Arranging and Equipping the Workshop

LIGHT, warmth, and dryness are the main requirements of the amateur’s workshop. Warmth it should be remembered does not necessarily ensure dryness, and indeed if the workshop is made too warm, it will probably become damp. The best way to secure dryness is by providing for ample ventilation; under the floorboards if it is a wooden building, or by opening the top of a window in other cases. With regard to light, if there is a window along one side of the workshop, the long side of the workbench should go against that wall. If there is a central fitting for the electric light, lead a long flex from the ceiling rose to a bracket over the bench, and suspend the lamp from that. Keep the light well up, out of the way when handling long pieces of timber on the bench.

A better way would be to run a length of vulcanised india rubber cable from the rose to a batten-lampholder screwed to a wooden block which is fixed to the wall. If this is done by an electrician, get him to fit a switch, combined with a plug point below so that an el&ctric soldering iron or other appliance taking little current could be plugged in at need. A combined 5-amp. Switch and plug outlet (the latter with a separate switch) is a standard fitting that can be purchased from most electrical dealers. It would be advisable for an earthed fitting (three-core flexible) to be specified, as most modern appliances are provided with an earthing terminal. As an example of the benefit of the plug point, a 500-watt bowl fire ‘.ould be plugged in on cold days.

Warming the Shop

This is not merely a question of warming the workman, but also of providing I the warm atmosphere that will be needed if woodwork joints are to be glued together. Glue quickly chills and no satisfactory joint can be made on a cold day unless the timber is warm to the touch before applying the glue. So we must have some source of heat for such jobs, at any rate. An oil stove will do quite well for a small workshop, and it should stand on a square of sheet iron. It should also have a fender of the same material around it, standing on the bottom sheet and rising about 9 inches from the floor.

Fire Precautions

Store the paraffin outside the shop, and do not forget that it is not safe to leave an oil lamp burning untended for long. Clean the stove periodically, and trim the wick when required. Sweep out the workshop regularly and bag up the shavings, etc. ready for burning under the garden refuse heap. The bowl fire can be used for odd-time wanning, and should be given a stand on a slab of stone or brick, in some place out of harm’s way.


A strong kitchen table can be used for light work, but it is not always firm enough for planing arid other woodworking operations. This is mainly because the legs are open and are not connected near the bottom by braces. If the worker can obtain a strong table with square legs, it is an easy matter to screw four pieces of 4 in. x 1 in. batten about 3 inches up from the bottom, so as to connect the legs at front and back and the two sides. A flooring of ½ in. matchboard can be nailed to the top edges of the battens, stiffening the entire structure and furnishing a useful shelf for large tools, etc. Failing this, if the floor is not needed, nail on two widths of 6in. X 1 in. floorboard from end to end, centred on the width of the short ends of the table; this forms a brace.

It is not difficult to construct a strong bench. The length may be anything from 4ft. Gin. To 6ft., according to the accommodation available, the width should not be less than 2ft. 3in., and a comfortable height for the average man is 2ft. 6in. First construct the two end frames. The legs are of 3 in. x 3in. Timber, and are connected at the top by a bearer cut from 4in. X 1 ½ in. deal; they are also connected near the bottom by a similar piece, the lower edge of which may come about 2 in. from the bottom.

Any difficulty of jointing is avoided by screwing the bearer and the bottom rail to the legs, using No. 12 iron screws, 21 in. long. The holes bored in the rail and bearer should be large enough for the screws to pass easily. To assemble the end frames, lay the legs in their proper relative positions on the floor, with a bearer laid across them, and test the angles with a square. Now mark the position for a hole in one leg by passing the bradawl through the hole previously made in the bearer. Take away the bearer and start the hole where the awl has marked it. Put on the bearer again and screw it at the one hole, testing with the square before getting it too tight. Now get the bearer square with the opposite leg, bore one hole there, and turn in the screw tightly. It remains to bore for the remaining two screws, and insert them.

