Building a real workbench without real skills

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Blog entry by DragonLady posted 03-04-2010 04:25 AM 1507 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Last Thanksgiving, I built a nice, sturdy little bench for me to work on while I set up my workshop. It’s now time to build a real, heavy-duty, woodworking bench that I can use to hold my pieces while I plane, etc.

I’m a novice. The desire to learn is there, and the patience to do things over (well…most of the time). I learn from my mistakes very well! I just keep finding new ones to make :)

So I sat down and read every internet article, forum post, magazine article and book I could get my hands on about workbench design. Yeah, that didn’t really do anything other than confuse me! But I did get an idea of what kind of bench would do well for the kind of work I want to do.

So it begins! I went and bought what seemed like a metric ton of wood and let it sit in my shop for a few weeks. Yesterday, the journey began with ripping the 2×8x8’ construction lumber (grade 2 D fir) in half to start my top.


Not much space to work, but it was fairly effortless to mark center, set up the saw guide, and rip with my circular saw. Sawdust flying!

So here are the boards, waiting to be marked out and cut to rough length:

I’m already eyeing the knots with trepidation. I haven’t been able to put a super sharp edge on my plane blades yet. Another skill I’m working on.

Ripped 10 boards, giving me 20 pieces to laminate together. I’m aiming for somewhere around 30” deep, 3” thick, and I’m not 100% sure on the length. My original plans call for a 6 ft long bench, but I think I might shorten that a bit. Need to get the plans out and make any changes before I start cutting to length.

-- A woman's work is never done-but power tools help!

6 comments so far

View Dyidawg's profile


51 posts in 4024 days

#1 posted 03-04-2010 06:55 AM

you give this beginner hope and confidence to keep trying to get better.

Keep us up to date with this project. I’m hoping to start to build a true workbench this spring.


-- Wow, that was easy. Just follow the directions and use some common sense.

View JohnnyW's profile


83 posts in 4042 days

#2 posted 03-04-2010 09:22 AM

I’ve been looking to do my first proper bench and I know what you mean about all of the options and opinions.

I’ve tried to boil it down to the things that almost everyone agrees on – flat top, heavy build to stop it bouncing around, strong enough to resist racking, must have lots of ways to hold wood. I think if you can tick all of these needs off with the basic bench, then you have something that will work. It could be adapted as you learn and maybe specialise in some kinds of work.

Good luck with your build, I’ll look to watch your progress

-- John

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 4579 days

#3 posted 03-04-2010 05:42 PM

You’re first workbench won’t be your last… ;)

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View DragonLady's profile


298 posts in 4018 days

#4 posted 03-05-2010 02:54 AM

I’m going to be short on clamps, I’m sure of it. I have an idea to supplement my existing clamps with my multitude of ratcheting tie-downs that I have for my car. Good idea? or no? I only have a total of 5 clamps able to span the finished 30” width otherwise, and I’m short on cash for buying more right now.

-- A woman's work is never done-but power tools help!

View Bakerman's profile


7 posts in 4018 days

#5 posted 03-05-2010 02:28 PM

Hi, I built my first bench in the late 80’s, in the basement room that was more laundry room than shop. Tools?, hmm cheap tablesaw, hand drill, probably 2 clamps and a pencil. Plans and instructions from 20 year old paperback. I learned that it’s very difficult to make a bench when you don’t have a bench! I still use it every day tho! I think you’re off to a great start!

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4345 days

#6 posted 03-10-2010 01:07 AM

If you can put your boards to be glued up on a flat surface wide enough to have rails securely fastened along both long edges, then you can do your glue up with double wedges. For 6 ft of length you would probably need at least 4 sets of double wedges on one side, 8 wedges in all. The wedges should be the same thickness as the boards you are gluing up. The angle of the wedges should not exceed 5 degrees and less might be even better. and they probably should be fairly long, say 10” to 12”. The advantage of wedges is that they are fairly inexpensive and can be made from cut-offs. The other thing is that they exert even pressure and won’t cause your glue-up to curve up on the edges.

I’m not an expert on this, so you might want to get some more opinions on the skill forum. I’m sure there are many others out there with more knowledge about this than me who would be willing to help you out. Good luck with your project!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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