This woodworking tips card is called Restore a Workbench. This is a great project for any beginning woodworker. Not only do you get a chance to get into the shop and make some dust, but you get to create the foundation of your shop. Here is why this is a great project.
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Restore a Workbench
When you restore a workbench or a carpenters bench, you are laying the foundation for your shop. The bench is where you will be spending the majority of your time. If you have a great bench, it can help you produce great work.
There is a certain psychological connection between a woodworker and a good bench. This happens in most people, though there are some that can work on anything. When you restore an old bench, you also get to connect to history.
My bench was my father’s before it was mine. Before it was his, it was his father’s as well. Once my son starts hammering on that bench, it will have seen four generations of my family using the very same carpenters bench. For me, that means more than any new bench, even though making a bench myself does sound like fun.
Laying the foundation for your shop has a lot of benefits for a new woodworker. Not only do you make a great working space for yourself, you learn valuable woodworking skills restoring the bench. Here is how you do it…
Look For a Nice Bench
There are many places where you can find an old bench to work on. If you are interested in an old bench for the history and the value, there are still many in the world. Start your search online or in flea markets and second hand stores. These are great places to find deals on old benches.
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Most of the time, people getting rid of an old bench do not really see any value in the item. To them it’s just a big item that takes up space and they want it gone. This is a good thing for you, because most old benches can be purchased for far less than a new bench of a similar style.
Pay attention to the vises and the hardware with the bench that you buy. Make sure that the vises work, or can be repaired at least. Also, make sure that the wood is not rotted. Damage can be filled and repaired, and even oil on the wood can be removed, but rotted wood is very hard to treat.
How to Restore a Bench
Restoring a bench will be a little different for each person depending on what you get. In the end, you want to have a level and sturdy bench with working vises and a clean surface. Your second hand bench will begin with certain things that need to be fixed, and others that are already fine. You need to evaluate the bench and then start fixing it.
When I was given my bench, it had a lot of oil on the surface. Both my father and my grandfather were more into working with metal than wood. My first task was to remove the oil and level the surface. After that, I filled in the nail holes, and then coated the whole bench with Danish Oil.
That was definitely the quick version. It took several weeks sanding and pulling out oil with acetone and automotive degreaser to get the bench in working order. I also had to repair the vises, and build a base for the bench top. It was a fun project, and the reward in the end was definitely worth the time.
Purchase a Bench You Can Restore
Make sure that the bench you buy is one that you can actually restore. Don’t waste time on something that is beyond saving or that will take months and months to repair. The goal it to have a working bench in a couple weeks, so that you can start working on the projects that you really want to work on.
If you are not ready to repair the vises, then look for a bench that already has working vises, or plan on taking them off and living without them for a while. If you don’t have the ability to level a large surface, and don’t think you are ready for the task, then look for a bench that is already pretty flat on the top.
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What you start with will be an indication of how long it will take to fix it. If you start out really rough, it can take a long time to get the bench up and going. At that rate, it’s not a deal even if you get the bench for a low price. Select something that you can repair, and you will be very happy with your restored bench in the end.
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