Moravian workbench

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Project by Fraxinus posted 09-04-2016 12:37 PM 6362 views 4 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m a beginning woodworker, got bit by the bug in January 2016 and have been utterly consumed by woodworking since then. Mostly interested in hand tools, but I do have a small job site table saw, a chop saw, and a variety of handheld power tools.

I started out using some rickety saw horses and warped plywood as a bench, but that got frustrating fast. I wanted to build a traditional style workbench that I could move by myself. Will Myers’ Moravian bench met those criteria, plus I liked the looks. I bought the video and started building it on April 30; I was pretty much done on August 4. Took about 3 times longer than I thought it would :) I learned a ton in the process, though.

Undercarriage is mostly Douglas-fir, except the dovetail stretchers and wedges, which are black walnut. Top slab is Oregon white oak, as are the vise jaw liners. The breadboards and tool tray rim are bigleaf maple. Tool tray bottom is Douglas-fir. About half of the Doug-fir was big box kiln-dried 2×4s and 2×6s, the rest of the Doug-fir and all of the hardwood was rough-sawn stock from a small local sawmill. I spent roughly $220 for the wood and other materials, plus another $105 for the vise.

Dimensions are 32-1/2” high, 24” wide, 79-1/4” long. Top is 2-5/8” thick, legs and long stretchers are ~3-1/2” square. Weighs about 210 lbs with the vise.

I trued all the wood and did all the joinery with hand tools, except a couple circular saw cuts for the breadboards. I did most of the ripping with the table saw, and did almost all the crosscutting of the smaller pieces with the chop saw. Jointing and thicknessing was probably the biggest challenge. I had experimented with this a little before starting this project, but nothing approaching this scale. I spent many, many, many hours planing, mostly using an old Stanley #5 and an even older Stanley #30.

I’m pretty happy with how the joinery turned out for the most part, not too many gaps, everything is tight and square. The angled mortises had me worried, but they were fine, no harder than the other mortises. I’m least happy about the glue joints, especially on the leg laminations, which were my first ones. I found it very difficult to get the two faces to meet without any gaps, especially on the longer pieces (~79”). I got better at it as I went along, but still not great at it.

I finished it with three coats of Watco’s medium walnut Danish oil. I wish I had used their “natural” color, but oh well. I was a bit disappointed when I first applied it, but it’s grown on me.

The bench goes together and comes apart pretty easily. The top is unwieldy with the vise on it, weighs ~120 lbs and is awkwardly balanced, but I can move it by myself, which was the goal for this project.

I’ve done a fair bit of work at the bench since I finished it last month; currently in the middle of building a Dutch tool chest as you can see from the last pic (need something for all my eBay acquisitions). The bench is rock solid and a real joy to work at. The height is great for planing, but a bit low for sawing. I might build a bench-top Moxon vise to pop on and off as needed. I wasn’t sure if I would like the tool tray, but I absolutely love it. I’ll probably put a shelf between the long stretchers to store bench hooks, shooting boards, etc., but it’s not a high priority.

There’s no tail vise. I’ve been using the holdfast and batten method, which I really like. Also have a Veritas Wonder Dog, which is OK for some stuff but not nearly as useful as I had hoped it would be. I only have eight dog holes, but I plan on putting in three more.

This bench was a crazy amount of work and I made a ton of mistakes. But overall I’m quite happy with how it turned out, especially since I didn’t know a mortise from a tenon eight months ago.

9 comments so far

View ksSlim's profile


1304 posts in 3690 days

#1 posted 09-04-2016 01:41 PM

Welcome to the slippery slopes of man glitter.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View benchbuilder's profile


285 posts in 3250 days

#2 posted 09-04-2016 04:26 PM

Looks like all the planing and work paid off big. You have done a really great job on this bench!!!!!!

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 1447 days

#3 posted 09-04-2016 04:33 PM

Welcome to Lumberjocks … I look forward to seeing your projects!

Great looking bench for straight out of the chute. Now is the time to start slowly pushing those power tools into a corner and embrace your hand tools … perhaps add a wooden leg vice (??) ... again nice job!

View Fraxinus's profile


25 posts in 1531 days

#4 posted 09-04-2016 05:06 PM

I love the look of the leg vise, but I had already bought and been using the metal vise before I built this bench (I’m a big fan of Paul Sellers, who uses these vises exclusively). I made a prototype leg vise on my saw horse “bench” and while it worked, I liked the function of the metal vise a bit better. I didn’t inset the vise into the side of the benchtop just in case I wanted to build a wooden leg vise down the road. The metal vise does cut down on the portability of the bench, that’s for sure, plus it is a bit on the ugly side.

As for the power tools, my goal is to use them as little as possible and mostly only for quick and dirty projects. I’m building the Dutch tool chest entirely by hand, well, as long as you don’t include the heat gun I used to uncup the boards :)

View ralbuck's profile


6551 posts in 3066 days

#5 posted 09-04-2016 08:21 PM

Although some are strictly hand tool addicts; I use what I have !

Nice bench. Well made and works for you!

I do use a drawkinfe frequently that is probably 80+ years old! I have used it for + 60 years and owned it for about 15; it was my dad’s.

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

24923 posts in 3905 days

#6 posted 09-04-2016 08:33 PM

Great build on that work bench. I like seeing it with tools and chips on it, too!!


-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Fraxinus's profile


25 posts in 1531 days

#7 posted 09-04-2016 09:04 PM

Ralbuck, agreed, use what you have, which is what I did on this project. I wanted to finish it some time this year. I would have gladly used a power jointer and planer if I had them.

Do most hand tool guys true up their stock by hand or do they use power tools for that?

I have nothing against power tools, use them all the time at work (trimmers, chainsaws, tractors, etc.). Maybe it’s because I constantly have the roar of engines and motors in my ears at work that I like the quiet of hand tools when I work at home. I also really love the character of old antique tools, most of my eBay acquisitions were manufactured in the 1920s and earlier. Just makes me smile every time I pick up my 100+ year old rip saw.

View waho6o9's profile


8917 posts in 3377 days

#8 posted 09-05-2016 12:03 AM

Very nice work!

View JPJ's profile


819 posts in 3420 days

#9 posted 09-07-2016 01:37 AM

Nice job!

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