Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Bodger's Bench

The original 8 foot 2x10 used as the base for the bench.

I've wanted to make a shaving bench for a few years. A shaving bench is a type of vise where you can sit and use your feet to hold the wood you are working while keeping your hands free. Typically, it is used with a draw knife to carve spokes, furniture spindles, etc. When working such items, you are constantly flipping the work over, so a regular vise is very cumbersome. Shaving benches are also known as bodger's benches. A bodger is an English term for a traveling woodworker. They would travel around and carve furniture on demand. Portable versions of such benches would be used as the bodgers would travel. Look at the blogs I follow to see various 'bodger blogs'.

I am not planning on a portable shaving bench, so I found a plan for a more adjustable one using standard size lumber. I also want to carve decoys, so a larger bench for holding larger blocks of cork and wood is needed (you will see below that I also opted for a particular design of the 'dumbhead' in the bench for larger items).

I started by getting an 8 foot 2x10, an 8 foot 2x6,two 8 foot 2x4s, a 4.5" door hinge, two 7" angle brackets, two 1/4" x 5" lag bolts, four 1/4" diameter washers, and 1.5" and 3" wood screws.

I cut the 2x10 down to 6 feet. The 2' remnant from the 2x10 is used later. I then chiseled a slot in the 2x10 for the 2' remnant to act as the front support for the bench (more later).

The slot for the forward bench support.

I ripped the 2x10 down to 22", and also cut a 2x4 into two 25" lengths for the rear supports.

The pieces for the supports.

I cut notches in the two 2x4s pieces and the 2x10 base. After figuring how high I wanted the bench, I then cut the 2x10 and 2x4 pieces to give an 18" height.

I attached the forward 2x10 suppot into the slot in the 2x10 bench and 2 2x4 supports into their notches. I added some additional 2x4 pieces tothe 2x4 supports to keep them from splaying using 3" woodscrews. I used the brackets and 1.5" woodscrews to secure the forward supports.

The base with the supports.

I cut the 2x6 down to ~ 50" as the bridge for the bench. I attached a door hinge to one end and also attached the hinge to the front of the 2x10 base. I wanted the bridge to be hinged as I can then adjust the height of the bench for different height pieces.

The bench with the hinged bridge piece.

I sat on the bench and determined where my feet would be located and the height I wanted to have my arms at when I worked on the bench. For me, that meant I needed the dumbhead-support (i.e., the vise part of the bench) around 27" long.

Some dumbheads are mortised into the base. Such dumbhead configurations looks like a 'T". These types of dumbheads are good for spokes and spindles, but not good for larger work. I went with a English dumbhead design. In this design, the dumbhead is supported on the the sides of the bench - not in the center of the bench. The English variant allows a greater work area which is better for larger work, like decoy carving.

I estimated the pivot point for the dumbhead would be at 14". I cut a notch in the bottom part of each dumbhead-support to accept the foot brace, and then put a 1/4" hole at 14" for the pivot point. I used a few washers and the lag bolts to affix the dumbhead-supports to the base.

I then attached a section of 2x4 as a foot rail to the bottom of the dumbhead-supports, and put a 12" piece of 2x4 to the top of the dumbhead-support as the actual vise head.

The English-styled dumbhead and riser block.

I cut three 8" pieces from the remaining 2x6 and nailed them together in a block. This gave me a block of wood which was 8" x 5.5" x 5.25". The block then becomes the riser to support the bridge.

The finished bench!

Voila - my bench is done. I can adjust the riser height using the 8" side of the riser block, or flip the block around and use the other sides of the block to adjust the opening size of the bench. One sits on the bench, puts the work in the bridge, and then pushes on the foot braces to firmly hold the work still.

Using the foot braces to use the dumbhead as a vise.

I can't wait to get a draw knife and see how well such a bench works! I've already ordered a few duck decoy kits. While I wait for the decoy kits, my next project will be a spring-pole lathe . . .


~ RM said...

Cool! I can't believe you made this so fast!~ Can't wait to see what kind of work you can make now with it!

Uncle Tractor said...

Thanks. In all it took about 4 hours to make. The hardest part was cutting the slot and notches for the support legs. I didn't have any formal plans, so I had to think it thru as I made it. I hope to be using it soon!

Donald A. Paulson said...

Just finished making the bench using your example. Love it! Thank you so much for posting this plan.

Uncle Tractor said...

Thanks Don. It was just a make-it-up as I go project, but it is easy and it works fine for me. Feel free to share / improve the plans.