My First Joiner's Workbench

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Project by curliejones posted 01-25-2017 01:17 PM 7174 views 11 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My First Workbench Build.
I would bet that I’m not the first to be puzzled by the paradox of needing to build my first workbench to further my woodworking and the advice that one should build “to suit your style” of woodworking. So many choices, where does one begin? I read workbench articles, blogs and books and now……. (drum roll)…. it’s decision time. After you see the pictures you’ll wonder if I didn’t read Schwarz’s “most common mistakes building the first workbench”; yes I did and ignored a bit of it!
While building the new workshop, I began collecting hand tools in anticipation of furthering that part of my skill set. I picked up a used Wilton vise and an open box 10” Eclipse vise both at great prices. I studied workbench styles, builds and theory and then another quick release vise came available for $20. With a “style” of hand tool work yet to be developed, I built a hybrid bench hoping to accomplish a variety of work holding methods.
Borrowing ideas from different makers, there were certain things that appealed to me in traditional French and English workbenches as well as modern methods and materials. For example, I live in the land of southern yellow pine (SYP) and we have been given the professional OK to build a bench that is fit to beat on, saw on, chisel on, etc. without it having to be fine European beech.
This hybrid bench is fairly heavy, has a 3” thick top, 4” x 5” legs, and frame ends built to support it all. I’m guessing there’s about 150-170 lbs in wood before the 3 vises were added. I used a combination of mortise and tenon joinery and some lap joints that were glued and screwed into place. I cheated on the m&t joints by making sure the tenons were of the same thickness of material used in the layers of the top and legs so there would be no chopping. The m&ts are glued and all pinned with 3” #9 screws.
The French side: The end frames have shouldered tenons that extend through the 3” thick top and the front stretcher is stepped to fit into the legs and against short end stretchers. There’s a sliding “deadman” for supporting the outboard end of material placed in the large face vise and the vise is not recessed into the bench front (Sellers style).
The English side: There’s a 10” deep apron to stabilize the legs, allowing me to omit a front stretcher. This gives me an option of rolling storage beneath the bench. Workshop square footage is always a premium affair! The apron is cut away near the right end so I could mount the end vise near the front edge of the bench. This attribute was deemed important by many with an already established “style” and was easy to incorporate into my first bench build.
The split top: I used the router sled method to flatten the top and allowed for a tool well right down the middle. I’m calling the well the English Channel (pun intended). I am that guy who would focus on moving the woodworking project and lose sight of carefully sharpened plane/s, chisels, etc and knock them onto the concrete floor. The tool well consists of three reversible removable boxes (thanks Bob Lang, you 21st century workbench guy). Boxes may easily be carried to return tools to storage, and shavings easily emptied, and the bottom of the boxes give a continuous top if desired by flipping them over.
I finished this bench off a couple of weeks ago by lining vise chops with leather, covering the screw holes with dowel plugs, drilling dog and holdfast holes as well as adding “workbench casters”. The casters are a bit fussy, in my opinion, but worth the effort to move this bench that weighs close to 270 lbs. I’ve since made a couple of bench aids; one of the pictures shows my planing stop, and anti-racking spacers. After a few coats of Danish oil, I’ve begun to use it for various operations. Hopefully, there’s some fine furniture to come as I develop a style with the different options the bench has to offer.
Many thanks to those who offered up their bench builds before me; some offered tips along the way. Lumberjocks rocks!

-- Like Guy Clark sez - "Sometimes I use my head, Sometimes I get a bigger hammer"

18 comments so far

View TungOil's profile


1383 posts in 1572 days

#1 posted 01-25-2017 01:51 PM

Looks fantastic!

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View waho6o9's profile


9019 posts in 3654 days

#2 posted 01-25-2017 05:54 PM

Awesome bench curliejones, we’re looking forward to your future projects!

View Jerry's profile


3488 posts in 2725 days

#3 posted 01-25-2017 06:18 PM

That is a pretty impressive and well thought out build.

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View Tim Royal 's profile

Tim Royal

324 posts in 2563 days

#4 posted 01-25-2017 07:10 PM

Great bench… Makes a huge difference! Mine is the best tool in my shop and my favorite!

