Mon 11 Jan 2010
Woodworking is a gift that keeps on giving. Or taking, depending upon your perspective.
As a number of hand tool bloggers have suggested, I have considered building a saw bench for a while now. Unfortunately, I have no real shop space, so I had to work out some alternate solution. I designed a knock-down bench made entirely of 2×6 construction lumber in SketchUp. I then headed to Home Depot to snag a few boards. You can guess what happened next…
All of the 2x stock was green. That is, except for the type that they claimed as being dried, and it felt literally wet to the touch. So I spent about an hour wandering the massive aisles doing a mental redesign, trying to make use of whatever they had. I used my trusty tape measure (and my trusty iPhone calculator) to work out what I could get away with—using what they had… and what I could get away with in my car.
Enter the knock-down saw bench:
And the belly of the conquered beast:
In the end, I had a 3/4 poplar top, roughly laminated 3/4 pine legs (1.5 total thickness) and 1.5 x 1.5 doug fir stripping as supports. Hey, you work with what you have… And as you can see from the photo above, this is what I have. No table saw, no band saw, no expensive jigs for resawing and tenoning. Just a Workmate and some tools, and a lot of stuff to make.
Sounds like a weekend!
Of course, along the way I made mistakes because I was rushing, as I was still pretending that this would be quick and painless. That’ll teach me. After some refactoring, I ended up with something quite functional and stable, and I’m already getting better sawing results. That can’t be sneezed at.
The legs have a shallow lap for a bit of registration against the support beams. In this arrangement, the shoulder helps to keep the legs from swinging in, while the mount point at the cheek, and the end of the board, keep it from swinging out. The hole through the cheek indicates where the carriage bolt is sunk into the outside of the leg.
The carriage bolt, entering from the outside of the leg, is tightened down by a 3-point knob on a washer. This is amazingly stable. I didn’t bother to cut mortises for the square bases of the carriage bolts, and simply tightened the knob until the soft pine compressed under pressure—so the mortise cut itself. I also didn’t need to worry about stretchers, but I don’t work with massive boards and am not particularly hefty.
A side-effect of the lap is that there is enough depth to allow for the legs to be joined together, back-to-back, for stowing away.
Once the entire thing was assembled and adjusted, I attacked something that I would never have attempted before—ripping a 1.5″ x 1.5″ strip in half. A clamp through the central slot assured stability while I sawed away at this strip of douglas-fir.
Further tests confirmed that I can actually cut a straight line, I have just been ill-equipped. Yes, this is just a saw bench, but this is the only way I could manage to have one in my woodworking life for now.
Hey, it works.
The knock-down saw bench is currently living under the footed sink/counter cabinet in my bathroom. The intention was to store it under the bed with the Workmate, the two of which would make strange bedfellows in more ways than one. Sometimes things actually work out for the better.
I’m inspired to consider whether this can be extended—maybe towards proper workbench status. Depending upon height, further stability tweaks, and a vise of some kind, I think it’s possible. The next stop for me, however, is a real tool cabinet. I might post a “shop tour” to make the point.
As will become a tradition for me, here’s a post-construction carnage shot: