The Milkman's Workbench Build - The Ambidextrous Version - Part 6

by Mark Hochstein

Ok, let's finish this bench! With the screws completed and handles glued on all I have left to do is actually assemble the bench. I marked out the position of the screws on the end pieces and then drilled countersinks and clearance holes.

The glue-up starts at the end opposite the wagon vise. I glued the end piece on and then set it aside to dry. While that was drying I decided to make the 3/8" dowels that will reinforce the bridle joints. Making the dowels is a little easier than the large ones for the screws. I made a doweling jig a few years ago which comes in handy anytime I'm making dowel stock. It's a simply a piece of plywood with two v-grooves milled in it to hold the stock. I ripped some straight stock to 13/32" square and then laid it in the v-grooves and ran it through the planer. You can use the same jig to hold the pieces and plane them by hand. That's actually how I initially used this jig.

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By flipping the stock 90 degrees after each pass you end up with an octagon perfect for doweling.

Making dowels

Making dowels

To make the dowels I just position my dowel plate over a dog hole in my bench and taper the very end of the dowel just a little so it will go into the hole. After that I just pound away making sure to support the stock with my fist to keep it from breaking. As you can see, the shavings are still course. If you go much over 1/32" oversized for your dowel stock you will start to run into problems.

By now the glue had set up enough to remove the clamps to continue the glue-up. I applied glue to the half-lap and the spacer block using a second spacer block to make sure the front rail stayed parallel to the bench. Remember to put the vise block in with the proper orientation before gluing the end piece on.

I recommend pre-finishing the vise block and the grooves that it rides in. These are areas that are very difficult to get to after the assembly is complete. In addition, you will definitely want to pre-finish the threaded hole and screw for the wagon vise. The last thing you want is finish getting in there and seizing everything up. Just make sure you don't get finish on the glue surfaces - like the mortise for the garter on the vise block.

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After the glue had dried I drilled pilot holes for the screws using the clearance holes as a guide. In maple, pilots holes are mandatory. One broken screw will quickly teach that lesson. These are just zinc plated steel screws that I stripped. I applied Super Blue to the heads to help keep them from rusting - plus I like the black color.

After pegging the half-laps, the only thing left to do was to complete the assembly of the wagon vise. I applied some bees wax to the tenon of the wagon vise as well as to the inside of the garter. Hopefully that will keep things running soothly for quite a while.

Works left or right-handed

Works left or right-handed

I made two modifications to the original design in order to make the bench ambidextrous. By using round dog holes instead of the more traditional square ones this bench can be used with either side up, making it work for either left or right-handed craftspeople.  

I also increased the size of the hold-downs so that the screws holes could be placed in the middle of the bench allowing them to be flipped easily when changing the configuration.

Flippable hold-downs and round bench dogs make a versatile bench

The purpose of this series was to add information to help novice woodworkers build a bench that they can use to help improve their skill level in the craft. With the exception of making the screws with the router powered threader this entire bench can be built using hand tools alone if that is your desire.

Don't let the fact I used some machines discourage you from building this bench if you don't have access to them. You could build this bench with the following hand tools: a rip handsaw, a tenon saw, a set of chisels, a drill (hand or power), a jack plane and a router plane (or powered router). You can order the dowels from Beall Tool and you can make the handles octagonal removing the requirement for a lathe. That's not a very long list of tools. I guarantee that regardless of how you build this bench you will be a better craftsman for having built it - and you'll have a great little portable bench to show off and use for years to come.

If you have any questions about techniques I employed here or how to do a certain operation with a hand tool instead of a power tool just ask in the comments below and I'll be happy to help out.

Thanks for reading!

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Gunpowder Woodworks by Mark Hochstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License Google+