First Workbench

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Project by Brian S posted 04-21-2011 08:57 PM 3741 views 9 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After beginning woodworking last year, I realized pretty quickly that my little workmate knockoff wasn’t cutting it as a workbench. I built one of those fold-down workbenches that fits in between two of the studs in my workshop (garage), which was slightly better, but still had far too much play and not enough room. I also found that I didn’t like having one side permanently against the wall – I’d much rather be able to move around the bench and see all four corners.

So this year, my first project of the year was to make a new workbench. I wanted something sturdy and big, but not too expensive. I really like the look of the classic European bench that I see around all the time, but I just don’t have the resources or the experience to justify the laminated maple top.

The top on this bench is three layers of 3/4” birch plywood, and the rest is simple pine. I chose the birch because I understand it to be nice and hard, and the pine because of the relative expense. It’s joined with mortise and tenon, although the top is attached with threaded inserts and and stretchers are attached with a key block and long bolts. This is to allow me to tighten the bench if it gets loose from wood movement, and also to allow me to take the bench apart when I need to move. The finish is several coats of BLO. I actually really like the grain pattern in the plywood I got, I think that it is quite nice. Almost makes me feel bad when I’m banging on it.

Right now, I only had money to install a single vice. It’s a cheap Pony vice that I spray painted black (who wants a big orange hunk of metal on their bench?). I buried one jaw of the vice under the banding on the bench top. I’m still finding out my style as a woodworker, and my preferred tools and working method. As I figure out what I would best use, I will decide on other vices to install. For now, there is a small groove in the underside of the table on which I can hook clamps to clamp things to the sides when needed. This let’s me put clamp long boards in the vice along the front of the bench.

All in all, building the bench was great fun, although a bit difficult without a bench to work on. The only major mistake I made was in drilling the dog holes. I meant to make them 3/4”, so that I could use the standard bench dogs and accessories, but I accidentally grabbed my 7/8” bit instead! I didn’t notice until I went to put in some bench dogs and they fell right through. So it looks like it will be shop-made accessories for this bench, unless I decide to drill some more holes. From now on I’ll be measuring my bits before I drill.

Note that in this picture the bench is turned backward from how I usually use it. That way when I am at the front of the bench, all my tools are hung on the wall behind me.

Thanks for looking, let me know what you think. I really like my bench, but I might be just a little biased.

-- Brian

20 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117722 posts in 4085 days

#1 posted 04-21-2011 09:28 PM

Hey Brian Welcome to Ljs
This is a super bench.It should serve you well for many years to come.

View DIYaholic's profile


19861 posts in 3183 days

#2 posted 04-21-2011 10:10 PM

Your bench looks great!
Much better looking (and fuctioning) than mine. My bench is virtual, currently in the design phase in Sketchup (very difficult to build on a virtual bench).

Enjoy using (and abusing) your bench!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View fernandoindia's profile


1081 posts in 3452 days

#3 posted 04-21-2011 11:12 PM

Brian Welcome to Ljs,

and congrats on your future baby.

Nicer bench to start building the cradle


-- Back home. Fernando

View grainhorn's profile


4 posts in 3104 days

#4 posted 04-21-2011 11:16 PM

Great looking bench… I hope my first one looks that good. I will most likely go the same way with pine to offset the overall cost. Kudos.

-- Do or do not.... there is no try.

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3365 days

#5 posted 04-21-2011 11:41 PM

Nice bench, hope you do many great projects on it


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3682 days

#6 posted 04-21-2011 11:44 PM

Beautiful job. I hope you LOVE it … because … I think that one’s going to be around for a while.

I love bench pics almost as I love shop tours, so … thanks for sharing yours.

Smart choice—methinks—on the layered ply. Should be good and stable for a LONG time :-)

And … yeah … WELCOME to the site !

-- -- Neil

View nobuckle's profile


1120 posts in 3269 days

#7 posted 04-22-2011 12:09 AM

Brian, nice looking bench. You’ve given me some ideas that I might be able to use when I make my own.

-- Doug - Make an effort to live by the slogan "We try harder"

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3506 days

#8 posted 04-22-2011 02:32 AM

Looks great. I wouldn’t worry about it not having a solid wood top. The ply will be more stable and do great. The trick is to get one built and then you can plan on later building something else. It will be a super auxiliary bench or assembly table if you choose to make another.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View JoeinDE's profile


444 posts in 3831 days

#9 posted 04-22-2011 02:56 AM

Nice bench. I remember how difficult it was to build my first bench without a bench upon which ot work.


View Brian S's profile

Brian S

108 posts in 3102 days

#10 posted 04-22-2011 03:14 AM

Thanks for the compliments everybody! Makes me want to be out there right now working on my next project. I have to say, since joining here I have gotten so much positive feedback – it’s really a great feeling.

-- Brian

View Luke's profile


290 posts in 3195 days

#11 posted 04-22-2011 03:38 AM

Brian, nice looking bench! I am in the process of building mine as well and can relate, it is very difficult to build a bench without a bench to work on!

View Luke's profile


290 posts in 3195 days

#12 posted 04-22-2011 03:38 AM

Brian, nice looking bench! I am in the process of building mine as well and can relate, it is very difficult to build a bench without a bench to work on!

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3163 days

#13 posted 04-22-2011 03:45 AM

You are not the first person to make the 7/8 3/4 mistake. You could plug the holes with dowels and drill again. or make the shop accessories like you said.

That’s a good looking bench and I hope it serves you well.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View steliart's profile


2895 posts in 3196 days

#14 posted 04-22-2011 11:45 AM

nice bench
well done

-- Stelios L.A. Stavrinides: - I am not so rich to buy cheap tools, but... necessity is the mother of inventions !!!

View Ken90712's profile


17741 posts in 3697 days

#15 posted 04-22-2011 12:02 PM

Nice bench and welcome to LJ’s,,,,, Well done for sure!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

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