Monday, June 23, 2008

Bench Leveler Feet

The floor of my shop (garage) is sloped towards a central drain, which creates some interesting leveling problems. A couple of years ago, I decided that my system of using shims to level my bench just wasn’t cutting it. Too much moving around and re-leveling. What I wanted was some system of leveler feet that would be easy to adjust and have good grip. All the locally available options where doubtful – either way too wimpy or too slippery looking. I decided to try to figure out how to make some.

After digging around online I found this article by Angelo at WoodCentral:

Thanks Angelo! I liked the beefiness factor and it sure seemed like it would grab the floor and not slide around. I decided to make my own, but as always I followed my motto: “Why leave well enough alone, when you can mess with it!” Now, this usually results in my making things way too complicated and much longer to finish – sort of like my infamous driving “shortcuts” (which, bowing to pressure from more time-oriented observers, I have renamed “super secret back ways”). However, in this case, I think I actually improved on the design – at least for me.

The first major divergence from Angelo’s design was not drilling all the way through the puck. In the comment by Bob included at the end of article, he mentions his idea of just drilling a hole deep enough to seat the head of the bolt. I liked how this left more “meat” to support the weight of the bench, and I didn’t mind the puck not being firmly attached to the bolt.

The second change simplified how the bolt attached to the bench. I decided to see how things worked if I just fit the bolt into a snug hole in the bench foot rather than screwing into an inset coupler. Mostly this was because I didn’t feel like flipping the bench over to bore a larger hole and I already had ½” holes in the bottom of the sled feet from the existing wooden shoe.

This necessitated the third change; leveling the bench with jam nuts and a washer rather than with the bolt/coupler. Basically, as seen in the photo, the washer supports the bench and is adjusted by tightening or loosening the nut directly below it. This nut in turn is locked in place by jamming it with the second nut. Very simple. The foot does not need to rotate and remains steady during leveling operations. (Side note: I used standard hex blots rather than carriage bolts – I don’t know if it makes much difference, but I suppose the smooth head of the carriage bolt might just rotate in the puck as you tried to lift the bench by tightening the top bolt…)

I have been using this system on my bench for almost two years now and it has been great! I think I have had to reposition the bench once in all that time – as opposed to daily with the old slippery shim system. And I have never had to adjust the level after the initial setup – jam nuts rule! Eventually, I will be replacing my bench (this is the first one I have made, and despite continually showcasing my lack of skills, it has served admirably) and I will definitely be using this same system – unless I can “improve” it again, because “Why leave well enough alone…”

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