Alternative workbench/assembly table (Chapter three)

In this chapter we will start to look at the design elements of the table/bench top I cobbled together from various sources, which was predominantly driven by my frustration with previous ‘benches’.

The top shelve of the table is low enough to allow easy access during the use of F-style clamps that reach through the tabletop. One can even store a few jigs without it being in the way. The top shelve is fixed with wood screws to the teak sleeper and countersink bolts to the angle iron stretchers. This helps to stabilise the table in a dimension I do not know the name of.


Next I moved on to prepare the aprons of the top. The aprons were made up by laminating plywood and designed wide enough to enable one to clamp material to the edge of the table. It is also thick enough to allow space for a fairly massive t-channel created with angle iron fixed to Ironwood (Olea capensis subsp. macrocarpa) This t-channel would eventually run along three sides of the tabletop to allow easy clamping to the side of the table with F-style Bessey clamps and the attachment of any future jigs. You can see rabbits cut into the apron plywood in some of the pictures. These were meant to accept a part of the angle iron that forms the mentioned t-channels. It might become a bit easier to understand as we progress to that part of the process. I include a crude Sketchup drawing to give you some idea of what I was aiming for.

100_0089100_0090table's edge

The aprons were then screwed and glued to three sides of the tabletop.


The fourth side of the top needed a wider apron to allow secure attachment of the quick-release vice, which I decided to place in a unique (and therefore possibly stupid) location. I have since read that Mr Bench (Christopher Schwarz) advises bench builders not to design anything new, as the most useful designs have been established through trial and error over many centuries.

The vise was place in the middle of the end of the table (a design feature I have not yet come across in any book or internet source), with two pipe clamps on either side set up to act as removable end vises. The idea was that I could use these in conjunction with the quick release vise to form a type of twin-screw vise on either side of it. Proper twin-screw vises are as easy to come by around these parts as a spacecraft, hence the substantial improvisation.

Together with the fourth apron I fashioned another bit of laminated plywood to enable the quick-release vise’s base to reach across the heavy angle iron that forms the steel apron of the tabletop. You will see the rabbits cut into this piece creating a very tight custom fit to the angle iron apron. This design feature effectively fixed the quick-release vise to the metal carcass of the table, rather than only hanging on the plywood top. Steel woodscrews pass through the plywood top, then through the angle iron to imbed itself in the mentioned plywood spacer.


In the pictures below you can follow the process in creating the said pipe-clamp-end-vises. I first drilled (partial) holes in the plywood apron that were meant to accept the pipes of the clamps. I then used these holes to mark the correct location were it needs to passes through the metal apron. Then drilled those holes with the bit pictured.


Once this was done the bit of the pipe-clamp that slides over the pipe (do not know the correct term for it) was fixed to the inside of the metal apron. This design allows one to easily remove and insert the pipe-clamp, without having to fiddle under the top in order to insert the pipe into the bit I do not know the name of. I apologize for the poor quality of some of these pictures.


Once all of the above preparation work was done I installed the quick-release vise. You can see that I used heaps of fairly heavy woodscrews and what we call coach bolts for this purpose. The woodworker in the second picture is called Pantu. He is our live-in gardener/builder/soccer coach of my children/receiver of rugby coaching from my son/babysitter etc etc. He likes to learn about woodworker in his free time and therefore does his bit towards our shop development. The third row of screws from the edge passes through the angle iron apron of the table.


At some point a bit earlier in the process, I recessed an area that would accept a steel ruler on two of the edges of the tabletop. This would have been another job better suited to a router, but I had to do it with my newly acquired Festool TS155. On one of the pictures you can see that I had to make heaps of cuts (each only 2mm wide) to achieve what a router would have accomplished in one or two cuts.



The actual rulers were installed only much later, after all the table’s edges were finished. We will embark upon that epoch in the next thrilling chapter on the table’s birth.


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