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Thread: Cabinet Makers Bench -Buy or Build???

  1. #1

    Default Cabinet Makers Bench -Buy or Build???

    My project list is continuing to grow and it's beginning to look like the Workbench I would like to build is getting pushed further and further ahead. I must admit I am a little more interested in the projects than building a new bench, but like the idea of getting exactly what I want in a bench too.

    If money in no object any your circumstances were similar would you buy one or build one?

    Would you put your bench on a higher priority or wait?

    If you were to buy where would you purchase?

    Ideas and links would be especially appreciated.

    Edward G.
    You stop learning the instant you start talking...
    And start again when you stop thinking how smart you are.

  2. #2

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    Edward, under the specific circumstances you've described: If I could find the bench I wanted I would buy it without hesitation. But it would have to be pretty carefully thought out to make sure I know what I want, and even more carefully checked out to make sure that's what I'm getting.

    To me the workbench can just as easily be a tool as a project. In this case, moving it from the project list to the tool list makes good sense. Just research it similar to any good quality tool purchase.

    ...ken...

  3. #3
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    Edward.I am in a similiar situation. I drewl when I see some of the benchs built by forum members, in fact any bench with a vise. Time is my problem and if you find a good bench at a fair price I would appreciate hearing about it.
    Brian
    " It is nice to be important but more important to be nice"

  4. #4

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    Edward,

    In part the answer to this question depends on your methods of work. If you do a lot of handwork, especially handplaning, you will want a "better" or more feature rich bench; something with means to hold the work on a flat surface.

    If you do mostly powertool work, then a flat sturdy surface with a good record vice is a great bench.

    In either case, after seeing some of your work I am sure you will not be completely satisfied with a store bought bench. If you want your bench to have a place of pride in your workshop you will want to build your own. This doesn't mean that you worship your bench or don't do any hard work on it, but it is a statement of the quality you put into all your work. A spectrum from completely utilitarian to a work of art is possible.

    I've had the opportunity to check out Lie-Nielsen, Diefenbach, Sjoberg, and Lee-Valley benches. The LN, Dief, and LV benches were functional. In all cases the manufacturers had to take construction short-cuts or make quality compromises to sell an economically viable product. But even then a nice bench is still expensive (>$4000 for the LN).

    The LN bench was OK, had some good features, but lacked the quality construction that I wanted in a bench (eg. dovetailed tail vice), or the type of vices that I wanted (a shoulder vice and a tail vice).

    The Diefenbach benches are OK. Nothing fancy but you're not paying top dollar either. I don't like the type or quality of the face vices they use.

    The Lee-Valley benches are OK. The slabs are OK, the vices are minimally acceptable (except for the Tucker and the twin screw vices which I think are pretty good), the bases are OK, etc.

    Skip any of the light weight Sjoberg benches.

    On the other hand if you build you own bench you can built the bench to your own quality standards, customized to your preferences. That is what I would do, and it is what I did.

    The last factor to consider is the amount of time required to build a bench. I don't know what type of bench you are thinking about, but it took me a year of weekend woodworking to build a tradition "cabinetmakers" bench. Other sytles of benches such as torsion boxes, etc., would probably take less time.

    If you are going to build a bench you have to put the bench on the list of things to do and not let it be continually bumped further and further down the list. In my case I was having a baby on July 9, and I knew that if I didn't get the bench built first, I might not have the time to build a bench for the next 20 years, so I had to let a few other, smaller, projects drop off the list for a while.




  5. #5
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    Edward,

    Here's a URL with some bench information.......Bill
    http://www.geocities.com/plybench/bench.html?200527

  6. #6

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    two benches.

    1) A bootstrap bench. You need a bench to build a bench. No?

    2) Your real "perfect" bench.

    My bootstrap bench took maybe 1/2 a day to build. The top is a sandwich of 1/2" ply and 1/2" particle board. The sheets are cut in half so it's really four sheets sandwiched to form a 2" thick top. A line of holes drilled for LV pups. The base uses 4x4s for legs. Could have used 2x4s sistered together. 2x4" for stretchers . 1/2 laps for joints. Combination of glue and screws to hold it together while the glue set.

    I had the sheet stock cut to size where I bought it. When I got it home glue and some screws made it a solid top. I faced the side of the top with some scrap pine I had. More to prevent any potential damage then any real need.

    The bench isn't pretty but you can park a SUV on top of it. It doesn't move no matter what. You can mount any vice you want on it. When I get around to building a real bench the bootstrap will be fine for rough dirty work. I doubt if you could assemble a store bought bench in less time then my bench took to build.

  7. #7
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    If you want a nice cabinet makers bench it took me 3-4 months both time and completely shut down my small shop to build them. Supposidly Lie Nielsen is selling them. I know Rob Cosman was making and selling them but hold onto your wallet they aren't going to be cheap. No doubt in my mind I'd go see someone with large scale equipement and have one made.

  8. #8
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    I built a bench like Steve in Calgary some years ago after using a sheet of plywood on saw horses for quite a few years. Smartest thing I ever did. If I was starting again, a bench would be one of the first things I would build.

    I found a Tage Freid book in the library that had the classic European style bench as a project and I built one like it. The explanations and drawing made things easier. I used LV vices. I also had got a set of plans from LV but they were not as good as the plans in the Freid book.

