Finally, a Workbench Drawer

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Blog entry by Tom posted 10-26-2020 07:12 PM 554 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When I built my joinery workbench about 2-1/2 years ago, I had always planned to add a workbench drawer. but I could never quite get around to doing. In fact, I built a whole other Moravian workbench and added a drawer to that before I finally got to the drawer on my joinery workbench.

I am between projects at the moment and I finally committed to making the drawer. I am not sure if most woodworkers would like to have a workbench drawer, but I think it’s great if you use hand tools. It’s a real nice place to keep odd tools that don’t have a home. I have a hard time keeping my shop organized when I am in the thick of it with a project. So anything that brings organization is helpful to me. Also, it is traditional to have some sort of drawer on a hand tool workbench.

My joinery workbench is based on the design that Paul Sellers advocates with some changes for my shop situation. He has a few Youtube videos that show how to cut the hole in the skirt, make the drawer and install a frame. His design uses an interesting dado and mortise/tenon on the rear part of the drawer, but I didn’t do that one. I made my usual traditional drawer with half blind dovetails on the front and through dovetails on the rear. I also used beveled panels instead of plywood for the bottom, because I like doing it that way. When I make drawers, I don’t fuss with the dovetails to make them showy or perfect. They should be quick to make by hand and look decent, so I saw out most of the waste with a coping saw and trim it up with the chisel.

Making the drawer is fun. But before you make the drawer, you need to cut out the hole in the skirt so you know what size to make the drawer. Cutting out the skirt hole was a pain in the butt. I cut out the hole with an oscillating saw with a board as a guide. You can do it with hand tools, but that does not strike me as a good time working on a vertical board at hip height. My back hurts thinking about it. The oscillating saw worked pretty well, then I trimmed and squared up the sides with a chisel. I fiddled with it for quite a while to ensure it was as square as I could get it. Other than a bit of splintering along the edges, I got it done to my satisfaction for a workbench drawer.

I also made a frame for the drawer slides that screwed to the back of the skirt board and to the underside of the bench top. It is just made up from scrap wood and screwed together, nothing fancy. I won’t bore you anymore with the gory details, but here are a few pictures to tell the story and amuse you.

I added a cast iron handle from an online retailer. Here is the link:

Cast Iron Pull

The pull is really nice size and protrudes about 3/4”. It is smooth and all the corners rounded so I think it is unlikely to mar my work if I happen to bump into it. It does not interfere with the vise because my rear vise chop sits about 1.5” proud of the skirt board. That is how I prefer to work. If you have a flush vise, you may want to have a recessed pull on your drawer.

Also, I am not into partitions. I prefer to keep the drawer space free and open.

So 2.5 years later and I am finally done building my workbench. Not too bad. :)

-- Tom

4 comments so far

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17435 posts in 3780 days

#1 posted 10-26-2020 07:22 PM

Very nice.

And I’m firmly on the side of having a drawer (or drawers) at the bench. Like you said, there are just things that need a place at the bench.

Good pics, good narrative. Thanks for posting.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View metolius's profile


430 posts in 1892 days

#2 posted 10-26-2020 07:22 PM

nicely done!

-- derek / oregon

View Sylvain's profile


1312 posts in 3661 days

#3 posted 10-27-2020 03:12 PM

When I made mine, it was my first drawer and first half blind dovetails.

What I found tricky was to ensure the drawer guides were perpendicular to the apron. it would have been easier with the workbench upside down.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View Tom's profile


289 posts in 1053 days

#4 posted 10-27-2020 03:34 PM

Yes. It would have been easier if the bench could be laid down or flipped over.

I didn’t mention, but I used the same wood for the drawer front as the workbench, Douglass fir. It was a scrap from when I made the workbench. It was horribly course, brittle wood to work with. It turned out fine and it was quick work, but would have been easier in another wood for sure…

Thanks for reading… :)

-- Tom

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