Tuesday 9 February 2021

Building A Paulk Smart Bench

 For years I've looked at building a Paulk style workbench. He has a few different designs and I always thought they looked well thought out and ideal for the types of carpentry I do. 

And for years I've kept working off a couple of trestles with some cls on. It's been fine, it means I can cut into the timber, replace them every 6 months or so but they don't stay very flat and it doesn't give me a great worksurface. 

So I bought the plans to Ron Paulks latest bench - the smart bench. Yes I could probably make one that was very similar on my own, but the plans aren't much money and it's nice to build something where someone else has ironed out the kinks, for that it's worth the money alone. He also has obviously put a lot of time and effort into making these and I think that deserves some reward as well.

The plans are quite straight forward, especially when coupled his videos on YouTube. He recommends making patterns of everything and then using a guide bush and cutter to copy this. One criticism is that it doesn't say anywhere on the plans what guide bush and cutter he uses, you have to hunt through YouTube videos to find that information. Also with 3/4" ply it must be one hell of a cutter as mine struggled and I ended up cutting stuff roughly to size first then routing it finished. 

One of the most important part of the whole job is making sure the holes in the MFT are perfectly square. For this I have a jig but it's not perfect - so I invested in the UJK Parf system (Mk2). I might review this at a later date, but just to say it's easy to set up and use - but takes a long time to drill all the holes! 

The bench was easy to put together, but the top torsion box is really heavy when made with 3/4" birch like I have. I made up the saw horses as well (which are great with the rest for the guide rails on) to see how I use the bench before deciding whether I should build a proper bench base for it or whether being able to pack it away when I'm building bigger things is an advantage. So far the horses are working out great with no movement. 

I'm please with this bench. Even on the saw horses it's solid, gives some great clamping opportunities and has already been so useful I'm wondering how I coped without it. Yes I did go a bit over the top using birch ply, but you know what - I want a good surface to work on and so much ply out there is full of voids. 

I also love the space just under the top. Ideal for my cordless tools and for storing my two shorter guide rails - I'm leaving one set up with a square now as it's a safe place to leave it. 

The major downside is the weight, next time I might build one with lightweight poplar ply as this currently would be a two person lift into the back of the van to do it comfortably. I might build a modified version for my mitre saw station and have it so the two wings can come off and be used on site should I need to set up a site workshop for a project. 

Anyone else built a bench like this lately?

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