adjustable height split top workbench

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Project by MattNC posted 06-24-2014 01:54 PM 13169 views 13 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is the perfect workbench I made for myself. I wanted it split top, adjustable height, and heavy to be stable for planing.

The bench is essentially a parallelagram adjusted with a trailer jack tied into a pillow bearing. The frame is all eastern red cedar with oak pins. The top is solid white oak (2.25” thick) with cherry edges. I still need to add holes for the holdfasts, and wood to the vice faces, but it is essentially done.

I the middle pictures I show it at low, medium and high heights. There is a yard stick in the vice to show relative height. It moves up and down very smoothly.

The last picture is one of my show helpers at his custom bench on wheels with his oak stool.

22 comments so far

View Hartworks's profile


53 posts in 2409 days

#1 posted 06-24-2014 03:35 PM

very cool, nicely done, looks stout

-- Gary, California

View hotncold's profile


788 posts in 2355 days

#2 posted 06-24-2014 03:38 PM

That’s impressive!

-- Dennie - Tennessee

View Woodbridge's profile


3718 posts in 3229 days

#3 posted 06-24-2014 03:43 PM

nice looking bench. The adjustable height feature is an interesting change. Do you use that feature often?

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View oldrivers's profile


2250 posts in 2377 days

#4 posted 06-24-2014 04:54 PM

Nice table, interesting design, never seen one that would adjust in this way, is it stable in the lower positions without the ridge support of the vertical legs? I like the vise locations and the ability to split the top as needed, congrats.

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View MattNC's profile


45 posts in 2562 days

#5 posted 06-24-2014 07:39 PM

So far it has worked well. I have raised and lowered it for different projects and its nice to get the height right for the ergonomics of what I am doing, for example getting the right height for planing, chopping a mortise, etc. When planing at the lowest setting I plan toward the base to get the firmest feel. I don’t think it would ever tip but it is most rigid in that direction.

I made all the joints pretty tight and then lubricated the moving ones with beeswax to make it pretty stiff. When planing or doing anything that is prone to racking the bench may give an 1/8th of an inch at most on the first pass, likely due to the slight slop in the jack, and then is nice and rigid.

View MattNC's profile


45 posts in 2562 days

#6 posted 06-24-2014 07:40 PM

Sorry double posted

View Frank's profile


40 posts in 4474 days

#7 posted 06-24-2014 07:58 PM

Very interesting. I am actually in the middle of reading “Workbenches from Design & Theory to Construction and Use” by Christopher Schwarz and designing how I will be building my bench. Can I ask what advantage(s) the split top gives you?

-- Some rescue cats, some rescue dogs. I rescue tools. Feel free to send me any tools you cannot take care of or don’t want and I will foster them until I find a good home for them.

View william salamat manuel's profile

william salamat manuel

2 posts in 2243 days

#8 posted 06-24-2014 08:15 PM

wow great

View MattNC's profile


45 posts in 2562 days

#9 posted 06-24-2014 08:15 PM

It helps a lot with clamping. Although it is a great place for stuff to drop into as well. I might router a dado into each side and make a sliding box or gap filler for when it isn’t needed.

Speaking of Christopher Schwartz I saw him in person friday. I was buying tools at Roy Underhill’s shop and he was there teaching a class.

View stefang's profile


17039 posts in 4145 days

#10 posted 06-24-2014 09:32 PM

Looks great and the height adjustment is very creative.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2818 days

#11 posted 06-24-2014 10:12 PM

Like the innovative use of the tongue jack! Looks very stout!

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2818 days

#12 posted 06-24-2014 10:19 PM

I see you based your table on a M/C jack. I made one of them for a friend who converts M/Cs to Trikes. No plans, just made everything fit by trial and error as I went along. I used air powered hydraulics and it works great.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View MattNC's profile


45 posts in 2562 days

#13 posted 06-25-2014 12:07 AM

Joe, that was my inspiration. I was trying to figure out how to make a heavy, stable table and stumbled across a motorcycle jack in the ag supply store and copied that design. I like your dragging safety mechanism on the bottom. Thats a good idea.

View Buckethead's profile


3196 posts in 2679 days

#14 posted 06-25-2014 12:37 AM

A very clever solution for a problem I definitely see with my bench. I’m constantly hunching over for certain functions. Planing height is perfect, as well as rough sawing, but joinery needs to be done higher.

You also get extra man points for originality. I, for one, have not seen this done by anyone.


-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View tyvekboy's profile


2033 posts in 3824 days

#15 posted 06-25-2014 03:16 AM

Very very COOL! Got to favorite this one.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

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