Functional Bench

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Project by Mainiac Matt posted 02-28-2012 12:49 AM 4305 views 2 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Well, it’s not a work of art…. but it is a very functional tool.

This bench started life in our shipping department at work and had a stainless sheet metal cover on it. My boss scored several nicer benches at an auction and after this one was burried in storage for a long time, he accepted my offer of $25 (I’m a habitual dumpster diver). When I took off the metal top, I was very disappointed, as someone had welded on the top and it was badly burned. So I got permision to stay late one evening to use our CNC table router to resurface the bench top. Unfortunately the burn was deep, but the underside was not as bad, so I flipped it over and surfaced it with a face mill type cutter we use to level the spoil boards on the CNC. Unfortunatley the final thickness of the top was only 1.5”

The bench sat in my basement for some 6 years with a cheap vice tacked on the tail end, mostly seeing duty as a junk collection area. I purchased a 9 in. “economy” quick release face vise at Woodcraft on sale, but it sat in it’s box unused.

But this winter is the “year of my new shop” as I mostly finished the basement under our addition and couldn’t wait any longer.

So I built up two layers of nice 3/4” MDO plywood under it for a solid 3” thick top and mounted the face vice flush with the top. Then I saw posts about how a face vice “should” be mounted, and remounted it lower, and planed a maple board and laminated it onto the front edge flush with the fixed metal jaw. Then I mounted an oak board over this down the front edge, serving as a pad on the fixed jaw.

I added blocking (which extends out the back to support the tray) to the underside so the vice mechanism would clear the top of the metal frame. and raised it up to my height with 2×6 skid shoes under the metal legs. I securely lagged a 2×12 shelf and back to aid the metal cross brace in opposing racking forces.

The tool/chip tray is 5.25” wide and will make most of my different clamp sizes “disapear”. I closed in the ends with 3/4” oak boards laminated to the ends of the built up top. and sanded everything flush with the top. I’m trusting that everything is bone dry enough that there won’t be a lot of shrinking of the top…. though I’m a bit concerned about expansion in the summer causing seperation of these face boards on the ends….. fingers crossed.

The skirt boards at each end are there in preperation for a future upgrade, a pull out down draft table mounted with HD industrial drawers slides and plumbed to my DC, accessable from the back side.

She may not be much to look at, but it’s a heavy, solid bench with a thick hardwood top and decent vises.

I’ve got about $125 total into the bench… including initial purchase, vises and plywood. All solid lumber added was from my recycled lumber racks (maple, red oak, pine, finger joined and primed trim and SPF construction lumber)

I”ve got an old DC funnel that I’m going to mount to a T-track on the inner tray wall, for use when hand routing. And I picked up some of the Kreg plastic bench dogs.

I’m looking for recommendations for:

1. a protective finish? I’m thinking a couple cotes of polyacrylic would be easy and fairly effective.
2. spacing for the .75” bench dog holes

Thanks for looking….

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

13 comments so far

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

9199 posts in 2751 days

#1 posted 02-28-2012 12:51 AM

bench top measures 73.5” x 31.5” x 3”

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View a1Jim's profile


117655 posts in 4000 days

#2 posted 02-28-2012 12:52 AM

Looks like a good solid bench ,good save.

View Martyroc's profile


2712 posts in 2729 days

#3 posted 02-28-2012 01:50 AM

Nice solid bench, if the TS is the heart of a workshop, the work bench is the brain, all the fine detail work is done on your bench, calculations etc. Good job

-- Martin ....always count the number of fingers you have before, and after using the saw.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3113 days

#4 posted 02-28-2012 01:53 AM

You did a very nice job rehabbing this bench and it should serve you well. As far as finish, I would go with a couple of coats of BLO followed by paste wax. This will help with clean up and will be easily repaired after inevitable wear and tear.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View smitty22's profile


714 posts in 3370 days

#5 posted 02-28-2012 03:06 AM

Looks great, sure a lot better than my sawhorses and 4×4 plywood!

-- Smitty

View Ken90712's profile


17689 posts in 3611 days

#6 posted 02-28-2012 11:00 AM

Great work bench, should serve you well.

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

View Hoosierdaddy's profile


81 posts in 3064 days

#7 posted 02-28-2012 03:41 PM

I like how you were able to semi-repurposed the bench into something that has a life again! And, on a budget did it for much cheaper than it would have cost you to build one outright.

As for your questions at the bottom of your posting….I tend to defer to the workbench master, Christopher Schwarz’s book The Workbench Design Book. I’ve got one on loan from the local public library and it has a wealth of information in it. He talks about all aspects of workbench design in this book and actually delves into nine different distinct designs, high-lighting the pros and the cons of each.

For bench dogs he recommends 3” spacing, round or square, whatever fits with the dogs you want to buy or make. The finish he recommends a equal parts mix of boiled linseed oil (to resist glue), varnish (to resist spills) and paint thinner for ease of application. I strongly recommend picking the book up, it’s gold for anyone contemplating or using a bench.

-- I don't know what this is going to be like, but there's only one way to find out..........

View BigRich's profile


24 posts in 2850 days

#8 posted 02-28-2012 03:42 PM

Functional is always GOOD. If it was to beautiful you would be to afraid to use it. Great save and build. Thanks for posting.

View German_in_Ohio's profile


48 posts in 4553 days

#9 posted 02-28-2012 11:16 PM

Solid, sturdy, not too fancy – the perfect workbench!

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4522 days

#10 posted 02-29-2012 04:37 AM

I would not recommend a film finish, the bench surface will get damaged from use then the finish will start to peel.

I would just oil it if anything. You don’t have to get carried away with special formulas and chemistry, just get a can of Watco Danish oil and apply, it will work just fine.

You will need to reapply occasionally, the same will be true with pretty much any oil. It is not a big deal to do this since it will not be a peeling film finish.

Keeping the surface maintained will actually help keep glue from sticking compared to leaving it dry.

Now let’s see what you can make on that bench!

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Moorebank's profile


1 post in 2698 days

#11 posted 03-03-2012 11:33 PM

very good design.

Jack, Moorebank NSW Australia.

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3714 days

#12 posted 03-03-2012 11:54 PM

Dog hole spacing is a function of the maximum jaw opening on the vise. Measure the clear opening with the vise open all the way – that’s (obviously) the biggest piece you can put in there, so the closest dog hole has to be located so it can hold a piece just slightly bigger than that. You want a little overlap in each distance increment, so close the vise, raise the vise dog, and measure from it (not from the face of the chop), a distance slightly LESS than the maximum jaw opening. That’s the near edge (not the center) of your nearest dog hole. Continue that same spacing (a distance a little less than the maximum vise opening) for the remaining holes.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View AspiringWoodworker's profile


72 posts in 2728 days

#13 posted 04-15-2012 02:06 PM

I have a similar set of legs and have been looking for ideas for a top, think I just found one.
Thanks for sharing!

-- Jeff W., Boston, MA area,

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