My Work Bench

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Project by William posted 04-17-2014 01:27 AM 5582 views 14 times favorited 62 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The lowly work bench.
To a lot of people, including myself I must admit, we don’t think much about our work bench. We toil away on whatever surface we can convince ourselves is flat and stable enough to work on.
At one time I had a worse work bench than the one above, an old door on two saw horses.
Then one day I was going down the road and seen an old kitchen table someone had thrown out. So I picked it up from the curb and carried it back to the shop, fixed a leg on it, and had a nicer work bench. As time went on I banged it up so bad that the top was terrible. So I screwed some plywood on top. As that plywood got banged up, I added another layer.
Somewhere along the way I threw together shelving under all that plywood. Then I added the pipe clamp vice on one end. It is a nice work bench. It did it’s job. Let’s face it though. It really is just an old kitchen table that I’ve built up around.
Please do not misunderstand it. This is a fine work bench. I am not at all making fun of it. It has served it’s purpose well. I’ve always liked it because I can abuse it day in and day out, cut on it, finish on it, write measurements on it, and if it gets bad, add more plywood. This bench will probably be in my shop for years to come. It is my go to surface finishing. You may notice on the top where I have gotten stain all over the top.
Yes I am getting to a point.
For a couple of years now I have been thinking that maybe, just maybe, I’d like to have myself a proper, nicely built, solid work bench.
I’ve seen other’s work benches. I’ve drooled over a few in various wood working magazines. It came to my mind a while back that the whole time I’ve been admiring all these benches, I was also making mental notes of what I might want in my own work bench, just in case I ever decided to take the time to build one.
Well, that day has come.

A couple of the obvious things I wanted in my bench were for it to be solid, and I wanted to use up wood that wasn’t good for much else, just so I could say I did not waste expenses on it.
So I have had a pile of broken cotton wood planks in my shop for what seems like forever. I made it out of that. I ripped those broken planks into widths, working around cracks and bad imperfections, to get all the usable wood I could out of it. Then for the solid pieces I used Titebond III glue and screws to assure that it all held together good. Actually, I used way more screws than needed because I want it to hold together long after I’m gone from this world. I figure one of my kids will one day have a nice bench, or they can all get together and have one helluva wiener roast with it.

I wanted a wide bench. I wound up making it thirty inches wide and five feet long. I’ve looked at wide benches and like the split top design. This allows one to use clamps in the middle of the bench if you need to for clamping down items.
For each slab I glued up cotton wood to make them twelve inches wide, five feet long, and five inches thick.

On one end of the slabs I mounted a vice. In that vice I attached a block with double holes in it. This allows clamping straight in the vice, or placing dogs in the holes to make use of the corresponding double row of dog holes that run the length of the table for clamping long materials.
On the side of the other slab is another vice for clamping small items.
Both of these vices did not add to the cost of the bench. The one on the end was given to me by a friend who upgraded to a larger vice. The one on the side if a Record vice that my Dad brought to me from Georgia where he picked it up at a yard sale.

For sturdiness of the base, I set out to make it as beefy as the top.
The feet and the stretchers for the split top are five inches tall and four and a half inches thick. The legs are five inches wide and three inches thick. All of this was built in layers, with two of the three leg layers passing all the way through the feet and stretchers, and everything glued and screwed together.
Between the foot and leg assemblies I wanted to put drawers for storage. So instead of a simple stretcher, I rabbited, glued and screwed two horizontal board and one vertical board up the middle. This created space for drawers on each side.
Then both slabs for the split top were rabbited a quarter inch to match the base. Then they were glued down and held firmly in place with seven inch long lag bolts.
At that point, I stopped and stained everything done so far with Minwax dark walnut stain and saturated it all with boiled linseed oil.

The drawers on each side are made of cottonwood and ride on three quarter inch runners that are glued and screwed to the inside of the base assembly. I used box, or finger joints as some people call them, to assembly the drawers.
I left the drawers light colored to contrast the bench, then added dark handles to contrast the drawers. I was actually torn on how I wanted to finish these until I got it all done. Then I stood back and looked at it and couldn’t have been more happy with the result. So I went ahead and finished the drawers with boiled linseed oil.

You may have noticed that one side has four drawers while the other side has six.
This is because on the side with the dog holes I wanted two deep drawers for hand planes.

I have started making dividers for the drawers to hold different tools I want to store in them. None of this is glued or attached in any kind of way because I may change these layouts several times before I am happy with them.

