Workbench - Douglas Fir

  • Advertise with us
Project by TheDane posted 06-21-2009 10:48 PM 39551 views 138 times favorited 59 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Finally got tired to trying to use folding tables, saw horses, etc. to plane lumber and cut dovetails, so I built a workbench.

This bench is 65” long, 22.5” wide, and 35” high (some would say too high, but just about right for my back!). The top is 3.5” thick. The trestles in the base are mortise & tenon (draw-bored and pinned with 3/8” oak dowels). I have a really small shop, so the whole thing rides in a mobile base (Jet 1200 lb). There are two T-tracks … one in the left end (for an adjustable planing stop), the other along the back for a planned tool holder and worklight. The shelf below will eventually house a tool chest with drawers for handtools, planes, measuring & marking, etc.

This bench was designed to be disassembled. The stretchers between the end trestles are bolted in with bench bolts and brass cylinder nuts. The top (and vises) are mounted with carriage bolts. The carriage bolts are mounted in 1-inch deep holes in the top, using torque washers to reduce the chances of the shoulder of the carriage bolts from turning in the wood. I routed patterns (diamonds, squares, and bowties) in the top, and installed Dutchmen that were planed/sanded flush to the top. The Dutchmen and dog holes were created with a hardboard template.

Originally, I had planned on just using lag screws to fasten the top to the trestles and mount the vises, but ruled that out. I have sort of an aversion to using lag screws in soft lumber, and this bench is built entirely of Douglas Fir.

Early on, I made the decision to go with kiln-dried Douglas Fir. The logic was that I was building something to pound on, not a museum piece. The bench top has 35 board feet of lumber in it, and I have less than $70 invested in lumber for this project. Hard maple (my preferred choice) would have been several times that.

The base was stained with Danish Oil that had been sitting around for a couple of years, then coated with two coats of poly.

The top and vise jaws were finished with a turpentine / bee’s wax / boiled linseed oil concoction. I am very pleased with the results, and it is a relatively inexpensive ‘finish’ that is easy to apply and should be easy to maintain. The recipe: 16 oz Gum Turpentine 2 oz shaved/grated Bee’s Wax (dissolve Bee’s Wax completely in turpentine) 16 oz Boiled Linseed Oil. Apply liberally, let sit for two hours, then wipe off excess Let ‘cure’ for a few days, then buff.

The front vise is a Groz (9” fast release) from Rockler. I mortised both the front edge of the bench and the jaw to bury the vise … that way, I can clamp larger pieces to the right leg (legs are flush with the edge of the top. The end vise is a 7” Groz (from WoodCraft).

I didn’t keep track of the hours I put in on this project, but out-of-pocket costs for lumber, hardware, and finish is about $375.00

Update 20 Sep 12 … FAQ:

There are several questions I get frequently …

Q: How has the douglas fir worked out, has it stayed flat and not warped?
A: Yes it has stayed flat … no sign of any warping or twisting. The top is 3 1/2” thick, comprised of laminated, milled timbers (face grain to face grain). After three+ years of use, I woulld say it ain’t going anywhere!

Q: It hasn’t splintered or dented bad?
A: Douglas Fir is a conifer, and thus is softer than domestic hardwoods, so it is more susceptible to denting. If you drop something heavy on it, it will dent. On the flipside, repairs are easy … just route out damaged spot, glue in a dutchman, sand, and finish (I have only had to make one repair).

Q: When you built it did you use 2×4’s or rip out of larger boards?
A: I bought 12 foot long 2×12’s, ripped them to a little over 3 1/2”, jointed one edge and one face, then planed them to 1 1/4”. I laminated 4 sections (4 or 5 boards to a section), then laminated one 4 board section and one 5 board section. This was done so I could run them through my planer to get a final thickness of 3 1/2”. Then I laminated the two big sections, using a set of cauls to keep them aligned. All of the lamination work was done with Titebond III.

Q: How long did you let it dry before gluing it up and planing it?
A: The lumber was kiln-dried from mill … moisture content was around 11%, so it only sat in the garage for a day or two before I started milling/laminating it.


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

59 comments so far

View Grant Davis's profile

Grant Davis

840 posts in 4883 days

#1 posted 06-21-2009 10:50 PM

Very very nice, I really like the t-track additions to the sides. Thanks for posting.

-- Grant...."GO BUCKEYES"

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2824 posts in 4565 days

#2 posted 06-21-2009 11:21 PM

Now that you’ve taken your pictures and have posted it, when are you going to deliver my work bench?