The screwing on of the rail near the bottom is easy, because the legs are held in position by the top bearers; but test carefully for squareness, and measure from the bottom to ensure that the rail is the same distance up at each leg. A third screw can be put in at each joint for extra strength, if desired. Make up a second end frame in the same way. The two end frames are connected by top bearer rails cut from one-inch boards, not less in width than 4oin. These rails extend so as to cover the end of the 4 in. x 1 ½ in. bearers of the end frames. Below, level with the lower rails of these frames, two narrower rails are fixed, cut from 4 in. x 1 in. deal. The same gauge of screw (No. 12), but only 2 in. in length, should be used for the long rails. Lay the two end frames on the floor, in proper square position and at the right distance apart, and get an assistant to hold them while one top rail is screwed to one end. Get the rail square with the leg at that end, and tighten the screw so as to keep it from slipping. At the opposite end frame, get the rail square, and drive a nail in a little way (through one of the holes bored for screws), in order to fix the proper position.

Insert one screw in this second frame; carefully pull out the temporary nail, without altering the location of the rail, and replace it with the proper screw. Go back to the first end now, and put in the second over to the reverse side; put on the top rail there, testing it and eventually screwing it in place as before. The lower rails are put on one by one, following the same precedure.

Cut the boards for the top, and nail them on, letting them come even with the edge of the top bearer rails at front, back and two ends. Tongued and grooved floorboard will make a good top. Saw down one board to bring the top to the required width if needed; plane off the tongue on one outside board and the groove on the opposite board in any case. Screw in No. 12 screws; countersink the holes in the boards so that the screwhead is sunk well below the surface. A diagonal brace can be fixed to the framework to stiffen it further .

If it is decided to floor in the bot- screw. Gently turn.,, splitting. Torn, put the lower rails of the end frames on the inside, but the top bearers outside. Then the flooring (of ¾ in. or ¾ in. matching) can finish inside the legs, the ends of the boards resting on the top edge of the lower rails, and being cut off flush there.

The diagram************ shows only one end of the framework, to indicate how the bearer rails and lower rails are screwed on. If the bench is made longer than 4ft. 6in., one or two 4 in. wide battens should be screwed to the underside of the bench top to stiffen it. Let these battens go into notches cut in the top of the top rails.

The bench should be fixed to the floor, and also to the wall against which it stands. On a wood floor stout angle brackets can be used to hold the legs down. In the case of a concrete floor, drill holes for No. 12 Rawplugs and use No. 12 screws to fix the brackets down. For the wall, drive in wrought iron holdfasts at convenient brickwork joints, so that the eye of the holdfast comes against the side of a bench leg. Then, after getting the bench level and in proper position, put a stout screw through the eye and into the leg. Two holdfasts at each end should suffice; one at each end may do if a good fixing has been obtained to the floor. If the mortar of the brickwork joint is soft or crumbly, drive in a wood wedge against the holdfast to secure the latter; alternatively, rake out or chisel out a larger hole and cement in the holdfast, first bending over the extreme (pointed) end at right angles to form a grip in the cement.

Bench Stop

The bench stop is an invaluable aid to the preparation of wood surfaces by planing and to provide a firm stop face for work of a similar nature. The stop is located at the top end of the working side of the bench.

The customary type of bench stop consists of a 1 ¾ in. square section block of hardwood, 6in. Long, and a hardwood wedge 51 in. long, 15 in. Wide, ¾ in. thick at the top tapering to ¾ in. at the base. These components are fitted in a hole cut in the bench top, the rear face of the hole being cut to the same angle as the taper of the wedge. The location of the bench stop hole in the bench is a matter for the discretion of the user. So long as the top of the vice is not above the level of the bench no difficulty should be encountered in this respect. The hole should be marked off so as to be approximately 3in. In from the side face of the bench and at least 7in. From the top end of the bench. Having scribed the shape of the hole, which should be exactly I ¾ in. wide by 2$in. Long, drill out a jjin. Hole at each corner and well inside the scribed lines. Using a keyhole saw, remove the surplus material and trim the sides of the hole with a paring chisel. All the sides should be vertical with the exception of the rear face which must be pared to the same angle as the taper of the wedge. Slide the stop in the hole, followed by the wedge which must be hammered in firmly but not excessively. Press the stop down until it protrudes about half an inch above the level of the bench. Lightly chamfer the top edges of wedge and stop. To alter the height of the stop tap its base to loosen wedge, re-position the stop to required level and secure it by driving the wedge home.

