Workbench Concept #1: The journey begins - Bench Concept

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Blog entry by Tedstor posted 03-22-2011 11:38 AM 4145 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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So my current bench is gawd awful. Poorly designed and poorly built. And yes, yours truly will take full credit for its design and construction. Its actually something a threw together, on impulse, in a single afternoon. One positive point is the top. Its 2 1/2” thick and is rock solid. The probelm is that its too heavy for the whimpy base that I salvaged from a throw-away kitchen table. Its racks and sways all over. Most notably, the bench’s footprint is 30”x60”, which is WAAAYYYY too big for my workspace.
All that said, I’m glad I waited until now build a proper bench. I now know what I need and want (i think). I’ve come to realize that all the projects I’ve built up until now were either small or really big in size. My current bench has been too big for most of my projects and too small for the rest. So here is the “scope” I’m aiming to build within:
1- Small in size. I work out of a one car garage. No cars are parked in there, but lots of other stuff is. I have a full size snap-on tool box from my auto tech days, six floor standing woodworking macines, kids bikes, lawn tools, shelving, etc, etc. The 30” depth of the current bench sticks too far out from the wall. I don’‘t need anything that deep. The unused horizontal space near the wall attracts clutter. Lots of clutter. I’m thinking the new bench will be more like 20”x48”. Large enough to accomodate 90% of the stuff I build. I might build a matching 24×30 utility table for my miter saw, router table, and planer that can also provide some extra table space for the rare occasion I build something larger.
A smaller bench also stands a better chance of making it into my next home, which will hopefully accomodate a larger shop. If I were to build a monster, I’ll probably just have to tear it apart when I put my house on the market in another year or two.

2- Storage- A tiny shop can’t afford to leave the area under a workbench unused (as the current bench does). I’m gravitating toward a shakerish design with drawers or cabinets. Plus, a small bench needs all the mass it can get. The extra weight of stored tools should be helpful.

3- Cost. I’d love to build something from exotic hardwood and trimmed with top-of-the-line hardware. That ain’t gonna happen. LOL. I’ll be working with materials I already have for the most part. The good news is I already have the 9” quick release vise on my current bench, and a large Veritas bench screw I bought at the restore for $4. It might be unorthodox to put a leg vise on a small bench, but thats probably what I’ll end up with. I can’t think of any reason it would not perform decently, and it’ll be fun to build. I might spring for a few BF of Ash for the vise. Whatever. We’ll see. The rest will likely be built from some doug fir boards I have in-house.

Stay tuned. Sketchup coming soon.

3 comments so far

View JasonD's profile


180 posts in 3375 days

#1 posted 03-22-2011 01:40 PM

Looking forward to following the build! I understand the need for a smaller bench; I’m in the same boat as far as limited space.

As for as wood for the bench itself, if you’ve got access to yellow pine, I’d highly recommend it. Costs a fraction of the cost of hardwoods and having used it for my bench, I love it. For the vise chop, you are better off with a hardwood (I used maple and red oak laminated together).

View brianl's profile


108 posts in 3595 days

#2 posted 03-22-2011 03:14 PM

As someone who also works in a very small shop, I can say my bench (24” x 48”) is more than enough room for 99% of the stuff I’ve done. If something won’t fit it’s normally because I haven’t cleaned off the bench in a while… I also used Douglas Fir for mine and 6 months down the road it’s still going strong.

-- Brian - Belmont, Massachusetts

View Ocelot's profile


2360 posts in 3152 days

#3 posted 04-17-2011 07:51 PM

I know you’re eager to build something, but have you considered that you can buy something like that pretty cheaply? Here’s the little workbench I picked up a HF for about $130. It has 4 drawers plus a shelf underneath. It’s 20” X 60” and comes with a vise of sorts on the end. It still took a couple of hours to put it together, but I’m quite pleased with it. I’ve got plenty of room (after I move some storage items out of my work area) and might get another of them. It’s some kind of hardwood put together with lots of finger joints, but it seem sturdy enough to me. If you catch it on sale and use one of their 20% coupons it’s a pretty good deal!

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