Work Bench Build #1: The Plan

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Blog entry by jmos posted 01-13-2012 12:37 AM 10303 reads 8 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Work Bench Build series Part 2: Milling the Top »

I thought I’d try blogging for my workbench build. I currently have a Sjobergs Duo 1500 workbench. It’s not a terrible bench, but as I get more into hand tools it just doesn’t cut it. At under 100lb, I end up having to keep one foot on the front stretcher while I plane to keep it from moving around. I decided I needed a new bench with some heft.

I did some research online, and bought Chris Schwarz’s new workbench book “The Workbench Design Book, The Art & Philosophy of Building Better Benches” Popular Wood Working Books 2010 (maroon colored cover). It’s a newer book where Schwarz presents a bunch of designs, gives build details, and presents a critique of each. I think many, if not all, are reprints of articles from the magazine, with the critique added. It is nice to get an assessment after the bench has been used for some time.

One problem I identified early is that I don’t have great access to any thick pieces of wood for the top. My local hardwood dealer only carries a few species in 8/4, nothing thicker, and I couldn’t swing a hard maple top, too pricy. Schwarz really likes Southern Yellow Pine, but I can’t get that around here, so that wasn’t an option. I looked at just using 2x material, but the inexpensive stuff was really not very good, and the good clear stuff was as much as hardwood. So, I decided to use LVL.

PWW did a LVL bench in 2009. In his critique Schwarz really had good things to say about the top, but not so much about the LVL for the base. LVL, if you are not aware of it, is layers of Southern Yellow Pine about 1/8” thick laminated into beams of stock sizes. It mostly used for long spans in buildings.

The pro’s for the LVL is that it has held up very well to use, stays flat, is very dimensionally stable, easy to machine, readily available, and I can get 1 ¾”x14” LVL for $6.20/lin ft (or $2.65/bf), so the price is right. My plan is to rip each 2×14 into 4 strips, should yield about 3 3/8”, flip them on edge and glue up 12 pieces. I should get 21” minus some planning losses, and a top just over 3” thick. I’m going to edge band the front and back with 8/4 maple for extra support and to protect the LVL edges. It will also look nicer. I should end up with about a 24” wide top, and I’m going for 7’ length, not including end vise hardware. I was thinking 8’, but that just seems too huge; maybe I’ll regret that later. My little Sjobergs only 4 1/2’, so this will be much larger.

I’m going with red oak for the base; cheapest hardwood I could get. The PWW design had a completely knockdown base, with all stretchers half-lapped into the legs and bolted together. I’m planning to mortise & tennon and drawbore the short stretchers into the legs, and half-lap and bolt the long stretchers. It will still come apart if I need to move it.

I looked at and drooled over the Benchcrafted, Hovarter, Lie-Nielsen, and Lee Valley hardware, but I couldn’t justify the cost, something else I may regret later. I decided to try to keep costs down.

I liked the leg vise in the PWW design. I haven’t used one before, but I’m taking the leap. I bought a wooden screw from Lake Erie Tools; a bit pricey, but very nice. It’s my one real splurge on this project.

I decided to try a twinscrew vise for my end vise. I bought two face vise screws from Lee Valley. Linked screws would be nice, but I don’t plan on running the vise all the way in and out too often, so I should be able to get away with independent screws. They were a whole lot cheaper.

I’m also using the sliding deadman in the PWW design, as well as keeping the legs flush to the front and back edges. No skirt. Round dog holes. I’m going to make the height a bit low on Schwarz’s advice, as I’m starting to fall down the slippery hand plane slope. The finish will just be BLO; I have an assembly table so I don’t plan on gluing up on my bench.

I’ve got the hardware and the lumber is ordered. It should be delivered in the next few days. I’ll start on the LVL while the hardwood is acclimating to the shop. I’ll try to post pictures as I build, but it will be slow as I don’t get a lot of shop time watching two small kids.

If anyone has any questions or comments, let me know.

-- John

13 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4761 days

#1 posted 01-13-2012 12:52 AM

sounds like a great plan. 7’ sounds mightly long, but that really depends on your needs.

looking forward to seeing some progress. and remember – no pictures = it never happened ;)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3788 days

#2 posted 01-13-2012 01:42 AM

A much more ambitious bench build than the one I have instore for myself. I look forward to following your progress.

