Workbenches and Work Surfaces #1: Standard Workbench

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Blog entry by Obie posted 11-04-2010 06:52 AM 3976 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I have been in the process (for a few months now) of building a general purpose workbench.
I work on the computer and usually “play” on the computer so I have hard time prying myself off it and getting anything done. Well, the cooler weather here in Phoenix is helping.

I based my design on the workbench featured in Wood Magazines Best-Ever Workshop Jigs, Tips, and Ideas 2010 pg. 86 – 88.

In retrospect, I wish I had followed their plan exactly and used a solid core door for a tabletop. It would have just been simpler. I decided I wanted to use a nice butcher-block counter top on my bench. At the time I thought my only option was to buy a counter top from Ikea. I later discovered that Woodworkers Source sells a nice top and I think Rockler does as well. The Rockler tops start at $290 and I don’t remember the price at WWS. The Ikea countertop was only $130 in beech and the dimensions are 73.25” x 25.625”.
the Ikea counter top was narrower and a little shorter than the top used in the article so I had to make adjustments to the plans.

Which brings us to time-sink #1. Draw it all to scale on paper and make my adjustments, or use a CAD program? Remember the part where I said I spend all my time on the computer?
A friend I work with spent some time as a CAD designer in the past and offered to help me learn AutoCAD. Long story short, it’s a bit of a learning curve imho. So, I had tinkered with Google’s Sketchup in the past and just made little shapes and junk so I downloaded the free version and watched a couple days worth of tutorials. In the end I think I re-drew my project about 15 times before I was satisfied with the results and I had actually done it properly (putting pieces on separate layers, etc.).
In the end, it was a worthwhile timesink. After I had figured it out I was able to go in and make changes to the design easily. Example: I didn’t originally know the overall dimensions of the caster wheels I wanted to use. Once I got the exact dimensions I was able to go into sketchup and shorten the table legs to allow for the overall 6” of the 5” casters from Rockler. That was a huge timesaver.

As you can see in my 2nd pic, I later went back in and adjusted for a piece of 2×6 under the frame for mounting the wheels to.

I forgot to mention, my goal is to get this table to sit about 1/2” lower than my tablesaw so it can be used as an outfeed table.

A view of my Sketchup model:

The bench vise was downloaded from Sketchup’s online library of user-made models.

The workbench as of today (11/03/2010):

Casters: (sold in pairs)
2 x – 5’’ Casters, Rigid (Plate Mount)
2 x – 5’’ Casters, Total-Lock Swivel (Plate Mount)
I originally wanted all 4 wheels to be the Total-Lock Swivels but I cheaped out and bought 2 of the rigid. I’m actually happy I made that choice as the table now moves just like a shopping cart with brakes. With just one of the two locking wheels locked on an inclined surface the table is very secure and doesn’t wiggle at all!

To Do:
a. Seal the butcherblock countertop – 1 or two coats of poly on the bottom. 4 coats, maybe more, on the top and edges.
b. Mount the countertop to the frame – was going to mount cleats to the bottom that would allow me to remove the top if needed but, the countertop came with slotted brackets and I’m considering using those. Slightly worried that the top won’t feel as solid using the brackets…
c. Add beater-boards – (that’s what I call them, hehe)
d. Considering adding a tool-trough to one long side of the table
e. Add tail vise and drill dogholes
f. Build cabinets into the frame – possibly doors on left or right side and drawers on the other.
g. Attach 5’ plug strip – thinking of replacing the cord with a 25’ extension cord and adding a cord wrap to the backside of the table (should allow me to use as many tools as I need on the bench without having to swap cords constantly and allow me to do that without running a seperate cord to the table)
h. Possibly add a 5 or 6” bench vise as well

-- "Measure Once, Curse Twice"

3 comments so far

View Sandy's profile


231 posts in 4526 days

#1 posted 11-04-2010 12:07 PM

Keep up the good work. According to one of my maxim’s of life (“Horizontal surfaces accumulate vertically.”) you can never have enough workbenches. From my experience, under surface cabinets are useful and they add weight to the bench which makes it more solid. However, I suggest that they not be full height so that any doors or drawers don’t interfere with the operation of the vise or block use of the dog holes, particularly if you use any hold-downs or other clamping elements which require room beneath the work surface or access from the bottom of the dog holes.

When you mount the front vise you may want to consider recessing it into the top of the bench so that you can clamp long pieces along the face of the bench. You may also want to drill some dog holes across the
bench for use with the face vise, and, given a choice, I strongly suggest a quick-release vise over the turn, and turn, and turn… ones.

I incorporated electrical outlets into the front apron of one of my benches, using a standard electric box inset into the apron. On another bench, which has a cabinet beneath the work surface, I have an electric strip on top of the cabinet.

Post it when it’s finished.

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 4536 days

#2 posted 11-04-2010 05:31 PM

Looks like a good bench!

Fwiw, I have read multiple times that it’s important to keep the layers of your finish the same on both sides. This is to help prevent warping, due to more moisture being absorbed through the side that has less finish. Just something to consider. It may not be as much of an issue with a butcher block slab as one that’s a single board.

-- Robb

View Obie's profile


24 posts in 3702 days

#3 posted 11-05-2010 01:14 AM

Hmm, I was considering making the cabinets full height but not putting a top piece in so I could remove the drawer or open the doors and have access to the underside of the tabletop. Now that I look at your bench though… I like the idea of having that area to shove tools in while you’re working on something and easier access to the underside of the tabletop. Though, with the design I chose I’ve already lost 5” of space under the top. Thanks for the input Sandy. I have not finalized my drawings for the cabinet but I think I’ll be making some changes now.

Robb, the idea of ‘1 coat on the bottom’ was just the advice I got from an employee at Woodworkers Source. I really have no idea if that will be an issue with butcherblock. I hate painting, staining, sealing, etc.. So I thought it was a great idea, lol. But, does anyone else have any input on that??

-- "Measure Once, Curse Twice"

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