Sometimes, I regret spending the first year or so of my woodworking life using primarily power tools. I ponder how much further along I’d be in my hand work and sigh. Sunk costs, I guess. But more than that, I wonder how awesome it would have been to learn on a proper workbench. I started on a Black & Decker Workmate 425, so it could have been worse.
But then what is the right type of workbench for a new apartment woodworker? While I love my Milkman’s Workbench, and am glad to have made it, it’s not my go-to workbench anymore. And I certainly did not have the skill to make one just starting out (not to mention the PWW article had not even been written yet). So what would I do? I’d buy another Black & Decker Workmate 425, of course, and start on my basic set of tools.
But then, I would buy four, eight foot long Douglas Fir 2x4s and laminate a 48″ x 12″ slab. Which I could then dress by hand, drill some dog holes for a planing stop and clamp to a sturdy table with angle iron. Then I’d use that surface to make a DIY moxon vise from veneer press screws and some red oak or maple 2×4’s and have all the workholding I could need for a while. Then I would use the moxon vise to make a shooting board.
I’m not just spitballing here. I woodwork almost exclusively on a 48″ x 9″ x 1.5″ maple slab, a shop-made moxon vise with 24″ between the screws, and a plywood shooting board. And it works for me.
That’s the ticket – whatever works for you. I’m primarily a power tool woodworker, but right now I’m down to almost nothing. Starting fresh, you might say. So I’m going the hand tool route myself. It’s like starting over.
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Tiny workshops are of personal interest to me, particularly those that work in small spaces by choice. I enjoy seeing how folks do *More with Less*. Even using only hand tools, I believe that there is great opportunity to do excellent work with a minimal tool kit if *technique* is given precedence over specialized tools. Organization and creative storage are also key. While toolboxes seem to be the current rage, I believe that graduated drawers under the workbench are an efficient and neglected method of storing and maintaining tools.
You might enjoy seeing this Brazilian’s tiny workshop…hand tools only.
Here is his website
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My shop isn’t quite that small! But I can relate.
A workbench such as yours reflects your unique uses. I’ve never used one ‘Out of the Box’ without some modifications for the type of work I do, and often, my best ones, that truly fulfill my needs, are the ones I’ve built myself.
Our benches, be they homemade or modified from an existing ‘Out of the Box’ model, are a reflection of us, as woodworkers. They are more than a tool, and much more than simple Shop furniture.
Great article, as always, and keep us in the loop both here and on Twitter, on your projects.
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