stevenbunn Mon, 04/04/2016 - 20:00

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Install the Fixed Jaw


Glue and screw the fixed jaw to the front of the work bench. Cut the dovetail half pins in the left end of the fixed jaw and test the fit with the dovetail tail on the left end cap before final assembly. Use temporary supports to hold the weight of the jaw while clamping the fixed jaw to the bench top.
stevenbunn Mon, 04/04/2016 - 19:46

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Assembling the Fixed Jaw


Create the fixed jaw by gluing notched fill blocks between two rails. Use screws instead of clamps to streamline the process. The spaces between the blocks become dog holes for traditional rectangular bench dogs. Remove the screws before gluing on the front rail.
stevenbunn Mon, 04/04/2016 - 06:49

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Thread the Bench Screw


Use a threadbox to thread the shaft of the wooden screw all the way to the collar. These threads match the threaded hole in the end cap.
Looking for a threadbox? Tap and die sets are available through Wood Craft. My threadbox and tap cut $49.95. Wood Craft offers these in several different diameters.
stevenbunn Sun, 04/03/2016 - 11:38

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Turn a Wooden Bench Screw


Turn the body of the bench screw on the lathe. Finish by cutting a groove for the garter in the collar. The garter locks the bench screw and vise together so that the vise and bench screw move together as one unit.
A quick note: Visitors will see that the garter groove is being cut in a larger diameter section of the screw's shaft, abutting the screw handle. I have built and installed four tail-vises on different benches. I found that cutting the garter groove directly into the 1-1/2 inch dia. screw shaft weakened the bench screw at this point. I have accidentally twisted the head of a bench screw right off when tightening the vise. A real bummer. As the shaft of the screw has to pass through the rear jaw of the tail-vise before being threaded into the nut cut in the end cap, it seemed reasonable to increase the diameter of the hole cut into the rear jaw and increase the diameter of the screw where the garter groove is cut. For my own convenience I call this a 'collar'.
stevenbunn Sun, 04/03/2016 - 11:07

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Install the End Caps (Cont'd)


Thread the hole drilled in the tail vise end cap.
Before installing the right hand end cap on the work bench, a hole, through which the tail vise's bench screw passes, needs to be drilled. The hole then needs to be threaded to accept the threads cut into the shaft of the bench screw. In the photo above you can see marked out front and top faces of the end cap. The front, threaded end of the cap, is cut down in length and height so that the body of the tail vise can pass by and over the cap as the tail vise is opened and closed. A counter-sunk hole for a 4-inch lag bolt has already been drilled. The lag bolt once screwed in place holds the end cap in line with the front edge of the bench. Sliding dovetail keys hold the end cap on the bench, but allow the top to move freely. The rectangular hole cut through the end cap will house the sliding guide bar of the tailvise. The guide bar acts as an out-rigger and helps keep the tailvise from drooping and helps hold the vise in position as it is opened and closed.
stevenbunn Sat, 04/02/2016 - 08:02

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Install the End Caps


The end caps are secured to the top with dovetailed keys screwed to the ends of the top. Use a dead blow mallet to drive the end cap in place.
I have used dovetail keys screwed to the sides of a case to attach molding for years. Properly fitted the keys hold the molding tightly in place while allowing for seasonal wood movement. The same technique scaled up works for larger pieces of wood, like the end caps on one of my benches, as well. The keys short length, 4 to 4-1/2 inches, keeps the distance between the screws to a minimum, and reduces the chance of cracking the top as it shrinks and swells. The end cap is screwed to the top with a single lag bolt at the front of the bench. I use this adaptation of the sliding dovetail to attach the end caps on every bench I have built over the years. The row of wedges fitting snuggly in the dovetailed groove milled in the end cap also helps keep the bench top flat.
For more information about building a wooden tail-vise, the fixed jaw with dog-holes, and the installation of the end caps which support both, read my article in American Woodwork magazine, titled "Wooden Tail-vise," October-November 2011, #156. If you can't locate a copy, email me and I will mail you a photocopy of the article. The article has all the construction drawings and dimensional details that I don't think are appropriate for a short blog post.
stevenbunn Fri, 04/01/2016 - 07:18

