Project 4 - new workbench

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Project by Richard B posted 11-12-2011 01:25 AM 3642 views 10 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was my biggest—and most important—project to date. This was my intern-year project. I started this right at the end of med school, and worked on it all year long. I finished it on my vacation week at the end of intern year.

My old bench was a 40 pound table with a door bolted to the top. It wobbled and danced across the shop with any movement attempted. It had one crappy vise at the end, which barely held anything. The usefulness of that bench was maxed out long before I replaced it, but I was way too nervous about attempting a “real” workbench for the longest time. In the end I happened upon an article (by Shannon Rogers, I think), titled something or other like “woodwatchers and woodworkers;” essentially, I was shamed into action. I had been paralyzed into inactivity by fear of making a mistake and by spending more time reading about woodworking than actually doing it. I knew that a major barrier to my joy in the shop was my frustrating workbench, so I set out to replace it.

80% of the materials were from big box home stores. I bought my vises from woodcraft, and the 4/4 stock needed to make the laminations for the vise faces, etc. came from woodcraft as well.

The overall design is the bastard lovechild of a traditional bench and the “21st century workbench” design. It has two benchtops, with a face vise on the left and a tail vise on the right. There are runners that support tool trays (yet to be built) or a shelf (currently in use) between the benchtops. The weight was reinforced by building a box that straddles the two lower sled feet and contains 70 pounds of sand. Shelves were ship-lapped and set atop the lower rails, hiding the sandbox. The base is quite solid, doesn’t rack or wobble, and does what it is supposed to do (holds up the top). However, in retrospect, I would probably change that part of the design. In particular, I would make the anterior aspect of the legs flush with the face of the benchtop. Also, I would use a heavier wood species. I will be modifying the bench legs a little with some accessories to remedy this in the future. (And I will probably build another bench in another 5 years or so.)

For materials, I was constrained by a super-tight budget, as well as a lack of ability to reliably joint or plane materials to size. This meant that for most of the construction, I had to use materials carefully chosen from the local home store.

The base is made from 2×4 pine that was laminated into 4×4 size. This led to the legs having an unsightly “butt-crack” where the two faces were joined; I corrected this visually by inlaying a thin strip of red oak in the gap. Each leg is fit into a sled foot and a corresponding sled top using mortise and tenon joints. The two leg/sled complexes were joined using four rails and a large dovetail joint that was later pinned.

The bench top is a lamination of several layers of cheap Aspen & pine, with a “stain grade” aspen board ripped down its length to form the top layer. This was cut to size with a circular saw and jointed using a router, some patience, and some ingenuity (mostly borrowed from online woodworkers). I then attached a red oak border around the perimeter of each benchtop.

After the base and top were mostly completed, I was able to use the unfinished bench to secure some of my work, and so was able to create custom fit pieces for my tail vise, using 4/4 stock from woodcraft.

It has been in use now for 5 months and I am 90% pleased with how it is functioning. I will be lining the vise jaws with some leather, as well as drilling a few more holes in the bench for holdfasts. Later this year I will build the tool trays and also a modification appliance for the leg to act as a bench slave/workholding device for the face of the bench.

If people are interested, I can create a second post or blog post showing many of the construction steps.

-- Richard B, Birmingham Alabama

9 comments so far

View jimleigh1313's profile


65 posts in 3417 days

#1 posted 11-12-2011 01:27 AM

I like it! cool vices!

View Jimboe's profile


257 posts in 4758 days

#2 posted 11-12-2011 02:28 AM

yes from me on the blog ….really nice !!!

View jcwalleye's profile


306 posts in 4081 days

#3 posted 11-12-2011 04:43 AM

Nice job. Not only do you have a great bench, but now the confidence to use it to build other things. A big step forward. I’ll have to build some of your accessories.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View HughReeves's profile


7 posts in 3664 days

#4 posted 11-12-2011 05:21 AM

Ha! I knew I recognized that bench. I dunno, I think that door/bench worked pretty good. Thanks again for introducing me to what has now become an all-consuming hobby. Also CCU call is really boring tonight so post more projects!

View MShort's profile


1798 posts in 4426 days

#5 posted 11-12-2011 03:04 PM

Great job on this project. Thanks for the detail story behind it.

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View DocSavage45's profile


9043 posts in 3850 days

#6 posted 11-12-2011 04:31 PM

Would add another phrase from a book about workshops that jarred me. “Some people would rather work on the shop than in the shop.” Due to extreme pitches in my shop floor….should have replaced them before doing everything else, my Frankenbench is attatched to the shop wall. It is made from materials ment for the wooden floor I was going to put in until finding that my badly finished knee walls now leak into the shop.

But I need to stop. Nice bench in the evolution of your woodworking!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Maveric777's profile


2694 posts in 4084 days

#7 posted 11-14-2011 02:50 PM

Personally I really dig this bench. I love seeing craftsmen use what ever means available to them to create something functional for them. No two of us are the same… Why should our benches be any different? I am going to have to do some major changes to my shop in the up coming months… Think I will do some studying of this bench for more ideas.

Thanks for sharing and enjoy your handy work….

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View Richard B's profile

Richard B

30 posts in 3511 days

#8 posted 11-14-2011 08:53 PM


Thanks for the comments. If you want more detail about the bench, I just finished 2 blog posts, which included step-by-step discussion & some more photos.

-- Richard B, Birmingham Alabama

View Maveric777's profile


2694 posts in 4084 days

#9 posted 11-14-2011 09:05 PM

Thanks Richard! I will swing by and check those out….

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

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