The Alley Workbench

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Project by PurpLev posted 08-16-2009 04:26 AM 15841 views 16 times favorited 50 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After a long day of cleaning and reorganizing the work space, I was able to fit my tool cabinet above my workbench, and setup a decent work area. although this workbench is not 100% complete (some details that needs to be finalized), it is in functional state, and I consider it a finished project.

It all started here when I came upon an ad on craigslist of a bowling alley doing remodeling and replacing the rock-maple floors. they were giving away the floor slabs to any taker, this helped recycle the wood, and also they were able to avoid having to pay for it to be hauled away. After reading and seeing Karsons bench, and GaryKs bench, I was always keeping an eye open for bowling alleys with the desire to build a bench out of it, and so, when the opportunity knocked, it was very frustrating that I wasn’t able to actually go and pick it up, since it was way too big, and waaaaay too heavy… I decided to drop the idea and forget about it, when ryno101 contacted me and offered to join forces, and team up to get some bowling alley slabs – pointless to say – I jumped on the opportunity, which was too good to be true – get some bowling alley slabs, and hanging out with a fellow LJ. it was indeed good, but also true.

This workbench has been quite a bit of a project. more than I had expected, but all in a good way.

Working on a project of this magnitude sure does make any future projects seem more feasible. each mortise and each dovetail were huge and required a lot of work and a lot of clean overlap of cuts. I can’t wait to work on a smaller project where no such overlapping would be required.

there were almost every woodworking skill and technique that I ever did, or wanted to practice involved in this workbench, from mortise and tenons, dovetails, lamination, bent lamination, breadboard, and more.

This was a great project to work on, the benefits of the outcome are many. on top of getting a fantastic platform to do work on, I had a chance to practice different techniques, and get better at them. I cannot recommend enough to anyone that is thinking about it -to build your own bench, and to overbuild it as much as possible – challenge yourself! do more than you are comfortable doing! force yourself to learn new skills, or do the things you know – better! it’s a great opportunity to get better and rip the benefits immediately and throughout the project.

There are a few things that needs to be finalized on this bench such as the wagon vise, and a drawers cabinet underneath the bench, but those can be worked out as side projects while I focus some time on other projects for now. I do not use a tail/end/wagon vise much (until now) and mainly use a planing stop, so missing the wagon vise for the time being has no big impact, although it would be nice to have it.

I really like the leg vise (after I finessed it a bit), it moves real smooth, has a great capacity, does not rack at all (I was pleasantly surprised), and has a tremendous grab.

This project is blogged here and I will continue to update the blog as things gets added.

32.5” benchtop height from floor
80” long
30” wide
5”x5” Legs


Rock Maple for the top (bowling alley), and vises
Mahogany for Endcap, and trims
Hemlock FIR for the legs
Lee Valley tail vises for the vises screws

Finish on everything is 3 coats of Boiled Linseed Oil – first time I used this, and I really like it. it has a natural warm look, and since it’s penetrating oil, there is no hard layer on the wood, so you get the ‘wood feel’.

Thanks for reading,

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

50 comments so far

View blackcherry's profile


3351 posts in 5286 days

#1 posted 08-16-2009 04:34 AM

Enjoy your new woodworking pal. Great blogs and nice accomplishment…Blkcherry

View Innovator's profile


3589 posts in 4876 days

#2 posted 08-16-2009 04:35 AM

Congrats on the bench and the story was nice to read also.

-- Whether You Think You Can or You Think You Can't, YOU ARE RIGHT!!!

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 5136 days

#3 posted 08-16-2009 04:55 AM

Congrats on a nice bench.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5681 days

#4 posted 08-16-2009 05:13 AM

Great project….great documentation of the process, too!

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

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3896 posts in 4900 days

#5 posted 08-16-2009 05:20 AM

I’ve been following this all along the way. Glad to see it’s done, functional, and really looking good.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View a1Jim's profile


118321 posts in 5040 days

#6 posted 08-16-2009 05:23 AM

Super Job Sharon,It’s been a long haul but you got her done looks great.


View CodyC's profile


39 posts in 4892 days

#7 posted 08-16-2009 05:23 AM

Very very cool!

-- Cody Crisp

View Karson's profile


35300 posts in 5863 days

#8 posted 08-16-2009 05:25 AM


Time to get busy and quit screwing off. Entirely too much time for making a little bench.

Great job.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5111 days

#9 posted 08-16-2009 05:41 AM

Thanks everyone, it’s been a fun journey (and still is).

Karson – sir, yes sir! lol.

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

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 4925 days

#10 posted 08-16-2009 05:43 AM

I was cool following the blog and now getting to see the finished project. Nice work!! I have been looking for some old bowling alley myself for a bench and outfeed for the table saw. Now that the saw is almost complete I will really need to start looking harder. Once again…..nice job

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their [email protected]

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4844 days

#11 posted 08-16-2009 07:24 AM

Fantastic Purp! It looks great, and I love the cabinet over top of it. How did you fasten that thing to concrete?

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5111 days

#12 posted 08-16-2009 07:59 AM


Ken – if you were any closer, I’d give you some maple slabs I have left.

Gary – if you like the cabinet, you can see more about it here. it’s attached to the wall with french cleats. I actually use 2 cleats (one on top, and one on bottom) to prevent racking, and wobbling, and it sticks to the wall like glue that way. for the concrete, I attached a 3/4” plywood board to the concrete with regular concrete anchors and screws, and attached the french cleats to that board. the only board I had was small, so it’s completely hidden by the cabinet – but I’ll usually take a full sheet, or half sheet and cover the concrete completely. this way I can always attach/hang things on the plywood without much trouble.

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

View BarryW's profile


1016 posts in 5369 days

#13 posted 08-16-2009 09:22 AM

some serious weight and a really sweet bench

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

View littlecope's profile


3152 posts in 4965 days

#14 posted 08-16-2009 10:19 AM

I, too, have been watching this saga unfold! Great story and coverage! Excellent Job on the bench. Looks like it will quietly add to the quality and pride you take in all your future work as well!!

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View ellen35's profile


2750 posts in 4895 days

#15 posted 08-16-2009 01:11 PM

Congratulations on completing the project.
Now lets see what you use it for!
See you soon!

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

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