Let’s talk workbenches

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner [DB]' started by ArenW, Jan 15, 2022.

  1. ArenW

    ArenW Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2004
    Quincy, Michigan
    I built my first double bass in 2008. It was on a nutty whim and only slightly more than a shoestring budget. I wanted to do it right though, so I took some building lessons during the process. The bass turned out great and I still play it regularly today.

    I got the bug and started in on another bass right away. However, my work and family life took me another direction and I had to put it on a shelf. Then the years ticked past.

    Finally, I’ve settled into a place in life where I can get back to it! I have the space and the budget to set up a basic shop. I’ve got most of the hand tools that I need. I already have the top and back joined and ribs planed for #2, so that buys me some time on any big power equipment that I’ll need if I decide to go for a third try after this one. I’m essentially ready to dive back in, but…….

    Before any other tool, I feel like the workbench is the most important. As I said, I built my last bass on a really tight budget so workbenches were cobbled together with whatever I had laying around. My teacher had two in his shop, a really nice, old cabinet makers bench that stood (if I recall correctly) around 32-34” tall. He then had another that was homemade, standing around 36”. He’s a tall guy so a taller, 2nd bench is nice for close up work where you don’t want to hunch over for hours.

    My first plan of attack is to build a basic but sturdy bench and maybe drop the coin on a nice one later if I decide to keep at it. I’ve searched the forum and haven’t really seen much/any discussions on benches.

    Before I start building, I wanted to see what kind of feedback I could round up here. What are you using? What dimensions? Lessons learned etc? I’m 6’2” tall, and ergonomics is critical for longevity. What wisdom can you impart?

    Cheers and happy building!
  2. If I was going to get one table, I might do this one. Raising it for the back and lowering it for the eyes seem like pretty nice features. I've built a few built in benches in various places which I wouldn't be without, but for bass specific work I like the idea of 360 degree access, adjustable height and the ability to slide it out of the way when not in use.

    I'd probably build a bench this could slide under and mount some storage under the deck of this both for stowing stuff and a bit of additional weight to keep it stable, though the one I looked at seemed pretty good as is in the stability department. Plus storing it under something keeps the top clear for times when you need more flat space right now!
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2022
    Levin S likes this.
  3. ArenW

    ArenW Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2004
    Quincy, Michigan
    I have a nearly identical table to this that I use for light duty stuff - guitar set up, string changes, wiring/soldering etc. Without a lot of extra weight, it’s just not stable enough for my preference. Mobility isn’t really a concern as I have a dedicated space. Once benches are in place, that’s where they’ll stay. I agree however, that the height adjustment makes it a very versatile work surface.
  4. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    My wife has one of these. No complaints.
  5. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Workbench design is based on what work you will do with it. A thick top is always good, dampens vibration if you do any pounding/chopping, Woodcraft sells butcher block tops. A rock solid (heavier) base that doesn't rack is also important, a heavy base resists side/side motion. A vise is important, if you want to go big w/a vise that can handle neck shaping etc look at pattern makers vises otherwise install a basic woodworking vise and get a metal working vise you can attach/remove. As for height when you stand up the top should be above your pelvis, bend elbows 90º then lower a little bit - this is the ballpark for top height
    ArenW likes this.
  6. Designing and building your own bench can be just as much fun as its use. How much room do you have to work in? Enough to leave the bench free-standing (good idea) or perhaps mount it on lockable wheels. A thick flat top that overhangs the frame to allow for clamping all round. Dimensions at least as deep as the width of bottom bouts of the bass and longer so that there is room for bottles, jars, small tools etc as you work (or have a small separate caddy on wheels for these). Have a separate shelf under the top with enough clearance for storing drills, sanders, etc. within reach. Also a power board with a number of sockets and a safety cut-out switch (trade quality). Under this shelf have one half or less of drawers with varying depths for small up to mid-size hand tools, sand paper, etc. And one half or more of cupboard for bigger gear (I have a box of 60 home made spool clamps and room for much more clobber). Would you have an extendable work light mounted on one end of the bench or rely on overhead lighting? If you incorporate a metal bench vise then attach soft sacrificial pieces of wood to the inside of the jaws to avoid bruising the work. The best sort of metal vyse should have looser jaws that better accommodate non-parallel work otherwise research traditional wood working vises.

    I built a sturdy frame and then a rectangular box inside which houses drawers and a cupboard. The top of the box became the shelf under the bench top which was fixed in place last. I planned the box, drawer and cupboard sizes carefully and took my cutting diagram to my local hardware shop and their precision table saw so that everything was cut beautifully square and precisely. You might find drawer kits with runners that save time and headspace. My cupboard doors are hung with piano hinges. I used melamine-coated particle board but next time I would use construction grade 3/4"plywood to construct the box,etc. The frame was 2 x 4 (horizontals) and 4 x4 (corners) and the top was planks 1 1/2" thick

    Best wishes and have lots of fun ! DP
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2022
    ArenW likes this.
  7. ArenW

    ArenW Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2004
    Quincy, Michigan
    Got one. Love it! The most versatile vice I own (super handy for carving the neck/scroll)!
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2022
    james condino likes this.
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