The Bench Apron

  • Creator
    Topic
  • #554944
    Rowdy Whaleback
    Participant

    I don’t want to start a row but…
    Who could not have Aprons on their bench because they clamp things to the bench top at the front?

    I’m going to build a new bench. I currently have my old holtzapffel style bench which had a mid height rail at the front for holding work. I originally had a leg vise on it but found it slow and didn’t get on with the parallel guide. I changed this for a qr record type vise and stuck a plank accross the front making an adhoc apron. I have drilled holes in the top and use dogs and holdfasts.
    Here’s the thing. I’ve seen all Paul’s bench video’s andd work holding video’s. I’ve got Maguires videos on his English and also the rather wonderful Siemsen bench video and plans as well as his workholding video.
    I’ve got an old copy of Landis’s bench book and Shwartz’s second bench book.
    Shwartz, in particular seems to dislike aprons claiming you can’t clamp stuff to the bench. But he also uses holfasts.

    I ask again, if I make a bench with Aprons what could I be missing out on?
    To me the advantage of being able to sweep the floor without bearers seems to be an advantage too.

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 18 total)
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    Replies
  • #554945
    jcat
    Participant

    @jcat

    I’m not up to speed with all the bench styles you mention so i hope I’ve understood your question Rowdy Whaleback but when I made my tweeked version of Pauls bench I laminated a rail (75x45mm timber) on the front and back aprons so I could clamp onto these. If I work out how to attach a photo I’ll post one. Admittedly Paul has said somewhere that he never felt the need for such.
    Cheers Jcat

    [attachment file=554946]

    Attachments:
    #554948
    P McC
    Participant

    @sawyer

    Rowdy,

    I can’t answer your question, but will give you my thoughts on work benches. FWIW…
    I think the Shwartz iteration of the Roubo bench is the best bench for my purpose. And one day I will build one.
    I intended to build the ‘garden’ version of Paul’s bench and was about to begin when he teased the smaller version. So I built it instead. I reasoned that I could build it quicker, get on to some projects and then use it to build the Roubo bench. I installed a vise as per Paul’s design and also drilled the top and use holdfasts. I do clamp to the front of the bench just as Paul does using the same type of clamps. When I build the Roubo bench it will have the sliding dead man instead of the apron. Both serve the same purpose.
    The stretchers mortised into the legs and the legs dovetailed into the top make the Roubo a more challenging build and are more time consuming to complete. Paul’s ingenious wedged leg design was fun to build and works perfectly.
    So pick a design and go for it!!!

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by P McC.
    #554950
    Rowdy Whaleback
    Participant

    @rowdy

    Gents,
    Thanks for the responses. Just to be clear Shwartz seems to be talking about using the underside of the roubo to clamp pieces down onto the top Around the edges. Jcat your add ons do work for this but what for?
    I can’t think of any reason for having to do this. Shwartz uses a Moxon vise and clamps that. I built a bench on bench which is similar but use holdfasts from the top. Don’t see why you can’t do that. Planing doesn’t seem a reason, neither does making mouldings…

    #554951
    Jim Thornton
    Participant

    @flyboyjim

    I’ve clamped pieces to the bench top in the matter you speak of. I intend to build a Moxon vise and would clamp that as well. I’d miss being able to do that, but there’s usually work-arounds to accomplish the same thing.

    If you can't afford to do big things...........do small things in a big way!

    #554952
    P McC
    Participant

    @sawyer

    Jim,
    I clamp my Moxon-type vise to the front edge of the bench using bar clamps anchored to the bottom edge of the apron. Apron is 12″ wide. Works just fine. No rail needed.

