Build A Carving Bench
Thursday 04 February 2010
Richard Davies shows you how to put together this wonderful workbench suitable for all your carving needs
Being fairly new to woodcarving, and not knowing what type of carving I would prefer in the long term, I wanted a bench that could be used for large and small work for both in the round and relief. The height was worked out using the guide explained in Chris Pye's book, Woodcarving: Tools, Materials & Equipment, Volume 2. I noticed that the Swiss carving benches used a sliding table on a vertical board, however, when I saw a carving vice attached to a steel post, this gave me the idea to have a two-screw heavy vice that would allow nearly 180 degree movements and then linked to the ball movement of a carving vice, providing a very large combination of positions.
The next problem was to support the carving vice and steel post. If the vice screws could be moved up and down then I could accommodate different lengths of wood. Five hole positions give a fair amount of variation in height.
For working on relief carvings, the benchtop can be used, and with Veritas dogs and a vice with dog holes in the travelling jaw, would, with a good spread of holes across the bench top, allow for holding most flat work.
For the construction, I wanted a bench that was heavy enough to support substantial pieces of wood, so this meant a good size and plenty of weight, but small enough to be moved through standard door openings when dismantled.
Vice parts were available from Axminster Tool Centre and ideally I wanted to use dried beech
(Fagus sylvatica), but a local sawmill had some kiln dried sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), about 45mm thick. I wanted the top to be 70mm thick when finished, so this meant laminating with biscuits.
The legs were made as two sets joined by wide boards to help prevent a rocking movement, and secured with bed nuts and bolts.
The two leg sets were made with a large connecting rail fixed by pegged mortise and tenon joints.
The top of each leg is marked into four on the end and cut down 70mm. The waist is then removed to allow the legs to support the top and be flush with the sides. The bench is next assembled, checked for height, and the holes drilled to secure the legs with counter-sunk coach-bolts.
Having created all the main bench parts and dry fitted each part, the top vice can be fitted; this involves positioning the vice mechanism on the underside of the bench top, marking the holes in the skirt for the guide rods and the screw. When drilling the holes, allow room for the wood to move, so not too tight. Use these holes to act as a template for the running vice jaw by positioning the jaw in the correct place and marking through the existing holes. Complete the vice assembly. Note the dog holes can be drilled when the bench is finished and you have an idea where you want the holes and the diameter, depending on what dogs you will use.
I find the side vice most used. It has two thick boards held at the bottom by a loose mortise and tenon in the bottom rail, and a coach-bolt through the bench top skirt at the top (the loose mortise and tenon allows for easy dismantling).
To accommodate the vice screws, both boards are drilled with 5 holes of 30mm diameter at 125mm centres. 125mm gives space at the bottom for bench height adjustment.
The fixed vice nut is counter sunk into a board at the back which is laminated onto the retaining dado board. As with the other vice, use the 30mm holes as a template for the running vice jaw.
In order to hold the 50mm square bar that I use as a base for my carving vice, I developed a pressure limiter; this has an off centre spacer which allows it to be positioned between the vice screws. A rebate 2mm less than the thickness of the bar gives sufficient pressure. On this one, I have a vertical cutout and a continuous cutout at one end, thus giving both vertical hold and sideways hold.
The top of the bench can be drilled for dogs, as can the top vice. A number of devices are available but I have used Veritas round dogs which I find are easier to fit than the square dogs.
A shelf can be fitted over the bottom rails either as an extra storage space, or to accommodate extra weight. As yet, I have not needed any extra weight as the bench needs two people to easily lift it.