Woodworking Tips, Tricks and Techniques

 

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Improving the Effectiveness of Your Workbench 

 The Woodworking Bench

 My work bench is not a home made beauty most of us wood workers would like to build. It's a nice, high quality teak bench, just not as pretty as some of them we've all seen. I bought mine from a woodworking store that was going out of business. The original price of the bench was $ 1,200.00. I paid $ 800.00 for it. That was close to twenty years ago.

 
 
 
 

I try to keep it in nice shape, while not being too anal about it. When other people are using your equipment, some abuse happens. In spite of this, it is still a prized possession of mine, and is in good shape.

To make it a more productive piece of equipment, I did some alterations to it that double it's effectiveness. These modifications are all based around the same vacuum system as we use with our veneer work. The modifications are very minor, but have a major impact on production.

The "brains" of the system is the control box that comes with the vacuum system. This is mounted to a piece of plywood that's attached to the end of the bench with keyhole slots, so it can be removed easily. This control panel can be used for both vacuum clamping, or with a vacuum bag, simply by changing the hose on the top of it, and flipping a switch. Our system was manufactured by www.qualityvak.com.

 

Nu-Matic Vacuum Pump From www.qualityvak.com  Vacuum Manifold

When used in the clamping mode, the bench comes into play. I made up a manifold system, with three valves on it. It is attached to the end of the bench. I open the proper valve for the intended use. Opening one valve allows me to hook up a vacuum line with a quick connect fitting on a nylon hose. We have a mating quick connect fitting on the vacuum bag as well. A second valve controls suction to a hole drilled into the center of my bench. The hole has a barbed fitting jammed into it on the underside of the bench. It is "piped" to the manifold with nylon hose.

 Hold Down Jig  Hall Table Jig

This setup allows me to clamp work parts to the bench, by using plexiglass parts with a gasket on the top and bottom. These plexiglass parts can be a simple square, or an intricate pattern. A simple square piece is used when biscuiting the edge of cabinet parts. It's a matter of laying a board on the plexiglass and stepping on the foot pedal. Within seconds, the work piece is clamped tight enough, that you can drag the bench around with it. To release the part, step on the pedal again and it's instantly released.

 T-Square  Dado Jig

With a pattern, duplicate parts can be routed out very quickly. The next valve is "piped" to a hole on the front edge of the bench. The hole is surrounded by the same gasket material. With this setup, I can mount a work piece to the edge of the bench by holding it against the bench and stepping on the pedal. This is ideal for edge banding plywood, installing hinges on a door, or planning a board. The list goes on and on. The part is very securely attached to the bench.

One word of caution: If you have dogs wandering in your shop, as I do, keep the foot pedal out of their way. Having them stepping on it will release your work also. Usually, no always at a bad time!

The modifications took about an hour to do and have made production techniques considerably faster. While drilling holes in your prized bench sounds like a sin, the returns are well worth it.

Written by: Lee A. Jesberger © 2006 - 2013
Inventor of: Ezee-Feed Systems ®

     

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