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by P McC.
    #554955
    Jim Thornton
    Participant

    @flyboyjim

    [quote quote=554952]Jim,

    I clamp my Moxon-type vise to the front edge of the bench using bar clamps anchored to the bottom edge of the apron. Apron is 12″ wide. Works just fine. No rail needed.[/quote]

    Well of course you could! Sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees. LOL

    OK …….now that you mentioned having a Moxon type vise, do you fine it useful? I’m thinking I would. My bench top is at 34″ since it’s also the outfield for my table saw and the extra height of the Moxon would be nice for some operations. Of course I could always build one of Pauls benches at 38″ to use as my “back bench”! Hmmmmm!

    If you can't afford to do big things...........do small things in a big way!

    #554956
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    @lorenzojose

    Planing doesn’t seem a reason, neither does making mouldings…

    It is if you use bench dogs near the front edge with a tail vise to hold the stock you are moulding.

    I can hold stock as narrow as 3/4” at the front edge for use with a moving fillester plane followe by hollows and rounds without resorting to a sticking board. ( though more often I stick the moulding then cut it off wider stock.)

    With a deep apron you can’t push the dogs up.

    There are lots of ways people like to hold work, all of them valid, but wide aprons aren’t compatible with all of them.

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by Larry Geib.
    #554961
    jcat
    Participant

    @jcat

    Sorry if I haven’t understood the question, I thought you wanted ideas for having an apron and a method of clamping to the front, the “what for” was your department.
    In my case I use my bench for everything, be it assembly, woodwork, home maintenance, mower repairs etc, metalwork and welding (with a sheet metal cover) and you will also note my bench is a flat top, wells don’t work for me. Also I don’t use dogs yet, I want too but I don’t want to drill holes in my pretty bench!! I use those rails for clamping all sorts of things including planing wide boards and sheet materials too. It gives me options and versatility considering my type of bench (no well, etc) and what tools and equipment I have available.
    There is never only one way of doing things plus I enjoy trialing and experimenting, hence the tweaked Paul Sellers workbench,( so far so good;-) )
    Cheers

    #554962
    Rowdy Whaleback
    Participant

    @rowdy

    I think the use of dogs can be difficult with deep aprons. I don’t keep mine in so get a lot of dust underneath the bench. Also if one does get pushed down trying to reach under it is awkward. I suppose the planing stop used in conjuction with a holdfast and doe’s foot os the answer there.
    I’ve tried Pauls technique using cramps but found that the aluminium ones flex too much if I’m hogging material off a 3/4” board, like the toolbox sides. I’m going to have a go with the bolt on jobs where you use a piece of 25mm thick wood with drilled holes.

    When we set out to design and build a bench we invest a lot of time money and thought so I thank you all for your patient, experienced advice.

    #554964
    Jim Thornton
    Participant

    @flyboyjim

    My new bench has a wagon vise, round dog holes and a 3 1/2″ front edge. I have a set of brass dogs (because they look so cool) and a Veritas Surface Clamp. However, I’m also doing to turn some drop in dogs of various heights. I already did a practice one and they’re going to work great.

    If you can't afford to do big things...........do small things in a big way!

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by Jim Thornton.
    #554967
    Edmund
    Participant

    @etmo

    I’m pretty confused by the verbiage in the OP, but the bottom line is that excellent workbenches can be made with or without aprons.

    For an example of workbenches with no aprons that have stood the test of time and seen generations of heavy use, you can peruse the style of workbenches at the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts. Here are some detailed pictures taken by a woodworker who visited: http://lumberjocks.com/topics/123778

    When Fine Woodworking made their dream bench, it was this style of Shaker bench they chose, and they obviously could have chosen any style whatsoever.

    I personally prefer this style as well, and so do Lie Nielsen and Sjobergs, so clearly aprons are not needed for great workbenches. However, there are just as many examples of time-tested workbenches with aprons, such as those mentioned above. The apron design allows efficient racking resistance without the need to have a massive benchtop, and creates opportunities for easy clamping in the Z axis. Non-apron designs tend to rely on a massive benchtop and / or massive base for racking resistance. An apron blocks space that could be used for lots of drawers or shelves, but as Paul shows, a small number of drawers can still be added through the apron.

