Shaker Workbench


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Has anyone here built one? I am close to finalizing mine, and wanted to see who has built them. And what you would change on it before it's too late for mine :) 

 

I already have my vise hardware, but that's all so far. I want to start the build next weekend. I will likely follow the design by Bench Crafted to a certain degree. However, I will be making some changes to the material and possibly the drawer/door arrangement.

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Well, regardless of whether this bench is made out of ply, walnut, padauk, maple, ebony or gingerbread, I wanna see the damn progress build on this thing! 

You guys must pay a lot of shipping charges sending that no 7 back and forth to each other.

I do agree with Tony. I am that much of a monster that I would edge glue EWP or similar and treat it like ply and forget any movement issues.   Mel, I'm so looking forward to this build. If I could

My hesitation to follow the BC plans completely is they use plywood for the base. I don't want to get into another plywood debate, but I feel since I don't use plywood in my builds, I shouldn't use it for my bench. This thought has progressed to the point of rethinking what a Shaker bench means to me.

 

On one hand, a nicely painted bench using cabinet construction would yield me the proper look and results. And I would be happy with that. On another point, I would like to use contrasting hardwoods. I am thinking of walnut and padauk for the base, with maple for the top. Ebony knobs and handles, to cap it off.

 

This is one idea, I have several more. 

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They use plywood for the base?  Or you mean for the cabinets?

 

The BC Shaker bench is only a set of plans...you don't have to rethink how you feel about Shaker design in general because one variation on one particular bench uses a particular material you don't like.  You can easily swap the ply for hardwood as long as you allow for the movement issues.

 

As an aside...you know my position on "quality" by now...I would have no hesitation using top-shelf hardwood ply for the cabinets on that bench.  Nothing wrong with it at all.  In fact, ply would be the best choice for the application, if you're looking at it through the lens of practicality.  And I'm sure that's why Jameel used it.

 

The maple top with ebony pulls sounds elegant as all get-out.  Not sure how well walnut and padauk would go together (they neither contrast nor complement, IMO) and I think all those different species would confuse the eye...IMO.  But that's all just a matter of taste.  How about maple cabinets, cherry base and slab, ebony pulls?  Ooooh, that makes me all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

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I asked Jameel about the ply. He said it was so they could make it without consideration to wood movement.

I saw a bar made with walnut and padauk and it was beautiful.

I do like the idea of maple cherry and ebony! Nice :)

Here's a pic. I don't know where I got it from it I would give proper reference to it.

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I'll admit, that is beautiful.  That padauk won't stay that color forever, though.  It's gonna turn a muddy purplish-brown.  Not sure how it'll look against the walnut in ten years.  Sure is purty now, though.

 

I wish he would have used a different piece of wood for the bar top...that one doesn't work for me.  Incongruent to the rest of the piece.

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Im not a fan of the walnut and paduak, gets a little silly looking when trying to add an assortment of wood tones together. Stick with the primary woods, and add subtle accents tastefully. As for the ply topic again, look around at some pieces made from ply and when done correctly they can be much more beautiful than anothers attempt at "fine" solid wood furniture. It is all in the hands of the maker. With a full sheet you can become very creative with grain continuity. I would personally take full advantage of this aspect, as well as many others.

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Freddie, it's not about questioning ply as a building material. I'll admit, it's probably the best choice for this build. Only that I don't use it for anything I make. This may be the first thing I make out of it, I don't know yet.

This thread is less about ply and more about design choices.

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I guess my first question would be what do you consider a shaker workbench?

When I think of a Shaker workbench, I immediately think of the Hancock bench. Ya know, the big blue one.

Second I think about the Bench Crafted style. This type is also seen elsewhere, but for continuity sake I'll call it the BC version.

The main difference between the two are the first has definite legs and stretchers that support the top. The BC bench is basically a kitchen cabinet with a top on it.

I don't know which I prefer. I think the BC version would be easier to build. That has a certain appeal.

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I think you could substitute white pine for the plywood without much trouble. What do you guys think?

 

I do agree with Tony. I am that much of a monster that I would edge glue EWP or similar and treat it like ply and forget any movement issues.

 

Mel, I'm so looking forward to this build. If I could just mention one thing I love about your personal projects you have posted so far is they are clean and elegant. The tool cabinets are one colour and the contrast of pine, the reindeer are just sweet as, the tables are clean and sharp as a tack. Sometimes it can be better to do less, by less I mean less wood species. It will look good whichever way you go but with all thoses species in one utility piece it might get a bit harsh on the eyes (IMO).

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Thank you Graham!

I really appreciate the compliment and the suggestion to keep it simple.

Funny you mention the tables... While thinking of this thread I was walking passed the maple table I made and got an idea of making it out of the same woods. Hard maple frame, with curly drawer fronts. I love the contrast of those two woods. Subtle, and I think it's classy.

I like the idea of that. Perhaps with ebony knobs, and a curly deadman.

