Herman-Style Sawbench – Working Out the Dimensions

I’ve had a sawbench for some time now.  It’s based on Christopher Schwarz’s version of the Traditional Sawbench featured in Popular Woodworking Magazine.  It was a good bench, and an excellent hand tools project, but time has revealed some defects, at least for me.  I often find the narrow top to be somewhat limiting and lacking in stability for wider pieces.  Secondly, the splayed legs get in the way of many of my rip cuts, and have the scars to prove it.  Thirdly, I have only one of them, making the support of long stock for any operation something of a balancing act.

The obvious solution was to make a second sawbench.  However, because of the limitations of the first one, I wanted to use a different design.  I settled on Ron Herman’s version as featured in the August 2011 edition of Popular Woodworking.  This sawbench solved all of the problems with the Schwarz bench, and added a few other features as well.  This would be an ideal hand tools only project as well.

The first thing I needed to do was to establish the dimensions.  Ron deliberately omitted this part, since the focus of the article was about finding the right fit between tool and owner.  He did mention a length of around 36″, which seemed fine with me.  He said that his width was as wide as his hip bones to allow him to comfortably straddle it.  Hmm…it’s a good thing no one walked in while I was holding a rule up to my backside to work out hipbone width.  I’ll leave that picture to your imagination.

I noticed that Ron’s bench was made out of single-width boards that looked like 1×12’s.  This was consistent with my butt approximations, but I had no 1×12’s laying about.  A bit of rummaging located some 1×4 pine left over from the outdoor Morris chairs.  Three of these glued together would yield a rough width of 10 1/2″, which the aforementioned rule confirmed would span my bony personal posterior protuberances perfectly (I love a good alliteration!).  The height was easy – match the other bench.  This meant an overall height of 20 1/8″. The sides would have to be somewhat shorter to allow for the feet to be added later, but I would leave them long for now.

There were to be two stretchers on each side.  One would attach to the top, and the other would be near the bottom, high enough to tuck your toes under.  Ron used a screwed haunched tenon for the upper joint, and a screwed butt joint for the lower.  I decided to try lap half and full dovetails respectively, just for the fun of it, and to go for a stronger joint.  You know me – can’t leave anything alone!

To begin, I rough-cut three sets of three boards to the overall approximate length of the individual parts plus about 2-3 inches for working room.  This was followed by edge-jointing with the joiner plane and gluing into panels.  I didn’t include photos of this step, but you’ve surely seen this done before.  If not, the glue-up looked similar to the one shown in this previous post.  Once out of the clamps, it would be time to get down to some serious joinery.

We’ll pick up there next time.  Stay tuned!


One response to “Herman-Style Sawbench – Working Out the Dimensions

  1. A similar design worth looking at is the sawbench in the Jim Tolpin book, The New Traditional Woodworker. It has vertical pair of legs and a slanted pair.

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