One of the first projects that I made when I first started woodworking in 2010 was a workbench for the garage. All 2×4 construction with a 3/4” thick top of white pine. I made all the cuts on my newly acquired miter saw and actually assembled the thing in the living room. Here’s a picture.
It was a decent garage/general purpose bench, but too tall and light to be a woodworking bench. I ended up cutting the length down and put it in the laundry closet where I keep a lot of my tools. Now it holds a tool box and a general purpose vise . . . and collects clutter fabulously.
My second bench was really an outfeed table for my table saw. It had a 5/4 MDF top with formica and lots of storage underneath. It also had casters and a wood vise, or at least what Harbor Freight calls a wood vise. Nevetherless, it was pretty heavy, large (60” x 30”), and could take a beating. Here are a couple of photos (from the Moxon vise post).
On the downside, the bench was too high (it was an outfeed table after all), and the casters made it move around on me while planing (even when they were locked). Plus, it wasn’t designed to be a proper workbench and so the vise set up was not really thought through. I’m glad I had it to get me where I am now, but it surely made me realize how much I needed a good woodworking bench.
The Criteria for a New Bench
Having those two previous benches helped me figure out what I wanted in a new bench. Some of the basic criteria included the following:
Thick top for dogholes
Sturdy and solid construction (through tenon joinery)
Well-conceived vise layout aligned with dogholes
Be able to work the edges, face, and ends of boards
Lower height for hand planing
I’m sure there were more. I had been leaning on building a Roubo bench because of its aesthetics, but I still needed a little more guidance since I didn’t want to have to build another bench for many many years to come. The wife got me Chris Schwarz’s 2007 book on workbenches, which featured plans for building both the French (Roubo) and English (Nicholson) benches, plus it contained a lot of other fun things to read. If you’re about to build a bench, I’d highly recommend it. Reading Schwarz’s book really solidified the choice to make mine a Roubo style bench and gave me numerous helpful tips along the way. I didn’t follow his plans exactly, but they were very influential on my design. I also decided not to incorporate a crochet because I think it was superfluous with the leg vise, and the planing stop, but I can always add that later if I choose. I decided that the dimensions would be around 63” by 26” and about 34” high. Yet the issue that perplexed me most was how to decide on what wood to use. That will be the topic for the next blog.
-- "hold fast to that which is good"