|Workbench top made of laminated Saal|
For the past one year I have been trying to make a new top for my workbench and last week I finally made it.
My workbench is an old table with stout Teak legs topped with two laminated four by four feet sheets of ply boards. On one side I had attached two layers of three quarter inch plywood one feet wide by four-foot long in which I had drilled ¾ inch dog holes. On one end a 6-inch bench vice in conjunction with the dog holes took care of most if not all of my clamping needs.
This arrangement had worked well for two or three years. I never found a need for a wider workbench top but at times wished I had a slightly longer top that could comfortably accommodate a four feet long board.
Over the years the plywood benchtop took a lot of beating and eventually began to lose shape; eventually it was clearly not very flat even. Time for a new workbench top.
This time I wanted something longer, say six feet by the same width (12 inches) and two and a half inches thick.
For this I picked up several lengths of Saal and had them roughly milled at the timber shop. None of them unfortunately were absolutely straight and I couldn't for the life of me plain them dead straight.
A couple of weeks ago I watched a Paul Sellers video where he explains it is not necessary to have absolutely straight pieces of wood for a benchtop and how it was possible to clamp together slightly bent pieces into a strong laminated top.
|Saal pieces laminated|
I planed the pieces best I could and clamped them together and that seemed to do the job even though there were slight gaps in places. The resultant 12 inch by 6 feet by 2 ½ inch slab turned out to be heavy, strong and resilient.
The slab was carried to the local timber shop again to be planed and thicknessed; too much work by hand I reckoned. There was some tear out and the slab required a bit of hand planning but it was ready to go.
|Heavy duty Shobha bench vice|
I fixed a 9-inch bench vice purchased over a year ago from Shobha Industries, which weighs over 14 kilos and is one mighty beast. I added two 12-inch long pieces of Padauk to the metal jaws which allows me to safely clamp a six-inch wide board if I wish.
I haven't screwed down the top yet or drilled the dog holes but will as soon as I finish making a table my family doctor has requested.
I am rather happy with the whole thing; it feels nice to work on a solid workbench top. There is no vibration or movement as I hammer, chop, plane and saw. The Saal top together with the vice would weigh over 35 kilos while the rest of the table would weigh at least another 20 kilos if not more. That is a lot of heft and makes for a very stable work area.
I have a three feet by four feet area left on the table for assembly and so on and that is good enough for my purpose. Besides, I can't accommodate anything bigger in the room.
|Not the most elegant of workbenches perhaps but works wonderfully for me|
My workbench is nothing like a traditional one and looks a mish mash. But it works for me, fits the space I have and takes care of most of my clamping needs, especially because I don't make or plan to make large pieces of furniture, doors and things like that. Even when I make larger pieces I find it is easier to make them in parts - modular stuff - and then put them together.
I will perhaps add a leg vice and make a Moxon vice for cutting dovetails. But for now I am one happy woodworker.
27 June 2016