Our August 2015 Workbench of the Month comes to us from Ron G. from Wellington, Florida. Ron has built a great Moravian Workbench with a leg vise that is patterned off of our good friend Will Myers’ Moravian classic and we think you’ll agree that the workbench turned out fantastic.
It is the first workbench I have built and one of the larger projects I have completed. It is built completely from southern yellow pine (except the tusk tenons which are scrap oak). The only local source I could find was a large lumber yard that would not let me pick through the pile, so I had to take what I got. There were inconvenient knots and edge runout. I was able to work around or sandwich most of the defects. Given the space available, I settled on a size of about five feet long and two feet deep. I bought 2 x 10 10’s. I planed then down to a uniform thickness, removing most of the rounding of the corners in the process. For the top, I ripped them to 3 1/2″ inches and glued up the two top sections which I then used my thickness planer to make a uniform thickness. The legs were also glued up from the 3 1/2″ pieces. Other parts were ripped and cut to size.
The bench is based on Will Myers’ Moravian Workbench:
- I chose to use a split top with no tool tray… I wanted the additional work surface and knew a tray would just collect junk. Splitting the top with a gap accomplished three things: it made the top sections light enough to be movable by one person; it gave me a place to put chisels where they wouldn’t roll to the floor; and it meant I did not have to make the facing sides perfectly mated.
- I rabbetted the inside edge of the long stretchers to allow me add a (removable) shelf.
- My end vise is an old Wilton that was salvaged from the workshop of a friend’s dead father.
- The front vice is a slanted leg vice. I did not want to obstruct the shelf with the additional structure needed to support a vertical vice. I did have to widen the left, front leg to make sure there was enough support for the screw. The screw hardware is yours (Lake Erie Toolworks). For the parallel guide, I tried something different. I got a 1 1/8″ oak dowel and drilled a larger hole through the leg. I then flush mounted a deck mount for steel pipe that was slightly larger than the dowel. I am hoping that the thread will catch on the dowel and keep things parallel. Time will tell (though I expect I’ll need to fiddle with it).
- I got a pair of the Gramercy holdfasts and am very happy with them.
- The base is finished in milk paint – I was concerned that it would rub off the leg onto work, but I emailed Megan Fitzpatrick to ask about her experience with her painted bench and she told me not to worry.
- The top and vise chops are finished with three or four coats of a homemade mixture of boiled linseed oil, varnish, and mineral spirits (1:1:1).
- Most bench builds I’ve seen seem to take place on an already constructed bench. This was not an option for me. I used a pair of rickety saw horses, at Black and Decker Workmate, and the floor of the garage (the only thing I had that was sturdy enough on which to chop mortises). Working on the garage floor was interesting – it reminded me of those old prints of Japanese woodworkers. On the other hand, the wood chips and other debris left marks in all the wood. Oh, well.
- My hand cut partial thickness dovetails look like crap. This was true of most of my joints – no matter how carefully I laid them out and cut them, they looked sloppy when glued up. More importantly, however, they were solid.
- I screwed up when making the saddle joints for the short stretchers across the top of the legs. I chose to make the long dimension parallel with the face of the bench to try to increase stability. Unfortunately, this made the glue joints in the legs parallel with the short stretchers. When I inserted the short stretcher to glue it, despite having test fitted the joint, it split the leg’s glue joint.
- I used small jig (sort of visible on top of the sheet of paper on the shelf) to keep my bench dog holes lined up. The drill bit was a 3/4″ Irwin Speedbor. It has a lead screw and three flutes. It’s incredibly aggressive (almost scarily so) and just tore threw the benchtop.
I’m really happy with the finished bench. It is solid and heavy enough to not move when in use. It holds work well. The fit and finish could (should?) be better, but it’s incredibly functional – and that’s what really matters.