My first "workbench" was a simple table-style surface. 2x4 legs, 1/2" plywood top, held together with black drywall screws. I built it in my first apartment when I was twenty-two, with my first (and only) power tools: a circular saw and a drill.
In the back left corner, I mounted a shiny, new, bright blue Irwin swiveling bench vise. It was awesome to have it there when I needed it - holding metal stock and angle iron for cutting, helping me bend rod and pipe, even keeping dowels and small wood parts in place while working on them. Unfortunately, these activities constituted a very small amount of the projects I was doing, and mostly, the vise just got in the way during the other 97% percent of tasks.
So, for the past few years, that vise has just been in a storage crate, and I get it out and try to hold it in place when I need it. Which, in case you can't guess, does not work. Ever. So, I wanted to come up with a solution that would allow me to install a machinist's style swiveling benchtop vise, without having to permanently install it, or drill holes in my benchtop and have to thread and tighten nuts and bolts every time I use it.
One of the great conundrums of woodworking is this simple fact: you need a workbench to build a workbench.
In fact, in order to build a proper workholding system replete with vises, rock-solid joinery, and a sturdy wood top, you also need a complete shop full of power tools to mill the wood to size, a fleet of clamps to laminate the top, and tons of experience to know how to use all that stuff in the first place. And to build it from hard maple or other appropriate wood, it'll cost at least $700 for the lumber alone.
Ideally, a laundry room would belong in one of the more private sections of your house – a space to do the behind-the-scenes work of running a home, fold unmentionables, and stash things that simply have no where else to go.
In our house, it's in the dead center of activity. Because of plumbing and venting access, it's the first thing you see when you walk down the stairs into our basement, and in addition to our kitchen and dining room, our basement has become the heart of our home. There, both my wife and I have our own offices where we welcome business collaborators, take meetings, and do video
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A good sturdy workbench is one of the simplest, most useful projects any woodworker can embark upon. In fact, it's probably the first project every woodworker should embark up. And yet it tends to go by the wayside. You see people building remarkably complicated pieces on rickety, unimpressive workbenches.
There's a saying about the cobbler's shoes that goes here but I can't figure out if it works or not. Anyway, the point is, having a rock-solid work surface on which to build other things is really important. And you can make a great workbench without spending too much money or much time
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The story goes like this: I'll wake up early...usually on a Saturday, or perhaps the Monday of a three day weekend. I'll pull on my work jeans — not the trashed, paint-splattered ones; just the wornout pair with the ever growing hole in the right knee I need to patch. I'll tie my workboots, and grab a few quick measurements before I head out the door. I always remember to put the tape measure in my pocket to take it with me. Today is project day.
And I'll get to the home improvement store, and I'll wander the aisles, and I'll realize: I have no idea what I'm doing. I need more information, more measurements, more details. So, I'll desperately look up something on my phone, but the reception in the back of this huge concrete box isn't good enough. Plus, all those content farms have tricked the search engines so that the quality of information that comes up is poor, and so generic that I struggle to trust it.
Plus, maybe I have the basic materials figured out, but what tools do I need? Do I have the right screws, or are all mine too short or have the wrong head type? And - for goodness sakes - do I need another pack of #2 Phillips driver bits? (Thankfully, that one is easy. Yes. The answer is always yes. )
I don't think I've mentioned this on ManMade, but earlier this year, my wife and I bought our first (and hopefully last) home. It was a big deal, both emotionally and financially, and looking in one of the wildest and fastest changing real estate climates in the country, we got pretty lucky that our first offer was accepted. It's a solid home that we can afford, and it sits in a close-in neighborhood that's super liveable and great for walking, commuting by bike, and public transit. I totally love it.
And...of course, when you own your own home, you get to mess with it. No more landlords to tell you what to do, no more wasting time and money investing in customizing a place that you'll only be in for a little while. And of course, as a DIY blogger, I had my sights set on the two most important spaces in the house: the garage and the basement.
Hopefully, the new calendar has you motivated to take on some new projects. And we all know the key to working quickly, efficiently, and creatively is: organization. Keeping things where they need to be allows your work surface to stay clean and makes your tools easy to find. Plus, when well organized, you'll find you can actually fit a lot more gear and materials into a small space.