Captain's Table

Mark Austen

2019.04.14 - New Workbench I

I may have mentioned this before but since putting Naiad in the water I've been at a bit of a loss, project-wise to the point that I have two sets of boat plans with the idea that I could build a small boat over the Winter months and sell it in the Spring. When I was working on Naiad I spend a lot of time in the workshop, now? Not so much.

I did make the plywood box as an experiment a few weeks ago and that made me keen to do some more non-boat related woodwork but it also highlighted that the table saw I have is just not capable of decent work. I don't think that it has anything straight any longer as evidenced by the gaps in the box's joints. This doesn't matter on a boat as nothing is straight anyway but at home, straight is good.

So I bought a new one. Well, a second-hand, older model one but it had never been used. It was pristine. Not a scratch, not a speck of sawdust. It had been sitting in the guy's shed for a couple of years waiting to be used. Eventually a move to a smaller house and shed prompted the sale.

So, during the week I made a base on which to build the new workbench and when the wheels arrived I bolted those in place. This weekend I made a proper start and this is what I have done so far:


This is just the start The framework is made of the left over 3x2 timber from the hay barn, the surface is 18mm MDF and the uprights are 18mm softwood plywood. The saw sits on an adjustable support in the table so that you have a wider area on both sides and the rest of the workbench can also serve as an outfeed table. The support needs to be adjustable so that you can lift the table saw up so that the surface of the saw matches the surface of the workbench which is as flat as I can make it. The MDF will not be a very good surface for very long, so I intend to cover it with hardboard which in turn will be liberally coated with paste wax, a waxy substance, so that paint, varnish, glue and epoxy will not stick to the surface. Eventually the hardboard will be very knocked about at which time it will be removed and replaced, ad infinitum.

This means that although the surface of the saw matches that of the workbench right now, when the hardboard is added later the saw will need to raised up another 3mm (1/8"). Hence the adjustable support.


The workbench goes back a lot further that just the table saw. The whole thing is 2.5m x 1.7m (8' 2.5" x 5' 7"). Huge, but I have room in the workshop and this new bench will easily fit.


The table saw will be "plumbed" in once more of the bench is completed but as it stands I can use it to cut the rest of the timber needed to make the rest of the bench.


There are one or two mis-measurements, the gap here is not parallel, for example.


Whilst I knew that I would have to cut this part of the bench away to allow the rack of the fence to pass, I forgot and had to remove a screw holding the plywood upright to the cross-beam and you can just see the hole where the screw used to be.


The rack slides in easily, so I got that bit right.


Likewise on the other side, I had the bolts too high and had to move them down and then still managed to get them slightly too high!


This part at the back of the saw worked properly.


As did this part. Here the rack slides under the surface to the left.


It does stick out underneath the surface so I have to remember that if I put a drawer in this side.


The remainder of the bench has to be done.


The two legs shown here are just temporary so that I can clamp a piece of plywood on top of them behind the saw as an outfeed table until the rest of the bench is done.

The thickness planer will be put in the bench as will the mitre saw and a router. A very important component of the bench is the dust collection, that will probably be done next as I have to use the bench outside at the moment else the workshop fills up with wood dust!

Now you might way that this is not a lot of work for nearly two days but there's one or two things you have to take into consideration here. Both 18mm MDF and plywood are heavy and so is the saw. I don't know the weight of the sheet material but I know that the saw weighs in at 22kg (48 1/2 lb). Now I can carry that without too much effort but the table saw is also quite large and you cannot carry it without straining your back. And I did. Likewise the sheets of MDF and plywood. Too big to carry by one person without straining something.

So I spent a lot of time moving the sheet material onto a trolley, then carefully to where I needed it whereupon it was propped up against the workshop wall, marked and rough sawn into smaller pieces that I could carry to the workMate where they were sawn to size. After I felt my back in distress I did something similar with the saw. On the trolley, prop up one end with a block of wood, then the other, then the first higher still, on and on until it was at the correct height that I needed and reverse to move it out of the way.

I also make my own bolts from 10mm studding. I cut the required length, chamfer the ends with a special tool and with two nuts and two washers I use the short piece of studding to bolt the wood together. This takes about 10 minutes per bolt and there are a lot of them. Thirty so far and more to come.

So, a lot of time not constructing but setting up to construct.

Still an interesting project.

More next weekend, I hope.

I still have a sore back, though.