Feature-Packed Workbench (for Kids)




Introduction: Feature-Packed Workbench (for Kids)

I made the workbench for my kids, but I must confess that it was also made in the spirit of a prototype for a workbench I would one day like to build for myself. I did make the workbench small enough that they can use it and yet big enough that I can occasionally use it too. This a workbench made almost exclusively from scraps and re-claimed wood. The only accessory I bought for it was a low-cost 6" vise. I only have a counter-top to use as a workbench and being able to occasionally use the vice and the bench dog system is really nice.

On this workbench, I focused more on the features that I wanted to have on a bench than on the joinery. I did not want to spend to much time on joinery for a bench made with low end materials. I used mostly pull-screws, dowels and pocket-holes to hold it together, with the occasional half-lap and offset shoulder, where it added structural strength.

The title says "workbench for kids", but if you like it, the design can very easily be scaled up to make it for an adult size.

This Instructable will be more on the description of the features and the thought process that went behind them than a step by step of how to make it. I think most people will apply their own construction techniques, based on the skills, the materials and the tools they have and the outcome they wish to achieve.

Step 1: The Vise: Left Side or Right Side?

One of the first design aspects I needed to settle was the type of vise (or vises) I wanted to use and where to locate it.

I went with a single low cost 6" cast iron vise, mainly because they were readily available where I live and they just "look right". There where several possible options to locate the vise:

  • on on side, but between the two legs
  • on the side, but on a cantilevered part of the worktop
  • with either of the above, I still had to pick a side: right or left

The decision was to have the vise on the cantilevered side. I must admit it's mainly because it gives a nice look to the bench. You could argue that less saw dust would end on the lower tool level, but it also reduces the tool storage space on the lower level...

From my research, I concluded that if you are right handed, the vise should be on the left. This makes it more comfortable to use when you plane the edge of the plank or when you are just about to finish a cut, you can use your left hand to hold the cutoff while you are still sawing with your right hand. I'm right handed, and I must says that after using it for a few months, this makes complete sense now. One of my children is left handed. So I have prepared the vise location on the other side of the bench already. I can flip the bench around and move the current vise or add a second vise to it and it will become a left-handed bench.

I drilled some holes in the front jaw so that I could attach a piece of plywood to it. I used shims to align it nicely.

I made the decision not to have a tail vise and instead use a system of offset bench dog and wedges to hold down pieces of wood on the top surface. More on that later.

Step 2: Co-planar Front and Dog Holes

This is a feature I saw in some Christopher Schwarz workbench designs and I really liked the versatility it gave the whole workbench. When the front is co-planar, you can use the whole front of the bench to support and clamp parts to it. The possibilities are endless. Please also note in the next steps how the co-planar front makes many of this workbench's features possible.

I have located dog holes in many key locations on the bench. More on each feature in the next steps. I cut up an old broomstick to make the bench dogs.

Step 3: Vise Dog

One easy addition to my cheap vise was a vise dog. Along with the dog holes located directly in front of it, it makes securing small parts to the workbench a breeze for sanding, planing or chiseling operations.

Note that a very common work piece thickness is 3/4" or 18 mm. Hence the vise dog should protrude by about 1/2" or 12 mm. This leaves just enough grip, but will not interfere with the operations being carried out on the work piece.

I leave the vise dog in most of the time to avoid losing it, but if it is not needed and is interfering with, say a edge planing operation, then it can be removed.

Step 4: Dog Holes on the Legs

The combination of the co-planar front and the dog holes on the legs of the workbench make for very versatile clamping options.

The dog holes located directly under the face vise allow to better support a vertical part and prevent it from slipping during a tenon sawing or end grain chiseling/drilling operation.

The dog holes on both legs are set at the same exact heights. this means that large parts can be laid on two bench dogs and be well supported. if the part is not long or wide enough to reach the dog on the other leg, a auxiliary narrow plank and be used to create adequate support for the work piece.

In addition to the face vise, an F-clamp can easily be used to fully secure the work piece to the front of the bench. It's all co-planar!!.

Step 5: Dog Holes for Edge Planing

The dog holes in the side of the work top are positioned just above the screw of the vice to help support long planks for edge planing.

Step 6: Hold-down Clamps

An easy way to use standard F-clamps to hold a work piece down on the work top is to create an elongated opening in the center of it.

The opening should allow the bottom jaw to pass through easily and for the bar to turn around freely in the opening so it can be oriented in any direction. By using clamps with longer jaws you can reach quite far and meet almost any clamp-down requirement.

Step 7: Offset Bench Dog

A nice accessory to make is an offset bench dog. It gives more options to use the dog holes on the worktop.

Two scenarios in which this comes in handy:

  1. When clamping a longer piece between two dog holes, the offset bench dog can be used with two wedges to secure a work piece on the work top. Just turn the offset bench dog around until you are very close to the work piece and fill the gap by taping the wedges in. Check the video out!
  2. When used with the face vise, turning the offset dog around helps avoid having to move the vice back and forth too much. Without a quick release mechanism, this saves a lot of turning.

Note that a very common work piece thickness is 3/4" or 18 mm. Hence the offset bench dog should only protrude by about 1/2" or 12 mm. This leaves just enough grip, but will not interfere with the operations being carried out on the work piece. the wedges should have the same thickness.

Step 8: Final Tips

Here are some final little tips to get more enjoyment from using this workbench:

1. When using the face vise to clamp a work piece on one side only, use a cut-off of the same thickness on the other side of the vise to keep the jaw nice and parallel. To prevent the cut-off from slipping through every time you open and close the vise, tap a nail into it!

2. Use some of the dog holes on the back legs to store accessories that are not used, like bench dogs and wedges. This way you won't keep looking for them.

And that's it folks! The kids enjoy using it. I am very happy about how this bench came out.: all the features I incorporated in the design really came together nice and make this a very versatile workbench. Maybe one day I will have the space and time to scale it up and make a really nice one for my own use.

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