Introduction: A Tall Work Table With Angled Legs and Simple Joints
When I moved I only brought my old woodworking bench to work on but it's too light, small and short for most things and I always used to get stuck on the front vise or trip over the base. I found some store fixtures in the new place, including snap together shelves almost big enough for my collection of old fasteners, a tall counter with drawers and some specially made panels that had a lip on the bottom. The counter was a great height and long but narrow with walls on three sides. I tried making a fancy base for the panels with complicated interlocking joints but the elm I used was very difficult to work, and I made it this way instead to make up for all the time I wasted.
I copied the shape from a sturdy old metal machine stand and it took a while for me to recognize that the table looks and works a little like a sawhorse. It's also similar to the front of a famous historical design for a woodworking bench if you imagine it twisted around a little. It's ugly but I think it's pretty strong, I made a stand for my woodworking lathe the same way, and have turned a few things just about at its full capacity without much trouble, and I even have put small pianos on top of the original one. My new woodworking bench is made in a similar way, too.
The work table can come apart just by unscrewing depending if you use good screws and don't glue things together.
Step 1: Materials
My table top is 160cm x 107cm with a sort of rectangular hole in the middle that had a kind of clamp for something, and 2cm thick with a 5cm wide double thickness section around the perimeter. I don't know where it's from or what it's for. The lip helps strengthen it around the edges but it sags a little in the middle. You could could mortise the legs into a flat top but it would probably be alright just sticking on L-shaped things in the corners.
The legs are birch, 13cm x 5cm section and 1m long. They are quite big for weight as well as strength. They used to be backposts in an upright piano, and the maple ones for the lathe were in a pallet.
The stretchers are oak, the four long ones are 2cm x 6cm and 160cm long and the two short ones are 2.5cm x 12cm and 101cm long. I think they're from a bed or a table.
I used two number 10 or 12 flat head wood screws for each joint. They don't go all the way through.
The bottom shelf is part of an old shipping crate, the label says it was for a laser engraver but I don't know what kind. It's bad quality plywood that I use whenever I can so I don't have to throw it away.
Step 2: Setup
All the joints are very easy to make, I learned from a shop class textbook my grandfather had that they're called open mortise and tenons, and by angling the legs they pick up some of the self locking properties of dovetails. I made the stretchers with one edge angled, I don't know if this improved anything.
My tablesaw is an old one where the table tilts instead of the blade so I made a 5° tapered block for the legs to sit on cutting them to length. I think it's more important that the angle is consistent than its having any specific value so the block can be helpful since it also can be used to set the angle of the miter gauge when it's hard to read the scale, and for trimming the tops of the legs so they are square instead of angled.
Step 3: Construction
I used old wood so I had to size some of it with a jointer and tablesaw. I don't know if you can buy stuff close to these dimensions, I just removed enough to make it square and disguise its old purposes.
I used a marking knife and cutting gauge instead of a pencil to mark the pieces. It's easy transferring the knife marks by putting the knife in the old cut and butting the square against it.
I had to saw the legs in two settings because of the angles. I pushed the first one gradually forward into the saw with small test cuts until it reached the line and then clamped a stop on the miter gauge, and removed the waste from the open mortises and tops of the legs the same way, and then handplaned those flat and smooth.
I have the stretchers protruding a little to hide variations in the mortises, and left the stretchers a little long so I could trim them flush for the last step. I assembled the table with clamps so I could square everything up and put the top in place, and with it together I marked and drilled both pieces at the same time. I also drilled the clearance hole, using a shaft collar for a depth stop, countersunk and screwed together each pair before going on to the next one.
Step 4: Use
I made it tall because one place I used to work I had to stoop even when I was sitting. I never tried sitting at this one until just now - with a 60cm tall stool it feels kind of high and the bottom stretcher is pretty close, but you could gain some leg room by moving the bottom stretchers inside like the much lower ones on my workbench. Standing up I've never scraped my shins on them or tripped over the legs, but it can be hard to reach the middle without hitting the sharp edge so sometimes I bring over a thick board have for when I have to plane long thick pieces on my workbench.
It is useful laying things out, and I sometimes attach a drafting machine to it. It's nice for big cloth projects, especially if you have a dirty floor, and it's good for small and medium size woodworking projects. It's a nice height for veneering panels that aren't too wide and assembling things that aren't too tall, and also for clamping together boards to make wide panels - not only by arching them with weights like Mr. Davies describes (which I've never tried) but also using wedges and clamping temporary fences to it for clamps. The formica covering makes it a little slippery but it's easy to clean up hide, fish and rabbit skin glue glue. I haven't spilled any polyurethane, epoxy or hot melt or superglue on it, but Titebond - which I think is what's recommended for sticking it on though "Not for structural or load-bearing applications"!! - sticks to the top almost as well as to the bottom, but soaking it with vinegar seems to help soften it up.
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