So here it is again. I am extremely happy with it. I have pushed myself to the limit working hard on it. I think I have a bench that will, short of some natural disaster, out live me though.


62 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30627 posts in 3493 days

#1 posted 04-17-2014 01:39 AM

It’s a great job sir. It should give you many years of service.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View RoadHogg's profile


130 posts in 3082 days

#2 posted 04-17-2014 01:44 AM

Wow! That’s a stout bench! I love the look of the stain on it. How much do you think the bench weighs?

-- "The difference between school and real life is that in real life the tests come first, and then the lessons" -- Robert Lang,

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 3230 days

#3 posted 04-17-2014 01:44 AM

Functional, frugal and freakin’ fantastic!

I never did understand the split top until you explained it.

Now you can take your morning coffee out there and just stare at your bench for awhile.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View lightcs1776's profile


4268 posts in 2809 days

#4 posted 04-17-2014 01:46 AM

Amazing bench. And thanks for the tips on making the drawers.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3997 days

#5 posted 04-17-2014 01:48 AM

Thanks Monty and Sandra.

Roadhog, thank you.
I have no idea how much it weighs. I have a bad back and am not even going to try picking it up. By the time I got to the point of assembly, I built the base where I intended it to be and had my sons set the two slabs on top. They guestimate the slabs to weigh well over a hundred pounds a piece. So I’m going to guess that with the slabs, base, vices, and tools in the drawers, it has to come in at WELL over three hundred pounds.


View William's profile


9950 posts in 3997 days

#6 posted 04-17-2014 01:49 AM

No problem Chris.
I thought after sending you that this morning that it may have been a lot to throw at you at one time.
If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. You have my number to text.


View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

9937 posts in 3483 days

#7 posted 04-17-2014 01:49 AM

5” thick…. I’m calling it BenchZilla !

Very unique design and super fast build. It just screams “give me your best shot”

Great job William.

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

View RoadHogg's profile


130 posts in 3082 days

#8 posted 04-17-2014 01:51 AM

Good call avoiding to lift it. I lifted mine recently, strained my leg and limped for three days. Nice build!

-- "The difference between school and real life is that in real life the tests come first, and then the lessons" -- Robert Lang,

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3997 days

#9 posted 04-17-2014 02:01 AM

Thanks Roadhog.

Matt, I have gave it my best shot a few times with a dead blow hammer. It landed on the top with a thud. It is solid. You know how you can just hear the difference between solid and vibration? That bench is solid.
My kids were there when I done it and thought I was absolutely buts with I gave it a few raps with a hammer.
Dinging it so I don’t cry about it later when it happens by accident.


View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4458 days

#10 posted 04-17-2014 02:04 AM

you have built yourself a wonderful and beautiful work bench, my oh my, its wonderful, plenty of drawers for all of your tools, planes, chisels…, all of it, right where you want it, how exciting…i think you should rest now, time to roast a big pig on top of the new bench….lol….cover the top with plenty of foil…lol

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3845 days

#11 posted 04-17-2014 02:12 AM

William, You continue to amaze. It seems like just yesterday that you started this, and now it’s done! Like Sandra, I didn’t understand the split top purpose. Thanks for smartening me up.
The drawers are sooo organized! And you know I am a fan of neat and organized.
You may have the only cottonwood bench in existence which is a good thing. Personally, I never understood building benches from really fancy/expensive woods (no offense to those of you who built these but I’d be afraid to use em)

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

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3997 days

#12 posted 04-17-2014 02:14 AM

Thank you Grizz, but I don’t think I’ll be roasting food on it. I have as grill for that.


View William's profile


9950 posts in 3997 days

#13 posted 04-17-2014 02:16 AM

Thanks Andy.
That is the reason I used crap wood Andy, and the one thing that has kept me from building a bench for so long. I’ve seen some benches that were so beautiful that I’d have to put them in my house. I’d never do wood work on them. My objective here was to build something nice, but something that I don’t mind beating the crap out of if the project at hand calls for it.


View firefighterontheside's profile


21449 posts in 3011 days

#14 posted 04-17-2014 02:17 AM

Well that is one fine bench. Now I hope you enjoy using it to build other great projects. Though I didn’t build a new bench, yours inspired me to plane off the old finish from mine and apply a fresh coat of poly.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3829 days

#15 posted 04-17-2014 02:26 AM

Wonderful job on your “not so little”, little shop helper.
As Andy said…. you do amaze!!!

Kick back, relax and enjoy the view of your new bench….
Then get back to work….& amaze us again!!!
Looking forward to seeing the bench put to work.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

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