stevenbunn Fri, 03/18/2016 - 07:34

Building a Shaker Work Bench (con'd)


Bench Design


The Shaker bench I built is loosely based on a large Shaker bench found at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA. I have always admired the ranks of drawers and doors that front that bench's base. I scaled the bench down in length to fit a space in my shop. For simplicity I modeled the frame of the bench's cabinet base after a typical New England timber-framed barn, like the one on our farm. I used standardized stock dimensions, and production methods to streamline parts manufacture and assembly. All of the cross section components share a common layout of their joinery, so that they fit together into three identical "bents," just as you find in a timber-frame. The bents are connected by eight rails, which are tenoned into mortises cut into the sides of the legs to complete the base's frame.


The 12/4 maple was incredibly heavy, so I cut the stock down in size to make things easier
when I milled the material for the base
A key element of the design is the six legs which transfer working force from the bench top directly to the floor. The frame is strong and massive, but provides a great deal of flexibilty in how the drawers and doors are finished out. I like the look of the original bech which inspired this one, with double doors flanked by a double rank of drawers. To reduce the length of the bench I eliminated one of the drawer ranks, shortening the base by almost 30 inches. I like to work on all sides of a bench. And, the bench is going to be placed where it can be viewed from all sides by vistors to the shop, so I was concerned that the bench looked good from all angles. I filled the side and back voids in the frame with raised panels.
The basic frame can be modified to accept different combinations of drawers and doors. Want a bench with all doors, or doors? Maybe doors on one side of the bench and drawers on the opposite side? Or, even double fronted drawers that can be pulled open from either side of the bench. Any of these combinations can be fitted to the frame of the bench I built.