Woodworking Bench

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Project by tpmwoodworker posted 04-14-2015 05:33 AM 6705 views 13 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I started woodworking about six months ago. And this workbench was my first major project. I’ve learned a lot from the countless, skilled and experienced craftsmen who are in this forum. I’m just a beginner. And I made a lot of mistakes, which I learned from in the course of building this woodworking bench. But I’m proud of how it turned out. I’ve been using it for a couple months and by that measure it’s been a big success.

The design is fairly straightforward. The base is construction grade Doug Fir, 2×4s and 4×4s and the joinery is a simple but incredibly strong system of steel rod trestles that hold the whole thing together. (The entire base is not actually “attached” together in any way. No glue, epoxy, nails or screws. Just the tension of the trestles.) The top is Doug Fir 2×4s I laminated together. Then I edged the sides with 3/4 ’’ Walnut, in part for aesthetics but mainly to provide a harder edge surface to resist chipping.

I took Chris Schwarz’s advice not to start off with a bunch of vises and dozens of dog holes on the initial build. Keep it simple and add stuff later if you have a specific use. With that in mind the Vise is a Rockler face vise with maple used as the jaws and then two columns of dog holes adjacent to the vise.

The design isn’t mine. It’s got an interesting evolution from a few different prominent woodworkers. As near as I can tell the design originates with Sam Allen in his book Making Workbenches. The plan was then simplified by Asa Christiana. His plans are here. But the version of the plan I worked most closely from was posted by an anonymous woodworker on the website. It’s here. He worked from Christiana’s plan but revised it in a few ways. And I really give this guy credit because his plan and guide to building is extremely detailed. I learned a huge amount from following and reading through his detailed account of how he did his build.

I stuck to the plan pretty religiously while making the base. But then I started to go off a bit in my own direction when it got to the top. I stayed pretty true to the basic design – the dimensions are largely the same. But I didn’t like the idea of using MDF for the top and I couldn’t find a laminated hardwood table top that I was satisfied with. So I ended up laminating my own. You can see there’s also a storage area below the top for tools and other accessories. That board is presentation quality birch plywood.

If I were started the project from scratch I think I would make the top by laminating together hard maple 2×4, more durable, more elegant – cost notwithstanding. I bought what was supposed to be presentation quality Doug Fir for the top. But they actually had a lot more imperfections than I realized (should have examined them more closely when they were delivering them). And that meant a lot more work and touch ups when I was planing the top down. Still, I learned a lot. So all good in the end.

I think I will eventually install an end vise and also add more dog holes. But so far the face vise and this set up has covered all my needs.

Thanks for your reading and I appreciate your comments and feedback.

-- Newcomer to Woodworking, Looking to Learn More

11 comments so far

View bluekingfisher's profile


1333 posts in 4217 days

#1 posted 04-14-2015 07:22 AM

That’s a great looking bench, you should be proud of the build quality and end result. I like the use of the jig for cutting the dog holes.

If looked after, your bench will last you a life time of woodworking.

Well done


-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View ToyMakingDad's profile


85 posts in 3249 days

#2 posted 04-14-2015 01:41 PM

WOW! I talked a lot about building a bench like this but you really pulled it off. It looks great and seems super solid. I think adding things as you need them is the way to go.

Really good job.


-- Toy Making Dad, Northern Virginia,

View R_Stad's profile


439 posts in 3081 days

#3 posted 04-14-2015 02:27 PM

Great bench that will serve you well. Nice work.

-- Rod - Oregon

View tpmwoodworker's profile


19 posts in 2441 days

#4 posted 04-14-2015 05:58 PM

Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it. Like I said, I’m brand new at this. But I’m really enjoying it. I see this bench is basically an amazing learning experience because I had various mistakes I had to fix or re-think around and lots of basic skills I had to learn along the way or new tools I had to learn how to use. So I learned a lot. And at the end, as a bonus, I had a pretty cool workbench. Like I said in the project post, I think I’m going to add a second vise because there are some things the front vise isn’t quite ideal for. I’d actually be curious to get people’s advice on this. The vise itself with the dog holes cover most of my needs. But for cutting joints on pieces in a vertical orientation, the vise isn’t really deep enough to hold the piece. I’m thinking just an end vise that have more room between the screws.

In any case, I’m doing this all on my own. I don’t know anyone else who does woodworking. I’m doing it by trial and error and a lot of time watching youtube videos and reading forums like this. So it’s great to have some feedback from some real woodworkers. I really appreciate it.


-- Newcomer to Woodworking, Looking to Learn More

View paxorion's profile


1107 posts in 3283 days

#5 posted 04-14-2015 06:08 PM

Great job. I am hoping to build a workbench myself this year out of construction lumber and anticipate that your project will serve as inspiration.

Not sure where you are located, but I strongly recommend finding a local guild. I’ve learned a ton from the guys in my local guild. This might be a worthwhile starting point to look.

-- paxorion

View tpmwoodworker's profile


19 posts in 2441 days

#6 posted 04-14-2015 06:11 PM

Hey, great idea. I live in New York. So there must be tons of people doing woodworking here. I just don’t know them. The design and instructions I linked to that is on Instructables is really an amazing resource. Like I said, it’s basically Christiana’s design. But I’m used to seeing instructions or designs where a lot of things that wouldn’t be obvious to a novice are left out. But it’s very detailed. Helped me a lot. Thanks for the suggestion!

-- Newcomer to Woodworking, Looking to Learn More

View Tim Royal 's profile

Tim Royal

325 posts in 2724 days

#7 posted 04-14-2015 10:37 PM

Talk about a nice first project post! Great one… I pinned it on Pinterest just after you posted this AM and it’s already starting to get passed around!

-- -Tim Royal -"Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." -Thomas Merton

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1130 posts in 4212 days

#8 posted 04-14-2015 10:47 PM

Superb my friend, just superb

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View skogie1's profile


120 posts in 2601 days

#9 posted 04-15-2015 03:43 AM

Nice, real nice. I’m about to make a bench top to replace my current one and I’ll be using your piece and the links as a guide I think. Thanks.

View Buckethead's profile


3196 posts in 3107 days

#10 posted 04-15-2015 01:59 PM

I’ve been spending too much time in my watch list. Missed this one. Fantastic bench!

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

View tpmwoodworker's profile


19 posts in 2441 days

#11 posted 04-24-2015 04:40 PM

Thanks to everyone for the kind words. Exciting to hear this about my first project. Thanks.

-- Newcomer to Woodworking, Looking to Learn More

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