Old Danish hobby workbench - croissants, espresso and beer...

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Blog entry by mafe posted 11-14-2016 12:21 AM 15211 reads 16 times favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Old Danish hobby workbench
croissants, espresso and beer…

No into needed, so let’s jump right into the story:

This blog starts in my small kitchen back home.

So it could be about croissants and espresso or a few of my handmade knifes…

Or of friends like Flemming that show up and bring joy in my life.

I’ll give you a clue, if you did not read the headline…

My friend Flemming left, so we will talk about the stranger in the kitchen…
Yes I guess you got it!
A small tabletop hobbyist workbench.

I bought it from an old woman here in Copenhagen, sadly she did not know the history of it and when I have tried to make searches here in Denmark, no answers came up.
My guess is that it has been a cheap alternative to a real workbench, a hobbyist bench or even one for children.
When I guess this, it is because the wood screws and parts in general are small in dimension and so it will not be for serious woodworking but could be fine for hobbyist use and small woodworking projects.

I have seen these a few times before here in Denmark, my friend Kærlighedsbamsen have posted about one of these before. He called it a Milkmans workbench after an article from Popularwoodworking where they made a copy of an old one they had borrowed. When I looked this up, I realized it have been a subject to a lot of talk and several people making their own versions of this old bench. So perhaps this blog can throw some light and add a few details for those interested or others that want to make one.

Here you see it close up.
As you might see it is clamped to the tabletop and like this both the vises can be used freely.
If some of you look at it and think: ‘this looks a wee flimsy’, you are completely right, it is.
When this is said, it is quite a lot better tan no bench at all. ;-)

This is a workbench!
(Then that discussion is over).

This is a serious bid on a modern hobby workbench from Swedish SJÖBERG.
Can be found here:
If I had to work of a tabletop or a kitchen table, that would be were I would put my money.

But since I had spend app 25 usd on the little thing only out of fascination, I thought it would be fair to bring it back to glory…
This begins with a strip of hardwood.

Cutting pieces to size.

Carefully marking.
Ohhh yes and having a beer makes the measures extra sharp, or at least I smile as I do it.

Can you guess the purpose?

Yes! Bench dogs for the little bench, as it came without any.

Shaped up and oiled.
Three with hooks and one straight for the wagon vice, this is how the bench is made and I will be true to it’s spirit.

Now we have clamping ability.

The bench were all loose in the joints and someone even screwed together like this at some point.
That’s not worthy for a woodworking tool like this, so this had to go.

Also you can see the wood have moved over the years, I think not from use but from moisture and temperature, it might have been stored away in a basement for years and years.

So time to take it apart.
The wonderful about things made in a proper way, is that they can also be split apart again.
So first step is to drill out the dowels.

Once they were out the bench almost fell apart.
On top of the bench you see a piece of wood I cut to fit in the front vice, to protect fine woodworking.

Gave it a pair of holes like this to fit the wood screws.

Back to the splitting.
Wonderful to see how simple it was constructed.

Quite rough in the details.

This is as simple as a wagon vise can be.

Other end again just fingers and tenon (tap) – mortise (long hole).

A block glued and screwed on as spacer.
I think I would have made tenon and mortise on this one, or at least dowels.
(But it is very Danish to do no more than needed).

The wagon.

From the underside you can see how the wood screw is held in place.

Again as simple as possible and secured with a nail that sticks out so it can be easily removed.

Photos of the bench exploded, so every part can be examined.

Just turning the parts until all is covered.

Every part is made as simple as possible and in my eyes set up to be made on a machine.

The mortises made like this is called long holes in Denmark.
Easily made with a router.

Made a quick sketch with the measures in mm, like this anyone interested can make a copy.

Once apart I thought it would make sense to clean it up.
Decided to go for a light restore, this because the patina it had was not adding beauty or telling a story, just a used hobby bench.

Gave it all a tour with the scraper.
I have to say I love that tool more and more, once you learn how to sharpen and set it, it is so superior to sandpaper, that you only use sandpaper when you need it.

At first I was thinking hide glue but as I could see it was not originally glued with that, I took the modern approach.

All clamped up.

Hoping the glue will fill out some of the gaps, since I did not want to redo all the joints.

Fresh dowels.

The end plate in the wagon vice was originally held by a nail, this one I gave a pair of dowels instead.
(Well knowing I was breaking the laws of gentle restore).

Then planing the surfaces, not to perfection, not to dead flat, but just to a fair level for hobby use.

Hobby bench on workbench.
Sometimes I ask my self why?
Then I stop thinking and keep enjoying what I do…

The tabletop clamps are put back in place.
I added spacers so they could be clamped on my dinner table also.

My friend TY might say I put the tabletop screws wrong… This because his are put different, the one is put at the end on his, so it will be able to grab the table from two sides (look at his post), but since mine originally were like this and I might want to use it on my kitchen table, then I will keep it this way, where both grab from the front.

Look at that sweet surface the scraper are leaving.
I tried to take as little as possible so some of the woods age were still visible.

Then it was time for Danish oil, after all my workshop is in Copenhagen.

I let it soak up a good lot and then wipe it of before it dries.
Gave it three times, then it seemed to be happy, the wood I mean, after all it is important to keep the wood happy.

Happy with the result, I feel that I managed to keep what patina that could be saved and yet fix it to full function again and the added piece of wood for the front vice was made in a way (other wood) so it was clear that it was not original.

MaFe has left the building!

Not sure if this little bench will have much use, for me I think it is more of a conversation piece (and I love those), it was great fun restoring it, learning how it was made, giving it life back and now I have a small workbench for home repair, that can follow me on holidays, on a walk down the street feeling like our beloved Roy Underhill for a second or perhaps one day be a thing of joy for grandchildren.

