39 comments on “Plywood Workbench: Episode 3

  1. I have been in that situation where I couldn’t get the dry-run to come apart. Had to reverse the direction on a couple of pipe clamps to finally spring it loose. Knowing what clearance is necessary between rails and stiles has been a learning curve that only flattens out with experience.

    • That single concept was with me through 10 Mission tables I made. The sizing of the tenon to the mortise can be done well to start I guess. Hundreds later I now understandbthat I must continue to learn.

    • I might be able to help. At a local annual woodworking event in the San Franciso Bay Area, Kevin Drake from the Glen Drake Tool Company is often there. He has a system he uses for dovetails so you can get a proper tolerance right away. He talks about how machines it’s have tables so that if they have a half inch hole in steel, they know how big the round piece must be to fit.

      He uses this approach to dovetails. For hardwoods, the male part needs to be 6 thousands of an inch (0.006″) narrower than the female part. For softwoods that can compress, the difference is 4 thousands of and inch.

      Often a hand plane is taking thin shavings on the order of say 0.002″. As such, assuming the dimensions are the same, it is as Paul says, just a few shavings.

      I suppose you might be able to use digital calipers to measure all of this.

      I’m not advocating this. Just pointing out what I hear Kevin Drake say the three different times I’ve interacted with him. He’s a very nice man. He is responsible for greatly improving my sawing to a line with just one comment. When we are trying to saw to a line, if we are having troubles as a beginner, we are inclined to then go to a death grip on the saw. This causes your hand to twist inwards a bit (you can see this by looking at your pinky finger) and causes the saw to go even more off track. As such, I’ve found for sawing, we need to not over tense our hand. It sounds like a small thing but I found it made a huge difference. Knowing this and just sawing for some time, I can now easily saw to a line or stay away from a line quite easily.

  2. I always enjoy watching you work. You are the most graceful worker of wood I have ever seen. You make everything look so easy. The look in your eyes when you work is similar to grandfather’s (he was a machinist). You can tell this is what you where meant to do. Thanks you for the videos.

  3. Regarding the work holding in the Workmate, what about putting another of your stretchers in on the other end of the Workmate to help keep the pressure on the piece you’re working on? I usually have to do that, put a same thickness piece at the other end, to keep the worked on piece tight. Legs looking good.

  4. Paul, Can you please share what Dust Mask you are using? Having grown up on a farm using absolutely no hearing or dust protection, and then using power woodworking tools with the same no realization of what was happening, I now have developed an allergy to saw dust, getting sinus infections easily. I have started using more hand tools since finding your site, but I love making hand carved wooden bowls which still require sanding. I’ve tried different smaller respirators, but they do not completely eliminate my problem.
    Thanks and once again, I love what you are doing. Keep up the teaching.
    Jim Light

  5. Regarding the height of this bench, or any bench for that matter, I have what I believe is current, pertinent information. I’m in the process of building a new bench, which shares many features of Paul’s benches along with those of other designs. Last night, I spent some time planing the legs for my new bench. I set up a couple of saw horses, at 36″ tall, and proceeded to plane the legs square. The legs are 3″ X 5″ so when planning 2 sides I was working at a height of 41″, and the other two sides at 39″. I’m 72 years old, and in good physical condition except for the fact that I’ve had 3 back surgeries. Working while bending over is an issue that usually results in really sore back and hip muscles. Well, today is no exception. My lower back is really hurting. Nothing structural, but my muscles are screaming at me. Like I said, last night I was planing at heights of 39″ and 41″. I would hate to think of how I would feel today had I planed those legs using the height recommended by many of the other “experts” currently posting videos on YouTube and writing books and articles on workbench construction. My advice to anyone with a back issue – build your bench as high as you can. What I learned last night is that the new legs I spent all that time planing are WAY TOO SHORT. They are 36″. They need to be much longer. I am 6′ 1″. I think I need a bench that is around 40″ tall. That way, when planing as I did last night, I would be working at a height of nearly 43″ or 45″. I would much rather work my arms than to put unnecessary strain on my back and hips. Listen to Paul… Build your bench higher than you think might be necessary. If you don’t already have back issues, working on a bench that is too low will certainly increase the risk of developing back problems…

    • I completely agree with this. The bench I bought came at 36″ and it is too short. I plan to add wooden shoes to each of the legs to raise it to 40″. I might go even higher by another inch or two. I’m 6′ tall.

    • You might look into stretching and deep tissue massage.

      As you get older and less active, you QT muscles get short and give you that stooped over countenance and what feels like spine compression.

      I’m not kidding about deep tissue. Though the muscles connect the back and hips, they are massaged face up on the table.

    • – If you think the leg frames will be too short, you can glue a few plywood layers on top of them ( look for the “bearers” on the previous workbenches) before assembling the top and apron on them.
      So don’t throw them away.

      – The finer/lighter the work to be done, the higher the bench.
      The height recommended by Paul Sellers was the lower height recommended for light work taking into account the worker average height in the 60’s.
      I think now health and safety would ask a bench customised to each worker.
      If you don’t plane a lot of rough saw wood with a wooden plane, the P.S. recommended height makes perfect sense.

      I tried to find an universal criteria.
      This 38” height “for an average man of the 60s” corresponds approximately to the addition of the anterior superior iliac spine height and the shoe heel height.
      It seems the recommended height correspond to what is pointed in the picture in the link hereafter (when wearing your shoes)

      https://www.lumberjocks.com/replies/531446
      This “universal criteria” should work whether you are tall or small, with short legs and long torso or long legs and short torso because it is related to where your back is articulated.

      Now I am no medical doctor.

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