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Project by Mike Lingenfelter posted 07-24-2008 04:15 AM 17796 views 25 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Last week I attended a week long handsawing class, taught by Christopher Schwarz at the Northwest Woodworking Studio in Portland, OR. It was one of the best weeks I’ve spent woodworking. One of the projects we walked away with was a Sawbench. Everyone of the cuts and joints were cut using handsaws. The bench is made from Southern Yellow Pine and I have to say it was quite the challenge to work with, using hand tools. Southern Yellow Pine has soft early-wood and pretty hard late-wood. This makes it a course wood to work with. So some of the joints aren’t as smooth as I would have liked. Although, most of what you see in the pictures are pretty tight :). I’m very please with how it came out. This was the first project we worked on. Some of the first cuts weren’t my best, but I was able to clean them up with hand planes and chisels.

You will notice a holdfast on the top of the bench. These benches were also used to chop mortises. The holdfast is set up to hold your workpiece over one of the legs, as your are chopping the mortise. Chopping over a leg give you a lot of support, during the chopping. Also, if you spin the holdfast around and knock it down onto the top, it turns into a handle.

We also made a Silverware Tray with hand-cut dovetails. I still have a few things to finish up on that project. I’ll post it after it is finished.

24 comments so far

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 5004 days

#1 posted 07-24-2008 04:41 AM

I think I have an additional bit of pride when I create a piece with only my hand tools. Nice job.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View Dusty56's profile


11866 posts in 4969 days

#2 posted 07-24-2008 05:23 AM

that is a fine bench ! : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View RobD's profile


61 posts in 4876 days

#3 posted 07-24-2008 05:36 AM

Nice bench! That looks like the same bench in the hand tools essentials book I have.. This bench along with the silver tray are on my short list…I really like Christopher Schwarz’s stuff (projects and writing)

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 5035 days

#4 posted 07-24-2008 05:55 AM

Man I am envious, i would love to take a class with Schwarz! The bench looks good too!

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View woodspar's profile


710 posts in 5380 days

#5 posted 07-24-2008 06:05 AM

Thank you for posting this. I have seen these types of benches and admired them. What a great take-away from what sounds like a great class.

-- John

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 5277 days

#6 posted 07-24-2008 06:50 AM

Nice job on the saw bench…looks like you must have “passed” the class ;)...

Did all your saws get in on the action?

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View SteveKorz's profile


2140 posts in 4995 days

#7 posted 07-24-2008 06:55 AM

Cool bench!!

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View TedM's profile


2002 posts in 5013 days

#8 posted 07-24-2008 12:28 PM

Great looking bench, and a great course reminder!

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit and sign up for my project updates!

View kem's profile


56 posts in 4999 days

#9 posted 07-24-2008 02:09 PM

Looks good! It looks like Chris has updated his design once again. What is that half lap/half dovetail joint called? Does it eliminate the need for screws there?

-- Kevin

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6875 posts in 5260 days

#10 posted 07-24-2008 02:28 PM

Hi Mike;

This is a handy little bench, and you did a nice job on it.

The best way to get good at woodworking is to master hand tools and it looks like you’ve got that covered.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 5395 days

#11 posted 07-24-2008 03:58 PM

Chris was a great teacher, I highly recommend his classes if you have the opportunity.

Dorje – Everyone of my saws and then some :). Chris brought quite a few saws and tools with him and we were welcome to try all of them out. The students were also very nice and let others try out their tools too. One guy brought several turning/bow saws. We used those to cut the curved cutout in the top.

Kem – I don’t think it has a special name. A half-lap dovetail sounds good to me :). I didn’t use any screws on the dovetails. Chris said it wasn’t needed, but some people added them just in case. The legs didn’t have as much glue surface on the top joints, so we screwed those. There are also screws on the small stretchers. Chris also said he has a few different designs for the bench. Depending on which class he teaching and how much time he has for the project dictates which bench he builds. This is one of the move involved designed. We spent about 2.5 days on it, with lectures and other breaks. I plan to build a second one, so I can put something across it and use it as an assembly table when needed.

Lee – Experience does breed confidence. Spending that much time just using hand tools, has really boosted my confidence level. When I got home I still needed to cut the legs to the proper height. I marked them out and whacked them off with a handsaw, without even thinking twice about.

View Texasgaloot's profile


465 posts in 4981 days

#12 posted 07-25-2008 02:29 AM

Hey Mike—

Very cool bench. So cool, I’m wondering if I can find plans somewhere—I realize it’s “The Schwartz’” design, but I don’t have his workbench book yet.

This one really appeals to me, and I think you did a first-rate job. I’ve got a carcase saw that needs a workout…

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 5395 days

#13 posted 07-25-2008 03:44 AM

Chris has quite a few different designs for these sawbenchs. Here are some drawings on Chris’s Lost Art Press Blog. This design is very close to the one I built, but without the dovetail joints. Everything on the bench is done at 10 degrees, including the dovetails. I’m sure you could work those in pretty easily. The bench height is customized for each person, and is cut to size after it is built. It should come to just at your knee or slightly below the knee. Mine ended up being about 20” high.

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 5049 days

#14 posted 07-26-2008 05:55 PM

very nice! i saw a video about the sawbench by Christopher Schwarz on-line. its looks great! thanks for the post!

View jeanmarc's profile


1899 posts in 4997 days

#15 posted 08-01-2008 07:29 PM

Nice bench!

-- jeanmarc manosque france

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