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Glue the Top Together


Glue the top together. Then cut the ends square using a circular saw and temporary fence clamped to the top. Cut the top to a final length of 76-1/2 inches.
stevenbunn Fri, 04/01/2016 - 07:03

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Assemble the Bench Top


The bench's top is built of 8/4 hard maple. Maple boards for the top were passed over the jointer to flat face one wide face of each board. The stock was then thickness planed to a thickness of 1-3/4 inches. When planning the bench I was going to thickness the boards for the top down to 1-1/2 inch. The maple I purchased was much flatter and less twisty than many boards. I ended up having to joint and thickness the stock less than I expected. When all the boards cleaned up at 1-3/4 inches in thickness, I decided to leave well-enough alone and go with a thicker top. Bench tops should always be as thick as possible, why cut away material if I did not need too to flatten the boards? The boards for the top were then jointed, cut to width and glued up to form a top 26-1/4 inches wide. The boards were left a little longer than needed at glue up. Then trimmed square to a length of 76-1/2 inches. To the top were added two 1-3/4 inch thick end-caps, and a 3-3/4 inch by 3-3/4 inch square laminated fixed jaw incorporating square holes for traditional dogs. These increased the size of the top to 30 inches by 80 inches. A traditional tail-vise was mounted on the right front corner of the top.


Use an outfeed table for support when you joint the top's long heavy boards.


stevenbunn Thu, 03/31/2016 - 20:44

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Make and Install the Drawers


The drawer fronts were milled from soft maple to match the rest of the work bench. The drawer sides and back were made of ash. I like full extension drawers so I can find whatever is lurking at the back of a drawer. The depth of the bench base allowed me to extend the drawer sides six inches past the drawer's back while still having a drawer of sufficient depth to be useful. The extended sides let me pull the drawers out to their full depth without the drawer falling on my toes. For convenience and to save both time and money, I cut the drawer bottoms from 1/2 inch plywood. The plywood bottom is rabbeted on it's front and sides to form a tongue 1/4 inches thick and 5/16 inch wide. The tongues slide into grooves cut in the inside faces of the drawer sides. The drawers are dovetailed together: half-blind dovetails at the front and sliding dovetails at the back. The sliding dovetails were cut with a 1/2 inch dia. dovetail bit set 1/4 inch deep. I cut the sliding dovetail pins on both ends of the drawer backs using the same jig I used earlier, repositioning the temporary fence on the jig to achieve the cut desired.


To dress up the bench and to make drawer fitting more forgiving, I used a thumbnail shaped overlapping edge on the drawer fronts. This profile was formed using a 3/8 inch radius roundover bit and the tablesaw.


Use a dead-blow mallet and block of wood scrap to drive the back's sliding dovetail pins into the dovetail dadoes cut in the sides. Tap each side of the back alternatively as the back is driven down to prevent putting too much pressure on the dadoes and breaking out the sides of the dadoe. The long drawer sides allow the drawer to be pulled out to it's full depth.
stevenbunn Wed, 03/30/2016 - 07:12

Build a Shaker Work Bench


Install the Doors


Installing one of the doors.
Fitting doors to a case is an article in itself. One I have already done. If you click on the Articles link, under the Steve heading on my home page you will find a list of magazine articles which I have written over the years. I wrote an article about door installation that appeared in FWW back in 1994. My editor, Charley Robinson, video taped the steps I follow to insure a good door fit. That video was made into a DVD that is still available from Taunton Press. I wrote another article on the subject for American Woodworker. Since that magazine has lapsed, I don't know who you see about purchasing past issues or reading the article on-line. I have had good luck finding older issues of FWW on ebay.