The Quest for a Better Bench #2: The best bench so far...

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Blog entry by PlanBWoodworks posted 10-26-2017 12:22 AM 1339 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Where I started and where we’re going... Part 2 of The Quest for a Better Bench series Part 3: The search for inspiration... »

After building the last iteration of Workbench 2.0 (technically, I guess I should call it Workbench 2.1), it did not take long for me to decide that I was still less than thrilled with the final outcome. In addition, I had delved further intro the land of woodworking, and had also acquired a jointer and planer. YouTube was filled with videos of people making workbenches with laminated tops. Thick and heavy, it seemed clear to me that this was the type of bench that I wanted to build.

Jay Bates was one of my favorite content providers, and it just so happened that he released a video of his bench build right around the time that I decided to build one of my own. I watched his build many, many times. I knew that I did not have the space in my garage for a bench as large as his, but I did want to build a bench with a thick laminated top and big beefy legs.

I would have loved to build the bench out of hard maple or similar, but I also knew that realistically, that wasn’t going to be an option. Southern yellow pine was going to have to do. I went a bought a stack of 2×10s and got to work. First, I ripped the lumber down to 4” x 48” boards. After jointing and planing, I laminated the strips into 4 sections that when joined would make up the top. I intended to use dowels to line up the sections, and measured very, very carefully. Apparently, not carefully enough. The dowels did not line up. Plan B (hence my name…) was pretty simple. Screw it, enough glue and clamps and it will work out…

In hindsight, it would have been much smarter if I had glued up smaller sections and then run them through my jointer and planer. Since I did not think to do that initially, it led to a TON of sanding. I grabbed the trusty “Chicago Electric” belt sander and went to work. After several sanding belts – the top was flat-ish. The bottom? Well, nobody was ever going to see it.

Next, I turned my attention to the legs. Again, cut from 2×10s the legs ended up 3 3/4” thick and were joined by stretchers of the same thickness. The mortises were the issue. This was my first attempt at mortising. Using a Buck Brothers 1 1/2” chisel, I went to work. I got them cut, but let’s just say that they won’t win any beauty or accuracy contests. They were slightly oversized, but hey, the legs fit!

Finally, I moved on to cutting the dados for the stretchers. I have a Dewalt contractor’s saw. Basically, that means no dado stack. I cut dados (9 total. One extra due to stupidity…) at 3 3/4” an 1/8th of an inch at the time. My wife nearly filed for divorce. Anyway, after all of that was done it was time for assembly!

I got everything together, and in a feat of truly Herculean strength, I managed to get the bench flipped over. I gave it a couple of generous coats of natural danish oil and called it done!

The bench has served me very well. Heavy and bulky, it’s not going anywhere. At 48” x 36”, the top is massive. I added a 10” Eclipse vise to the front and have also drilled some dog holes. It is absolutely the best bench that I have built. Not perfect, but solid as the day is long, and I imagine that it will outlive me. Still, It didn’t take long for me too decide that I could do even better… We’ll save that for next time.

-- Why can’t I ever find my pencil???

4 comments so far

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1387 days

#1 posted 10-26-2017 01:28 PM

The lap joints for your stretchers wasted away way too much of the posts, fyi.

View jonah's profile


2092 posts in 3910 days

#2 posted 10-26-2017 01:36 PM

I agree. It would have been better to do a more half-lap-style joint there.

View MrFid's profile


900 posts in 2515 days

#3 posted 10-26-2017 01:49 PM

True. But maybe he was building in an excuse for making his next one! :)
The top looks nicely done! Nice work and welcome to woodworking!

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View PlanBWoodworks's profile


168 posts in 1093 days

#4 posted 10-26-2017 02:09 PM

Thanks for the feedback. I haven’t even thought about the size of those joints. I don’t know why I didn’t half lap those. This is a great example of why I love this site. I am going to cut joints on my legs for the current bench today. These comments are very timely!

-- Why can’t I ever find my pencil???

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