Workshop #1: Building a Proper Workbench

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Blog entry by b1v1r posted 02-22-2019 07:38 AM 589 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Workshop series Part 2: Workbench mounted router table for pattern routing »

I read stefang's recent blog on how to Improve Your Posts and it reminded me of my first post long ago and, unfortunately, my lack of posts since. I remembered how I was pleasantly surprised that people took the time to look (and comment) on just a silly screened door from a beginner and thought what a great community this could be. And then I promptly forgot to post anything else. Sigh. I can do better…

I came into woodworking with a strong desire to build, but without a lot of equipment. As such, that makes for a bit of extra work to get started on a project. I’m sure other beginners can relate. In my case I only had a pair of wobbly saw horses and a very non-flat concrete basement floor. Here I set out to start this adventure with a place to work. What I ended up with was a flatter than my basement floor, but not quite flat work table that I used as a workbench, an assembly table, and an outfeed table for a brand new contractor saw. This has gotten me through many around the house projects, but I really wanted a proper workbench for building furniture.

Here is the original work table which I still use today as an outfeed/assembly table. One of these days I might even flatten the top properly, but that is another blog entry.

But the point of this blog is not this table, but rather what I produced to replace it as a proper workbench. The problem was, though, that I had no idea what I really needed. I did have a few things decided, however:

  • Must not cost more than $500
  • Must have a face vice and an end vise
  • Must have lots of ways to hold down items and be pretty easy to expand these

What I settled on was Roubo style workbench with a quick release face vice and a cheap tail vise. I would use a stack of reclaimed 2×4s for the top and pick up some poplar or other nicer hardwood for the sides, jaws, and frame.

I wanted to be able to use my tablesaw to cut the square holes and the drill press to bore the round holes, so I glued up the the top in four sections so that they were easier to handle.

These were then glued up together and I built a router sled to go across two parallel sides to flatten the top after the glue-up. Here I used a Whiteside 6220 CNC spoilboard surfacing router bit with a nice 2” diameter cut. This worked really well and I ended up with a nice flat top (and quite a few bags full of sawdust).

Next, I bought some poplar to use on the frame and vice jaws. Eventually I will bore some holes in the sides to be able to clamp things down.

After everything was done, I was quite proud of the results. This, I felt, is something I can use to build real furniture on. It is dead flat and I can hold down just about anything. Next up is a walnut dining table! If you look closely you can see a stack of lumber waiting for this workbench to be finished. As I finish this blog now the table is actually near complete.


-- Brian - Ellicott City, MD

6 comments so far

View Zonker's profile


63 posts in 149 days

#1 posted 02-22-2019 11:00 AM

Very nice bench. What is the purpose of the shelf under the face vice end? It’s got me curious.

-- Larry A. - I've made a small fortune with my woodworking. The trouble is, I started with a large fortune.

View rhybeka's profile


4530 posts in 3419 days

#2 posted 02-22-2019 11:48 AM

Very nice, Brian!! I too am curious about the shelf under the vise. Is it for hand planing? a foot rest? make the bench easier to move?

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

View b1v1r's profile


20 posts in 699 days

#3 posted 02-22-2019 10:02 PM

I left the lower horizontal piece long so that I could eventually put in some sort of clamp rack or something at the end. For now I just put on a shelf and use it as a place for storing my two sleds for the table saw that is next to the bench (off camera). But it does work nicely as a footrest, too :) Eventually I may add storage below the main portion as well, which is why there is not currently a shelf there.

-- Brian - Ellicott City, MD

View mike02719's profile


80 posts in 4083 days

#4 posted 02-22-2019 11:48 PM

Impressive bench! It is a shame to work on this bench. I have a table similar to your previous one. I use it for assembly and I have a router built in. Your shop is shaping up very well. Keep it up and let us see your progress.

-- Mike, Massachusetts

View htl's profile


4536 posts in 1457 days

#5 posted 02-23-2019 12:16 PM

That’s one great Roubo style workbench but if it wasn’t for your other one I don’t think thing would have gone as nicely.
I guess everyone notices the step, but the first thing I noticed was my back quit hurting, a back saver for sure. lol

-- An Index Of My Model making Blogs

View stefang's profile


16554 posts in 3632 days

#6 posted 02-23-2019 08:45 PM

Great blog and a very nice bench. I kind of wished I had used my router to flatten my bench like you did, but I had just bought some nice hand planes and just had to try them out. Lots and lots of work, but probably not as quite as flat as your bench.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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