    If this is your first bench, I wouldn’t worry about it. You’ll be fine either way, and you can always just build a different bench later, and re-use the wood from the first bench in the second bench or other projects.

    #554969
    Jim Thornton
    Participant

    @flyboyjim

    Edmund,
    The OP states in his original post that he’s going to build a new bench to replace his old bench. He’s just trying to figure out if building a bench like Paul’s, with its a large from apron, is going to create difficulties clamping pieces to the benchtop. I guess the answer is to imagine doing the type of projects and operations one does and see if one design or another works best for oneself.

    You are absolutely correct about lots of great bench designs out there. I’m just finishing up a new Holtzapffel style bench (didn’t even know that’s what I was building until I googled the term). That said……. I’m also thinking about building Paul’s plywood bench design to check out the style, since I have 3 sheets of quality plywood sitting around from past projects. All it’ll cost me is the price of a quick release vise.

    If you can't afford to do big things...........do small things in a big way!

    #554970
    Rowdy Whaleback
    Participant

    @rowdy

    Gents,

    To clarify the question: Chris Shwartz roundly dismisses aprons because they prevent clamping to the top of the bench top. Which activities do you find such clamping absolutely indispensable?

    My reason for asking is that I don’t have an electric router, haven’t made a chair and so on…

    #554974
    jcat
    Participant

    @jcat

    Rowdy,
    Ahhhhh, “INDISPENSABLE”, I do use an electric trim router from time to time which clamping to the bench top helps quite a bit but indispensable?? Nah, there are always other ways of doing things and work a rounds. If that’s the reason for not to having aprons, I would say more lateral thinking please, build your aprons and enjoy them
    Cheers

    #554976
    Ed
    Participant

    @ed

    You may need a longer clamp to reach the bottom of the apron than the bottom of a 3″ benchtop, but you could still clamp things. Where you may have a limitation is how deeply you can reach into the bench with a clamp because of the apron thickness. My benchtop has a few inches of overhang, maybe 3, and that determines how deeply I can reach into the bench with a clamp. Away from the legs, you might be able to devise a return on the bottom of the apron to increase how far you can reach with a clamp. I’ve not tried this, but don’t see why it wouldn’t work, but keep in mind you are ultimately limited by the depth of your clamp, which again is a few inches. You could also consider holdfasts. Another idea is to extend your bench top beyond the apron, perhaps stopping the apron a bit short of it’s typical length and also extending the length of the top a bit. This then makes the end of the bench, where there’s an overhang, available for clamping. My bench is like this a little bit, and I do make use of it; however, I don’t want to claim that Paul’s design could be modified in this way. I’ve not looked in detail.

    There are two aspects of my current bench setup that I consider essential. First, a face vise that is not flush with the bench top or apron, so that I can get my hands in while placing work and doing other things. Second, is a second vise. I have a second face vise mounted where you’d normally find a tail vise. I routinely have more than one thing I want to hold at a time. It might be a sharpening setup, a strop a shooting board, or a scrap of wood to test my plane setup, or it might be a part that I’m fitting to test against something in the vise. I also use it as a planing stop. I’m left handed, but have my main face vise mounted as a righty would mount it, i.e., on the left end of the bench. My 2nd vise is on the right end. I can put a piece of scrap in that “tail” face vise and adjust it to project whatever distance I want and then push a piece of work up against it for planing. Since I am left handed, this is perfect for me, since that 2nd face vise is to my right. Of course, you don’t need that second vise…you can make a little appliance that is nothing more than a dovetailed corner of thin material that goes in your regular face vise and serves as a planing stop. I also use a through-the-top stop like Ian Kirby describes and find it essential for thin work. My bench is 8 feet long and that second vise is like having a second bench. As long as I have room, I’ll use a bench of this size and with two vises. These are bigger issues for me than the apron and dust on the floor, which I can vacuum up.

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by Ed.
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