thought of the day #3: Workbench design, traditional or go crazy

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Blog entry by jacob34 posted 05-30-2013 04:36 PM 2162 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: small steps can sometimes carry you farther. Part 3 of thought of the day series Part 4: shop time versus softball coaching »

So I have decided I am far enough along to make a workbench or more importantly I have gotten to a point where I notice a lot of situations where a bench would make my woodworking life way easier. The problem is two fold though, one I design everything I make and in this case am of coarse going to do the same thing and two I tend to go “redneck” with my shop projects.

So I am throwing it out to all my Lumberjock pals, go with a bench such as a Rubio. Or to go redneck, using construction 2×4’s for the legs and making vises out of pipe clamps. I know I can make one that is cheaper of coarse but I am not sure that the satisfaction and enjoyment is lower then a traditional bench build. I honestly think that the function would be similar at least for now I don’t know as I get more into hand tools and bigger projects if that might change.

So my question is is it anymore satisfying to a involved workbench verses making it work some other way that isn’t as well pretty? And are there any advantages to a traditional workbench aside from the sturdiness and the various vises and dog holes versus again imper-vising? The idea I get is that the primary reason for building a traditional bench is the ability to get plans and lower the “thinking” and making the percentage for error much lower.

-- so a bear and a rabbit are sitting on a log

9 comments so far

View jacob34's profile


465 posts in 3184 days

#1 posted 05-30-2013 04:38 PM this is what started the thinking

-- so a bear and a rabbit are sitting on a log

View Windwalker21's profile


22 posts in 2814 days

#2 posted 05-30-2013 06:11 PM

I am by far definitely NOT the expert out of anyone that replies to this, but I would resommend that you use 4×4’s for the legs, whether you go with a “traditional” or “redneck” look. The 4×4s would give you enough “meat” to attach stuff to (hooks, braces, etc), or drill peg hoels. Another website I follow ( has a post of someone who built their own workbench (more of a traditional look, but you can steal ideas off it). Here’s the link:

I’ve also figured that I need a workbench, since the one I have is great but I use for smallstuff/tool staging/part prepping, etc. I just haven’t been able to tear myself away from the other HUNDRED projects I have going on right now.

Good luck!

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 3066 days

#3 posted 05-30-2013 06:19 PM

This is one area where I really have to agree with Chris Schwarz. The purpose of a workbench is to help you hold the workpiece so that you can work on the face, edge and ends. So long as your bench accomplishes those goals, it’s a good bench, regardless of design.

View Brandon's profile


4380 posts in 3871 days

#4 posted 05-30-2013 06:22 PM

The Roubo is a basic design that offers a lot of good features for working on all surfaces of your workpiece. Sure, use construction-grade lumber; a lot of people have done that and it’s worked out very well for them. I chose beech for my bench, but there’s nothing wrong with dimensional/construction-grade lumber. But please, please whatever you do, don’t use pipe clamps in place of real vises, you’ll most likely regret it. Real vises, for instance ones sold from Lee Valley, aren’t that expensive but they offer so much more than pipe clamps.

Also, check out the Workbench thread which has a bunch of nice examples of benches, plus folks who like to think about these things—they can probably answer whatever questions you might have.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View WhoMe's profile


1568 posts in 4163 days

#5 posted 05-30-2013 06:44 PM

DOH… Brandon beat me to it. You should check out that workbench thread. Several of the active members on that thread have made some awesome benches and a couple are just starting or in progress. Some great ideas and lots of knowledge on that thread.
From your description, you seem to be looking to build something but not spend a whole lot of money on it. The FWW website is good too for all ends of the spectrum.
I guess I would recommend that you spend a little more time and money making a stable top and get at least one good functional woodworking vise. This way you will get past the point of building something and feeling that it is not up to what your expectations were. Besides, you can always add more/modify things later but at least you are starting with something good. As for the base, I have seen several bench designs out there that use basic construction lumber and they seem to work just fine while saving money.

Good luck and be sure to post what you do on your blog.

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

View jacob34's profile


465 posts in 3184 days

#6 posted 05-30-2013 06:56 PM

I only mention pipe clamps for vise as in leg vise. I believe I saw someone make one on here and it looked worked well. I do not think pipe clamps for say a tail or end vise would work. And yes I do agree 4×4’s for the leg probably better, would it matter as much if you are glueing two 2×4’s together? hmm either way I agree just a 2×4 is not a good leg (I found that out on one of the first bench top tool stands I made).

Brandon thank you for the link. WhoMe, I have seen plywood tops with mdf on them which I do not like the thought of, any thoughts? I think I will not go the ply route.

-- so a bear and a rabbit are sitting on a log

View rhett's profile


743 posts in 4587 days

#7 posted 05-30-2013 08:19 PM

It’s your bench, in your shop, build it however you want. Personally, I prefer to figure things out and make due with what’s available. Anyone can throw money at a project but not everyone can save money on a project.

Wood doesn’t care how its clamped or worked, everyone else does.

So far in my life, I have been fortunate enough to meet three master woodworkers. None had a fancy bench and all made the best with what they had available.

Unless you want your bench to be “one of your pieces”, do what works. Then get to work.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View shipwright's profile


8621 posts in 3718 days

#8 posted 05-31-2013 12:43 AM

I designed my own, way outside the box and it was a lot of fun to do, very rewarding and it turned out to be an excellent bench The traditional bench is great but making stuff up and re-inventing the wheel is more fun.
You can see mine here but I’d encourage you to use what you like from different benches and add some of your own ideas. The best bench for you hasn’t been built yet.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View jacob34's profile


465 posts in 3184 days

#9 posted 05-31-2013 01:28 AM

Shipwright that is a mighty nice bench. rhett I agree completely, I think that is why I haven’t built one yet, my woodworking is still growing and I want it to be functional above anything.

-- so a bear and a rabbit are sitting on a log

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