Building a new workbench #1: The top is glued up and the components are rough cut

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Blog entry by Loogie posted 01-29-2009 10:28 PM 18259 reads 22 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Building a new workbench series Part 2: Four Square »

I’m in the process of building a new workbench based on Bob Lang's bench as detailed in the October 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking. I’ve read Christopher Schwarz book “Workbenches: From Design And Theory To Construction And Use” as well as several others. It always seemed like I wanted a combination of the features I found in most other benches. Bob Langs design was the first I’d seen that incorporated everything I wanted in a bench, so here goes!


I bought 150bf of 8/4 Ash. I ripped twelve 8’x4 1/4” boards for the top. I needed about 2” from each board to make up the 11 3/4 inches for each half of the top. Unfortunately good straight lumber is hard to find and after the Ash got done moving and I jointed and planed it the 6 boards were only giving me about 10 3/4”. So I ripped another board milled up another two pieces. Now I’m sitting at about 12 1/2” per side. Since each board was ripped from a single wider piece I decided to “bookmatch” the two halves of the bench. Nobody will ever notice but me I’m sure, but I thought it would be a nice touch with no extra work. Here are the boards:


Then I started gluing up the boards. I started as Bob had advised by making sub-assemblies of two 2×4’s and then using wooden clamps on the ends to keep things lined up, but I noticed that even the things were shifting a bit. I decided to change tactics. I started gluing the boards up one by one. Each time adding one more board in the sequence. This did two things for me. It let me work faster because I could glue it up and then after having it clamped for 30 minutes I would take it out of the clamps and add another board and re-clamp. Secondly, By only adding one more board I could clamps some parallel clamps across the boards to keep things lines up as I clamped them together vertically. This was MUCH easier than trying to finagle a twin screw wood clamp to keep things aligned. When I started this method things moved faster and came together very squarely.


After both sections of the top were glued up then I moved on to roughing out the other parts. All the parts are shown here: the bottom rails are closest, then the top rails, then the two halves of the bench top and stacked on that are the pieces that make up the bottom stretchers, the pieces that make up the top stretchers and then the eight pieces that make up the four legs.


So that’s where I am now. Hopefully I’ll get a little more time in the shop tonight to mill the other components four-square.

-- Mark

9 comments so far

View Harley130's profile


25 posts in 4542 days

#1 posted 01-29-2009 11:56 PM

Great write up and pics. I have building a similar workbench on my bucket list.

-- Seldom wrong, but never in doubt. My Blog site:

View Kaytrim's profile


63 posts in 4624 days

#2 posted 01-29-2009 11:59 PM

Great idea for the lamination of the tops. I’ll have to remember that one when I build my bench.

View UVA's profile


16 posts in 4458 days

#3 posted 01-30-2009 12:41 AM

This is very cool. I finsihed a Holtzapel work bench out of hard maple about three weeks ago – 3” x 24” x 96” top. It is marvelous. the top was a bear to handle after all the glue up. I love it and know you will love yours as well.

Are you going to use the Veritas twin screw vise? It is a little tricky to get the two handles aligned. I had to deviate from the directions to get the handles aligned. The directions say to install the two screw fixtures, then install the chain and then screw the two handles in together. Well I did that and the two handles were not even close in alignment – off by 180 degrees. I the took the chain off, turned each handle to close the chop on the bench and had to reinstall the screw fixtures. It would have been much easier to install the screw fixtures after having gotten the handles aligned. I hope this makes ssense because it was a hassle to redo it. I read another on-line blogger had the same issue.

If you are going to use the 7” Lee Valley quick close vise, I ran into an issue there as well. On the rear attachment bolts, I had to add a washer shim between the vise plate and the bench underside. Otherwise, the vise was canted a bit.

Finally, the beeswax/turpentine/boiled linseed oil mixture as a bench finish covered in Woodworking Magazine as the best bench finish is indeed wonderful. It does smell while drying so keep a window open for several hours. It is 2 ounces beeswax (e.g. old candle) to 16 ounces turpentine to 16 ounces boiled linseed oil. My wife shaved the candle on a grater to get fine particles that would dissolve in the turpentine. I heated the mixture in a bath of hot water to get it to totally dissolve. It is a gel at room temperature. i heated it in warm water before applying it and applied three coats over three days.

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 4837 days

#4 posted 01-30-2009 03:51 AM

Great start so far. I appreciate your insight into glueing up the top one board at a time. I have my Roubo top boards glued up into 3 board sub assemblies right now. They are pretty flat, but I will be jointing and planing then individually before glueing them together. I was worried about the glue up for this 28” wide slab but I think tackling it one piece at a time will be so much easier. Thanks for the tip. Love that quality Groff & Groff Ash! Our benches will almost be related when I get mine done!

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

View Loogie's profile


100 posts in 4829 days

#5 posted 01-30-2009 05:20 AM

UVA, Thanks for the words about the Veritas Twin Screw, that is indeed the vise I’m using. The end vise will be a Jorgensen 10” model. I had to shorten the base 6” to allow enough clearance for the vise. Do you remember which issue of Woodworking that the workbench finish formula was published in? I must have missed it, but I’d like to read that.

-- Mark

View Loogie's profile


100 posts in 4829 days

#6 posted 01-30-2009 05:23 AM

Shannon, One additional thing about the glue up. In photo above you’ll notice that all of the clamps are on the same side of the slab – this is the first slab. On the second one I alternated the clamps. I don’t know why I didn’t do it on the first one, but it also helped keep things square. Even though the clamps are supposed to be parallel, they still tended to pull the board toward the clamp ever so slightly. Alternating them completely eliminated that tendency.

-- Mark

View UVA's profile


16 posts in 4458 days

#7 posted 01-30-2009 05:33 AM

The bench finish article is Autumn 2005, page 30, Woodworking Magazine.

View cylis007's profile


56 posts in 4518 days

#8 posted 02-09-2009 06:25 AM

That is a great idea regarding the glue up for the top. I will give it a try. I look forward to watching your progress.

-- A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave. ~Benjamin Franklin

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4722 days

#9 posted 10-03-2010 10:18 PM

You is off to a good start!

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