Workbench buy/make/hybrid advice
#11
  
Long intro:
I'm not a newbie - I've been making things out of wood for about 50 years, from barns and sheds to little jewelry boxes to all kinds of accessories for my live-in handweaver Smile . I'm also nowhere near a pro. I've always been a cheapie with tools (my table saw is my father in law's 1951 Shopsmith - yep, you read that right). I don't have unlimited space in my basement workshop. 

I decided I'm old enough to starting doing a few things the right way, starting with a real woodworker's bench. I'm still too cheap to buy a $3,500 Lie Nielsen bench, or even a $2,300 Sjoberg Elite 1500, but I've educated myself enough to know what they offer. I have the skills, but not the desire to dedicate a week full time to make a bench myself, so I'm considering a hybrid option:

My plan:
I just found a guy in town who makes hardwood benches (for homeowners, not workshops) for a decent price. (Example: a 16”tall x 29.5 long x 15. deep "hand crafted farmhouse bench" for $225.)

I'm planning to provide him with some specs to make a basic bench about the size and weight of a Sjoberg Elite 1500. I'll then add some vises, dog holes, and a storage shelf underneath. I know one issue is flatness. 

Any other things I should consider?  Am I going down the wrong path here?
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#12
  Re: Workbench buy/make/hybrid advice by tedrussell ([b]Long intro:[/b] ...)
Do you do anything with handtools (planes, chisels, etc.)?  If you do the workbench needed for that is typically much heavier and sturdy than if you are a power tool only person. 

Chris Schwarz has a few books on workbenches that are really good. In addition to describing how to build a few different types, there is also discussions about workholding.  The last book he wrote dealing with workbenches is actually free for a digital version. But the bench he describes in that one is pretty stout, and not similar to the Sjoberg Elite 1500 (which looks like it would be OK at best for hand tools). Some of the earlier books describe why that is the case, but I don't recall if the newest one goes into that detail. 

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#13
  Re: Workbench buy/make/hybrid advice by tedrussell ([b]Long intro:[/b] ...)
Ted, this is not what you wanted to hear.   Build the bench yourself.

Unlike you, I did not have a lot of woodworking experience, but, like you, I did not want too pay the big bucks for a nice bench.  I studied a few different benches and realized I wanted something different.  Yes I made a couple of mistakes, but the bench is at least 15 years old and my most appreciated "tool"!  It took much longer than a week, working in the evenings and weekends.  The experience "Priceless"!!!!!!!!!!!!
"I tried being reasonable..........I didn't like it." Clint Eastwood
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#14
  Re: RE: Workbench buy/make/hybrid advice by msweig (Do you do anything w...)
(08-15-2021, 02:43 PM)msweig Wrote: Do you do anything with handtools (planes, chisels, etc.)?  If you do the workbench needed for that is typically much heavier and sturdy than if you are a power tool only person. 

Chris Schwarz has a few books on workbenches that are really good. In addition to describing how to build a few different types, there is also discussions about workholding.  The last book he wrote dealing with workbenches is actually free for a digital version. But the bench he describes in that one is pretty stout, and not similar to the Sjoberg Elite 1500 (which looks like it would be OK at best for hand tools). Some of the earlier books describe why that is the case, but I don't recall if the newest one goes into that detail. 

Hard to say what I do. I rarely go down to the shop saying, "I think I'll make a chair today". I usually make something I need, or that my handweaver wife needs. But with a good bench, that could change. 

I use a combination of power and hand tools. If regulars on this forum saw the steps I took when using a chisel or plane, I'm sure they'd get a good laugh, but I always manage to get the job done. A real woodworking bench, even an "OK" one, would be a great improvement over what I have now.

I've asked the guy down the road to price out a bench of the dimensions and weight of the Sjobrerg Elite 1500 - just the basic bench; I'll do the rest (I don't have a planer or jointer). What about that particular model is only "OK" in your opinion? It's heavier than some of the cheaper ones - 200+ lb, vs. 100+ lb for the cheaper ones. Is that still not heavy enough for a lot of hand work? Or is there something else about it that is less than desirable?
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#15
  Re: RE: Workbench buy/make/hybrid advice by Bill Holt (Ted, this is not wha...)
(08-15-2021, 03:46 PM)Bill Holt Wrote: Ted, this is not what you wanted to hear.   Build the bench yourself.

