Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rethinking the Joinery Bench or The Enemy of Good is Better

If you read my last post here you'll know that I have been trying to solve a dilemma regarding the design of my take on a dedicated joinery bench. (if you haven't read my last post, you can catch up here). Well I have spent a lot of time thinking and reading today, and with the suggestions of a few readers (Thank you again David) I think the ideas have come together.

The big thing for me is making this bench able to knock down for transportation, yet still be sturdy enough to hold up to use. Initially I was going to pretty directly copy the Joinery Bench that was the inspiration for this adventure. The one built by Tim Williams over at the Bench Vice blog. With the crossing "X" legs, man I thought those were sexy, I was going to attach the legs to a top cleat that would have slid into a sliding dovetail on the bottom of the bench.

Maybe I should explain that I am fantastic at creating the most elaborate devices for joinery, especially in areas where it doesn't matter. Often time I plan huge, and then back of little by little until I have a more simple answer. As my day job I work in an operating room, and when I started there I learned two little phrases that have served me well. The first one I learned was an anagram called K.I.S.S. for Keep It Simple Stupid, I really do love and admire simple solutions, they carry a quiet elegance and because I tend to me a "make it more complicated than it has to be" kinda guy, thinking of this anagram from time to time does really help me. The other phrase is one of my all time favorites, and the first time you hear it, it doesn't sound right, but as you think about it you realize how profound it is. It goes "The enemy of Good, is Better" meaning if something looks right and works right, it is right. you can over think and overwork something that works into and elaborate thing that doesn't work at all. I'm sure if your are reading this and are a woodworker yourself you can relate to the experience. I'm pretty sure it's a universal trap, wanting to make something better, and screwing up what was already pretty good.

Sliding dovetails would have been cool, and I could have bragged about them here. but honestly for the ability to knock down the bench to move it, not so great. The sexy "X" legs outside on potentially uneven ground. I think I'll do better with a standard 4 leg bench with a low stretcher that I can stake to the ground if I need to. An elaborate front twin screw bench vise, or a simple wide front apron to do vertical clamping with holdfasts and a smaller bench screw vice for edge planing. I just kept repeating the mantra today of simple answers are better.

 You can see in this scan of my shop drawings for the bench, the progression of my thoughts this afternoon. My initial thoughts were to have the front leg straight and cant out the back leg. The more I drew and erased (the scan hides a lot of eraser marks) the closer I came to the design represented on the upper right. The legs will basically be frame with no panel in the center and pinned mortise and tenon joints. The top rail will connect by fitting between two stretchers attached to the bottom of the top. They'll be secured with two nuts and bolts. Between each leg will be another stretcher in the front and back. These will be through mortises with tusked tenons.

It feels good to finally have a plan in place and the simplicity of the drawing on the upper right works well for me. I really like the little round I drew into the bottom of the side stretcher.

Cheers

Oldwolf

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