Affordable workbench: Hybrid of French and English styles

  • Advertise with us
Project by Dallas posted 11-16-2011 01:28 AM 11156 views 9 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve always wanted a stable woodworking bench. I read the blogs, books and articles extolling the various options and styles. I’m on a budget, so I made a low-cost blend that suits my needs.

I started off with a pile of leftover wood from a home build graciously given to be. First, I took some of the builder’s sawhorses, slapped on a support beam joist, and added a large apron with dog holes. It took me all of two hours.

I built a few fundamental shop devices like a sawbench, bench hooks, shooting boards, miter boxes, etc. after that.

Happy with the thick top and apron, I chose to scrap the sawhorse base and make something more solid. $40 later I had some super soft white pine at my disposal.

With 2”x6”s, I laminated the sizeable legs. The center board in the leg lam. was 2” longer to form a natural tenon. I chose to make the long and short stretchers at the same height without top stretchers of any sort. I wanted beefy legs and less need for many cross pieces.

After drawboring the stretchers, I mortised notches in the top to receive the leg tenons. After much banging, I had a solid and stable top. Lastly, I added dog holes to the top and legs, plus elected to make one side with a large apron – British-style.

So far, I have no complaints. My Veritas Wonder Pup and cheapo 6” wilton vise on the french side handle most sawing and planing operations. Holdfasts for chiseling. I plan to add the sliding deadman, replace the small face vise with a leg vise and build a crochet and/or Moxon-style vise.

Less than a hundred bucks. Can’t beat it! You can see me working on it here.

-- If a tree falls in the neighbor's woods, and no one is there to hear it...can you take it home, mill it and turn it into a coffee table without your neighbor making a sound?

16 comments so far

View TechRedneck's profile


770 posts in 4190 days

#1 posted 11-16-2011 02:22 AM

Nice blend of styles. Thanks for the post.

-- Mike.... West Virginia. "Man is a tool using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.". T Carlyle

View schuft's profile


123 posts in 3940 days

#2 posted 11-16-2011 04:32 AM

Looks like a great bench. And I dig the hand tools collection! Did you surface the lumber by hand?

View oluf's profile


260 posts in 4372 days

#3 posted 11-16-2011 05:10 AM

Bravo and “right on ” You are the man. I like it when people are original and do things thair own way.

-- Nils, So. Central MI. Wood is honest.Take the effort to understand what it has to tell you before you try to change it.

View Dallas's profile


73 posts in 4298 days

#4 posted 11-16-2011 08:36 AM

Thanks for the comments.

The legs are Home Depot 2”x6” lumber. I chose carefully and the guy there was nice enough to cut them down into smaller pieces. I did plane them down and knock off the rounded corners. You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to.

The top is basically two large lengths of a large basement joist. They are laminates, so pretty stable. I didn’t really plane them much as there is glue just below the surface. If I batter it too much, I’ll add a fresh thin top layer out of ply or hardwood boards later.

Planed the apron on the British side down four square by hand.

I used a drill and forstner bit to rough out the mortises, and a chop saw to cut the base pieces to length. Everything else was handwork.

Also visible in the pictures are the two plane stops – one across the length of the bench and a square peg on one end. They can be dropped down to be flush with the bench top.

Thanks for checking it out. I hope it helps others who suffer from the same “bench envy” and “analysis paralysis” that I did before I bit the bullet and slapped one together. My favorite part was getting the mortises to fit. I’d never done that before.

-- If a tree falls in the neighbor's woods, and no one is there to hear it...can you take it home, mill it and turn it into a coffee table without your neighbor making a sound?

View Ken90712's profile


18099 posts in 4522 days

#5 posted 11-16-2011 01:15 PM

Well done, looks solid

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

View MasterSergeant's profile


1441 posts in 4021 days

#6 posted 11-16-2011 01:38 PM

Thank-you very much for posting!! You got my mind working on my bench improvement now!!!

-- Kelly, woodworker under construction

View rightguard73's profile


5 posts in 4096 days

#7 posted 11-16-2011 03:33 PM

That is great work without great resources! You’ve helped me decide how to build my new bench.

View SnowFrog's profile


102 posts in 3880 days

#8 posted 11-16-2011 05:27 PM

That is superb! Love it!
That is what I like to see, full functionality that everyone can afford. I love the vertical apron with the dog holes, I think this is brilliant. I’ll sure incorporate this one my next bench design.

-- One can dream, about a passion not yet fully fulfilled!

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 4259 days

#9 posted 11-16-2011 06:13 PM

Very well done, Dallas!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3988 days

#10 posted 11-16-2011 06:54 PM

this is a very solid design. Great work and I like the walkthrough.

The tiny version of a bent for a sawhorse was cool too.

Thanks for sharing.

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

View Mauricio's profile


7170 posts in 4485 days

#11 posted 02-08-2012 06:16 PM

very cool bench1

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View whitewulf's profile


456 posts in 4270 days

#12 posted 02-18-2012 11:55 PM

A very useful bench I’m sure.
As can be seen from my LJ record I’ve lurked & posted Opinoins,
I just can’t get started on my bench. I always wondered why others did not utilise both sides of thier benches.

-- "ButI'mMuchBetterNow"

View Dallas's profile


73 posts in 4298 days

#13 posted 02-19-2012 06:04 AM

I agree whitewulf. Ignoring the other side of your bench is sort of like having a car without a passenger door.

-- If a tree falls in the neighbor's woods, and no one is there to hear it...can you take it home, mill it and turn it into a coffee table without your neighbor making a sound?

View curliejones's profile


190 posts in 3599 days

#14 posted 12-11-2016 12:34 PM

I am researching holdfast holes in a bench apron and came across your posting. I should have guessed that I would find another like it, but I just completed a workbench that is a blend of French and English styles. I say completed, but you’ll see in the pic that it is now (finally) a bench but a couple of vises must be added and holes drill (that’s why the research).

I settled on this design for a few reasons: first was that I have not done hardly any hand tool work but have read lots the last two years. I knew this was coming so I slowly bought hand tools that suited my reasoning (not my experience, since I have little). The general advice seems to be “build a bench to suit your style” (I do not have a style yet) AND “the first thing you need is a good workbench”. Obvious isn’t it that if it is the first of your needs to get started, you will not yet have developed a “style”. I thought I had done very well purchasing two bolt on vises at bargain prices when a third came up for sale for $20. With my indecision, 3 vises, and a healthy respect for Paul Sellers, I built a 38” high workbench with a tool well down the center (that I’m calling the English Channel) which will feature removable boxes for utility and clean up. (Borrowed from Lang’s 21st century model). The English side will have a face vise and a tail vise flush with the apron; the French side will have only a face vise mounted just outside the bench edge (Sellers style). No bottom stretcher leaves me the option of rolling stuff beneath the bench and a good toe-in for planing and the front stretcher on the French side gives me a place for a shelf. Since the bench is a little under 30” wide, I may put a 16” shelf, leaving me almost 14” for storage and toe-in for the other side. Again, another hybridization. I only want to build one of these so I thought I could find something useful in blending these styles/ideas. I’m lucky to have a nice shop where I can access both sides easily.

Good job on yours and if you read this

old thread, let me know how you’ve enjoyed it!

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

View BeardedBubba's profile


4 posts in 3149 days

#15 posted 06-09-2019 07:12 AM

Looks good

showing 1 through 15 of 16 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics