Heavy Woodworking Workbench - no metal

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Project by RobertPeebles posted 04-07-2020 04:47 PM 1294 views 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Wanted to build a heavy woodworking table/bench for quite a while now. Of course my goal here was a workbench but I was also working on some other skills I have never done so that is why I finished it a little more than I would normally for a shop workbench. This bench was inspired by Jay Bates’s youtube channel where he built a workbench. I did not want to build it with same dimensions as Jay though. This workbench is 72” long by 30” wide and 32” tall. The weight is estimated at about 350 pounds.

The top is built using 20 southern yellow pine 2×4s. I added one old roughsawn oak 2×4 that was reclaimed from my wife’s grandmother’s house. I wish I had added 3-4 oak boards for a nice striping effect. The boards were planed and glued up in three sections and then planed again. Then the three sections were glued together. Learned I do not have near enough clamps! I should have taken more time to joint and plane each individual board a little more before gluing the first time. The planer got a serious workout working those three sections down.

The legs are three pine 2×6s and half lapped to fit into the top. The legs are spaced 6” from each end and flush with the sides. I have every intention to add a leg vise but since I do not have it yet, I did not drill a hole in the leg.

To cut out the laps in the top I used a Bosch router and cut as deep as it would go. I had to flip the top over to route from both sides. This is my first time using a router and definitely went over the lines a couple times. Then finished up with chisels. I have never used chisels this much and amazed how quickly they lose their sharpness. Maybe it is the cheap harbor freight chisels but had to sharpen often.

I set the legs in place upside down and started cutting the leg bracing. I had some spare 2×4s so planed and glued them up. Afterwards I cut the half laps with a daedo blade…very slowly. I test fitted the joints often and tried to keep both sides the same. After everything lined up I screwed the braces to the lags and took some measurements to make sure everything lined up evenly from corner to corner. Once it was all lined up then removed the bracing and glued and screwed back in place. Yes, will replace the screws once everything is dry.

Once the leg bracing was dried I flipped the whole thing over….yeah it is HEAVY! I glued the top down to the legs using the tops own weight to help push it down. Then added some shims to help close up some of the gaps I had in the laps. Once everything was dry I was able to test for wobble and even on my concrete shop floors there was very little. I checked the floor and it is not exactly flat so that helps explain a little. Can I blame the concrete guys or me? It’s probably me but I did take extra care to make the legs and half laps on those legs the same. :) Seriously it took a very small shim (maybe 1/32 or 1/64) under one leg to keep it solid.

Since I never flattened a top before I THOUGHT about using my hand plane from harbor freight. However, I just cannot make that thing work right so time to make a router sled! I should have taken a picture of the sled but used some 3/4” plywood for the sled and found some nice straight boards to clamp to the side of the workbench. That is a serious pain in the backend when you do not want to screw the boards to the side! Hey, I know its a workbench but not ready to put holes in it yet! I used a 1 3/4” bit for the router and worked it over the whole table. It still left tiny lines in the table but the belt sander and 100 grit paper took care of that. This is the first time I have every flattened anything with the router (or anything) and was very happy with the result.

I used the sawdust from the belt sander and some titeboard to fill the gaps in laps in the top. After it dried I hit it with a rotary sander and was pretty happy with the result. I liked it so much I used the same process for some of the other gaps/cracks in the endgrain and legs. Yeah, I know it is a workbench but really also trying to make it look nice just to see if I can!

Then I removed the screws and drilled out the holes and hammered in some 3/8” oak dowels. First time I ever used dowels like this and was very happy with this. After the glue dried I shaved off the ends and sanded smooth. This was super simple to do so I might just do more of this in other projects.

Normally a workbench does not really need any finish since it is in the workshop. However, my shop is not cooled/heated and we have a LOT of humidity in this part of Texas. So added a coat of Shellac. I love how it made the oak board pop. I tried to get the endgrain to soak up as much shellac as it would take. I did not add any shellac to the bottom of the legs so I plan to turn the bench over and put a coat on the bottom of the legs. We have some times when the concrete sweats quite a bit so this might help the wood to keep from soaking up too much of this moisture…at least that is my thought. If that doesn’t work I might add some feet but not yet.

I am pretty proud that there is ZERO METAL in this workbench! Umm, of course there could be an old rusty nail in that reclaimed oak board that I do not know about. :) I have never built anything out of wood without nails or screws or some kind of metal so this was very new. Never used half laps before but understand how important that is here since there is no metal in it. It is amazing to me how strong these joints were even before adding glue. In hindsight I wish I had NOT had the legs go all the way up through the top. I suspect that the endgrain of the legs will be a weak point in the top and the pine does not look that great. Perhaps a better wood would have a tighter endgrain and look better. Of course cutting out that half lap without being able to cut from both sides would have been tough.

This was my first project using a router and I cannot believe I haven’t had a router before now! I already find myself thinking of all the different ways I can use it for other projects. Planning to make a router table next.

Still to do:
Add a leg vise.
Round over the edges. I did not do this to start with for some reason but after using the table for a week it is already annoying to have the pointed edges.
Add Casters that can be disengaged.
Possibly add some feet if issues are seen with the legs.

7 comments so far

View dave59's profile


3 posts in 1035 days

#1 posted 04-07-2020 05:45 PM

Nice job. I hope your concrete floor is strong enough to hold it.

-- Allegheny Woodcrafts

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4058 posts in 3848 days

#2 posted 04-07-2020 08:17 PM

Nice job! I cheated and used lag screws (and glue of course) on mine.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View therealSteveN's profile


5598 posts in 1314 days

#3 posted 04-08-2020 12:00 AM

Nice big bench. My hats off to you for flipping, and moving that top.

-- Think safe, be safe

View swirt's profile


5121 posts in 3711 days

#4 posted 04-08-2020 02:13 AM

Nice all wood bench. Should last a good long time. Looks good too.

-- Galootish log blog,

View BurlyBob's profile


7460 posts in 3005 days

#5 posted 04-09-2020 02:48 AM

That’s a really solid looking bench.

View Tom's profile


119 posts in 631 days

#6 posted 04-09-2020 11:37 AM

That is going to be a nice sturdy bench. Yellow pine is tough stuff. Good work!

-- Tom

View BlueRidgeDog's profile


703 posts in 519 days

#7 posted 04-12-2020 08:00 PM

Excellent work. Similar to my bench and will likely last you as long as you care to have it around. Personally I see folks doing benches in pricey wood and have to shake my head. SYP is so perfect for the job.

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