Not So Big Workbench

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Project by toddbeaulieu posted 01-07-2013 08:08 PM 12294 views 22 times favorited 34 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I finished my bench last night. What a project! I took time off during the holiday and spend at least 8 twelve hour days on this! I’m not exaggerating – I’m that slow!

I poured over plans and designs for a month before realizing that I simply wasn’t ready to build the massive bench that I want. The one I really liked was Jon Leppo's, but 8/4 raised panels was a bit out of my realm right now! I found a scaled down version, but neither could hold my hand like I needed during the construction. I needed plans.

So I settled for their Not So Big Workbench. I bought the detailed plans and watched the videos a few times each. I did change some details because I had thicker wood and figured I should use it.

This was BY FAR the most ambitious WW project I’ve taken on so far. I feel that I learned more in the past two weeks than I did in the past year. I am 1,000 times more comfortable with my jointer and planer now. My chisel work has improved tremendously, as well. Sure, I have a long way to go, but still. And just coordinating so many pieces and steps is something you have to go through many times. Reading and watching videos does nothing, compared to DOING!

The base is made from cherry that I had in stock. The drawer boxes are red and white oak. One of the pics is of the white oak being re-sawed for drawers. The cabinet is cherry ply that I had. The top, chop and drawer fronts are beech from a local guy for $2.50 bd ft. Four of the drawers are made from a single beech piece so the grain flows across them. Eh … not that noticeable, but fun trying.

After giving flattening by hand a try I gave up and used the router trick. LOVED IT! The grain switched in a few places and I just couldn’t figure out how to avoid tear out in the middle of the top.

I made quite a few mortises by hand, again for the practice. After chopping the jaw mortise, I couldn’t open a container from the fridge the next morning. No hand strength!

I made a single row of dog holes and one opposite the front vise. I installed a cool Veritas inset vise.

I’m not happy with the colors in a couple of ways. I really liked the contrast of the beech fronts being almost white. Well, the “clear” poly tinted it. Oh well. Guess I should test next time! Also, the solid frame around the drawers looks awful. I think it’s worse in this picture than real life, but still. Maybe I’ll sand it down and try again. Finishing is a huge weak area for me.

So … I finally have a bench and no more excuse as to why I can’t make those solid panel interior shutters she’s been asking for … for two years!

My hope is that this post helps at least one person to gain the confidence to tackle something way beyond their ability. Sure, you’ll make lots of mistakes doing it, but so what?

34 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4929 days

#1 posted 01-07-2013 08:13 PM

looks great and also ‘not so small’!
it does look stout and capable, which is what is really important at the end of the day.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Sergio's profile


470 posts in 3973 days

#2 posted 01-07-2013 08:15 PM

It looks really nice. If I had one like this I would not hide it. (If you look to my workshop you will understand what I mean)

-- - Greetings from Brazil - --

View NiteWalker's profile


2743 posts in 3858 days

#3 posted 01-07-2013 08:28 PM

You did a great job. The cherry really pops. :)
I’m building this bench this year.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View SteviePete's profile


226 posts in 4584 days

#4 posted 01-07-2013 08:45 PM

What a fine job! I never sweat the natural colors. Finishin Baby Steps: Little oil (BLO or Tung), shellac (amber brings color up faster, clear less color but same “grain pop”. Finish up with light wax (turps, beeswax and a tiny bit of carnuba – very light coats). For darker, I’ve read here (LJ) try shoe polish. I have the stuff for spraying varnish and lacquer, just need to give it a shot. On Wisconsin! Steve

-- Steve, 'Sconie Great White North

View toddbeaulieu's profile


858 posts in 4285 days

#5 posted 01-07-2013 08:50 PM

Thanks guys. Steve, I used shellac and then varnish on the base. I’m happy with the base, but the drawer fronts came out too orange, for some reason.

Funny story about the top. I kept reading recommendations for BLO, but I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was a brand named product. So I gave up and just decided to use what I was going to use all along. I went downstairs and grabbed the can. As I brought the can of boiled linseed oil closer, I suddenly felt like a complete idiot. I had a good laugh at myself.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4439 days

#6 posted 01-07-2013 09:02 PM

Great job indeed. I love the size of this workbench and the craftsmanship is top notch! Congrats. I’m very envious as I keep having other projects pop up before I can build my own.

I wouldn’t sweat the color of the poly on the beech too much. It looks just fine!

-- jay,

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6875 posts in 5260 days

#7 posted 01-07-2013 09:05 PM

Beautiful job on that bench.

You’ll likely get many years of enjoyment out of it.

As will your heirs!


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View oakwood's profile


327 posts in 3350 days

#8 posted 01-07-2013 09:24 PM

Man! If I had a work bench like that I would be eating dinner on it every night. Beautiful work.

View Surfside's profile


3389 posts in 3454 days

#9 posted 01-07-2013 10:26 PM

It is clear that you put a lot of effort to make that! Fantastic!

-- "someone has to be wounded for others to be saved, someone has to sacrifice for others to feel happiness, someone has to die so others could live"

View gawthrrw's profile


207 posts in 3728 days

#10 posted 01-07-2013 10:43 PM

Thats a great looking bench! Im about to tackle one this coming spring. Cant wait, but am very nervous lol.

-- Rob, Dallas TX

View Mark Gipson's profile

Mark Gipson

189 posts in 4661 days

#11 posted 01-08-2013 12:31 AM

I have watched all the videos for this bench as well, it’s nice to see that someone has built one and it looks great. I’m hoping to tackle one myself later this year.

View olegahg's profile


122 posts in 3265 days

#12 posted 01-08-2013 02:03 AM

super nice

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7176 posts in 4475 days

#13 posted 01-08-2013 02:17 AM

Stellar job on the work bench…great looking project…there’s nothing like having a good, stout solid bench to work on…..enjoy…!!

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View EEngineer's profile


1139 posts in 4894 days

#14 posted 01-08-2013 02:23 AM

That is a gorgeous workbench!

Glad it all worked out for ya!

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 4291 days

#15 posted 01-08-2013 03:14 AM

Great job! I have to say that I thought Ed Pirnik did a really nice job combining several plans that were out there into a smaller but nice workbench that makes sense in a lot of different ways for people building their first or second (but not umpteenth) workbench.

And you executed this perfectly. How do you like the Veritas surface vise?
EDIT: Not the surface vise. I meant inset vise.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

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