Holtzapffel-inspired Workbench (on a budget)

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Project by Jake posted 08-23-2014 11:11 PM 13169 views 8 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a workbench project that was based on Christopher Schwarz’s design for the Holtzapffel Workbench. I followed it loosely, making the following more major changes to it:
-Made the stretchers closer to the floor. They are about 3” away from the floor. In another of Schwarz’s designs, he mentioned that having the stretchers that close to the floor enables you to hook your foot under them when you’re planing. Sounded like a good idea.
-Added a shelf
-Made the end vise the width of the entire bench.

Wood species used:
-Reclaimed Douglas fir (top, legs, stretchers)
-Red maple for vise jaws (8/4, not reclaimed)
-Some kind of softwood for the shelf, probably douglas fir (reclaimed siding from an old house)

Vises used:
-Veritas Twin-Screw chain drive vise, 24” between screws
-Veritas Large front vise, used as an end vise

Approximate dimensions:
-Top: 7’ 3” long x 21” wide x 4” thick
-Floor to benchtop height: 34.5”
-Legs: 5×3.75”
-Stretchers: 5×2.75”

This is my first major project. I’m a novice woodworker, having done a few minor projects around my parents’ house without a proper workbench. This project was extremely challenging because I had to make this workbench without a workbench. I was also using reclaimed wood from the construction of my parents’ house. I used the 2×12 form boards that were used to form the concrete foundation. They were extremely knotty, twisty, and had concrete embedded into them. I tried to find the clearest sections, cut them out, used an aggressive jack plane to remove the concrete-embedded surface (the poor blade), and removed the twist with the jack and jointer planes. (We don’t have a thickness planer) For workholding, I would put the boards between two posts on the front porch, put some scraps on either end to wedge the board between the posts, and then used two wedge shaped scraps that I would hammer between the post and the scraps to hold the board tight. It became a lot easier after the top was laminated because I could just set it on some sawhorses and hold boards down with clamps/makeshift planing stops. You can imagine how glad I am to have a functional workbench now!

17 comments so far

View SirGareth's profile


133 posts in 3420 days

#1 posted 08-24-2014 12:21 AM

Awesome job! I hope I do as well on my first bench. How are the vises working for you?

-- Even if you fall on your face, you are still moving forward. - Tim, Southern California

View hotncold's profile


788 posts in 2764 days

#2 posted 08-24-2014 01:02 AM

What a challenging project! I admire your tenacity and craftsmanship!.
and BTW…Welcome to Lumberjocks!!!

-- Dennie - Tennessee

View Jake's profile


2 posts in 2592 days

#3 posted 08-24-2014 01:17 AM

Thank you and thank you! I forgot to mention that I started this last summer and gave up because it was a crazy amount of work. I was also afraid that the grueling work would make me hate woodworking. But I picked it back up this summer and managed to finish it.

SirGareth, I haven’t done many projects yet, but the vises are good so far. I like the twin screw; when it is adjusted to be directly parallel to the rear jaw (or benchtop side, in my case), it holds an extremely firm grip. It does sag a bit when it’s cranked out more than a few inches, and it shudders when screwing it back in because of the sagging. I just finished installing some oak runners between the screws and the bottom of the benchtop to prevent the sagging and the shuddering, and it did the job. As for the end vise, it’s done a fine job, but it does skew (not sure if that’s the right word… rack?) if you try to close something on just one side, since the jaws are so wide. In these situations I just put a piece of scrap in the empty side and it works fine. It works fine without using a scrap when I’m just clamping work between bench dogs, partly because the vise carriage is not centered in the width of the bench but is closer to the left where the bench dog is. I would recommend both vises. Installing them took maybe two to three days overall for me. The twin screw was actually simpler to install, I think.

View Schwieb's profile


1920 posts in 4681 days

#4 posted 08-24-2014 01:02 PM

Nice work. Love that you re-purposed so much fine old material. I am jealous

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View Rafe Demers's profile

Rafe Demers

71 posts in 3204 days

#5 posted 08-24-2014 01:49 PM

Excellent work! Nice to see you stuck it out, I find that once you complete a challenging project it is even more rewarding. The way you overcame the challenges of milling the stock shows you got the woodworking bug and I am sure it will help as you develop your skills. Keep it up!

-- Rafe Demers

View sras's profile


6331 posts in 4349 days

#6 posted 08-24-2014 01:54 PM

Nice project! Sticking with it pays off in the end – you have a great bench that will serve you for many years to come.

Welcome to LJs!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Douglas's profile


424 posts in 3779 days

#7 posted 08-24-2014 03:07 PM

Well done. Having a good workbench (and yours looks great) is the key to open the door to the rest of your woodworking journey. Go forth and make big pieces of wood smaller, and stick them together!

-- Douglas in Chicago -

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4086 days

#8 posted 08-24-2014 03:08 PM

This is a great workbench and will be a wonderful addition to your shop.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4554 days

#9 posted 08-24-2014 04:01 PM

Very impressive work for a novice woodworker (or any other woodworker). I know how much work is involve and I admire your tenacity. Now you have a great bench to use for the rest of your life.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View hoss12992's profile


4180 posts in 3112 days

#10 posted 08-24-2014 04:14 PM

That is really cool. Love the design. Great job

-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View drnic's profile


59 posts in 2600 days

#11 posted 08-24-2014 04:56 PM

Sweet! I need to seriously upgrade my “Reader’s Digest” version…you have inspired me to do so. Thanks!

View CL810's profile


4167 posts in 4208 days

#12 posted 08-24-2014 06:57 PM

Jake this turned out real nice! With all the work you put into it it will be a favorite bench in your shop for years to come. Now let’s see some projects roll out!

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View grfrazee's profile


388 posts in 3359 days

#13 posted 08-24-2014 08:51 PM

Very nice. Love that you did this all (pretty much) with reclaimed wood.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll get tired of all the wood shavings getting clogged on the shelf and build a set of drawers for your tools.


View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1335 posts in 3154 days

#14 posted 08-24-2014 11:20 PM

Good job! I remember building my first bench without a bench. It was tough. I remember thinking, “Man if I only had a bench…oh wait”

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View gsimon's profile


1327 posts in 3333 days

#15 posted 08-24-2014 11:31 PM

excellent work! – i’m sure many more great projects will be done here

-- Greg Simon

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