I have 3 weeks off school for xmas, so between all the sitting on the couch and eating 8-10 meals a day I've been rebuilding the top of my workbench. I built my bench while I was working at a timberframing shop in Invermere BC in 2004. It originally had a tailvise that I purchased from Atlas Machine in Toronto (if you have 'The Workbench Book" it's the tailvise that Michael Fortune designed for his bench) but no front vise because I never made my mind up about what to use. Unfortunately the benchtop warped very badly when I brought it back here to Alberta and despite my repeated attempts to flatten it I eventually admitted defeat. The warpage caused the tailvise to become inoperable and I had planed the top down so much I had almost reached the 'shoulder' of the dog holes on one corner.
After doing some research before starting my new benchtop I decided to forgo the tailvise and instead incorporate a wagon vise. The first wagon vise I saw was the one used on the Roubo bench on Khalaf Oud Luthiery's blog: www.oudluthier.blogspot.com (which is where the image below is from).
I have since seen a couple other versions, none as pretty as the one shown above however. The thing I like about the wagon vise is how rigid it is. When I was at the IP it seemed like I was constantly having to tweak my tailvise to get it flat to the benchtop, which isn't a concern with a wagon vise. The obvious disadvantage is the lack of ability to clamp pieces on-edge perpendicular to the front apron.
I've mentioned in recent posts how much maple costs in these parts, so in order to reduce costs I only made the top 1-1/2" thick, which is a bit scant. Realistically though, I don't forsee myself working on huge heavy pieces where a bench's rigidity may be called to question, and if I do see some deflection in the top I can always stiffen it up somehow.
After using a few different benches there were definitely a few things I wanted to incorporate into this bench, like lots of dog holes. It's frustrating when dog holes are spaced 3-4 inches apart because sometimes the piece you're planing ends up being 'between holes' and you have to either open your vise up super far or add a piece of scrap between your work and the dog. I also added a row of round dog holes because there's so many good workholding gizmos out there designed for them. Cutting all the dog holes was by far the single most labor intensive step, but I prefer using square dogs for planing.
Man, you sure need lots of clamps to build a benchtop. Even though I don't really like them I bought 5 pipe clamps just for this glue up. I clamped aluminum extrusions on either end to help keep the whole assembly flat - it worked well.
Next step - build the vise.
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