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Dream Workbench

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Dream Workbench

A modern bench that features storage, stability and mobility

By Dave Munkittrick


Tired of working on a sheet of plywood thrown over a pair of sawhorses? Had it with rolling benches that wiggle and wobble? Hate running around your shop whenever you need a tool? Boy, do we have the bench for you.

Our dream bench starts with traditional workbench features like a thick top, a sturdy base, bench dogs and a pair of vises. Then we added tons of storage, an extra-wide top, and modern, cast-iron vises. Last but not least, we devised a simple method to make the bench mobile and still provide a rock-solid work platform.


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Our bench is built to withstand generations of heavy use. Simple, stout construction absorbs vibration and can handle any woodworking procedure from chopping deep pocket mortises to routing an edge on a round tabletop.

The thick, butcher-block-style top is truly a joy to work on. We'll show you how to surface this huge top without going insane trying to level 24 separate strips of glued-up hardwood. Our top doesn't waste wood—even the offcuts are used.


Tons of easy-access storage:
Full extension drawers and shelves keep your equipment organized and right at hand. There's room for hand tools, power tools and all of their accessories. Plus no bending down and fishing through dark cabinet interiors for the tool you need.



Extra-wide, heavy-duty top:
This solid maple top can take a real beating. Plus it's wide enough to double as an assembly table. If you only have room for one bench in your shop, this is it.



You name it, this bench can clamp it down:
A traditional bench dog system secures your work for machining and sanding. The modern cast-iron vises are strong yet easier to install than traditional vises. The generous overhanging top allows you to clamp anything from round tabletops to benchtop machines anywhere along the edge.



It's rock-solid but mobile:
Under the base cabinet are six heavy-duty casters that make the bench easy to move. When you're ready to use it, lift the edge of the bench with a pry bar and slip four 5/8-in.-thick, L-shaped support blocks underneath. This gives you a rock-solid feel and unlike locking casters, there's no wobble or slippage.



Start the base cabinet by assembling three identical boxes with butt joints and screws. Make sure all the parts are square and the joints are flush. Use a flat area, like the top of your tablesaw, to help keep things in line.



Screw the three boxes together to create the cabinet base. Use clamps to hold the boxes flush and even.



Glue and clamp face frames to the cabinet. Start with the side frames. Then add the front face frame so it overhangs the bottom of the cabinet to form a lip for the 2x4 base you'll build later.



Trim the face frame flush to the cabinet sides. Use a stop block at the top of the cabinet openings to prevent the router from cutting into the upper rail.



Attach the drawer slides to the cabinet. A simple T-square jig positions the slide for quick installation. Stop blocks hold the slides 1/2 in. back from the front edge for the half-overlay doors. The doubled-up box sides automatically flush up with the 1-1/2-in.-wide face frame so there's no need to add blocks for the drawer slides.



Cut pieces for the benchtop, making them 2-in. longer than the finished top. Don't toss the offcuts into the firewood pile. We'll build them into the top so nothing goes to waste.



Cut dadoes for the bench dog holes in one of your benchtop pieces. Use a dado blade and a miter gauge with a long auxiliary fence to support the stock. The slots are marked on the top of the piece. It's okay to eyeball each cut. Exact spacing of the holes is not critical.



Glue together the offcuts end to end. Clamp them between two full-length pieces to keep them straight. This yields a few more strips for the top and uses up your offcuts. Waxed paper around the joint keeps the segmented strip from sticking to the full-length pieces. We used the back of the cabinet for a flat glue-up table.



Glue eight strips together to form one 12-in. section of the top. Cauls keep the top pieces in alignment. The bench dog piece is placed second from the edge with the dadoes facing toward the front edge.

 



Plane each 12-in. section flat. Take light cuts and make sure your planer knives are sharp, to minimize tear-out. Outfeed support is essential when planing heavy stock like this.



Clamp the 12-in. sections together one at a time. You only have one joint to worry about so make it flush. Extra effort here will pay off in the end. You'll only have to lightly sand for a flat, smooth top.



Mount the face vise, then glue two strips on either side. This will  make the front edge of the top flush with the wooden cheek of the vise.



Screw the cabinet onto the base and nail on the base molding. If your bench is going to be mobile, use glue as well as nails to prevent the molding from being inadvertently pried off when the bench is lifted.


Place the benchtop on the cabinet. This top is heavy, so get a friend to help with the lifting. Check for an even overhang on all four edges. Then secure with lag bolts.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker January 2004, Issue #105.

January 2004, Issue #105

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Purchase the complete version of this woodworking project story from AWBookstore.com.