Pair of Saw bucks

When sawing timber some form of stool or trestle is wanted on which to rest the board to be cut. A short piece of board to be cross-cut can be held with the knee on a single trestle, and the same applies to a board that is to be ripped (sawn down lengthwise). But a longer board will have to be supported at both ends, so that a pair of trestles will be needed. If, for example, there is occasion to take a room door off its hinges for planing, or for some other repair, nothing but a pair of stout trestles will do for supporting the door during the operation. These trestles are often called saw bucks, or sawing horses. While taking the measurements for one, and setting out the lengths and joints, it is very little more trouble to do this for a pair, and so provide two.

The saw buck as made by a carpenter is splayed in two directions; the legs slope back lengthwise, and also outwards. This is to provide a firm stand, while keeping the legs out of the way of the saw. The tops of the legs are notched out to receive the top beam, which is cut from 4in. T0 2 in. deal (wide face upwards). But the leg-tops, owing to the two-way slope, have to be cut with a slant or bevel, that is, a compound of the two slopes, and this is apt to be difficult for the novice. It is the same problem, in fact, that arises when making a wheelbarrow, where the legs join on in a similar two-way slope.

There is a simpler method, which will give ample strength and stability: slope the legs outwards only, as shown in the end view. On looking at the front view the reader will sec that the leg-top comes four inches from the end of the top beam. Join it to the beam at this distance, but let the leg come dozen straight instead of sloping backwards. The two legs on one side will thus be parallel, as will the opposite pair. Measure 4 in. from the end of the top beam, square a line down the side face of the beam, and fit on the leg-top square to this line. In other words, the distance from the end of the beam to the outside edge of the leg will be 4 in. The legs are to be screwed to the beam at each side. The end braces should be screwed on after the legs have been fixed to the beam.

The lower ends of the legs will have to be squared off finally while the saw buck stands level on a floor. Rest a spirit level on the top of the beam, and pack up the legs with thin bits of wood until the bubble of the level is central. Then get a straight piece of wood to use as a straight-edge. Lay it alongside the legs of one end, narrow edge on the floor, close up against the legs. The worker will be viewing the saw buck as seen in the*************** end elevation. Run a pencil along the top edge of the straight-edge, so that it marks a horizontal line across the legs of the saw buck. This should indicate the true line at which the lower ends of the legs should be cut to give a level stance.

Make the legs of 31’n. X 2i’n. Deal; the top beam, as stated, is cut from 41’n. X 2 in. deal. The end braces ought to be not less in thickness than 1 :}in., and may be of any width from 6in. To about 8in. They are screwed on with No. 12 screws, the length being suitable to the thickness of the braces. A V-shaped notch may be cut in one end of the top beam, for use when ripping boards; it helps to prevent the saw damaging the end of the saw buck.