Hope this can inspire or bring light to how these small hobby benches were made.

The best of my thoughts,

Bonus stuff, all free…

When I lived in another small apartment some years back and had no place for woodworking, I came up with this solution.

A behind the door workbench.

Wall mounted with two hinges and a fold down leg.

This gave me a sturdy workbench on minimum space and I did not need a place to store it away.
Just bought a old used small size workbench.
This one came from a scraped school class so it had no legs but otherwise they can just be trashed.
I made the legs from flat iron and with a bolt in the middle but a wood leg will be fine also.
The reason I made this one low, was that I made it for sitting on a chair while working.

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

28 comments so far

View lew's profile


13317 posts in 4770 days

#1 posted 11-14-2016 12:33 AM

What a wonderful little work surface and you made it even better.

I, too, am learning the wonders of the scraper over sandpaper- and the economic benefit, too!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Druid's profile


2205 posts in 3810 days

#2 posted 11-14-2016 12:59 AM

This is a really well done view into an older style of craftsmanship that produced a useful and long-lasting workbench. Your step-by-step explanation of your whole process of renewing this bench is wonderful, and I will be passing the address of this blog along to a number of other woodworkers. It is a good tutorial.
I have to agree with Lew, including his comments on scrapers. I’ve been using these in various shapes/sizes for several years, and I would not want to do without them.
Thanks for a well presented blog.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View Boatman53's profile


1065 posts in 3211 days

#3 posted 11-14-2016 01:26 AM

Wonderful blog and nice work on that bench. Not sure why but they have always intrigued me.
Thanks I always enjoy your work.

-- Jim, Mid coast, Maine home of the chain leg vise

View johnhutchinson's profile


1243 posts in 2644 days

#4 posted 11-14-2016 01:29 AM

Why is it that a small workbench has to classified as a “hobby” workbench when 99.999 etc. % of the “professional” benches are used by hobbyists ??? I use my “cute” Sjobergs on a daily basis because it’s a good fit for the scale of my work. And I get paid an obscene amount of money for what I do, so I suppose that makes me a professional.

So there. :-)

PS—Are your dining chairs and the legs on your dining table authentic Fritz Hansen? Around here they’re all knock-offs.

Now what was it that you were blogging about? :-)

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10961 posts in 5067 days

#5 posted 11-14-2016 04:24 AM

Very nice… Very flexible…

Did you make the Wood threaded rods for the vise, etc.?
... if so, how?

COOL work!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View oldnovice's profile


7700 posts in 4383 days

#6 posted 11-14-2016 05:16 AM

When I see some of the photos you posted it takes me back to my uncles house (sorry to say he passed thre years ago)in Bonn, Germany.
He had a very small but we’ll kept basement workshop which had to be shared with typical basement inhabitents.
His favorite project was building very elaborate birdhouses.
Thanks for the fond memory and your blog!

-- "It's fine in practise but it will never work in theory"

View iamtomkelvin's profile


14 posts in 1621 days

#7 posted 11-14-2016 06:27 AM

Hi Mads… welcome back from Turkey!

Nice project, excellent result and very happy to see that little workbench again. That thing wil just give you oodles of good service- envious as hell (in the best of ways).

Hope we can find time for a visit before christmas.

All the best / K.

View saddletramp's profile


1180 posts in 3653 days

#8 posted 11-14-2016 10:36 AM

Very nice.

-- ♫♪♪♫♫ Saddletramp, saddletramp, I'm as free as the breeze and I ride where I please, saddletramp ♪♪♪♫♪ ...... Bob W....NW Michigan (Traverse City area)

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

25940 posts in 4120 days

#9 posted 11-14-2016 12:02 PM

That is such a nice portable work bench. Very nice work on it and great pictorial lesson!!
i love your “visual” work shop with every thing out where you can see it to find it!!

Cheers, my friend…..............Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View madts's profile


1953 posts in 3354 days

#10 posted 11-14-2016 01:40 PM

Very nice blog Mads.
We had one at the house growing up in Espergærde. Do not know what happened to it after I moved to Copenhagen.


-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View WillliamMSP's profile


1154 posts in 2619 days

#11 posted 11-14-2016 01:51 PM

Cool piece, nice restore and great blog post.

-- Practice makes less sucky. (Bill, Minneapolis, MN)

View shipwright's profile


8678 posts in 3813 days

#12 posted 11-14-2016 03:12 PM

Sweet piece of restoration work Mads.
Will we be seeing this little guy at home by the sea in Turkey before long?

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

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1355 posts in 2728 days

#13 posted 11-14-2016 03:32 PM

Wow Mads- that came out looking great.
You are the right person to appreciate a thing like this.
Have, since we last spoke, used mine a bit just to try it out for real. And, other than being a bit silly having a workbench on top of a workbench, ot works absolutely beautifull. Both clamps holds the timber fine, is stable enough to plane on – and has a nice, retro feel that brings you back in time.

Hope it will bring you many pleasant and wice conversations!

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View vanislescotty's profile


17 posts in 2534 days

#14 posted 11-15-2016 04:17 AM

It is great to have you back posting after a long summer of few posts :) Another enjoyable blog. First thing I look for when I log into Lumberjocks is did Mafe post today. Thanks for all you do.

View Sylvain's profile


1210 posts in 3514 days

#15 posted 11-15-2016 09:19 AM

Very nice rehab.
I would like to have such a portable workbench.

“A block glued and screwed on as spacer.”

If one tighten the front wooden screws, it will tend to pull the front board away from the slab.
Wood doesn’t work well in traction. IMHO, a long metal screw is needed here to ensure the front board remains linked to the slab .

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

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