Twist on traditional workbench

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Project by Brent Livingwell posted 07-11-2008 07:23 AM 22582 views 57 times favorited 45 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hello all,

When I first found out about Lumberjocks (via a recommendation from a conversation via craigslist) I was interested in finding a person in the Boston area with a thickness planner to help mill some lumber for a dresser I am making. I still have not found this person and as a result I looked for other ways to mill the lumber I needed. As I looked and learned, I stumbled onto a website hosting free woodworking videos ( ) and watched a pod cast about essential hand tools, and one point really stood out: the most important hand tool is a good workbench!

The next day, I went into my workshop and my makeshift office table/workbench collapsed as I planned a board and I almost broke my finger. So you know what happened next, I had to have a decent workbench.
Many of the early posts I received when I joined lumberjocks, suggested that as a jock I should be open to scrounging for wood anywhere I can find it, and to be cheap when ever possible. So my next step was to find some free workbench plans. My search turned up 2 plans,, and When I first saw these benches, I thought, oh yeah that would be nice, but it will never happen, either too much money or too much effort. But as I continued to ponder a solution, I drove past a very large door lying in a trash pile. I grabbed it. I figured that since it was a large solid core door, that I could just throw some legs under it, attach a vice and have a bench. So I started to plane the door flat and noticed that I would never really get it flat. Now what I wondered? The next day, while trying to score something wood for free on cragslist, I “won” a solid maple kitchen table. So now I had, free plans, a large, semi flat-semi planned door, and a free rock maple kitchen table (and a very bruised finger). Now all I needed was some time and motivation. The next week, my wife surprised me with a class with woodworking master Phil Lowe to learn proper technique in cutting miters, mortise and tenon, and dovetail joints. Now my mission was clear, practice the skills I just learned, create my dream bench, and do it all on the cheap.

What you see here is the product of chance, patience and desire. If you look at the second set of plans it calls for 2.5-inch thick slabs as the center of the bench. When I planned, ripped and laminated the door (which turned out to be solid poplar) the result was a 2-inch thick slab that still bowed if I sat on it. Then I tried gluing another board (French Cedar) on top of that. Still not rock solid. So then the idea came to me to rip it in strips and laminate that together. And there you have it, a stripped traditional workbench.

Now I had to include all three joint types. So the left end cap is joined with a hand cut-pinned mortis and tenon, the tail vice has half-blind and through-dovetails, and is capped with a hand cut miter joint. Since I am new to dovetail making, and have no bandsaw, the end vice was a bear. It totaled about 25 hours.
All in all the bench was pretty easy, but lots of heavy lifting and hand planning for hours, since I still have no planner, and I chose to level the lamination with hand planes.

Then best part about this project was its connection to Lumberjocks, I truly enjoy and learn from all the projects and people on this site, and often thought of my fellow lumber jocks as I planned the night way. So thank you all for sharing you love for wood and work, and if you do not yet have one, build that bench you always wanted.

Last but not least:
1.Total cost of the bench was about $350 (base, hardware, vices, tiger maple back board, glue, walnut, ext)
2. It took three months of total obsession to complete (naps, nights, weekends)
3. It sure would be easier to build a workbench if you already had a workbench…

If you read all of this, thanks; I hope it was worth it.

Thank you to my wife and daughter for the support and patience.

-- Things of the greatest worth are from the Earth. If you tell yourself that something is "close enough" it is it again.

45 comments so far

View Scotach's profile


72 posts in 4954 days

#1 posted 07-11-2008 07:51 AM

Holy Smokes!! That is a beautiful bench and a fantastic project. Thanks for posting it up here, you have inspired me to get to work. Score on the Poplar door! LumberJock -1 / Trashman -0

-- Brian S. --- "If you’ve worked on the building of a boat, it belongs to you the rest of your life." -Bob Prothero

View Callum Kendall's profile

Callum Kendall

1918 posts in 5038 days

#2 posted 07-11-2008 10:48 AM

Nice work bench!

Thanks for the post


-- For wood working podcasts with a twist check out

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 5274 days

#3 posted 07-11-2008 11:05 AM

That’s one very nice bench. And, with all the work you’ve put into it, it’s an extension of you. You two should work well together.

-- Working at Woodworking

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 5102 days

#4 posted 07-11-2008 01:07 PM

Awesome bench and really nice story. Thank you for sharing.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Richard David Merrill's profile

Richard David Merrill

2 posts in 4958 days

#5 posted 07-11-2008 01:43 PM

Beautiful bench, very inspiring!!!

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5553 days

#6 posted 07-11-2008 02:51 PM

One of the best looking benches I’ve seen. Congratulations!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5217 days

#7 posted 07-11-2008 04:27 PM

Sweet. Good for you. Excellent job and execution. Very inspirational story also.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Bigbuck's profile


1347 posts in 4998 days

#8 posted 07-11-2008 04:36 PM

Very nice, sounds like you had a great adventure making it.

-- Glenn, New Mexico

View Jon3's profile


497 posts in 5440 days

#9 posted 07-11-2008 04:38 PM

That is gorgeous. I love the euro style benches.

View Woodhacker's profile


1139 posts in 5058 days

#10 posted 07-11-2008 11:44 PM

Beautiful job Brent. I’m sure it will be very satisfying working on that bench for many years to come.

-- Martin, Kansas

View Grumpy's profile


26812 posts in 5186 days

#11 posted 07-12-2008 12:34 AM

Great looking bench Brent.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View James Early's profile

James Early

48 posts in 4983 days

#12 posted 07-12-2008 12:45 AM

Excellent, Brett! I really like the tail vise. I know those are difficult to do. A three month investment that will pay a lifetime (and, problem more) of dividends—sounds like a great deal.

-- -- Jim E., Oswego, NY. Create, have fun, and work safely!

View DustDawg's profile


10 posts in 4949 days

#13 posted 07-12-2008 01:16 AM

That’s a one beautiful bench Brent – along with a very inspirational story. Nice work!

View BobR's profile


136 posts in 5320 days

#14 posted 07-12-2008 01:53 AM

Great looking bench. I am just planning on building a new bench. You have given me encouragement.

-- Bob

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 5055 days

#15 posted 07-12-2008 02:50 AM

Thanks for completing such a gorgeous bench! It gives us all inspiration.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

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