As mentioned, I'm finally finished with my Ph.D. My graduation gift to myself was the very excellent (if you're a woodworking geek) book by Christopher Schwarz, Workbenches: from Design & Theory to Construction & Use
. (Before you read this book, you should read -- for a larger context -- Scott Landis' The Workbench Book
. They aim to do very different things: Landis' book is more of a tour of woodworking workbench types, whereas Schwarz's is about the criteria for a woodworking workbench, and how to get the most out of it.)
Since finishing my Ph.D. (mid-May), my free time hasn't expanded to the extent that I'd hoped: I've been looking after the kids, trying to make up the hours at work that I sacrificed over the last three months, and catching up on around-the-home things I'd neglected. But, I'm still optimistic and ambitious.
One of the tasks at the top of my ''To Do (When I Finish My Diss- ertation)'' list is to build a little 8' x 11' outdoor "transitional" workshop (we're going through city council planning permission -- a long process -- for an eventual three-car garage out back). Once I build the small workshop, I'll be ''inheriting'' my wife's great-grandfather's workbench from her uncle who lives down the road (pictured at left, and below)
Great-Grandpa was a shipwright -- although I believe this was his "at home" bench, so it was probably used for handyman tasks, rather than boatbuilding.
The dimensions are 9.4 ft. long x 23.6'' deep x 35'' high (metric: 2.85m long x 0.6m deep x 0.9m high
) -- which are pretty close to the dimensions recommended in Chris Schwarz's book. He recommends a woodworking bench be at least 5 feet long (unless you only build small stuff); about 24'' deep (yup); and about as high as where your pinky connects to your hand (which for me is 31.5'') -- so, a little high (but, I'll try it out and see how it works).
This shot (see left)
is a little dark: you may have to adjust your screen's brightness setting to see it -- and maybe click on the photo and zoom in a bit. Although it's an imperfect photo, you can get a sense of the construction of the back: a rear apron, plus a stretcher to tie the legs together.
It's not a perfect workbench, so it'll need some upgrading to optimize it for handtool-oriented woodworking. However, because it's a family ''heirloom'', I don't want to be too invasive in my mods: I want to minimize my hackings and slashings.
Based on Schwarz's book, I'll likely:
-build up the space in front of the legs such that the apron, leg fronts, and stretcher are all in the same plane (the irregularity is visible in the photo below)
-add a leg vice (made of the 4" x 4" post with the house numbers from my wife's grandmother's front gate, before it got "upgraded") on the front left leg
-add a crochet (a checkmark-shaped hook on the front left corner, along the front, for jamming boards into for handplaning)
-add a short-ish sliding deadman, plus peg holes in the front apron, and
-take off the weird "covering" layer
In addition, I'll also write a brief summary (name and approx. date of possession) of the workbench on the underside, in permanent marker or crayon. And I'll put these snapshots, plus others, in an envelope under the workbench: a bunch of "how it originally was" shots. For my descendants -- whoever ends up wanting the bench.
Why am I the one to get the bench? The uncle (apprenticed as a carpenter, but worked as a site supervisor until retirement) is probably giving it to me because I'm the only one in the family that's interested in woodworking. And he says he doesn't truly need it: he's just using it for holding car parts from the vintage cars he's restoring -- and he has an additional, un-used workbench under a tarp, behind his house.