One workbench to build them all

I've always wondered how the first tool was made, like say with a vice, how did they clamp a lump of metal down to machine it accurately enough to make a vice? I suppose I should look it up rather than just musing, but I digress.

Work benches, possibly the most important tool in any workshop. Otherwise it does mean using the floor, which can work but won't be a great deal of fun. The last few years in the workshop have seen butt loads of benches. Some super quick "lash ups", through to my current beast benches I'm using all day.

I've always liked making things. Doing DIY at home and fixing the odd appliance or car where I can brings me to what I consider to be my first ever work bench. Ladies and gentlemen, the IKEA Benjamin stool. There I am in the living room of our one bed flat in the sunny south east of London, clearing the rug away, lining up these stools (the chairs to our dinner table), quick gripping lumps of wood down to hack them up with an array of second hand and cheap tools, kneeling on top to stop it from skittering around. Ahhh thems were the days. 

 My very first work bench  

My very first work bench  

On a couple of mortifying occasions, I realised I was over cutting and taking chunks out of the furniture. I decided it was time. A plan was hatched and some rough sketches made for a chunky fold up bench made from off the shelf materials. Off I go to the local branch of a large DIY shop, select all of the accoutrement and gleefully return home to get making. 

 Workbench 1

Workbench 1

 Work bench 1 travel mode

Work bench 1 travel mode

 Workbench 1 action mode  Then came the first workshop, a wee shoe box in complex of artists studios in Woolwich. Here I made a few "lash ups" to make do while I worked things out. They served their purpose but ultimately didn't last long.

Workbench 1 action mode

Then came the first workshop, a wee shoe box in complex of artists studios in Woolwich. Here I made a few "lash ups" to make do while I worked things out. They served their purpose but ultimately didn't last long.

 Shoe box workshop - Lash up benches  

Shoe box workshop - Lash up benches  

Did a few small jobs for friends and family, made a bamboo pushbike and big light up letters for my wedding and cemented my love for making things. This is around the time I moved to the workshop proper mentioned in my last post, 600 sq/ft of ground floor awesomeness. This is where things start getting a little better than the quick and dirty pallet wood benches. The next up was a bench with storage combo and a good heavy joiners bench. I built both of these pretty much side by side in the early days of starting out. 

The joiners bench was in the last post so won't go into that too much. 

 

 Joiners bench from all the best bits I had laying around  

Joiners bench from all the best bits I had laying around  

Then the bench with storage just peeking out in the back ground there. The frames were half lapped together, the boxes were rebated with handles cut in and the tops were a couple of old fire doors. Home made hardwood drawer runners too. 

 Work bench storage combo  

Work bench storage combo  

These benches were with me for a good while in the process of getting established. The next bench made in the workshop wasn't for my own use, it was for workshop neighbour Roger Dawson. The Man The Legend Roger Dawson, a double bass maker or a luthier if you will, has been exquisitely carving basses for millions of years. He asked one day if I would make him a specific bench for carving the fronts and backs of the bass. 

 Job specific  

Job specific  

Made from beech, the frame is tapered to stop any flex when in use and mortise and tenon joints bolted through with M12 barrel nuts, yes, M12. I channelled my old BTEC in General Engineering and cut, faced, chamfered, drilled and tapped four sections of 35mm diameter mild steel bar.  

 The Man, The Legend, Roger Dawson  

The Man, The Legend, Roger Dawson  

In this action shot you can see the top is tapered to accommodate the shape of the carving and a range of threaded inserts were placed from the underside to accept fixtures for the different shapes. 

The next and final bench of this post is my current squeeze. As things progressed in the workshop I found the designs were getting larger in size and scale and the joiners bench became dwarfed. As a quick and dirty, I chucked an 8x4 on it with a 2x4 frame to make it a bit more rigid, which was great in terms of size but a joke for usability. For around a year I planned and schemed 'The Beast' taking a little inspiration from the Paulk bench and the need for having a flexible workshop layout, I designed this absolute beaut. 

 

 Ridiculously photogenic workbench

Ridiculously photogenic workbench

So let me take you through the vital statistics. Birch ply construction, 100mm square legs inset from the top box section with storage boxes underneath. The top has apertures cut for extra storage and tools when working. And my absolute favourite part... the orange string and white band under the lower section. That is a flip down castor system where I can lift each end of the bench, then the wheels lock into place so it can be moved around with relative ease. When you're done, pull the cord and it sits back down. And if I do say so myself, it works proper good. 

When I started writing this I thought it would be a short little "boff there you go, workbench" but scrolling back I realise how much has gone into getting to the current iteration. From the humble beginnings of the IKEA Benjamin stool to the beast bench, each one was made using the last. No doubt more to add with ongoing development but there you go, a wee history of my workbenches. 

Hope this wasn't too boring.