A sturdy bench featuring MDF tool tray inserts.
SHOP OWNER: Royce Kessler
LOCATION: Colorado Springs, CO
This is the third rendition of this workbench for me (a local architect has drawn and has plans available dimensioned from my redesign). I used hickory because it is hard, heavy, available, and cheep. I use a lot of hickory around here for that reason. Iíve even used it for pin blocks on hammered dulcimers. It can be a challenge to work with but it holds up well.
The bench top is 1x6 hickory ripped to 3" and glued up around a 12-inch wide tool tray, which is 4" in from the front edge. The tool tray has 12" wide MDF inserts, which have a variety of uses. I chose this location because I want them close and handy. End blocks, glued in the same as the bench top, serve to terminate the tool tray in order to mount a vise on each end.
The tool tray has a rebate on each long edge that holds the MDF inserts. I configured the MDF inserts in convenient ways to my work habits. Cleats attached to the underside of several act as bench hooks when flipped. Other items attach to other MDF inserts as needed. One of the inserts is pegboard, fills the full length of the tray, and used as a downdraft-sanding surface. Sandpaper attached to another is for sanding small pieces.
I leveled the top and underside using a jack and a fore plane. Both sides took about eight hours to complete. The bottom of the tool tray is 1/2" Baltic birch ply. The round dog holes are 3/4" diameter, spaced six inches apart. Next time I will space them 4" on center.
The base is also of the same 1x6 material; two or three layers glued up as needed and assembled using tusk tenons. On the front side there is a planing beam. The idea came from a past issue of Fine Woodworking. I mounted black pipe at each end of the bench with the beam between. The vertical pieces of black pipe include the bottom half of a Pony pipe clamp, which allows quick adjustment for height. It works great as a support for long pieces.
The finish on the hickory is tung oil, diluted 1:1 with mineral spirits and applied over the course of three days. On day one, I apply three coats. On day two, I apply one coat sanded in with 600 wet/dry sandpaper, and wax on day three. The MDF inserts get a milk paint finish. I find the milk paint to be very durable and it stands up to workbench life very well. For the final step, the entire bench receives a coat of Johnson's paste wax.
Total time on the construction was about 78 hours and cost $365 in materials, including the twin-screw tail vise and a German bench screw for the edge vise.. . . Royce Kessler
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