A Japanese benchtop workbench
Words and photos: Iain Green
When you’re flattening boards that can flex under the pressure from a plane, it’s important to establish a flat work surface. Test it by placing a straightedge along, across and diagonally over your bench, looking for high spots and hollows. Planing your bench flat is wonderful preparation for boxmaking.
If it’s impractical to flatten your benchtop, I recommend making yourself a traditional Japanese workbench. This size of bench is more than adequate for boxmaking and it is much easier to keep flat than a full bench. While there is a moderate amount of work to make this bench, it will last you many years. I use mine on top of my bench with the front legs held in my bench vice. This gives a slightly sloping work surface which works for me.
The example shown above is 750 x 380 x 40mm. The legs are 80mm high and inset 10mm into the bench using sliding dovetails which help minimise movement in the bench surface.
There are two stops on the work surface and the gap between them should be sufficient to allow your plane to pass through when it is on its side.
Guides will also improve accuracy. Initially you will need a shooting board (see above on the bench) and a mitre cutting guide. Both are simple to make.
This mitre cutting guide shown above is 450 x 210 x 50mm. It should be large enough to accommodate the widest board you will handle. The sides are rebated slightly to increase the glue surface between sides and bottom
The front edge of the mitre cutting guide is cut and planed to be square across the guide and 45° to the front edge. Use a soft timber to simplify maintenance of the guide.
The accessories shown above may be used to facilitate the boxmaking project at this link.
First published in Australian Wood Review, issue 59.
Iain Green has been studying traditional Japanese woodwork in Japan and has written several articles for Australian Wood Review magazine.