Unlike you, I did not have a lot of woodworking experience, but, like you, I did not want too pay the big bucks for a nice bench.  I studied a few different benches and realized I wanted something different.  Yes I made a couple of mistakes, but the bench is at least 15 years old and my most appreciated "tool"!  It took much longer than a week, working in the evenings and weekends.  The experience "Priceless"!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks. I'm sure you're right, but right now I just don't have the time to spare. I figure the next best thing is for someone to make the basic bench to my specs, and I'll do the rest - the vises, dog holes, and a shelf underneath.
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#16
  Re: RE: Workbench buy/make/hybrid advice by msweig (Do you do anything w...)
(08-15-2021, 02:43 PM)msweig Wrote: Do you do anything with handtools (planes, chisels, etc.)?  If you do the workbench needed for that is typically much heavier and sturdy than if you are a power tool only person. 

Chris Schwarz has a few books on workbenches that are really good. In addition to describing how to build a few different types, there is also discussions about workholding.  The last book he wrote dealing with workbenches is actually free for a digital version. But the bench he describes in that one is pretty stout, and not similar to the Sjoberg Elite 1500 (which looks like it would be OK at best for hand tools). Some of the earlier books describe why that is the case, but I don't recall if the newest one goes into that detail. 

PS - thanks for the tip on the Chris Schwarz book - I'll check it out.
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#17
  Re: RE: Workbench buy/make/hybrid advice by tedrussell ([quote='msweig' pid=...)
Do you enjoy building shop stuff more or furniture and cabinets more? If you have all the time and energy you want, it may not matter.

If the former, build your own custom workbench is a fair route to go. That's not me so I didn't build mine from scratch. I prefer to spend time on furniture making, the reason I do woodworking as a hobby. For the same reason, I don't build shelving for my shop, I bought it.Some people build tons of shop things including jigs and tools but very few furniture pieces in comparison. But they still are legit woodworkers because that's what they enjoy and how they want to spend their shop time.

Without looking at a picture of the farmhouse bench, I can't say how suitable it is but the price sounds reasonable, and I'd definitely give it a look.

The initial weight of the bench is less critical if you can add shelves underneath, or if it's to be parked by a wall. I know a guy who has installed bench castors to his bench so he can use it as a feed table when needed.

Simon
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#18
  Re: Workbench buy/make/hybrid advice by tedrussell ([b]Long intro:[/b] ...)
A lot of the issues with the bench you pointed out isn't the weight itself, more the rigidity/stiffness. And the vices will rack like crazy. But a lot of rigidity will come from really good joints (M&T). You can approximate those using lapped joinery (where you are gluing pieces together to make the M&T joint) but no idea what the local guy is doing.  Something like a Nicholson style bench can get around this to some degree, but that is simply a different kind of option.  

The books I mentioned will go over the pros/cons of each type of workholding.  And if you are currently spending a ton of time playing with how to get something held solid then you are wasting a ton of time/efficiency. Totally correct that a solid bench will help.

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#19
  Re: Workbench buy/make/hybrid advice by tedrussell ([b]Long intro:[/b] ...)
I was in your same situation.  I inherited my great grandfather’s solid maple bench, but 150 years of beating on it finally did it in.  I didn’t need anything quite that substantial, but my attempts at a top were less than satisfactory.  Ruined several bits trying to get dog holes drilled, wasn’t near flat, moisture content was an issue and the end vice would bind.  Took me almost six months.
 
In the end the Sjoberg I could afford was simply too light, so I built a base cabinet and bought the Ramia Diamond 1800 top for around $700.  I’ve been happy with the setup.  I do little hand tool work.  Much like you, mostly “putz” stuff, boxes, coffee tables, end tables – it’s a multi-purpose bench.  That may change as I’m now nearing retirement.
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#20
  Re: RE: Workbench buy/make/hybrid advice by NickNC (I was in your same s...)
I built a Euro style bench about 30 years ago from plans in FWW by Frank Klauz.  Massively heavy and a terrific bench.  I don't use it much.  I much prefer my other bench which is just a piece of 2" thick lab workbench top that I flattened and skinned with Masonite.  The base is just 2 x 4's with plywood panels on the ends and back.  It's not as heavy as the Euro bench but just as stiff.  There is a shelf on the bottom that holds most all my power hand tools and a few other things.  The top is larger than the Euro bench.  It has a few holes in it for bench dogs and clamps but no vise.  I can drive a screw into it if needed with no remorse, spill stain and paint on it without guilt.  In the end, it just fits the way I work better.  

The only thing that matters is that the bench you buy or build fit the way you work.  Second, but equally important in my mind is that it be rigid; preferably also heavy but rigid above all.  

John
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