Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The $175.00 er ... $234.00 Workbench

I'm a bit of a gamer. Not that I have the time to game really. Between family/friends, work, woodworking and blogging (not necessarily in that order), there's little time left. When time permits, I play Lord of the Rings Online (or AKA LOTRO) and my 'toon' (or avatar/character) is an Elven Hunter. One of the things beyond adventuring that keeps the game interesting is the ability to engage in crafts of the period. My toon is -of course- a Woodworker by trade. One of the stipulations of engaging in this craft is that it must be performed at a workbench. Sometimes my toon has to travel a great many miles to get to one. I guess there were no plans for portable benches in Middle Earth.

The benches in the crafting halls of LOTRO are massive but simplistic.

My bench on the other hand is simplistic and light. While trying to dimension a small piece of Ash, the whole table rocks back and forth, the top slides around unless clamped to the sawhorses and the dog holes are oblong from he type of abuse which plywood is not designed to take without support.

It's time for a new bench. While I can't afford to make it from maple or even poplar, I found an article on Popular Woodworking's (link) site written by the Schwarz himself on building a workbench from construction grade lumber, 8 bolts, a vice and some dogs for 175 samolians.

The lumber list calls for 8 pieces of 2"x8"x12'. So, off to the orange Borg cube I went. It's less than 1/2 km away - way too convenient for a store that drives me nuts. They didn't have any lumber in 12'. There's 8', 10', and 16'. I decided to go with the 8 footers. Of theses, they only had about 20 pieces and only 12 of them were acceptable and needing 16 of them meant multiple trips.

They also didn't have any 3/8" #16 bolts in the 6" length. This required a trip to the local Brofasco.

2 days later, I had all of the material piled in the garage. I only have to wait for the moisture content to equalize and pray that any warp is limited. I think it will be okay. It isn't Southern Yellow Pine as is called for, but the local equivalent labeled as SPF (meaning spruce/pine/fir).

 My acquisitions included a trip to the Lee Valley store (AKA woodworkers Mecca) to pick up a bench vise, a Wonder Dog and a pair o bench dogs. All totaled, the cost breaks down as:
Lumber $93.28
Bolts/washers/nuts $15.00
Large Front vise $75.00
Wonder Dog $37.50
Bench pups $23.50
Total cost (before tax) $234.28

Okay, so it's not $175.00 . The article was written on Feb 2, 2007 and I'm working with 8' lumber instead of 12', so I need twice as many. This also gives me the opportunity to potentially play with the design a bit and maybe use legs on angles (like a roof truss) instead of square. It's a thought that I'll have to play about in Sketchup with before I make my decision.

While I think about it, Middle Earth needs defending and my woodworking hunter needs more practise with his chisels.

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