To complete this hat-trick of blog updates for today; over the past few evenings, I’ve finally managed to reposition the front vice on my 2009 workbench! 😀
You can see (from this first photo, below) that it hasn’t moved far, where I’ve had to replace the void left from housing in the rear jaw initially. But, with all the problems I’ve suffered in the past (being a right-hander) of backing in to my pillar drill or any scraps of wood I’ve left stood up in that corner of my workshop; it should make a considerable difference.
In case you haven’t seen them before (or, perhaps I’ve not previously mentioned them on this blog?), there are several reasons why I prefer to have my front vice on the right-hand end of my bench, which is often the standard configuration for a left-handed woodworker…
- I like the keep the left-hand end clear for working on.
- To me, cutting dovetails feels more ‘natural‘ at this end.
- As I prefer working towards the left-hand end, it seems only natural that my end vices should go at that end.
- Leaving the right-hand end clear means I can easily hand-saw the end off any length of timber.
- It doesn’t foul or obstruct the drawers in any way.
(That’s all I can remember, right now.)
There is no right or wrong way of doing this if you’re currently designing your own workbench; you just have to make the decision that will best suit you; the way you like to work and, potentially, the items and products you intend to produce.
If you don’t get it right first time, you can always move it… 😉
As I was going to the effort of filling in the large void on the edge of the bench top, I decided it would also be worthwhile filling in these old recesses for the coach bolts. Otherwise, you never know; I could be trying to assemble a small or rectangular side table and one of the legs keeps dropping in to the hole!
I hope I haven’t made it sounds as though replacing a front vice is easy, because it’s not, when you’re working on your own. A 6ft long x 62mm thick solid beech top weight a lot. Even more so, with a pair of vices fitted on the left hand end. Even if you can wrestle the front vice away (Record 52½E), that’s an awful lot of weight for you [me!] to remove on your own. You see, I decided the best practice would be to stand the bench (on edge) on the workshop floor, and then to simply cut another recess out with the router. It worked but, I’d like to think there must be an easier way for us lone woodworkers….
Fitting the front vice back in to its new position is a tale or torment that I’ll save for another day!!
Another benefit in having this front vice-configuration is that, with one drawer open, I can safely support larger, pre-assembled pieces, like so:
You can’t really see this in the photo but, I’m jigsawing some heart-shapes out of a load of shelving units I’ve been making – more on that, and the trials and tribulations of working with PAR timber, in a future post!
While I was treating my ‘bench with such love and attention, I decided I would also have a go at properly flattening the top. Last summer, I did buy a Stanley no.6 off eBay purely for this purpose but, it needed fettling and it certainly wasn’t ready to plane a great lump of beech, measuring 500mm wide and more than three-times that in length! That was when I first began to appreciate my 4in Makita belt sander. It may have removed all the high spots and any ridges between joints but, as you’ll see below, it didn’t exactly ‘flatten‘ the top…
As you can see; my planing action (working diagonally across the grain, first) is only removing timber at its highest point; the outer edges; meaning that, for the last twelve months, the top has indeed been concave. To tell you the truth, I’ve managed like this just fine. Issues like this don’t tend to bother me. I reckon the consequences would’ve been more severe had the top been convex, and tools were rolling off both front and back edges of the top…! I got it “as near as dammit“, as they say, and then scuffed the surface up again with my belt sander, working across the grain. The idea, here, is that it’ll create a better key for holding timber. Originally, I sanded to 120g, following the grain direction, before applying four coats of Danish oil – that made for a very slick surface. Now, after its first ‘new’ coat of oil, my ‘bench top can at least hold a rubber sanding mat in place.
I must thank Richard Maguire for this tip. He gave me the idea when he once informed me of how, many years ago, the ‘track marks‘ created by the action of planing across the grain would not be planed out, for the very same reason.
…Also, have you ever tried planing a 6ft length of beech, where the grain occasionally changes direction?! No? Well, I don’t recommend it!! 😉
With a bit of tearout on the rear edge as a result of all the cross-grain planing, I decided to run a chamfer around the edges of the tool well, which would also enable me to dig my fingers in and remove each of the tool well boxes, whenever necessary.
I’ve deliberately left this corner “un-finished“, where the two chamfers meet, so that I can track the movement (expansion and contraction) of the top across its width, over time […Yep – sad or what! :-)].
And finally, for today; here is the benchtop again, all cleaned up. It doesn’t quite look “as good as new” but, I like it that way. It’s certainly much better than what it was before, with all spills I frequently make on it.
Very soon, I intend to re-visit my Summer 2009 workbench build, for those who may not have seen it on my currently-inactive former blog at UKworkshop. There’s only one serious modification I’d still like to make and that’s to add some kind of adjustable ‘back fence‘, which can easily be raised or lowered to prevent chisels and tools from rolling off the back of the ‘bench. Even if it’s made in three shorter segments. I don’t have any serious thoughts of my own at this point so, feel free to add a comment, if you think you might be able to help. 🙂
Thanks for reading.