This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
The essential qualities of a carpenters' bench are that it shall be very strong and firm to resist the sawing, planing, and other operations performed on it; also that the surface shall be level and even. The wood must be good and sound, but not of an expensive kind (beech is a favourite), nor need it be planed. Excellent benches may be purchased of tool dealers; on the other hand a home-made article may be quite as good and will cost much less. An example will be given on a future page.
Fig. 431 shows a solid bench of the so-called German pattern, sold by Melhuish and are supplied with the bench at a cost of 35s. extra. If not required, the ledges y within the standards can be utilized as supports for boards on which large tools can be laid when not in use. Another useful adjunct to the bench is the bench-knife h, supplied at 3s. 6d., and consisting of a small bed-plate, having 2 pins on the under side to drop into holes made in the top of the bench to receive them, and an arm or knife for holding the work firmly between itself and the bench-stop, the arm being pushed and held against the work by the action of a small lever handle and cam attached to the upper surface of the bed-plate. This plate is only 9 in. by 3 1/2 in., and the weight of the entire appliance is only 2 lb. The knife works smoothly and easily on the surface of the bench-top, and never injures it by cutting into it as is frequently the case with the ordinary bench-knife. The row of holes i near the inner edge of the bench-top shows how provision is made for using the bench-knife with various lengths of wood. The perforated piece f slides backwards and forwards between the bench-top and the lower rail of the frame at pleasure.
The bench-stop e is a rectangular block of wood, cut and fitted to the top of the bench in such a manner that the side nearest any piece of wood that is brought against it slopes a little so as to bring a slightly projecting edge against the wood at the top. The screw has a plate at the upper end, which is let into and held with screws to the lower end of the bench-stop. It works in an internal screw, cut in a projection at the back of a small iron bow, each end of which is screwed to a block of wood attached to the under side of the bench-stop. The price of the iron fitting for bench-stop is 1s. 2d. A bench-top made of beech instead of white deal adds 12s.-15s. to the cost of the bench.
Fetter Lane, in 4 different sizes: carpenters', price 80s., length 68 in., breadth 24 in., height, 33 in.; trade, price 45s., length 48 in., breadth 16 1/2 in., height 31 in.; amateurs', price 42s., length 40 in., breadth 16 1/2 in., height 31 in.; boys', price 37s. 6d., length 40 in., breadth 16 1/2 in., height 29 in. The length is measured from a to 6, and the width from b to c, thus excluding the projections. A description of the "carpenters' " size will do for all. The top d is movable, and can be taken off the stand e, which also takes to pieces, so that it can be packed. Two pegs in the upper rails of the stand fit into holes made for their reception in the under part of the bench top, and by this simple arrangement, combined with the weight of the top itself, the parts are sufficiently connected and rendered firm. The mortices which receive the tenons of the lower rails, in front and at the back and sides, go through the legs, and the top part of the front and back rail at either end passes over the side rails, so that the mortice is deeper on the inside than on the outside; a tapering wedge is driven into the mortice at each end of both front and back rail, which has the effect of forcing these rails down on the ends of the side rails, and locking the whole together. "When the bench is put up for work the ends of the wedges may be sawn off.
The massive legs to the right are tenoned into a thick piece of timber, which is further utilized as a support for the end in which the bench-screw works. The top of the bench presents many points in which it differs from the ordinary form in common use. The central part is a solid piece of beech, 4 in. thick, 60 1/2 in. long, and 16 7/8 in. wide. To this portion all the surrounding parts are added. It is lengthened by 2 pieces a b clamped on one at each end, also 4 in. thick, and 33/4 in. wide, thus bringing up the length of the bench to 68 in. The 3 parts are bolted together by an iron bar, at the left end of which is a nut whereby they are screwed up as closely as possible. The piece a is 18 3/4 in. and b 33 in. long. They project beyond the central piece at the back to the distance of 7 1/8 in., and by inserting a board g 1 1/8 in. thick, and another at the bottom, a trough 6 in. wide and extending the whole length of the bench forms a useful receptacle for tools not in actual use. The shoulder h is formed of a solid piece, 4 in. thick, 8 in. wide at its widest part, and 2 3/4 in. wide at the narrowest part in which the bench-screw works, leaving an opening of 5 1/4 in. between the edge of the front of the bench and the inner surface of the narrow part of the shoulder.
To plane the edge of a board, the screw is turned out sufficient to admit the board and a check piece supplied with the bench, which is intended to receive the pressure of the end of the screw, and prevent injury to the wood to be planed. To the bottom of the bench is appended a drawer i 18 in. sq., which works by means of cleats in grooved L-shaped timbers, screwed to the under surface of the bench; this drawer pulled out a little acts as a support for timber being planed. Along the front edge of the bench runs a row of 10 holes k, 1 1/2 in. long by 7/8 in. wide, serving as receptacles for bench-stops /. These are used in conjunction with another in the movable vice jaw 1, and when planing a board, all that is necessary to fix it is to insert a bench-stop to the left, at a suitable distance from the bench-stop in the movable piece 1, lay the board between the 2 stops, and grip it by turning the screw m. The bench-stops can be adjusted to any height likely to be required. The movable bench-vice l has a projecting fillet on its inner face, which works in a groove of corresponding size cut in the central part of the bench.
This vice, which is 22 in. long in its longest, and 6 3/4 in. wide in its narrowest part, presents intervals of different widths between the ends of its 2 parts and the end of the bench at n o. These openings afford the means of gripping pieces of wood in the most convenient manner for cutting tenons, dovetails, etc.
Another excellent bench is that furnished by Syer, Finsbury Street, and termed a portable cabinet bench. It is shown in Fig. 432, and is formed of an iron stand a, made in separate pieces bolted together, with a wooden top b of sound white deal, traversed by 3 iron bolts c to prevent warping, and measuring 6 ft. by 1 ft. 10 in. All the parts are joined by screw-bolts, and therefore quite rigid but easily taken apart. The ordinary bench-screw is replaced by an instantaneous grip vice d, and the usual benchstops are superseded by a screw rising stop e. The whole costs 72s., or a smaller size (4 1/2 ft. by 11/2 ft.) may be had for 63s. The upright piece of wood / is perforated with holes to take a peg wherever it may be necessary to support a piece of board, one end of which is held in the grip vice d. The space between this and the standard to the left can bo partly filled with a nest of 5 drawers - one largo at the bottom, and 2 tiers each containing 2 smaller drawers above. These chests are 22 in. long, 18 in. high, and 16 in. deep.
In choosing a position for the bench, attention must be paid to the light, the floor, the wall, and the space. The light should fall immediately upon it, hence it is best placed against the wall and under the window. The floor must be level and firm, and is best made of boards. The wall next the bench should also be covered with match boarding. If sufficient firmness cannot otherwise be secured, the bench should be fastened to the floor and wall by strong angle irons.