Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Bench

In the old shop a suggestion from my son gave me an idea that turned into the making of the best feature of the shop. Fasteners, gages, saws, files, chisels, sanders, grinders and a thousand other minutia that filled random places and boxes in the two barns, three sheds, and house that I called home. I created a massive construct of drawers to hold all the paraphernalia that I had accumulated. Thirty eight feet in length, it covered most of one side wall and all of one end wall. I used it to hold the South Bend Model C nine inch metal lathe with accompanying tooling, the Delta Wood lathe, two grinders, two drill presses, a microwave, and a multitude of little cabinets with drawers. It was a marvelous assemblage.

When I left my old shop behind I had plans for building a new and better one. To make that a reality I need a bench. I need to set up the tools that I have and the old benches in the basement and the garage were built for a family of giants. I’m six foot one and I can’t touch the wall behind the bench without a stepstool. It’s 38” tall and that would put the controls of the lathe at 46” off the floor. Just about chest high and totally unacceptable.

The new house came with a handicapped access ramp that filled half of the two car garage. It was a perfect source of wood for benches. Perhaps not the maple topped battleships that professional and wannabe professional woodworkers see as the ultimate expression of benchness. This bench is a step on the path to workshop.

I started much the same as the first bench by making a sketch of what it would look like. I measured the space it would fit in and decided it needed to be made in sections. The first bench was built in two sections. Trying to position a bench twenty feet long that had been built upside down was an enlightening experience. This bench will be four foot sections of base with a top that links them together into the twelve foot of bench that will fit in the basement shop.

The Tools

I had an idea that rather than trying to work in the garage shop and end up hauling the sections down to the basement I would build the bench sections in the basement. To accomplish this I thought I could use hand tools instead of power tools that the shop is not set up for. On the shop wall were ten or more hand saws in various states of workable. On the bench was mounted a Stanley 358 Miter box. With high expectations I set out to cut the pieces of the first prototype section. Last weekend I spent 6 hrs laying out the cuts and then another 2 hrs cutting the first frame section. I realized that the saws were too dull to cut straight.

Last night I got out the scrapers, sandpaper, saw vice, and files. I cleaned up the 5 point Disston Thumbhole Rip Saw. With an hour  worth of cleanup and sharpening the rip cuts were straight and smooth.

Today I cleaned and sharpened the Disston 12 point 28” back saw for the Miter Box. The cuts are greatly improved. I don’t have to clamp the boards in place anymore. The saw just slices through.

Next weekend I'll start assembling the frame sections.

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