Woodworkers bench

I’ve had this 5’6″ bowling alley slab since 1990. A co-worker at the time had been using it as a general workbench for 30+ years and just wanted to get ride of it. I happily took it off his hands are refinished it for life as a humongous computer desk 66″x42″. Now that I finally have the space for wood shop it was time to give this slab a worthy purpose. Searching for suitable frame stock I discovered Reclaimed Michigan and purchased several planks that are easily +100 years old. It’s near impossible to determine the type of wood from the appearance so I was told that the ‘heavy’ boards are almost always oak and sometime ash and the lighter are pine. I grab a pile of the heaviest cleanest planks I could find. After diligently ensuring there were no stray nails I put these planks to the jointer and plainer. I am very pleased with what came out the other side but to my surprise I only had one red oak board. The rest look a little like white oak but behave like hickory, still not certain what type of wood they are. I left a bit of the roughed up wear and tear, I really like the appearance and it’ll hurt a lot less when the bench starts taking damage from use. My design incorporated two shelves. The first 8″ below the top as a convenient place for tools, dogs and sanders. For the bottom shelf I planned the stringers a few inches back from the end to ease mounting of levered casters inside the frame. In a small shop the last thing I need is more stuff to trip over and everything must be mobile. The last big decision was the finish. Varnish, wax, oil or something else!? After a lot of reading, best source I found is Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner I choose a mixture of equal parts spar varnish, boiled linseed oil and naptha. I mixed about a quart and threw in two tablespoons of dark walnut stain, just enough to enhance the natural colors. This mixture provides most of the hardness protection of varnish but brings the surface much closer to the wood rather than riding on top like straight varnish. With this mixture the wood will still take a beating, nothing can stop that, but the varnish will not shatter and flake off. Also, all of the wood is a minimum of 80 years old. The oil really helps restore the resilience making the older wood more pliable. Last and equally cool to the wood itself is the Massey’s Lightning Grip Wood Workers Vice. They were manufactured in the US from 1880 to approximately 1905. My father acquired this vice in the 1950’s and used it until he let me have it in 2019. After sand blasting and repainting it’s as good as new. That’s my bench, the most important tool in any shop.

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