but was a pain to get dialed, my design isn’t very good.
I’m not the most coordinated of people and the bench is in a cramped space so I didn’t want any sharp edges to run into. Here is one end treatment:
Since the legs are flush with the top, I don’t need a board jack, I just clamp to a leg or the top.
People have some suggestions or reservations about the bench so I’ll try to address them here.
- No stretchers, it is going to rack or the legs break off under heavy planeing!
I was originally going to have stretcher(s) (such as a 2×4 between the feet) for fear of racking but when I dry fit it and used it, it didn’t rack much at all. Now that it is glued and pegged, it seems very solid (as a 105# bench can be). The tennons are something like 2 1/2″ square (w x h). If I bolted it to the floor and mounted my machinist vise to it, I’d start to worry (my metal working bench takes racking abuse that makes planeing seem pretty tame). Also, since this is a pretty light bench, if you ram a plane into a piece of wood, the bench slides. Time will tell, dining room tables get away with spindly legs and people banging into them, maybe I’ll get lucky also.
- You have a small space, why not add cabinets between the legs?
I went back and forth and back and forth … on cabinets but I also sit at it (carving and such) so I want the knee room. TIlls for saws and planes at the legs are being considered. I also want to hang my bench hooks somewhere. And, as you can sorta see in the photo, I actually have quite a bit of storage space on two walls.
- The hand wheel on the wagon vise protrudes above the surface of the bench.
Uh, well, I built the vise before I found the handle. Most of the time it doesn’t get in the way but that #7s tail can smack it, which is annoying.
- I’m surprised no one mentioned this: The top will expand and contract (ie get wider) but the feet won’t. This means the top of the legs move back and forth but the bottoms don’t. Won’t that break the joinery? I checked The Shrinkulator and it indicated the Doug Fir top isn’t going to move much at all (the bench is in a indoor conditioned space and the top is only one foot between tennons) so I think I have that covered.
I read this in Christopher Schwarz’s Popular Woodworking blog:
… The bench has no stretchers. This might seem radical, but it’s not. Early benches – from Roman times up until Roubo – frequently show up in paintings without stretchers between the legs (that’s why I’m calling it the Proto-Roubo). The bench relies on the rigid connection between the top and legs.
“I’ve never encountered any racking (I really mean this). When I built the bench, my hunch was that stretchers were not needed. This is because a single set of robust joints is often sufficient. For instance, many European-style benches have wide stretchers and no substantial joinery between the base and the top. Conversely, my bench has very robust joints between the base and top.”