(Note: I found and fixed a problem in some recent blogs. You can now click on any picture to see a larger view. Learn something new every day.)
I regularly read the Popular Woodworking Shop Blogs. Interesting, informative and good reads all. There is one series that confuses and confounds me, the Bench Bull blogs by Yoav Liberman. I read them and am not certain exactly what I would do with one if I built it.
It can’t be a problem with comprehension. I have been tested and read at a sixth grade level or better. The difficulty must be more conceptual or generational. I might be at the wrong point in my woodworking arc. I have 2 2/2 Moxon vises (total of 4) and two functional benches. (No, I haven’t built the big one yet.)
A few weeks back, some members of the Monday night woodworking group discussed building some Bench Bulls. Looking for enlightenment, I decided I needed to build one. I went out to Lowes Depot and invested $5.64 (plus tax) in an 8′ – 2 x 6. If 3.5 inches is good, 5.5 inches would have to be better. I screwed mine together enabling me to take it apart and reconfigure it. It is $5.64 I’m never going to get back…
Many blog commenters are excited about building and using their Bench Bull, so it must be me. Megan Fitzpatrick, the editor and content director of Popular Woodworking Magazine, hired Mr. Liberman. Ms. Fitzpatrick is a friend of mine. (We once rode an escalator together at a Woodworking in America. She gave me a pleasant smile while coyly hiding her pepper spray.) She knows what she is doing and I trust her.
I had some concerns when she first hired Chris Schwarz. He seems to have worked out for all the longer he was there. It takes all kinds.
All this interest in the Bench Bull rekindles my interest in the Milkman’s Workbench. Chris Schwarz first wrote about it in his PW blog of Sept. 11, 2012. His Popular Woodworking article surfaced in the June, 2013 issue.
I wanted to build the workbench since I first read his blog. When his article came out, I went as far as buying the Beall wood threading/tapping system. Then, as often happens, it got shelved for a while. In this case, two and a half years.
Mr. Schwarz built his workbench with square bench dogs but allowed that it round dog holes would be acceptable. Not being able to decide which to build, I built both.
I initially drilled holes for 1/2″ round bench dogs but considered all the dogs and accessories available for 3/4″ holes and replaced the middle benchtop with one drilled for 3/4″ bench dogs.
Not only is the bench with the round bench dogs easier to build, but without modification, it can become a left-handed workbench. The only thing that would require change is the position of the clamping brackets. (Not shown)
I did do a few things differently. It was recommended that you turn the dowels to be threaded from square stock. I bought a commercial dowel and turned it down slightly to the proper diameter. A bit faster and certainly more uniform. Know your limitations and do what works for you.
Another thing I did was to drill the holes in the handles while the blanks were still square. It is easier to hold the handle while square and centering the hole is less of an issue.
I added a shoulder to hide the rough thread end that occurs when you first thread the dowel then turn the threaded ends down to the necessary diameters. On the visible ends, I used a chisel to smooth the transition.
I turned the handles using a 60° cone live center. This guarantees that the hole is centered.
My handles are longer but that is just personal preference.
One controversial thing I built is a detachable tool tray:
I know not all favor the tool tray. They say it is unnecessary and just exists to collect debris. I am currently neutral on the tool tray and just offer it as an option.
I found some small ball catches at Woodcraft that adds a bit of friction to the square dog, encouraging the dogs to stay where you left them. Good dogs.
The article has you using 2″ pieces of angle iron as hold downs to clamp the workbench to a surface. I don’t have any 2″ angle iron, I don’t like working metal and I just know that a sharp corner of the angle iron will at some point impale itself into my right thigh. Based on personal experience. As soon as I remember to buy some, I am going to use some sturdy hinges backed with cork or other non-slip material for clamping to protect the clamped to surface and my thigh. The hinges can be folded up when not in use making woodworking just that much safer.
Cautionary Tales from the Shop.
I offer these in the hope that you might avoid the same or similar mistakes in your shop. It is true that you learn from making mistakes, they can be annoying and slow your progress.
Be aware of where your screw goes. There are no highly detailed, full-sized drawings for this workbench. We shouldn’t need them. We are woodworkers and should be able to figure many things out for ourselves. That being said, I placed a screw holding the right frame end to the middle benchtop incorrectly. The screw surfaced in the vise block groove.
I plugged the screw hole and moved the screw back about 3/8″.
Next, to mark the hole for the vise block to accept the wagon vise screw, one is to dry fit the bench and run a 1 1/8″ Forstner bit through the tapped hole in the right frame end and bang lightly. Not having a 1 1/8″ Forstner, I used a 1 1/8″ spade bit that I did have. While theoretically possible to use the spade bit to mark centers, I was not a skilled enough woodworker to pull it off. The holes were not well centered and bound.
Using the Internet, I was able to locate the last local 1 1/8″ Forstner bit at a Lowes about 15 miles away. Not one of the more common sizes. Roadtrip!
The last error of note was tapping the hole on the right frame end about 1° to 2° off perpendicular. This is not a problem when the block is close to the frame end (as when I did a dry fit) but becomes a major problem near full extension. The screw and block bind. The only fix I saw was to further reduce the diameter of the screw within the vise block. Back to the lathe.
The good news is that I am now comfortable with my woodworking skills and not bothered by having to go back and remake parts when necessary. Annoyed by the need to but not bothered. There was a time when I doubted my ability to make a suitable replacement part, just being thrilled that I made it at all.
I am now the owner of two Milkman’s Benches and a Bench Bull, none of which I have any immediate use for. Any and all suggestions entertained.