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Yet Another Cheap Workbench

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Project by 1tacoshort posted 01-14-2021 10:52 PM 1380 views 5 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I needed a good, solid workbench so I decided to build one. I read The Workbench Design Book and Scott Landis’ The Workbench Book, looked at a bunch of websites and watched a ton of YouTube videos. I wanted something solid, CHEAP, and utilitarian. I decided to go with a split-top (because I have a bad back and didn’t want to waggle around a whole top), Roubo-inspired (I didn’t want to do the fancy dovetails) bench.

A lot has been said about the choice of wood for a bench, with many people preferring something like maple. Hardwood seemed too expensive so I went with Douglas fir (since I’m in Southern California and couldn’t find Southern Yellow Pine in any quantity); it’s solid and way cheaper than the alternatives. Unfortunately, the 4×4s and 4×6s for the legs and stretchers came from Lowes so the wood started out twisted and got worse while it sat in my shop. There were lots of checks in the wood (so lots of bow-tie splines) and some sap that I addressed with a heat gun. Lowes is a mistake I’ll not make, again (but I’m still happy with the choice of Doug fir).

The next decision was the construction of the top. I looked at a lot of options, including gluing up 2×4s and using a router sled to level it. It occurred to me that Glu-Lam beams might give me a ready-made top at an economical price. This ended up being a pretty good choice (though, I had to add a coupe bow-tie splines to stop a check). They’re not pretty but they do the job.

I used standard furniture construction techniques to assemble the bench. The leg and stretcher tenons were cut with a dado set on the table saw and the corresponding mortises required a Forstner bit and chisel. I mortised out the spots for the vises with a circular saw and finished them up with a chisel as well. A piece of oak scrap went into the sliding dead man. Finish the whole thing off with a chunk of rain gutter for a tool tray (yeah, I know, but it works) and a couple Gramercy holdfasts, and I’ve got a workbench that I’m really happy with.

-- Wade





19 comments so far

View Madmark2's profile (online now)

Madmark2

2264 posts in 1592 days


#1 posted 01-14-2021 11:21 PM

Nice.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View SpindleMaker's profile

SpindleMaker

38 posts in 2714 days


#2 posted 01-15-2021 12:25 AM

Great job! This is my kind of workbench. Ain’t purty but works. I think that is why it is called a “work” bench. Not for fine dining but for pounding, scraping, and that kind of stuff. Way to go. Rick

-- Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.

View swirt's profile

swirt

5992 posts in 3976 days


#3 posted 01-15-2021 01:49 AM

Looks like a good solid useable bench. Well done

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

8463 posts in 3270 days


#4 posted 01-15-2021 02:44 AM

I’m jealous, I want one. Good for you. I know your going to love it.

View AJ1104's profile

AJ1104

1238 posts in 2663 days


#5 posted 01-15-2021 03:02 AM

It looks rock solid and ready to take a beating ! Great job
AJ

-- AJ

View Peteybadboy's profile

Peteybadboy

3052 posts in 2954 days


#6 posted 01-15-2021 09:21 AM

Solid bench. Beats mine for sure.

-- Petey

View MikeB_UK's profile

MikeB_UK

285 posts in 2039 days


#7 posted 01-15-2021 11:14 AM

Good job, my kind of bench :)

-- Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

7210 posts in 1578 days


#8 posted 01-15-2021 12:31 PM

Looks like it will be plenty solid enough, and you have the required work holding gizmos. Pretty sure you just elevated your overall woodworking abilities quite a bit.

Enjoy it, and use it in good health.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Underdog's profile

Underdog

1629 posts in 3040 days


#9 posted 01-15-2021 01:17 PM

Good for you, and thanks for sharing. It looks solid and quite useful. Much better than my skimpy HF bench!
You’ve inspired me to look into building a better bench. I’ve put a library hold on Christopher Schwarz older book on workbench design. Maybe I’ll actually build a solid bench like yours.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View balidoug's profile

balidoug

520 posts in 3483 days


#10 posted 01-15-2021 02:17 PM

A new bench has been on my ‘to do’ for a couple of years; always getting put off because of more “pressing” projects or a worry that I’ll cock it up and then have to live with it. Thanks for the inspiration to start planning one again. rom the images you’ve produced a Nobel piece from plebeian materials. Nice work.

-- From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned. Immanuel Kant

View Jopldangla's profile

Jopldangla

48 posts in 133 days


#11 posted 01-15-2021 02:19 PM

How much did materials & tools cost for this project? I am thinking to make a bench soon and haven’t even started planning anything out yet, but this is the sort of Bench I have in mind, since I am not looking for a showpiece (not saying this isn’t a showpiece ;) )

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

6617 posts in 2392 days


#12 posted 01-15-2021 04:09 PM

Nicely done. I really like the look of Douglas fir so I have considered using that to make a bench but it is hard to find good quality DF down here were SYP is plentiful. I am about to embark on a workbench build once I get my shop cleaned up enough to make room for it.

For anyone else thinking about making a bench, you can download Chris Swartz’s book “The Anarchist’s Workbench” for free from the The Lost Art Press. It is an easy read and has good instructions and plans for building his favorite bench design.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View 1tacoshort's profile

1tacoshort

63 posts in 1883 days


#13 posted 01-15-2021 04:27 PM

Thanks, everyone, for the very kind words!


How much did materials & tools cost for this project? I am thinking to make a bench soon and haven t even started planning anything out yet, but this is the sort of Bench I have in mind, since I am not looking for a showpiece (not saying this isn t a showpiece ;) )

IIRC, the top was just under $100 and the rest of the wood was less than that, so under $200. The vises were about $40, each, and the holdfasts were about $25 each. That’s got the whole thing costing about $325, out the door.

I’ve lived with this thing for one major project, now, and I’m not sure I’d change too much. Paying more for better wood would have saved me some effort and lots of bow-ties but it wouldn’t have made a better bench, in the end. The vises have been great (and the dogs spaced just closer than the vise opening have proved very useful) but I’m building a Moxon vise to hold wide boards for dovetails. That said, I don’t think I’d have changed either of the vises. Those are both places where you could spend more money if you wanted to but I’m happy with the result.

-- Wade

View Underdog's profile

Underdog

1629 posts in 3040 days


#14 posted 01-15-2021 06:39 PM

$40 for vices? That’s affordable. Which ones are they?

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View 1tacoshort's profile

1tacoshort

63 posts in 1883 days


#15 posted 01-15-2021 07:02 PM


$40 for vices? That s affordable. Which ones are they?

I found the orange one on Amazon but the price seems to have gone up to $60 in the intervening time. I don’t remember where I got the blue one (I thought it was Amazon but it doesn’t seem to show up in my orders).

-- Wade

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