Tool Rack Over Bench

A rack for chisels, screwdrivers, files and other handled tools is convenient, and is easily made, though it is not wise to leave edge tools continually in such a rack; they ought to be collected up and put away in a tool box when the job has been done. The rack is intended to be screwed to the wall of the workshop at the back of the bench. Rawlplugged holes should be made in the brickwork, if any, and the rack held by about four screws (for the length shown in the diagram************). Some people fix the rack to the bench, but in this case the vertical back piece must be made higher to give clearance, and an ob- jection to this is that hammering or planing on the bench jogs and jolts the tools, making an irritating noise even if it does not unship some of them. The rack is shown 5 in. wide, with a back piece 7 in. high; the length illustrated is just over 2ft., but this is a matter of choice. Three-quarter inch deal will do for all parts; but, as many circular holes have to be bored in the horizontal ledge, it would be better to get a strip of hardwood or American whitewood for this part. Get the timber and plane it up to the chosen dimension. The ledge is shown merely screwed (from the back) through the back piece. It would make a stronger job to house it into the back piece to a depth of a quarter of an inch, but this involves cutting a shallow groove along the back piece. In either case, fit the ledge to the back, bore holes for the screws and put in about half of them, leaving out alternate ones for the time being. Then mark the position of the ledge carefully, apply hot glue, and quickly fit together again and screw up tightly. The screws previously inserted should be turned in first. Then insert the remaining screws and put the rack in a warm place for the glue to harden.

No. 8 iron screws will do for this job, and the holes in the back piece should be countersunk deeply to get the screwheads well in from the face of the wood.

The proper way to set out and bore the holes for the tools is as fol- lows. Measure at each end of the ledge to get the centre line of the width, and connect these points by a scribed or pencilled line. The width shown in the diagram************ is 5 in., so that the line comes 2.½ in. from the front edge. Measure in from the end a distance of 2 in. lengthwise to give the point for the first hole; set a pair of compasses or dividers to span 3in., and step off the rest of the holes of the back row at 3 in. intervals, starting from the two-inch point first marked. The front row of holes is started 35 in. from the end of the ledge, to bring these holes intermediate between those of the back row. Leave enough wood between the back row and front row, so that there is no risk of splitting out. The front row can be omitted, if desired.

Get a piece of waste board and lay it on the bench; lay the ledge over it and clamp both down to the bench firmly. Put a ½ in. centre bit in a brace and bore the first hole, going down through the ledge and into the waste piece far enough to leave a clean hole in the ledge itself. Proceed with the rest of the holes boring out slowly and carefully. If the brace has a ratchet action the latter should be brought into use, enabling slower and more gradual boring to be done. It will be seen, from the diagram************, that some of the front row holes are slotted out to the front; this is to allow chisels with wide blades (which would not pass through the round holes in the ledge) to be inserted from the front and turned round with the blade broadside on. The slots are cut after the holes have been bored. The best bit to use is a screw-nose improved centre bit; these are cheap and efficient.

Another useful rack can be made up to hold other tools, or to take metal boxes or canisters in which screws and nails are kept. The ledge in this case would be plain, without holes, and would have a shallow guard screwed to the front to stop articles falling off. A length of 1 in. bead would make a good guard or stop at the front and ends.

Greater strength can be given to the ledge of the racks by glueing and screwing on simple angle brackets of triangular shape, cut from 4in. X ½ in. planed timber. Holes are bored in the front (sloping) edge vertically and horizontally for long, thin screws that go into the ledge and into the back piece respectively. Alternatively, short steel shelf brackets can be screwed on at each end and at the middle of the length, under the ledge.

Saw Rack

The saw rack is made from two pieces of batten planed up true and separated by a thin piece of wood ($in. to½ in. thick). This latter forms a space through which the saw blade can be inserted, while the handle rests on the tops of the two battens. If a single batten were fixed to the wall, or to the side of the bench, and separated from the wall, etc. by two spacing pieces, the saw would not hangstraight, so use two battens, and make up the fitment as illustrated.

The entire assembly, two battens and two spacers, may be fixed to a wall by two screws at each end, passing through the wood members and going into the wall or bench end. But a better method is to screw the front batten to the back one only, boring clearing holes through the spacers so that the screws do not bite into them. Thus the rack is fixed together independ- ently. Procure two brass mirror plates and screw them to the back of the rear batten, so that the eye at the top of the plate is above the wood. Then hold the rack up against a wall where it is to hang, mark positions for Rawlplugs, and drill out two holes for the plugs in the brickwork. No. 8 screws will suit this job, and the handyman should procure screws having the worm formed right up to the head; otherwise the screw cannot be turned right in close to the mirror plate, and the rack will be loose.