    Woodworking is much more enjoyable with a good bench that gives you two hands to work with.

    I built mine from hard maple. It will last a lifetime.

  9. #9
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    J.P.

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    If money was no object I would buy a bench...but I would still want to build one exactly how I wanted it. I plan on building a new bench when I get my shop set up. It won't be anything fancy but it will be flat and sturdy. My present bench is heavey and solid but its not flat and no were near big enough.

    Maybe you could do it in stages. Build the top first, Build it such a way that it's easy to add the fixtures you want at a later date. Then, when you have some time, build the legs and mount them to the top. You could use the bench like that.
    Later build a cabinet to house the drawers and mount it to the bench. Build the drawers when you have time. You could do all of them at once or half at a time. Add whatever fixtures you want over time. You can still get other projects done and end up with the bench you want.
    The trick is to plan it out as a series of small projects and schedual them between other projects and don't change the schedual. That way you only have to dedicate a couple of days at a time to it and before you know it, it's done.
    My 2 cents.
    J.P.

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    Hi,

    I thought myself through the same process a few years ago and decided on making my own bench. I looked at the process as one that I could build a shop piece of furniture, learn a great deal of skills and also have some pride in what the result has given me.

    Scott Landis book on building the work bench was my most important resource. The following link will give you some leads on what I did, it was featured a few years ago in CWM.

    http://www.woodcentral.com/shots/shot625.shtml

    Take care,
    Jim

    My Passion
    www.pensforcanadianpeacekeepers.ca

    SPCHT

  11. Default bench

    I built my own bench, and I'm glad I did.

    I took a somewhat different route. Hendrik Varju of Passion for Wood had so many students asking about his bench that he decided to run some seminars on building one. We built the basic Lee Valley European model, but beefed it up. At my skill level at the time, I was happy to have someone help me through the process. And it was a real learning experience, covering everything from wood selection to finishing. (He's running another course this fall, for anyone who's interested.)

    This is a major project. It takes quite a lot of time to build, it pushes the average home hobby machinery to the limit and you probably don't save much money doing it yourself. On the other hand. you get a lot of satisfaction from building your own, and it is heftier than the store-bought models. I guess in the end it comes down to time...it may be more practical to just buy a bench and focus on the other projects on your list.

    john
    Attached Images Attached Images

  12. #12
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    Hi Ed

    I took the build your own route as well. Mine was orginally based on a Shop Notes plan, but I later added storage based on an American Wood worker plan.

    Orginal bench.



    Added storage.





    The only change I would make to it, is the tail vise, it's based on the Shop Notes plan and it racks abit. I'll probably change it to a LV twin screw vise.

    Although it's a large project, I think you'll get the best options by building your own.

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike in London; 08-02-2006 at 06:15 PM.

  13. #13

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    I would like to thank everyone for their input. I learned something from everyone’s input and was inspired by the pictures of great the looking benches built by Steve, Jim, John and Mike (I may PM some of you for your basic dimensions). I also checked out many of the links provided and I have decided to build my own. I liked the idea suggested that I could start with building the top, then the base, then the cabinets over time and between projects. I have already asked for quotes on materials and will continue with research on the design that will best fit my requirements. I will post my progress.

    Thanks again to everyone.

    Edward G.
    You stop learning the instant you start talking...
    And start again when you stop thinking how smart you are.

  14. #14
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    J.P.

    Default Dumb question...

    Forgive my ignorance but I always thought a tail vice was like the one pictured below.



    Mike. When you say tail vice, I assume you mean the long one on the right end of your bench.

    Would the term "tail vice" refer to any vice at the end of the bench or does it refer to a specific style vice?

    J.P.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by shopless J.P.
    Forgive my ignorance
    Would the term "tail vice" refer to any vice at the end of the bench or does it refer to a specific style vice?

    J.P.
    J.P.-- Where did you get that picture? It looks like it could have come from the Dungeon!!!! LOL. Just kidding ... hope you get a chance to develop a new shop soooooon!!!! I saw the pics from the BBQ at Brians and it looks like you dropped a few lbs. maybe from working toooo hard or eating toooo much PIG!!!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by shopless J.P.
    Forgive my ignorance but I always thought a tail vice was like the one pictured below.



    Mike. When you say tail vice, I assume you mean the long one on the right end of your bench.

    Would the term "tail vice" refer to any vice at the end of the bench or does it refer to a specific style vice?

    J.P.
    Hi J.P.

    I think the example you've shown is a more accurate example of what a tail vise is. I could have just as easily called mine an end vice, either way I think people would generally understand.

    Mike

  17. #17

    Red face

    Boy, am I red in the face. I always thought that a tail vice was one of those seven deadly sins.
    If you don't make mistakes, you don't learn - Sam Maloof

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norm in Sask.
    Boy, am I red in the face. I always thought that a tail vice was one of those seven deadly sins.

    Jeeesh!... And I though I was confused!
    J.P.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike in London
    Hi J.P.

    I think the example you've shown is a more accurate example of what a tail vise is. I could have just as easily called mine an end vice, either way I think people would generally understand.

    Mike
    Agreed. Most would know. I just wanted to make sure I didn't have my terminoligies mixed up. Thanx for the reply.
    Regards
    J.P.

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