My workbench is just a workbench. Of course, I did not always think so; it was so nice and clean when I first bought it, but it’s not that way now. Over the years it has become a work “area”, a work horse of a fixture in the shop.
I mention this because two readers wrote me a note after they read recent articles about finishing components of a desk I am working on. They asked if I always use the workbench to apply finish to components of an item I am working on. My answer is “it depends”.
For example, if I have items in the finishing room, I will use the workbench to apply finish; currently I have the large dust cover on the turntable in the finishing room, waiting for a warm(er) day when I can open the windows in the shop to allow makeup air to replace the air blown out by the exhaust fan. As I have been finishing only in the shop, all the dust has settled quite well; applying finish is a nice experience in the open shop, with barely-audible music in the background, and concentrating on the job.
Yesterday I applied a few wash coats of alcohol-based shellac to the quarter-sawn white oak aprons, and I used the workbench. I used some plastic sheets on the workbench, though, as I don’t want any coating film on the surface of the bench:
I managed to get some shellac on the workbench top, as the plastic sheet had some small holes I missed. That’s fine, as I will simply scrape them off later. It is, after, only my workbench.
Lest you misunderstand me, I want to explain a little of the background, and why I feel the workbench should be treated as “just” a workbench. In early 2008 I discovered the bench top had developed a bad crown that did not allow things to sit flat on it:
I struggled for a couple of days, putting off the inevitable. And then I took things into my own hands, literally, and flattened the bench top – a hard decision, but it had to be done:
I invite you to watch the video I made during the flattening process. From start to finish, it took me 42 minutes to flatten the bench top – and my muscles reminded me of that workout for several days after! But I learned an important lesson that day; a workbench is a work area, and I learned I must treat it just like any other tool in the shop. If I have it, I will use it.
As I leave the shop, I like to look around, to see if the snow has caused any damage to tree or building. I saw some snow had started to melt, and was frozen in mid-stream during the night hours. Change is definitely in the air, as the warming trend continues in NW Missouri:
I would like to hear from you about your workbench:
- Did you make your own bench? Or did you buy it?
- Do you baby your workbench, or is it a workhorse in your shop?
— Al Navas