Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bow Bench Project

Back when I started learning how to make wood bows I put together a simple bench using 2" x 12" Douglas Fir and an inexpensive bench vice I had laying around. It didn't work out too bad but it doesn't break down and is pretty heavy to throw in the back of the truck.
I've been looking for something a little better. Essentially, I wanted a shaving horse that I could disassemble to take to events or gatherings. Now that I'm doing SCA events again, I really wanted something that would work well there, too. For a variety of reasons I can't sell my wares at all events so I figured if I took a bow bench and made a spectacle of myself shaving wood I could hand out business cards if someone had an interest.
Lo and behold, I found what I needed. While reading back issues of various magazines I ran across the Fall 2005 issue of The Bowyer's Journal (since changed to Trad Archer's World). In the magazine were plans for building a Bowyer's Bench, just what I needed.
The plans didn't look too difficult and they used lumber and hardware I could get at my local home improvement store. The only exception was the leg brackets. I couldn't find them in a local store and ended up ordering the Grizzly G3312 Saw Horse Brackets from

For your reading pleasure, here is a pictorial journey for the construction of my Bowyer's Bench:

Gotta start somewhere. Tools are gathered, the plans are handy, the first cut is for the bench itself.

Ok, the legs are done.

Here's one of the Grizzly saw horse brackets. Pretty cool design, actually. The wingnut forces the wedge down to hold the 2 x 4 legs tightly in place yet the whole thing may be removed easily. Just what I need.

So far so good. This is going to be an easy project. I'll have it done in a day.

A couple holes need to be cut in the top of the bench for different members to fit through.

Um, yeah... I discovered that my jig saw doesn't saw straight up and down. I don't know if it's the saw or me, I suspect the latter. So some clean up is necessary when I use the jig saw.

I'm supposed to cut what and put it where!!??

The bench top also gets a hole.

I dearly dislike circular saws. To tell the truth, they scare the crap out of me.

This hinge block goes under the bench top and over the bolt for the saw horse bracket on one end. Since I wanted to be able to remove that bolt for transportation I elected to purchase a longer one at the hardware store so it could go all the way through this hinge block for removal when necessary.

I may end up re-making this piece at a later date. The bench top pedestal gets holes drilled through it so it can be moved up and down to raise and lower the bench top. A piece of steel rod goes through the holes to hold the adjustment. When I drilled the holes (not shown here) I managed to drill them in a decidely un-straight manner. Just for my peace of mind I may re-make this later and try to drill straighter.

Figuring the angles on this was interesting. I had to email a recent college graduate to ensure I was doing it right. He asked his wife. Thanks, Paige!

Cleaning up after the jig saw.

It's starting to look like it may work.

After carefully measuring and cutting the slot for the foot pedal I had to remove a little wood for a perfect fit.

It's too small... too small... too small... crap, now it's too big.

I needed four of these pieces for the clamp head.

Stacked up, screwed together, and ready to be bolted.

Cleaning up after the jig saw again. This is the piece that holds down the stave being worked on so I wanted it to be right.

I may not be able to saw, but apparently I can rasp.

Not too bad. It actually does hold a stave pretty well. I still need to stain it and put on a protective finish of some kind as well as figure out if I'll decorate it in any way.
All in all, it was a little more difficult than I expected it to be but it really wasn't very hard. The foot pedal support seems a little long and after using it I may decide to shorten that piece and re-install the foot pedal.
And, uh... yeah... it did take longer than a single day. 
Other than that, not bad!

I was way too busy and preoccupied to take pictures of the process so I can't thank Fayme enough for taking over that task and for doing such a great job.

Happy bow building!


Lady Arwen of the Silver Rose said...

I can't wait till people are all gathered around you watching you make bows.

Guy Taylor said...

That will be great!
The children will learn new words they shouldn't use, the women will have their complexions turn rosy, and the men will be in awe of my command of the language!

Garith said...

Sounds like you had fun building it. Guess it is time to get off my butt and get started. Just after I finish putting away the gear from Dirt Time 2010 and get the mud out of everything.

Guy Taylor said...

"...get the mud out of everything."
Well, sounds like one of those trips that are a pain at the time but a great story later. We'll have to get together so I can hear it.
I'm sure your bench will turn out nicer than mine. After all, you are a professional carpenter.
One suggestion, be on the lookout for a piece of conveyor belt or something like a truck mud flap. There does need to be a bit more friction between the head and the workpiece. I found conveyor belt at Grainger but I'd have to get about 100 ft of it. That's not gonna happen!

Garith said...

You ever consider getting an old tire and cutting out a section to pad the vice?

Getting together will be a while I came home to find out my van is not running.

Guy Taylor said...

An old tire... now that's an idea. The only possible issue I see there is thickness of the material. But I'll certainly take a good luck at that possibility. Thanks for the idea!
Sorry to hear about the van. If there's anything I can do let me know.

Anonymous said...

I made the same bench from the same source several years ago. A person new to primitive bowyering saw my bench and wanted a photo of it. Instead of a photo I just sent him an e-mail enclosing your site. Thanks for posting the photos. Two modification I made on the original design: (1) I set the bolt-hole pattern for the head to be an equilateral triangle so it could be rotated to any of three positions and (2) I got an old inner tube and cut sections of it to stretch over the head and the contact surface of the bench for a ready-made, weather-proof pad. --Gary in West Linn, OR

Guy Taylor said...

Hi, Gary.
Small world, my Dad used to live in West Linn. Now he's in McMinnville.
Thanks very much for sending the link to the bench blog post. If I can answer any questions on it I'd be happy to do so.
Interesting mod you did on the clamp head. I never thought of that. Do you find yourself roatating it very often?
I finally found a great material for the head and contact surface. I picked up some inexpensive shoe sole rubber from a shoe repair wholesaler near me. A couple pieces nailed in the appropriate area and it works great. No slippage of the workpiece, weatherproof, and it will last a long time. The next time I set the bench up I'll get a picture and put it into the article.

Unknown said...

The bench looks great!

Any suggestions for getting a copy of the plans?

I already checked the Bowyer's Journal website for the back-issue, but it doesn't seem to be available.

Thanks for any info!

Guy Taylor said...

Send an email to me at: guy.taylor at sbcglobal dot net and I'll get the plans to you.
The new owner of The Bowyer's Journal has given me permission to redistribute the plans since the back issues are not available.

Anonymous said...

still have access to these plans? or a link where i can get them? please send either to miltons at live dot com thanks.

Anonymous said...

Still have acess to these plans? Please send to mdisanti twofouronetwo at g mail dot com thank you for your time