Noob in predicament

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Forum topic by Steven Gaffin posted 03-22-2012 08:48 PM 2565 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Steven Gaffin

31 posts in 3495 days

03-22-2012 08:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench noob workspace building workspace first project

I am fresh out of college, where I studied product design with a focus on furniture. There I had a nice shop with everything I could possible need. Now on my own, I want to build my own place. I am interested in a predominately hand tool based setup but had trouble figuring out what to build first. A workbench would be ideal but do I need a workbench to build a workbench? Could I build a saw bench so that I have something to build a workbench on? If I build a shaving horse first, than would it be useful to build other workspace necessities?

I like time efficiency and would hate to think that I would waste a bunch of time on a workbench that I know is going to be replaced for a better one and its only purpose is to build the better workbench.

Anyone have any insight?

10 replies so far

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2172 posts in 4089 days

#1 posted 03-22-2012 09:06 PM

Just start somewhere. Tools like those you’re suggesting get tweaked and changed and sometimes sawed in half. One of the beauties of your skills is that you can do just that—repair and remodel your shop as you go and as you perceive your needs and indeed as they change!

Examples: I have an assembly table that started out 3×7 and now it’s 4×8…little drawer units installed below as I needed them.

I have a bench that has served, virtually unaltered, for 30 years. I don’t have any particular feelings about either one; that is, they could both get changed tomorrow or they could go on and on.

You’ll eventually find your own personal sweet spot somewhere between ridiculously intense attention to detail and building for function alone. To some extent you want to show your talent in this sort of thing but on the other hand, will a visitor/client in your shop be impressed? Probably not. Their overarching interest is the product you’re going to build for them.

Break the inertia and go for it.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View MoshupTrail's profile


304 posts in 3719 days

#2 posted 03-22-2012 09:12 PM

You can never have too many workbenches, if you’ve got the space. Your first workbench will not be your last, and it certainly won’t be the be-all-end-all. (You’ll find this applies to many things in life – like your first house)

I just started from scratch a few years ago. The first tool I got was a miter saw which I sat on an old dining-room table that I plan to refinish someday.

Then a table saw, and a planer. I sat the planer on a table made from a couple of sawhorses and a solid-core door from the local Habitat for Humanity. That gave me a solid surface make some boards to build a couple of simple but sturdy bases for workbenches.

Those first workbenches were the basis for many other projects and the solid-core doors were an easy way to get a really heavy, thick top. Had to cut em down and that was a mess.

I still have those benches. I use one for small stuff and the other for painting and finishing.

But I still haven’t built a Roubo. Maybe someday…

-- Some problems are best solved with an optimistic approach. Optimism shines a light on alternatives that are otherwise not visible.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17529 posts in 3857 days

#3 posted 03-22-2012 09:13 PM

I like the idea of building a couple of sawbenches that you can then use to build your workbench! Like Lee says, though, break the inertia / get busy! And, Good Luck!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View waho6o9's profile


9065 posts in 3815 days

#4 posted 03-22-2012 09:14 PM

Maybe lay it out on paper, or the concrete where things will sit.

Start building saw horses. Maybe hinge a fold away table against a wall and build and tool chest for your hand tools.

Plan electrical outlets if need be.

+1 for Lee, go for it

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10963 posts in 5291 days

#5 posted 03-22-2012 09:20 PM

Welcome Aboard!
... Enjoy!

I love that New Fangled workbench that John White made. Here is the Video!

I will be making one’em one of these days… for sure!

I have all of the Pipe Clamp ends…

I’m going to make mine only 60” long…

I just have to figure out the lumber & pipe I need… then, of course, BUY IT!

I think it is SO COOL!
... and very flexible!
... and economical too!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View Brandon's profile


4382 posts in 4190 days

#6 posted 03-22-2012 09:20 PM

You can build a sturdy assembly table and use that to build your workbench. Then you’d have two horizontal workspaces—both of which I’m sure you’ll find use for.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3535 days

#7 posted 03-22-2012 09:50 PM

I like the idea of sawhorses and doors for beginning setup or as an assembly table. Spend your money on tools instead. And when you make more money down the road you can go for a nice workbench and use the sawhorses wherever. My first ‘bench’ was a 1950s steel kitchen sink base cabinet with a plywood top.

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3535 days

#8 posted 03-22-2012 09:51 PM

Oh, one other idea – I don’t know how far you are from your college, but I took one credit hour of study so I could continue to use facilities for a year.

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 3803 days

#9 posted 03-23-2012 12:58 AM

I feel like most of your work you would be doing to make a workbench would be too large to actually be doing on top of a workbench. Try using a folding table, saw horses, even an old dresser, kitchen table, or cabinet if you are so desperate for something to work on top of to start.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View Steven Gaffin's profile

Steven Gaffin

31 posts in 3495 days

#10 posted 03-23-2012 01:54 AM

Thanks for all the posts. There is a historical reenactment place here in town with a full size woods hop that is never demonstrated. I thought about volunteering and exchanging time while having a location to work on a bench.

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