Gentle Galoots Assembled,
I hope I’m not going to hell.
Short story: I’m replacing the top of my workbench. Now for the juicy details.
For at least 15 years or so, I’ve been working on a workbench made from four 6x6
treated lumber legs framed around top and bottom by 2x6’s lag bolted into the
legs. There’s a shelf on the bottom that holds my bench planes. To top is 1
½” laminated oak (tractor-trailer truck bed) that measures 32” by 5 ½ feet. The
top is 33” off the floor which corresponds to my knuckle height. This bench is
very heavy and stable and does not rack or move even under heavy planning.
There are no dog holes in the top. The only vise is an E.H. Sheldon quick
release vise that is mounted on the left-hand end of the bench, not in the usual
position on the front side. I do not plan to replace the current base. Am I
going to hell?
Most of the woodworking I do is fine furniture (chairs, chests, case goods),
small stuff like boxes, chests, trunks, and the odd bits like a kitchen island
top, front gate, etc. Edge planning is accomplished primarily by holding boards
in the end vise (I have about 5 feet on each side of the center of the vise) so
they are perpendicular to the long side of the bench. Lots of bits are held
using F-clamps affixed to the front edge. I have retractable planning stop
across the left end of the bench. In sum, I’ve never been badly inconvenienced
in holding work. Hold fasts would be a big help and are planned for the new
Now for the new top. The new top will finish out at about 3” thick laminated
8/4 hard maple that will be 30 inches wide and between 6 ½ - 7 feet long. My
present plan is to replace the present Sheldon vise with an 1990s NIB English
manufacture Record 52 ½ vise. I really like the placement of the vise at the
end of the bench rather than having it sticking out at hip height along the
front edge of the bench. Thus, my current plan is to mount the Record vise on
the left end of the bench top. Am I going to hell? I really like the little
Sheldon vise, so I may end up putting it on the opposite end, but I’m not sure
I now have hold fasts (thank you Galootaclaus and Jake the Russian) so I plan to
drill a number of 3/4” holes through the 3” top for them. I’ve taken a number
of classes with Lonnie Bird at his School of Fine Woodworking and using his
benches have found how useful holdfasts can be. A good vise and hold fasts seem
all that is necessary for the work that I do or am likely to do. I don’t plan
to have a row of dog holes that correspond to the Record (or Sheldon) vise. At
one point I was Jonesing for a fancy dovetailed tail vise, but no longer, it
doesn’t seem to be something I need and would be an unnecessary complication at
this point. Am I going to hell? (anyone need a NIB Veritas end vise hardware
Having looked at the four Record bench vise installation options from Landis’s
The Workbench Book and reflecting on how the Sheldon vise is installed on my
current top, I will probably use the Edge Mount option where the rear jaw is
mounted onto the edge of the benchtop. I plan to rout out a wooden cheek to
cover the rear jaw. There will be a corresponding wooden cheek on the front
At this point I am not planning on end-caps on either end of the bench top. Am
I going to hell?
As I get ready to finish plane and glue up the hard maple boards Anything else
that I’ve not thought of that might send me directly to hell?
As always, I appreciate your wisdom.
John M. Johnston
“P.S. If you do not receive this, of course it must have been miscarried;
therefore I beg you to write and let me know.” - Sir Boyle Roche, M.P.