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

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3944 days

#5 posted 01-25-2017 07:33 PM

Curly, that is a mighty fine looking bench and you’ve really done a beautiful job on it. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 1724 days

#6 posted 01-25-2017 08:32 PM

Nice job … looks to be good and solid!

View gerrym526's profile


306 posts in 4885 days

#7 posted 01-25-2017 11:24 PM

Beautiful design and workmanship on your bench! Shows you really put the time into thinking about how you’d use it, and incorporated the best features of lots of different styles of benches.
I did the same project about 20 years ago when building a bench that turned out to be a hybrid design, and have never been disappointed by its effectiveness for my work.
Since your bench is set up for significant hand tool work (which I assume you do), from my experience I’d like to suggest you consider a wall mounted tool cabinet to keep everything handy above the bench (i.e. chisels, saws, marking gauges, etc.). And don’t forget to put plenty of light over the bench-if you don’t have a big window with lots of light coming through. You’ll need it for detailed hand tool work.

-- Gerry

View WhoMe's profile


1568 posts in 4320 days

#8 posted 01-26-2017 01:37 AM

Great looking bench, I wish we had syp on the west coast readily available.

I’m curious, what are the top dimensions?

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

View Steve Preslar's profile

Steve Preslar

202 posts in 1612 days

#9 posted 01-26-2017 09:12 AM

Absolutely beautiful!

-- Live, lathe, and prosper. - William Gwin

View muesli's profile


510 posts in 2586 days

#10 posted 01-26-2017 09:22 AM

Great workbench which will make a big difference for all your future projects!

Reading your description reminded me about lots and lots of workbench-articles and videos that I watched and sketches I made, before I finally could decide, how my own bench should look like. I really like to watch projects of other woodworkers. But if there is a new workbench, I still have to take a closer look.

Keep up your great work!

-- Uwe from Germany.

View curliejones's profile


188 posts in 3343 days

#11 posted 01-27-2017 11:33 PM

Thank you all for the kind comments and encouragement. Happy to have this hybrid bench added to the arsenal of tools. My next project will be as a “hybrid woodworker” using both power and hand tools. I am looking forward so much to the next project; it should be simpler than the decisions and planning for this one. and to answer WhoMe, the top/s are 11”x72” times two with a 7.5” x 72” “English Channel” down the middle. I wanted to be able to lay down #4 and #5 size planes on their side in the tool well.
BTW, the “workbench casters” did not work out. This is the second set that I tried, and the flat plates where the casters mount bent when raising the bench, even with me helping lift it. The vendor was cooperative since I’m more than 100 lbs under the weight rating. Searching for a new solution to mobility for this bench, weighing about 280 lbs. Thanks again LJs for the comments, the posts, the sense of community.

-- Like Guy Clark sez - "Sometimes I use my head, Sometimes I get a bigger hammer"

View curliejones's profile


188 posts in 3343 days

#12 posted 01-27-2017 11:39 PM

Hi WhoMe, Sorry, if I was supposed to include the ? the first time, but the tops are 11” x 72” ; the “English Channel” is 7.5” for the total of 29.5” x 72”.

Great looking bench, I wish we had syp on the west coast readily available.

I m curious, what are the top dimensions?

- WhoMe

-- Like Guy Clark sez - "Sometimes I use my head, Sometimes I get a bigger hammer"

View JCinVA's profile


232 posts in 1907 days

#13 posted 01-30-2017 03:01 AM

Nice bench and a great blend of features. Added to my favorites.

View Michael's profile


24 posts in 1583 days

#14 posted 01-30-2017 03:27 AM

Great job. I love the idea of the boxes in the chanel. Did you use wedges against the legs in the dado for the apron (like Sellers)?

-- "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." John Muir

View WhoMe's profile


1568 posts in 4320 days

#15 posted 01-31-2017 06:48 AM

Thanks for the dimensions. So far, do you think the length is good? Not to long or to short? In struggling on how longi should make mine, when i make mine…lol..
I thought the “English channel” comment was funny. I do like the channel and tool wells that when flipped provide a flat top too. Lots of utility value there
Again, well done

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

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