Hand Tool Journey #4: Building a Work Bench

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Blog entry by Blake posted 10-13-2009 02:36 AM 8888 reads 1 time favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Amazing find... Maebiki-nokogiri Part 4 of Hand Tool Journey series Part 5: More Bench Progress »

I did a trade for some woodwork with a guy who had a garage full of lumber and several nice hand tools. Most of the lumber was Oak.

I don’t really like working with Oak. But I thought it would be perfect for a bench, and there was enough of it. I got lots of different lengths and widths. Most of it was 3/4”. I forgot to take a “before” photo of the stack but here is a sample:

Now I intend to make a nice, sturdy bench, but its going to be more functional than artful masterpiece. Just something that I can really use with hand tools. Its my first bench, and there will be others later. So I really want this to be a quick project so I can get back to work on the stuff I really want to build.

Some may call this a “hack job.” Call me a butcher, but I didn’t even bother ripping the strips to the same width. As long as one side is flat, thats all that matters.

I started by rolling on the glue and clamping together sections of a half-dozen or so boards:

Then I glued up two of those sections:

At this point I have two sections that are less than 8” wide. This way they will fit on my 8” jointer to get one flat side.

Here is what the top will look like (It hasn’t been jointed yet)

Here is the underside (notice the uneven widths)

The ends of the tool tray:

The sections laid out and ready for final assembly:

Don’t worry, that endgrain will be covered with an end piece. For less than $20 bucks I got enough 4×6 and 2×6 Doug Fir for a very sturdy base. I also have a piece of solid mahogany re-claimed from an old desk for a bottom shelf, and a huge woodworking vice I got years ago at the flea market.

My friend the glue chisel…

On a side note, I thought I would take a moment to appreciate a very under-rated tool… My glue chisel. Its the old workhorse who doesn’t whine or complain about the not so glamorous tasks like scraping semi-wet glue off a workpiece, gouging out a nail, prying double-stick-taped jigs apart, or popping bark off of a log.

Everyone should have a “glue chisel” ...someone’s got to do the dirty work.

-- Happy woodworking!

18 comments so far

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4074 posts in 5562 days

#1 posted 10-13-2009 03:00 AM

I’m sure the bench will end up looking like a million bucks, but that is one seriously skanky looking chisel.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View littlecope's profile


3157 posts in 5000 days

#2 posted 10-13-2009 03:01 AM

I am not going to call you a butcher! That is going to be an excellent bench, Blake, can’t see any reason why you’d ever have to make another. My Dad made his bench in the same fashion, only with same-width Oak flooring, back in “63 or so- it’s still going very strong…

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View woodworm's profile


14477 posts in 5089 days

#3 posted 10-13-2009 03:18 AM

Great work and great lumber!
Really looking forward to seeing the progress update, next.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View JerrySats's profile


237 posts in 5109 days

#4 posted 10-13-2009 03:42 AM

Great job so far , keep the pics coming .

View a1Jim's profile


118334 posts in 5075 days

#5 posted 10-13-2009 06:15 AM

super wood and good bench start


View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27248 posts in 5320 days

#6 posted 10-13-2009 12:12 PM

That poor chisel!! It is a sad looking little tool but it will get the job done. I have one of those as well. It is the first chisel I bought and, due to my nelglect and abuse over the years, it has been consigned to a role similar to yours.

The bench is looking pretty good. Oak is a nice wood to work with and machines well. It looks good too so you not only are going to end up with a well constructed bench it will look good as well. This is going to be an interesting series to follow.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5380 days

#7 posted 10-13-2009 01:55 PM

Way to go Blake. This will be fun to watch. Oak should not affect your allergies.

I have such a chisel. Also I have a favorite scratch awl that gets used for all kinds of poking and digging.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5745 days

#8 posted 10-13-2009 05:06 PM

It’s gonna be a gorgeous bench Blake. Heavy as a beached whale. Maybe you aught to put some wheels on it with some thingys to raise it up off the wheels. Just so you can move it if you have to. I did and l’m glad I did. Made mine out of maple top and 4X4 treated bottom.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4833 days

#9 posted 10-13-2009 06:23 PM

Looks like you are well on the way to a very nice bench Blake. Glad to see you are back at it again after the allergy problems.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 5373 days

#10 posted 10-13-2009 07:33 PM

I am REALLY trying to limit the sawdust. I seem to be ok after this last shop session. Only a little itchy.

-- Happy woodworking!

View nmkidd's profile


758 posts in 4671 days

#11 posted 10-13-2009 10:37 PM

Great start on what’s going to be an awesome bench. Don’t think you will have a problem of it not be sturdy enough.
Looking forward to seeing the completed product.
Just got back in from my shop….checking to make sure my chisel was still there!

-- Doug, New Mexico.......the only stupid question is one that is never asked!........don't fix it, if it ain't broke!

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 5305 days

#12 posted 10-14-2009 02:39 AM


This looks like it is going to be a great bench and cannot wait to see the progress on this. Great price too. But so help me god if you knock this out in a week I am giving up woodworking altogether!!:-) I have been working on my bench for 10 months now and just now am I almost complete.

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 5373 days

#13 posted 10-14-2009 08:56 AM


All I’m doing is squishing boards together with glue. You’re lucky I only have one afternoon a week for woodworking right now, otherwise you might have to let it go.

-- Happy woodworking!

View PineInTheAsh's profile


404 posts in 4766 days

#14 posted 10-14-2009 10:29 AM

A few months back I stumbled upon the tail end of a two-day garage sale where a huge box of oak flooring sat in a dusty corner nobody wanted. Not enough to floor a room but enough for a knock-about benchtop. For $5, glued to oak ply sheets it looks a beauty. You can bang away to your heart’s content.

My trusty “glue chisel” has been with me more than 30 years. Opens paint can lids and scrapes glue from concrete floors, it’s one of my best beloved tools.


View blockhead's profile


1475 posts in 4807 days

#15 posted 10-16-2009 02:12 PM

That is going to be one helluva of a hefty bench, as it should be. I look forward to followiing the progress.

-- Brad, Oregon- The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.

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