The ugliest bench you will ever see (with the coolest vise you will ever use)

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Project by lumberjoe posted 06-02-2013 07:37 PM 7029 views 39 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The Goal Build a workbench for not a single penny over $100.00, and get it done in less than a week (working only a few hours a day). We just moved to a new house and our savings took a massive hit. Also according to my wife, the inside of the house needs some attention too so I can’t spend all my time in the garage. Apparently I’m the only one that is not bothered living out of boxes :)

The Plan Super simple. The frame is made of laminated 2×4’s. Rather than cut half laps, I just boxed the joints in. This added a lot of mass and drastically cut down on construction time (hot hide glued and screwed). As anyone who as made a bench knows, getting the top flat is not easy. I decided to make it easy buy using a Jeld Wen solid core door. This thing is HEAVY and only cost me about $45.00

The Challenges Solid core doors are not solid wood. They are filled with MDF like fluff. Since I would be using bench dogs, I knew that would be an issue. When we moved in, the previous owners left some super ugly 12’ long 6/4 oak in the garage. I sent it through the planer and cut a couple long strips and attached them under where the dog holes are. I’m hoping that does the trick, but am a little weary. Option B will be to buy 1 1/2” maple dowels, insert those, then drill them out for dog holes.

Also since I could spend exactly 0 dollars on any hardware, I obviously need some sort of vises. I have a 30 year old 6” Craftsman screw that was my dads. Over my life I have probably used this vise more than he has. It works, but isn’t a fits’s all solution. I put it at the end. At the other end I made a 6” solid wood extension where I store my Woodriver bubinga handled chisels, some measuring tools, and I cut a pencil tray because I always lose pencils that roll off the bench.

The Awesome Part Is Paul’s (Shipwright’s) 8 degree wedge powered leg vise. This thing is a miracle, innovative, and an absolute pleasure to use. It was an afterthought on this bench, but it worked out perfect. I cannot thank Paul enough for his help and for this amazing design. It didn’t take me long to make and after a few tweaks, it works awesome. I could elaborate on the design, but Paul tells the story better than I do, and I have already written enough. I also copied his “dog hole deadman” design.

This vise is exceptionally easy to use once you figure it out. Figuring out took me about 5 minutes. It is also exceptionally strong. During the installation and tinkering, I clamped down this 4 foot long 8/4 piece of ash and was able to lift the entire bench off the floor. I could not shake it loose.

The Other Details
The finish is BLO followed by 2 coats of danish oil. The 2×4’s are painted with some leftover super expensive Bear paint we had from our old house. It could use another coat or 2. Why isn’t the vise finished? Because Paul was kind enough to offer me the same V8 marquetry logo that is on his vise. I have used this bench a bit in the process of building it – including face jointing that 8/4 ash leg vise with a Stanley No7. It worked really well! Absolutely no racking or dancing around, and I put everything I had in me behind that plane (the ash was rough sawn and uncooperative) .

I am using poplar dowels for bench dogs now, but ordered a set of the Kreg ones from woodcraft. They are about 8$ for 4 of them, and they can also be used as bench cookies as they have a non-stick pad on the top of them. Once our savings recovers a bit I am also going to get a couple holdfasts.

All said and done, it’s nice to have a “proper” bench. It’s not going to win any beauty contests that’s for sure. But I am confident even a woodworker much more experienced than myself would find this bench is up to the task. If you are on a tight budget, it’s worth a shot.


21 comments so far

View Sodabowski's profile


2402 posts in 4170 days

#1 posted 06-02-2013 07:39 PM

Whatever does the job :) Looks way nicer than mine!

-- Thomas - there are no problems, there are only solutions.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20282 posts in 3904 days

#2 posted 06-02-2013 07:44 PM

That’s certainly not the ugliest bench I’ve ever seen (not even close) but the vise is pretty cool.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View whitebeast88's profile


4128 posts in 3527 days

#3 posted 06-02-2013 07:46 PM

great bench,its a lot better than mine.

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3585 days

#4 posted 06-02-2013 07:51 PM

Thanks! This will make a great finishing/assembly bench once I get the time to build a proper one, but right now it’s an awesome addition to my shop


View TechRedneck's profile


770 posts in 4194 days

#5 posted 06-02-2013 08:02 PM

Looks like it will do you for a little while. I like the vice as well.

One tip, you may want to put some braces on the end of the table holding the end vice. Some 45’s notched between the bottom of the table and the legs.

You will find that the sheer weight of the vice will eventually bow the edge of the table. This started to happen to my bolt on bench and it is nearly 1’ wide and 3” thick ash. The end of the table holding the vice dropped about 1/8” over a year.

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

View Bricofleur's profile


1482 posts in 4530 days

#6 posted 06-02-2013 08:47 PM

Who cares as long as it works! And if you miss the nail you won’t be much upset. Great job on this workbench.



PS: Mine is made out of MDF, and it works too!

-- Learn from yesterday, work today and enjoy success tomorrow. --

View shipwright's profile


8781 posts in 4135 days

#7 posted 06-02-2013 09:03 PM

That bench is just fine.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and for me at least, if it gets the job done, it’s gorgeous.

Your V8 degree logo will be in the mail tomorrow.

It’s nice to see someone finally make another leg vice. Mine was getting lonely. not unloved at all, but lonely.

Good work.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3585 days

#8 posted 06-02-2013 09:23 PM

That will be the nicest looking thing in my shop!

Anyone without a proper leg vice should make one of these. I added it after the fact and it was really simple (laminated some plywood and used hard maple for the face.)

I don’t ever see myself spending 700.00 on benchcrafted hardware.

Mike – good tip and I had thought about that. I’ll put it on my to-do list


View apprentice's profile


223 posts in 3496 days

#9 posted 06-02-2013 09:43 PM

Great idea, now I know what to use that solid core exterior fire door I was given a few weeks ago for, nice job Paul, I’m all for saving the pennies.



View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4671 days

#10 posted 06-02-2013 09:49 PM

Personally I think it looks great, and if it works well then I think it’s just as good as the most expensive benches. The vise looks wonderful too.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Buckethead's profile


3196 posts in 3205 days

#11 posted 06-02-2013 10:01 PM

I think I understand the wedge vice concept. Innovative. Being a framer, wedges are a weapon of last resort. When all else fails to separate or lift, wedges get the job done. It makes perfect sense that they can be used to tighten a vice as well. I am seeing that ‘shipwright’ is a man from which to learn.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3585 days

#12 posted 06-02-2013 10:29 PM

Paul is the man. Look at the blog I linked. There are detailed sketchup files for an incredible bench and the vise is detailed separately.

Wedges are incredibly strong. I never really understood the strength until I used it. Unlike every screw I have ever used, it doesn’t back out even a tiny little bit either.


View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

27255 posts in 4442 days

#13 posted 06-02-2013 11:23 PM

I like that bench. Everything is handy and you have all the holding power!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View kdc68's profile


3051 posts in 3613 days

#14 posted 06-03-2013 02:26 AM bout you change the title of your project post to this…. ;-)
My practical, inexpensive, and very functional bench (with the coolest vise you will ever use)

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View oldnovice's profile


7769 posts in 4705 days

#15 posted 06-03-2013 04:53 AM

That ain’t ugly! pardon the jargon

It is beautiful because it does what you want for your cost goals and it has and outstanding vise.

Beauty is, and always will be, in the eye of the beholder!

-- "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -- Aldous Huxley

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