Another method, for any situation where thin plates or other such fittings have to be Rawlplugged to a wall, is to make a hole with the drill or jumper of ample depth, and to use a shorter plug, so that the latter after insertion is about ½ in. to½ in. below the surface; this will allow an ordinary screw to be used. If a screw is forced into a Rawlplug after the wormed part has reached the top of the plug, the latter may be twisted round and loosened or drawn out.

Bench Hook

This easily made gadget enables such jobs as sawing the ends of battens square, or cutting off narrow wood to length, to be done comfortably at the bench. The hook is laid on the bench so that the thick stop at the under side rests against the bench front or end. A piece of wood is placed on the hook, resting against the top stop. By holding and pushing the wood against the hook with the left hand, it is easily kept sufficiently firm for sawing. The right hand is then free to use a tenon saw on that part of the job which projects to the right beyond the top stop of the hook.

To make a bench hook, procure a piece of cjin. X 1 in. board, about 16 inches long. Plane up the top surface, and square off the front and back ends. The top and bottom stops are cut from batten 2 in. wide and 1 ½ in. thick, or thereabouts. If a piece of oak or beech can be obtained for the stops it will greatly improve the hook, and add to its life. Also, the use of oak for the gin. X 1 in. board will help. Fix the stops on dead square; bore them for No. 12 screws, countersink the holes in the stops, and screw through from the bottom of the underside stop and the top of the top stop. Sink the screwheads well below the surface.


Although wooden vices, with a wooden or steel screw, are still made for woodwork benches, the complete steel vice is usually preferred. The full-size joiner’s vice is an expensive item, and generally the bench has to be cut away to fix this appliance. However, a simpler and lighter vice is made for amateur use, and can be fixed by its flanges to the top and front of the bench. A hole has to be bored through the top front bearer rail to let the screw of the vice pass. The makers give a printed leaflet with instructions for fitting, but any tool dealer will tell the purchaser what is necessary. The front of the bench is the usual site for the vice, and usually a point near the left-hand end is chosen, as this allows a board clamped for endwise planing to be worked from right to left.

We must consider the placing of the metalworking vice, if this is to be bolted or screwed permanently to the bench top. If the woodworking vice is fitted to the left-hand, the metal vice will have to go at the opposite end. It is true that a ‘port- able’ vice can be bought, and fastened for the time being by its cramp, but for this the top or end of the bench must project at least lUn. To 2 in., and most woodworking benches have a flush front. A way out of the difficulty is to bolt down a piece of oin. X 1 in. board to one end of the bench, letting it overlap the bench end by about two inches. Then the overlap will afford a fixing for the portable vice. Cut a notch in the edge of the board, so that part of the cramp frame can be held against rotation. These screwclamp arrangements have a tendency to twist around when a strain is put on them, but the notch will do a lot to prevent such movement. If room can be found .for a vice permanently, buy one that is bolted down by flanges to the top of the bench; this is much more satisfactory. If the pocket will allow it, purchase a vice with jaws not less than 2½ in. wide.

Gas Ring for Gluepot

Although an oil stove is a quite satisfactory means of heating the glue-pot, a gas point is very convenient.

If the bench is fixed against a wall, a gas pipe can be led near one end and terminated with an elbow and a tube nozzle with cock. A metal flexible tube can then be slipped over the nozzle (using a proper rubber connector), and joined to a small gas boiling ring. Do not get too big a ring; once the glue has been prepared, all that is needed is enough heat to keep it in the right condition for application. If the same ring is to be used to heat a soldering ironx buy one with a small central burner cone rather than one with the usual wider ring of holes at the outside. It will serve just as well for the glue, and will be much better for the soldering iron.

A slab of stone, a piece of slate, or a square of sheet iron should be put under the ring if it stands on the bench. One more point. Keep a shallow tin handy for the spent matches; this will be a reminder not to drop them on the floor among the shavings! This will reduce the risk of fire to a minimum: a precaution well worth adopting.

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