LOL, very nice.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4309 days

#3 posted 06-21-2009 11:37 PM

Very nicely done bench. I agree with you about not feeling that a hardwood top is absolutely necessary. The only proviso I would put on that is; that it is stable enough stay reasonably flat.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5193 days

#4 posted 06-21-2009 11:46 PM

I really like what you’ve done here for a reasonable price.The mobile base is a great addition also.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4796 days

#5 posted 06-22-2009 12:27 AM

This is a nice looking bench that you put together at a very reasonable cost. Adding the t-tracks to the bench is an interesting idea. This is a nice addition to your shop that should give you years of service.

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

View moshel's profile


865 posts in 4658 days

#6 posted 06-22-2009 12:28 AM

Its a really really nice workbench, and looks like you really designed it well.
My workbench is also DF and I am really pleased with it. I don’t have to worry that the top is actually worth more than the workpiece i am trying to make…. Its a very stable timber and hard enough to give good feeling when you pound on it. your design is much better than mine (I started with the newfangled FWW design but gave up in the middle as you just can’t find pipe clamps for 1/2” pipes here). well done!!!!

what is a dutchmen?

-- The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep...

View BarryW's profile


1016 posts in 4881 days

#7 posted 06-22-2009 12:37 AM

very nicely done…looks quite useful…

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View a1Jim's profile


118153 posts in 4551 days

#8 posted 06-22-2009 12:57 AM

super bench looks great


View TheDane's profile


5917 posts in 4637 days

#9 posted 06-22-2009 01:07 AM

Forgot to mention … the odor from the ‘finish’ is quite pungent and hangs around for a lllooonnnggg time. I applied it outdoors, then left the garage door open for as long as I could without creating an attractive refuge for the critters in the woods!.

To give credit where credit is due, I found the book “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” by Christopher Schwarz to be an extremely valuable tool in designing my bench.

kolwdwrkr: You can pick the kit at your local lumber yard!

stefang: I think the thickness (3.5”) will help. The raw stock sat in the shop for about 6 weeks, so I think it acclimated fairly well. I did a lot of flattening work with a Stanley No 7 (that’s when you find out what kind of shape you are in!).

Scott Bryan: I think the T-track idea actually came from a Fine WoodWorking video.

moshel: Dutchman (in woodworking) is a term I picked up from watching TOH master carpenter Norm Abram. It is just a patch of wood used to repair blemishes and knotholes.

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

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


20045 posts in 4650 days

#10 posted 06-22-2009 02:25 AM

Looks good. I know what you mean aobut cutting dovertails, I cut them with a machinists vice:-(( I need to build one myself. I’m going to cut a bunch of maple that blew down last winter to do it with. Another on the long list of projects, hope I live long enough:-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 4439 days

#11 posted 06-22-2009 02:38 AM

I really like this overall design, size and look. I plan on putting this one into my collection of examples for when I build my MAIN workbench. Thanks for posting. BTKS

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 4336 days

#12 posted 06-22-2009 03:24 PM

Hey TheDane,
Good strong design and well finished…...but…..I hope you turn the bolts on your end-vice around or modify them so that you dont catch your fingers.

View tooldad's profile


665 posts in 4689 days

#13 posted 06-22-2009 03:31 PM

i am switching between 54×60 tables which sit 4 students to 23×60 workbenches at my school shop. Also they are going from 30” tall to 36”. I got a couple built this past spring, and the students seemed to like the taller benches. Going back and forth about the thought of giving up the wide width which is nice for setting up clamps. My assembly table at home is 42×54. on the other hand, they can always push 2 together.

all in all, I don’t think it is tall. i am going back and forth about whether to use the hydraulic floor jack or a motorcycle lift to create and adjustable height table.

View PurpLev's profile


8642 posts in 4623 days

#14 posted 06-22-2009 03:51 PM

looks great! it’s beefy, and should do it’s job very well. the height seems to be ok, not really over the top – and it’s always personal anyway. and I can only Imagine the smell of that turpentine coming off of it…. :)

Thanks for sharing. I’m in the process of building one myself, so any inspiration is welcomed!

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

View TheDane's profile


5917 posts in 4637 days

#15 posted 06-22-2009 05:47 PM

Splinterman: I will be putting plastic safety caps on the bolt ends (same ones they supply with kids’ swing sets).

tooldad: I picked up a 600 lb capacity pneumatic table for about a $100 a couple of years ago … my planer is mounted on it. When I’m not using it, it scoots under a mechanic’s bench built into the end end of my garage/shop.

PurpLev: The smell is awful but seems to subside after 2 or 3 days. Wish I could park it outside until it cures!

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

showing 1 through 15 of 59 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics