With all the components completed and assembled, I used the bench for a little while to see what I might have missed or if there was anything else I needed to do before applying a finish. The only thing I noticed was that some of the tool marks from the router flattening of the top had been a bit more obvious than I had thought. A bit of light sanding took care of that and I was on to ‘finishing’.
Now, finishing usually means applying some sort of ‘finish’, and while I do mean it that way, I also mean in the sense of adding all the finishing touches to the workbench and finding its rightful place in my workshop.
On the list was an initial line of dog holes to work with the tail vise, suede for the vise chops, tommy bars for the vises and of course a protective finish. The dog holes are nothing fancy, 3/4″ holes with a slight bevel on the top to ease the edges, spaced a few inches apart. I will have to add more in other locations as the need arises, but as I’ve been told, this will become apparent as I use the bench more and more.
The suede for the vise chops makes for some really incredible grip in the vise. I tested this out before and after with a few boards and was amazed at how much the leather improves the grip strength. To install the suede, I cut a clean line and placed it across the bottom edge of the chop, then closed the vise and trimmed the leather with a knife, presto a perfect fit! These were glued in with contact cement.
Of course, a bench is not complete until it has been inscribed with the date it was built. I tried my hand at carving 2013 into the front edge of the slab. It’s not the best work I’ve done, but my carving experience is fairly limited, so I’m pretty happy with the outcome.
The tommy bars were something I stressed over. I originally wanted to make them with a larger ‘knob’ on each end, but after seeing a picture somewhere with a simple dowel through the bar, I took the easy way out and made them that way. I at least took the time to size them on the lathe and exercise my brace and bit to drill the dowel holes.
The actual protective finish was a very simple mix. Stolen gratuitously from Chris Schwarz’s book, 1/3 oil, 1/3 varnish, 1/3 thinner. In my case: tung oil, spar varnish and mineral spirits. The reason? It was there and ready to go. I only want to soak the finish into the surface to stop glues and finishes from dripping onto the bench top and causing me grief. It took a few hours to dry once generously slathered on. All the excess was wiped off and the entire bench got a light buffing with a clean cloth.
I hope you enjoyed this build as much as I did. Blood, sweat and tears are very appropriate in the building of a workbench, but it has all been worth it. The bench is not in its final place in my workshop, until I make some drastic move that creates significantly more room for working around all four sides of the bench. Who knows, by that time I’m sure I’ll find a way to add another vise or two.