Golden Ratio Assembly Bench

Yesterday, I sketched a design for a clamping/glue-up/assembly workbench. My inspiration for its basic form came from an article in Fine Homebuilding I’d read a few years ago, where a cabinet maker described a temporary workbench he’d constructed in his client’s garage.

What I liked about his design was that he ran Kreg Tool’s Klamp Trak the entire length of his bench top, set flush to the surface. This enabled him to place hold-down clamps pretty much wherever needed (if I recall correctly, he also had a single clamp plate at one end of the table).

My vision for my own assembly bench is very similar, except it features a second track running across the width of the bench top, perpendicular to, and intersecting with, the longitudinal track. Of course, when laying things like this out, a bit of asymmetry is always a good thing. And an interesting source of asymmetry comes from the Golden Ratio, or φ = 1.618.., a transcendental number which has been used in architecture since antiquity. In modern times, the Golden Ratio is often used to proportion the heights and widths of windows, post-and-lintel archways, face frames, panels, the dimensions of boxes, table tops, etc. It’s a proportion considered aesthetically pleasing, yet possesses a number of important mathematical properties, as well.

So, I decided to use φ to set the intersection point of my two clamp tracks. The bench top would be 30″ wide (about 6″ or so wider than most typical workbenches, but I wanted that extra half-foot), and 7′ long.  Here’s my final sketch of the layout:

Golden Ratio Assembly Bench

Bench top layout -- The thin, intersecting lines represent the centers of the 2.25" wide Kreg Klamp Traks

The longitudinal track is positioned closer to the front face of the bench, at a distance of 1/(1+φ) the width, while the transverse track is closer to the tail end of the bench, likewise at a distance of 1/(1+φ) the length. Each track divides its ends, or sides, respectively, into what are sometimes referred to as golden sections. Note that the bench top itself doesn’t conform to the Golden Ratio — rather, only the position of the intersection of the tracks.

Breaking symmetry in this manner should make it easier to clamp much more oddly proportioned work pieces than had I simply ran both tracks straight down the centers. It also affords other opportunities, as well. For example, in addition to hold down clamps, Kreg makes some nice blocks (similar in function to bench dogs, or stops) that fit right into the track. The asymmetry should allow for the placing of Kreg blocks in much more varied locations than had I not had this skewed intersection. One enhancement I’d like to make to this basic design is to incorporate a number of inset vises into the bench top, in some (yet to be determined) pattern that could take good advantage of blocks positioned via the asymmetrical tracks.

What are my plans for this work bench? Currently, I’m planning to build it in an unused, second floor room of the Hawkins House, where I’m establishing a small workshop for repairing and restoring window sashes and frames. Having this repair shop on the second floor will make attacking the second floor windows that much easier (have I ever mentioned that we have a lot of window sashes in need of repair, truing, re-glazing, and weather sealing? :) ). This workbench should go a long way in disassembling (i.e., spreading), straightening, and re-assembling many of these sashes.

About John Poole

My interests include historic homes, architectural preservation and restoration, improving the energy performance of old houses, and traditional timber frames.
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One Response to Golden Ratio Assembly Bench

  1. John Poole says:

    The “we” is you and me. You don’t think I’m going to repair all these sashes by myself, do you? I need help! Ghosts are less than helpful most of the time… :)

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