After working with the new workbench now for several months, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, except to make the top a full 8/4, but that’s another post. I like the height, I like the wide front apron, I like the crochet, I like having the twin screw vise on the right hand side, and I like the split top. There’s just one minor improvement I’ve been meaning to make but haven’t out of pure laziness. Until now.
See, while the split top is a really nice feature, it also created a minor annoyance for me. Since my shop is very small, I need to maximize storage space. So I added a shelf to the bottom of my bench to store my longer bench planes, and other odds and ends. The annoyance arises when I’m planing cross grain. See, when planing cross grain, the plane doesn’t really make shavings, it makes chips. These chips, and also dust from sawing on the bench top, are small enough to slip between the split top and pile up on the shelf below. In fact, they can really pile up when I’m doing a lot of planing, like say for a large entertainment center. Long grain shavings aren’t really a problem as they’re too big to fit through the 1/2″ wide gap between the top boards. But the cross grain chips and sawing dust goes right through.
This isn’t really a problem, it’s more of a minor annoyance. It just means I need to dig through a pile of chips to get to stuff on the shelf. If you don’t put the shelf underneath, it’s not an issue as everything just falls to the floor. But I finally got tired of sweeping large piles of chips off the shelf and did something about it.
I mostly use the split in the top to hold a planing stop for planing cross grain, or planing short pieces. The short board the drops into the gap and sits on top of the cross bearers also serves as a quick bench hook for sawing over the right side of the bench. It’s a really convenient feature that I really like. However, I’m constantly moving or removing the planing stop to put wider stock or panels on the bench top, and I sometimes misplace the board. To address this inconvenience, and stop the chips and dust from falling through the gap, I made a full length (8′) filler piece that sits flush with the top of the top boards, essentially turning the top into a solid top.
“But wait,” you say, “I thought you said you liked the split top?” Ah, herein lies the genius of the filler’s design. In one orientation, it fits flush with the bench top, allowing wide boards and panels to pass right over it, while still preventing dust and chips from falling through to the shelf below. However, opposite the flush fitting side lies a little secret that allows the filler to act as a full length planing stop when flipped over.
The filler is notched on the opposite side to fit around the cross bearers. The notches are approximately 3/8-1/2″ deep. This allows the filler to act as a planing stop when it is flipped over. Since the filler/planing stop runs the full length of the bench, it prevents the chips and dust from falling through the split top in either orientation.
Now that it’s done, I could kick myself for putting it off so long. It has definitely proved to be a valuable addition to the bench.