Anarchist Workbench Build #1: Getting started.

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Blog entry by Lazyman posted 11-24-2021 03:58 AM 600 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Anarchist Workbench Build series Part 2: Prep for Wagon Vise and Dog Strip »

I have been thinking for a while that it was time to finally make a real woodworking workbench. I have been using my assembly/outfeed table as a workbench and even added a quick release face vise and some dogs but it just is not great for work holding when using hand planes.

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I considered several different bench designs and narrowed it down to a Moravian or one based upon Chris Schwart’z Anarchist Workbench. I really like the looks of the Moravian and the portability but finally settled on the the Anarchist design. I just like the mass. There is still a chance that when it comes time to make the base I could switch over to the Moravian design, though my vise choices could limit my options and I am making the top 5” thick which may just be too much for the Moravian base. I don’t have room for The 8’ bench from the Anarchist design so I drew up a 6’ version in Sketchup.

My wife gave me Hovarter leg and wagon vises for my birthday so I am set on the vise hardware. The wagon vise needs 16+” on the end so that means that it is a little unbalanced over the base. Hopefully that won’t be a problem.

I also decided to stick with the #1 SYP that Chris Scwartz recommends. I actually kind of like the way it looks. I started looking for some #1. No one near me had #1 so I started sifting through the stacks at the surrounding Lowes’ and Home Depots. After hitting 3 of them I found a single #2 prime 2×10 that met my standards for straight grain, and no knots near the edges. I started calling down the list of lumber suppliers and found a single local wholesale supplier that had some #1 SYP and they recommended that I special order it from them through Lowes so that is what I did. It took almost 3 weeks and when it arrived, I was really disappointed in the the quality. Out of the 12 2×12s that I ordered, 3 looked like the #1. The rest have nasty, giant knots with most of them on the edges. The #2 prime on the shelf looked better. Fortunately, the pro desk clerk agreed with me and gave me a discount on the 3 I decided to keep and a a discount on the any #2s that I could find on the stack. They helped me cull through the pile and I got enough to get started milling lumber.

I cut them to rough length for the top, ripped them to width (5”) and passed them through my planer to remove a few mill marks. I am pretty pleased with the results.

My pickiness on selection has paid off. The grain in these runs almost perfectly straight. In fact, most of them won’t even be a problem hand planing them in either direction, though I have arranged and labeled them as much as possible so that the grain runs in the same direction on the top at least (thanks for the reminder Kenny). I think that I will need 2 more 2×12s to complete the top but I will wait until next week for them to get another shipment of 2×12s in.
BTW, Woodcraft had a 10% off lumber sale and I picked up a 6’ x 3”x 9” chunk of cherry for the leg vise chop. That costed almost as much as all of the pine for the top and legs.

Next installment will be about making the cavity for the Hovarter wagon vise and dog holes before gluing up the top.

Thanks for watching. Comments and advise are welcome.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

7 comments so far

View pottz's profile


21304 posts in 2268 days

#1 posted 11-24-2021 04:09 AM

you crazy beautiful woodworking man.well our lazyman is finally getting up and doing it ! man a proper bench,every serious woodworkers dream project.gonna enjoy this one buddy.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View Jeff's profile


256 posts in 669 days

#2 posted 11-24-2021 05:30 AM

Isn’t a 5” top overkill? Is that much mass needed? Will be following this.

View Hammerthumb's profile


3131 posts in 3259 days

#3 posted 11-24-2021 06:20 AM

5” is fine for a workbench top depending upon density of the wood. White oak at 5” maybe overkill, but if I had the wood available, I would still use it. A top this thick needs the consideration of maybe enlarging the bottom 2” of the dog holes, but the added mass of top is still a benefit. Make sure the base is stout also.

-- Paul, Duvall, WA

View Peteybadboy's profile


4151 posts in 3233 days

#4 posted 11-24-2021 10:43 AM

You have some plane-ing to do. I also will be following.

-- Petey

View Lazyman's profile


8221 posts in 2671 days

#5 posted 11-24-2021 01:44 PM

I went back and forth between 4 and 5” but since I am starting with 2×12s, I decided that I might as well go the full 5” like Chris Schwartz recommends. They have to use a larger log to cut 2×12s which usually means tighter and flatter growth rings and generally higher quality wood with only a small increase in cost per board foot … and what am I going to do with 20 2×2s when I am done. :-) I did buy 1 2×10 (only one I could find in several HD and Lowes in my area) and while it is acceptable, the quality of the 2×12s is definitely better.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View HokieKen's profile


19846 posts in 2422 days

#6 posted 11-24-2021 01:50 PM

I agree with the “thicker is better” approach. I have never wished my bench was lighter (except maybe when I had to flip the top over onto the base by myself) and have never had a problem that would have been alleviated by a thinner top. Mine is only 3-1/2” though and I did have some issues with holdfasts staying set. I would buy and try holdfasts before attaching the top to the base. That way if you do have to counterbore the bottom of your holes, you can do so while you can still flip it upside down.

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View Lazyman's profile


8221 posts in 2671 days

#7 posted 11-24-2021 02:02 PM

Good idea. I guess I need to order that pair of Gramercy hold fasts.

I am also thinking about splurging and getting the Lee Valley Replica Recessed Bench Stop (or telling Santa). It is a replica of the Miller’s Falls stop which I have been watching for but they are pretty rare to find out in the wild.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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