In anticipation of a rather large carving commission, I decided to build this portable carving work top. Until now, every time I spent more than a week carving furniture parts I ended up with a strained back. Part of the problem was that my woodworking bench is just 36″ high – perfect for most operations but not high enough for detailed work. Most of the carving benches I found on the internet were stand-alone floor models, but I needed something that I could tuck away when not in use as only a small portion of my commissions require carving. I saw a design something like this on the internet (cannot recall where) and then revised the plan based on my particular needs.
Constructed from 8/4 ash, the top is fashioned as one would for a harvest table, with the mortised bread boards glued in the centre and pinned at the ends. With 3/4″ holes drilled at 4″ intervals, the 35″ x 30″ work top can easily hold most common furniture parts. The standard 48″ long T slot rails (cut into 30″ and 18″ pieces) allow the top to be either laid horizontally or tilted at any angle to 90 degrees, pivoting on heavy duty farm leaf hinges. The mortise and tenoned base can be easily clamped to my existing work bench. Raising the carved pieces to 39 1/2″ above the floor while in the horizontal position, the height is perfect for me, an average sized adult.
The work top was finished in “chair finish” – equal parts of tung oil, varnish, and linseed oil.
Although one might assume the white oak arms might get in the way when carving at an acute angle, it has not been my experience due to the arms’ range of movement. The ability to move the arms forward and back allow for optimal positioning to take the force when knocking a large carving chisel into very hard woods, while the bread board ends provide maximum strength and prevent warping over time.
With this work surface I can sit in my comfortable Windsor stool and carve all day long in absolute comfort.