Ditto on the pictures!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View Brandon's profile


4381 posts in 4064 days

#3 posted 01-13-2012 01:55 AM

Great post. I’m looking forward to seeing how your bench goes. I would really recommend also getting Schwarz’s blue volume if you’re building a Roubo. I just started a similar blog thread for my workbench.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Sarit's profile


552 posts in 4252 days

#4 posted 01-13-2012 02:35 AM

I think you can get LVL’s in thicker dimensions so you won’t need to glue as many pieces together.

View jmos's profile


918 posts in 3482 days

#5 posted 01-13-2012 02:47 AM

I will definitely have pictures; I love seeing them, so it’s only fair to post some. Nothing to show so far but a pile of parts.

7’ does seem a bit long to me too, I was thinking 6’. But, most of Schwarz’s benches are 8’, so I thought I’d split the difference.

They do make thicker LVL, but the price jumped up, at least from my supplier. The 2x was the best value. Since I only need 14 pieces (12 LVL and 2 Maple) for the top, I’m hoping it won’t be too bad. I am a bit nervous about jointing 7’ boards, never done it before. I’m hoping the LVL, being a manufactured product, will be easier to work in that regard.

Thanks for the replies!

-- John

View Brandon's profile


4381 posts in 4064 days

#6 posted 01-13-2012 02:54 AM

I’d be curious how the LVL works with hand planing. I’ve never worked with the stuff, so I’m definitely interested in following the posts.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View jmos's profile


918 posts in 3482 days

#7 posted 01-13-2012 02:04 PM

According the Schwarz, it machines well. No excess wear and tear on the cutters/knives. They warn about the dust from routing as being nasty, so I’ll watch out for that. He says it cuts very nicely on the TS, like plywood. No stresses or movement. Time will tell.

I forgot to mention the big reason I didn’t go with thicker LVL as Sarit mentions; no good way to cut it. A 7’ piece of 4×14 would be about 100lbs, and the only thing I have to make a 4” cut in one pass is the bandsaw. Not happening. I could cut, flip, and recut on the TS, but I don’t have any ready help in the shop, so I decided to stick with something I could handle myself.

-- John

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7164 posts in 4307 days

#8 posted 01-13-2012 09:45 PM

A strong, stout workbench is a necessity and a “must have” for any wood shop…it’s the one place that gets the most activity in the shop..everything you do at one time or another, involves the work bench….no getting around it….so having a bench with “some beef” is a good plan. My main work bench weighs in at about 500 lbs., is 3” thick, 42” wide, and 101” long….it will handle anything I throw at it, as a good stout bench is supposed to do…...sounds like you’re on the right track for your bench. Keep on keeping on, and post a few snaps…’ll thank yourself for building a beast of a bench in the long run….

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View john2005's profile


1768 posts in 3291 days

#9 posted 09-06-2013 05:24 PM

Hey John, I am getting ready to do the same. Just wondering what your thoughts are now that you have had some time to use the bench. Would you do it the same if you had to do it over again? What do the dog holes look like? Advice?

-- In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

View jmos's profile


918 posts in 3482 days

#10 posted 09-06-2013 08:23 PM

john2005, I’m really happy with the bench. At this point the only thing I would consider changing if I did it again would be to go to a regular end vise rather than the twin screw, and then make a removable Moxon vise for the front of the bench. I love the sliding board jack, it’s fantastic.

I assume your asking about how the dog holes are holding up? If so, they are fine; no appreciable wear at all. As I mentioned, I did get some tear out of the LVL when I initially drilled them, but they are holding up fine.

I think I pretty much covered most of my helpful revelations in the blog posts. But, if I can offer any specific advise, feel free to ask. Good luck!

-- John

View Cherrybark's profile


1 post in 2227 days

#11 posted 06-03-2015 03:57 AM

John, just a quick note to let you know your series on the LVL Workbench continues to be very helpful 3 1/2 years after you posted. Thank you very much for the documentation and photos.

-- Buy low. Sell high. If it doesn't go up, don't buy it!

View JohnPM's profile


14 posts in 1576 days

#12 posted 05-26-2017 04:12 PM

Thanks for blogging this. I plan on starting on my bench next week. I read the same book and have similar objectives for my bench. I believe I have found reasonably priced untreated Douglas Fir nominal 4×4’s (by 8 ft) that I will use for my top. If mine ends up looking anywhere near as good as yours I will be happy.

View jmos's profile


918 posts in 3482 days

#13 posted 05-27-2017 03:13 PM

I’m glad it’s been helpful. Good luck with the build!

-- John

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