Or I'll paint the darn thing :)

I'll end up making twenty of these. BC is gonna love me! Lol

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I'll end up making twenty of these.

 

Build the first one and we'll see if you still think that. :D

 

Finishing one of these massive benches is like finishing the Sri Chinmoy.  It feels really good to be done when you're done, and I can promise your piss and vinegar for benches will be all dried up.

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When I think of a Shaker workbench, I immediately think of the Hancock bench. Ya know, the big blue one.

Second I think about the Bench Crafted style. This type is also seen elsewhere, but for continuity sake I'll call it the BC version.

The main difference between the two are the first has definite legs and stretchers that support the top. The BC bench is basically a kitchen cabinet with a top on it.

In my opinion this design has a significant flaw, in that you can't really use holdfasts. I'm pretty sure Schwarz mentioned this in one of his books. You can work around this, but that means you must remove at least the top row of drawers.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_laeoE81fOuI/TU2u6Vwhj8I/AAAAAAAACSM/1WCTAxZXddw/s1600/More%2BHancock_1.jpg

in my opinion a bench needs the following things.

1. a leg vise with a sliding dead man (for working on edges).

2. a wagon/tail vice and and an inline set of dog holes (for working on faces).

3. a shoulder vice (for working on ends)

4. hold fast holes (for all the random clamping needs).

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I like the look and utility of the Shaker bench.  The only thing I have to add to this discussion is that I feel you're spending too much time focusing on the look of the bench and not the utility of it.  Graham's right.  Simplify the number of species, go with something that will make a good, solid top and firm, functional base.  Remember that you're going to beat on it, spill on it, nick it with saws and planes and otherwise abuse it.  After considering that for awhile I think you'll realize the agonizing over ebony pulls and curly aprons (or whatever it was you were going curly on) is just silly.

 

Build the pretty stuff for your customers.  Don't waste time, effort or money on your bench.

 

My $.02 and not expected that you should accept any of it.

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I believe Ron Brese also used plywood in his Shaker Bench and he makes $2500 hand planes. I like the idea of using a nice baltic or russian birch ply with 5/4 or 6/4 poplar for the face frame. You could also use lapped pine or poplar boards for the back. The essence of Shaker furniture is "utility and fuction" with minimalist design. Once you start adding contrasting hardwoods like paduk,walnut, and maple along with ebony pulls this essence starts to go away. This is definitely a instance where less is more! Save the paduk and walnut for your furniture projects. I really liked your original idea of going off the BC plans and painting it blue. If I could have anyones bench in my shop it would be a toss up between Jameel and Ron Brese. Think about it!

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"Hard maple frame, with curly drawer fronts". That'll do it.

 

On holdfasts I don't see why you couldn't use them. As long as your holdfast length does not foul the drawer and you dont have too many of them (otherwise the drawers will fill with crap). I'm thinking the veritas type would be nicer on a bench like this, less brutal than the hammer down type. Besides, with a wagon vice and dogs, chances are you wont need holdfasts so much. (All guess work, never used one of these benches before)

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Byrdie is right that a bench will get beat on and beat up and function is all that really matters, and James makes a great point about Shaker design being minimalist, and using a bunch of species would create an effect far too loud to be truly Shaker.  You seem to be a bit hung up on tradition, Mel, so you may want to take that into consideration.

 

But in the end, who cares?  It's your bench, and if you're gonna be happy setting your coffee cup on a walnut, padauk, maple and ebony "Shaker" bench every morning, then those are the woods you should use.  I used walnut accents on mine and curly maple for the front laminate...for no other reason than I think it looks tits.  Marc built his entirely out of one species...I give the man props for not even using a contrasting wood on the end cap to pop those condor tails...that's a really hard temptation to resist...I couldn't do it.  But his bench is tits, too.  They're big and awesome so they're all tits to me.

 

These guys are giving you advice I have to agree with, though...simpler is almost always better when it comes to design.  And if you wanna call yourself a Shaker, it's a requirement.

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All fair points. I was thinking aloud with those ideas. I do like coffee!

Perhaps I'll just make the darn thing out of ply, and paint it blue. Then it's done and I'll spend more time to make nice stuff for my house.

I like the idea of all maple and flame maple accents drawer fronts. I think it would look awesome.

Holdfasts, I don't know. I know there are short ones, and the veritas ones are more appealing anyway. I have never used them any holdfasts before, so I don't know...

I can't think of anything I wouldn't be able to clamp with this bench. I get by now with a crappy 2x4 framed mdf topped junk bench with the front vise in the wrong spot and no tail vise, and it isn't even flat! :) The only thing I have going for me now is I like the capacity of the twin screw I have now.

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Perhaps I'll just make the darn thing out of ply, and paint it blue.

 

 

Whoa, whoa, wait a minute!  I said it's your bench and you should build whatever makes you happy, but you do NOT have permission to do that.  There's a line, Mel...don't cross it.  I'll put in a request that you be banned from the forum. :D

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