21st Century Workbench

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Project by Rob Bois posted 02-09-2009 04:14 PM 32218 views 118 times favorited 35 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I recently finished building out a whole new workshop in my basement, and made a good sized investment in some new power tools, all new electrical, and central DC. However, the one item that was an absolute build versus buy nightmare for me was the workbench. After much deliberation, reading, and research, I was almost ready to throw in the towel when the October 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking came out, highlighting the “21st Century Workbench”. The design looked perfect for what I needed as a hybrid power and hand tool woodworker.

So I immediately made some decisions on materials (ash) and a few modifications to the design (I shortened the bench by about a foot to fit better in my smaller shop). I also decided to document the whole project on my blog with a series of videos, culminated by a live ustream broadcast of the final product. I have even found additional benefits of the design since that time, and couldn’t be happier with my decisions. The only thing I might do differently is shorten the front vise, especially since I shortened the overall length. But having a big 30” twin screw vise does have some advantages too. Anyway, since my blog postings, I have since archived the recordings in a slightly more organized fashion on a single page on my website here. If I get time, perhaps I’ll figure out how to get video up here on lumberjocks as well.

35 comments so far

View isetegija's profile


763 posts in 5007 days

#1 posted 02-09-2009 04:26 PM

Nice workbench.
Thanks for sharing with us and welcome to Lumberjocks community.

-- Not my woodworking

View woodworm's profile


14477 posts in 5083 days

#2 posted 02-09-2009 04:27 PM

Very nice workbench that suits the space available. Great job Rob!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27248 posts in 5315 days

#3 posted 02-09-2009 05:12 PM

Rob, this is a really nice bench. A good bench is an essential tool for most shops. This one should give you years of service.

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5141 days

#4 posted 02-09-2009 05:16 PM

Thanks for the post, this looks like a fantastic workbench, I def. made some notes on some of it’s features for when the time comes for me to build my bench.

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

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 5166 days

#5 posted 02-09-2009 05:30 PM

Nice workbench!

View firecaster's profile


574 posts in 4911 days

#6 posted 02-09-2009 06:04 PM

Great looking bench. Is the hole in the center and the recess on the end for clamping?

-- Father of two sons. Both Eagle Scouts.

View Rob Bois's profile

Rob Bois

33 posts in 4887 days

#7 posted 02-09-2009 06:20 PM

I’m surprised it took this long to get a question about the hole in the middle. I need to take an updated picture, but these photos were taken during the final planing and finishing steps of the bench. Basically, there are three removable tool trays that sit on cleats down the middle of the bench. There are about 100 great benefits to this (including the ability to get by with a 12” planer during construction). The tool trays can be placed normally for keeping tools below the bench surface, or inverted to have a completely flat top. Or removed for more clamping options. I also recently found if I shim one of the trays underneath, it also serves as a nice built-in bench hook. Ironically, I had initially planned to design the trays out of the project, but am so glad I kept them. The best part is that when they get full of dust and shavings (a common complaint of tool trays), I can just pick them up and dump the rubbish in the trash in about 5 seconds.

View wood_wench's profile


89 posts in 4924 days

#8 posted 02-09-2009 06:23 PM

Great bench. It should serve you for decades.

Might I suggest some type of shelf below the center opening that doesn’t interfere with your ability to clamp here. It is truly a stomach wrenching sound when you hear your favorite bench chisel being rudely introduced to the concrete floor because it was inadvertently shoved off the work surface and into the hole representing the great abyss. And it usually hits cutting edge first. I won’t go through the gory details of personal experience.

But I’m jealous – it’s a great bench!

View Rob Bois's profile

Rob Bois

33 posts in 4887 days

#9 posted 02-09-2009 06:25 PM

Yeah, that pretty much also gets addressed when that tool tray is in its place. The trays slide left and right, so even if I need to move a tray to clamp, I can still slide trays right up on either side of the clamp to close up any gap. I have heard that concrete floors and expensive hand planes don’t get along very well.

View Frank Doyle's profile

Frank Doyle

42 posts in 4889 days

#10 posted 02-09-2009 07:02 PM

Rob, real nice and efficient bench, your idea for the tool tray is great and the clamping concept makes the idea that much better. I’d like to incorporate it into my bench somehow

-- Frank

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

1052 posts in 4886 days

#11 posted 02-09-2009 07:32 PM

That’s a nice,nice bench.
The wood choise was wise for several reasons, I like the “beffy” look, and all the funcionality that was carefully planned for every part of the bench. I hope you hours and hours of happy woodworking and I believe a second review is due for this wonderful bench after a year or two of use.

-- "Menos es mas" Ludwing Mies Van Der Rohe

View W. Paul's profile

W. Paul

45 posts in 5582 days

#12 posted 02-09-2009 08:06 PM

I’ve been planning for the last couple months to build this bench. I am getting more and more excited about tackling this project. I have a fully outfitted shop, except my only workbench is a Workmate. I need a bench like this very badly! I can’t wait! I have hardly heard a negative comment about this design.

-- Paul, Wildwood, MO; (Ps 145: 1-2)

View SteveKorz's profile


2140 posts in 5207 days

#13 posted 02-09-2009 08:35 PM

I’m lovin’ it… I need one bad. Nice job…

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View TheDane's profile


6060 posts in 5156 days

#14 posted 02-09-2009 08:58 PM

Nice work!

I’m contemplating building from the same PW plan, and shortening the bench as you have done.

My shop is not only small, but also doubles as the garage, so whatever I build needs to be mobile. I have some reservations about putting such a bench on wheels, and have been looking at the heavy duty (650 lb) poly casters from Grizzly. I’m just not sure it would be stable enough.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View JuniorJoiner's profile


497 posts in 4933 days

#15 posted 02-09-2009 09:25 PM

i really have alot of questions about this bench.
do you hook the vice handles as you plane long boards?
is there a way to put a planing stop for width to help with planing wide boards?
do you mind losing the space for your tools under your bench to those stretchers?
what makes this bench special for using power tools?
with the high stretcher bolted dovetail, is the lower stretcher necessary?

I really appreciate the workmanship that went into this. and the trials of working big pieces of ash.
great project

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

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