Unique small shop workbench

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Forum topic by Bernie posted 07-04-2012 02:35 AM 18005 views 44 times favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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422 posts in 3845 days

07-04-2012 02:35 AM

This is actually a re-post of my workbench that got buried in the “workbench smack down” post – mine was #315 of 1000+ posts. But I think my unique bench is worth posting again especially for all owners of small workshops where space is important.

Brief history – for the past 12 years my bench was a solid core door that got well used so I wanted to resurface it. I thought about this for a long time because I always dreamed of those fancy European benches that cost $3000 – $6000 that have vises and bench dog systems. Then I saw an older FW magazine featuring a bench with T tracks in it. I liked it but it had an expensive dual crank vise in it. After lots of thinking, I came up with this solution. It has proven to be a whole working system for my small shop.

I sunk 2 pipe clamps below the surface of the original bench and then I covered it with bamboo flooring.

I then added 2 T tracks just below the surface of the bamboo flooring. This gave me 80 + inches of clamping surface.

The next picture explains why I sunk the pipe clamps into the old bench surface the way I did. The pipe clamp is exposed through the surface of new bench and in a matter of just a few seconds, I can remove the pipe clamps, insert a bar clamp and secure a piece of wood hanging over the edge of the bench so I can drill through it or cut it off.

The bench possibilities grew as I began working with it. For example, my dovetail jig always had to be secured to the bench with screws, now it is attached to a piece of plywood that secures in the T tracks in just seconds. Small shop owners that have bench top tools you need to secure can use this easy system. But the possibilities just keep coming. Here are 2 hand screws secured in the T tracks to work the edge of the board.

My swivel vise is also attached to a piece of plywood and secured or removed in seconds.

One feature of those European benches I liked was the peg holes in a leg to support a long piece of wood secured on the other end in the face vice. So I added that feature except that my support leg can move along the T tracks and be removed in seconds.

In my ShopNotes magazine, I found bench top add on and one was bench top saw horse. I made 2 of my own design – and yes, I secure them or remove them in a matter of seconds. I like my bench and wanted to share with as many folks as possible, especially those with small workshops.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

38 replies so far

View Ryan Haasen's profile

Ryan Haasen

385 posts in 3409 days

#1 posted 07-04-2012 02:45 AM

I’ve never seen T-slots in a workbench. Good idea!

-- Ryan

View waho6o9's profile


8996 posts in 3585 days

#2 posted 07-04-2012 02:54 AM

Thanks for sharing Bernie, that’s a fine workbench with a lot of options.

View Tyrone D's profile

Tyrone D

314 posts in 3341 days

#3 posted 07-04-2012 04:01 AM

I’m actually doing something like this with oak flooring soon. I have enough oak flooring to do a 4’x6’ workbench doubled up so it’s 1 1/2” thick. All the boards on mine are a bit longer than 6’ except for one which will be used on the bottom layer.

Nice job on your bench!

-- --Tyrone - BC, Canada "Nothing is ever perfect, we just run out of time."

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


20252 posts in 4684 days

#4 posted 07-04-2012 04:03 AM

Nice to have it out in the open where al can find it. ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View AndyDuframe's profile


48 posts in 4598 days

#5 posted 07-04-2012 05:04 PM

I’m also taken by the T-slots. Looks like a great idea!! Funny, I’m not sure I’ve seen a manufactured bench that included them. Router tables for sure, but T-track has so many other possible uses. What better place to put them than on a bench. Awesome idea.


View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 4761 days

#6 posted 07-04-2012 05:06 PM


View Dusty56's profile


11863 posts in 4696 days

#7 posted 07-04-2012 06:19 PM

Thanks for bringing this forward …I never saw the other post that you referred to above.
You have some nice ideas here. Added to favorites…...Thank you : )

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

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 3845 days

#8 posted 07-05-2012 02:48 AM

I was asked today about how I would secure short pieces of wood on my bench. I have already solved that problem. In picture #5 (featuring the hand screws) you can see a block of wood with a round bench dog in it. Look closely at picture #7 and you will see a 1.25 inch wide pieces of wood secured in the end vise. It is a one screw end vise (I bought in a yard sale) and it will hold a 1/4 inch piece.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View whitewulf's profile


456 posts in 3945 days

#9 posted 07-05-2012 02:59 AM

Many good Ideas, especially for challenged budgets.

-- "ButI'mMuchBetterNow"

View Richard's profile


400 posts in 3699 days

#10 posted 07-05-2012 03:40 AM

Favorited so I can “borrow” some of your ideas later.

-- "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4585 days

#11 posted 07-11-2012 07:30 PM

Hi Bernie
Thanks for the Pm asking for me to give you my thoughts on your bench. The first very serious thing I see wrong with your bench is that I didn’t think of all those great innovations LOL I was reviewing each idea you incorporated and could not find fault with any of them . I’m curious to see how the flooring holds up, but I don’t know why it shouldn’t. I also thought about the location of the T slots if over time you might find you would like them where they are at or if you decide you would like them spaced differently. All in all I think you have come up with a great design and this workbench should work well for years to come. Great job


View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 3845 days

#12 posted 07-12-2012 03:36 AM

Thank you Jim for the kind words. As for the bamboo flooring, I’ve learned to be careful with it because it dents and cuts easier then some hardwoods. The dents do come out easily with a bit of water. As for cutting – it’s a problem with any bench. If I have a real quick cut, I place a piece of ply with a cleat on the bench and cut while protecting the bamboo. Other then that, I install my saw horses and cut as many pieces as I have too!

As for the spacing the T tracks on different planes, I never thought of your suggestion. I can think of a few circumstances where that might work better especially when securing small pieces. I did resolve that issue with the end vise and dog, but I never thought of your solution which would be much better on a tight budget. If I ever adopt your suggestion, I would simply add another track and keep my long clamping option open! I’ll be thinking – and thanks!

I did not glue the flooring down but screwed the first 2 rows down. I didn’t know how the summer humidity would affect the top via wood movement. So far, no problem.

While making a country hutch. I was gluing the components on my bench. I lined the bar clamp to 90* and used my bench in the clamping process. It worked like a charm and best of all, the excess glue did not stick to the finish of the bamboo. Thanks again Jim. Having followed your posts over the years, I respect your opinions – that’s why I asked your critique!

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View rance's profile


4277 posts in 4168 days

#13 posted 07-12-2012 04:10 AM

Bernie, I think you’ve come up with a fantastic design. I like each and every one of the features you’ve included. The only thing I might add would be to replace one of the T-tracks with a Bora-style clamp recessed just below the surface like the T-track. I actually built a mini-bench and put one in there and it is VERY handy. There are other brands besides Bora that would work as well. Actually, I like the WoodCraft house brand because of its lower profile.

‘T-track’... the new ‘bench dog’.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 3845 days

#14 posted 07-13-2012 03:18 AM

Rance – I didn’t even know what a Bora clamp was so I goggled it. I’m curious how you incorporated this clamp into your workbench. They just seem to be a bit thick for sinking into my bench… but I’m open to suggestions. Thanks for getting my attention.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View rance's profile


4277 posts in 4168 days

#15 posted 07-13-2012 05:43 AM


Here’s one in normal operation:

Now imagine turning it upside down and mounting it to your workbench. This way the clamp edges are facing up. Next, imagine recessing it into the surface of the bench like you did the T-track. The only part sticking above the bench would be the lever end and the sliding ‘dog’ if you will. Here’s a picture of a double one that shows the clamping mechanism:

I wish I had a pic I could post of mine. Hopefully you’ll see what I’m talking about.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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