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workbench advice
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workbench advice

by Damariaru on Mon Dec 24, 2018 7:12 am

Hello :?: . I will appreciate your help in this subject: I am getting closer on starting to build my own guitar. Actually, it will take a few more months because I need to start by building a luthier workbench for building classical/acoustic guitars so, I would like your feedback about sizes and dimensions and vises and even species of wood you know are the right and how to determine it, etc.
At this moment for budget and because until I have my own feedback I won't build a Roubó, yet.
I've done some research and I've gathered at least 3 ways to determine the height of a workbench and the problem I found on it is that it would range from 31"" to 35""; depending if I consider the knuckle of my pinky 31"", the down-turned palm 33"" or 7"" below elbow 35.25"". I am 5'6"", then, which height between 31 or 35.25 or different that that should I choose and why? Also, I am thinking on the dimensions of the top to be 21"" by 72""; is it too narrow or too short ?
About the vises, I would like to build a wagon vise but, the only reason is just because I like how it looks; I actually don't know if a vise like the wagon would be useful or not. What kind of vises do you use and when? Also, do you have a separate bench or with just one is enough, how about the height of this other bench, how tall is it?
Do you work with holdfasts and/or benchdogs?
Also, what is your opinion about casters, I've found that many say they don't like casters when they are building furniture. Now, I believe lutherie is something different than ebenisterie so, in this case would it be OK to have casters or would it still be wrong?
Last edited by Damariaru on Wed Jan 02, 2019 2:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: workbench advice

by adafruit_support_bill on Mon Dec 24, 2018 8:29 am

Many of these questions are a matter of personal preference and style of work. I'm not a luthier. But for detailed work, I prefer a higher bench. For heavier work like jointing and planing larger boards, a lower bench is good. My primary bench is at about 35". When I do heavy work with larger boards I clamp them to saw-horses which are about 30" high.

For flexibility in shop layout, I have my bench on casters. But they are retractable casters, so the bench is stable when it needs to be.

For vises on my bench, I have a conventional front-vise and a twin-screw tail-vise. Also plenty of dog-holes and an assortment of dogs, hold-downs and other clamping devices.

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Re: workbench advice

by adafruit_support_mike on Tue Dec 25, 2018 3:17 am

I've done some luthery.. built an actual lute once, and have seen most stringed instruments built and repaired.

Very little of the work requires a vise, but you'll need a variety of clamps and jigs. About 70% of building an instrument goes into the tools and fixtures. You'll need forms to bend the sides, panel clamps to hold the pieces as you glue up a 36"x24"x0.2" spruce top, long-reach clamps or a flex-rod frame to hold the top braces, edge clamps to hold the top and sides together for gluing, pins and wedges to hold the binding along the edges, etc. They're all shop-made devices, and the designs are simple because you need dozens of each kind.

Fortunately luthiers love to talk about the process, so there are books, magazines, websites, and videos that cover everything involved. If you haven't already started keeping a reference file of potentially useful text, pictures, and links, do. Index it in terms of how the items are used, so you don't have to try and remember 'pin and wedge' when the actual question in your mind is, "how the heck do I make purfling stay where it's supposed to?"

As Bill said, bench height is a matter of personal preference and is dictated by what makes the work comfortable. If your bench is too low, you'll feel it in your lower back after a long session of scraping or clamping. If it's too high, you'll feel it in your neck and between your shoulderblades. Building a workbench was traditionally a late-journeyman project, done when a carpenter was ready to settle down in a shop of their own, and by then they knew the exact height that worked best for them.

To approach the problem fresh, start with a cheap card table that's too low and put a sheet of plywood across it for a work surface. Jack the legs up on blocks to raise the work height, and spend at least a couple 4-hour work sessions with it after each adjustment. You should zero in on a comfortable dimension before long.

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Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.