New Workbench #1: New Workbench, Part 1 - Base Design

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Blog entry by Letorix posted 08-22-2011 11:25 PM 2796 reads 2 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of New Workbench series Part 2: Tail / Wagon Vise Design. »

So I’m almost finished milling my materials and figured it was time to get to the design. I guess its a Roubo inspired design. I’m not going to have the leg vise at least not in the beginning but I like the apron and center slide concept with all of the dog holes. On the backside I’d like to have a cabinet/drawers.

But I have a few questions and would like some feedback. To maximize cabinet height I made the backside top apron 3” high, I would like to make the bottom rail 3” high too, I have it in red…how much impact do you think it will have to the over all rigidity of the bench. I have it highlighted in Red.

Also I haven’t decided on the joinery, I see others using bolt and such…I was going to use epoxy….thoughts?

10 comments so far

View Lou_S's profile


17 posts in 2508 days

#1 posted 08-23-2011 05:52 AM

I like your design. Cabinets in the back is an interesting option. Your future cabinet could be designed to add rigidity to the base if you are concerned about the placement of the back rails.

I designed my base with bolts for some joints because I plan on moving many more times before retiring to a permanent shop, and the bolts make moving the entire bench a bit easier. If I were building a bench for a more permanent destination, I would probably use tightbond with through, wedged mortise and tenon for all joints on the base.

I do not recommend attaching the front and back legs to the top if you are doing a top glue-up. My 32” top changes width by about 3/8” from winter to summer. I would only attach the top at the front two legs and let the back float.

-- Lou

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2969 days

#2 posted 08-23-2011 08:01 AM

That’s a very nice looking bench design, but I don’t see the Roubo inspiration. The typical Roubo bench has no aprons; instead, the 5” square legs are attached to the 4” thick top via double, through mortise and tennon joinery and this leg to top connection is so rigid the apron would be redundant.

Dog holes in the top don’t work well with a cabinet below unless there is a space between the bottom of the bench top and the top of the cabinet. Otherwise the drawers or interior of the cabinet will fill up with chips and dust falling through the holes. I like the design that has this space above the cabinet as it is a useful place to lay tools, clamps, etc.

View Letorix's profile


119 posts in 2501 days

#3 posted 08-23-2011 07:13 PM

Thanks guys, this is why I posted to get awesome feedback like this. I didn’t realize those details about the Roubo design, I thought it was more due to a flush front, i.e. leg fronts, apron and bottom rail lining up with dog holes for vertical pieces.

So looks like I need to allow the top room to move. I’m a bit confused on how to do this…

Space above drawers for dust collection and holding tools etc.

I don’t have the joinery details but was planing on mortise and tenon and perhaps a few of the tapered dove tail type joints…sorry I’m still learning all the terms. Looks like room for two nice size drawers and shelves or cabinets on the ends.

The top is slated to be 3 inches thick…but I could do 4 inches I suppose. Also using hard maple.

Also would you build the base or top first? Base is my gut….but have seem project pictures where top was built first.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15351 posts in 2616 days

#4 posted 08-23-2011 09:35 PM

Suggest the top be built first. Let it dimension out as things go, then make the base for a perfect fit.

Looks like you’ve got more support (ie: construction aggravation) between your leg stretchers than you need. The weight is always welcome, but it’s not structurally needed. Sister some 1” material to the inside of the stretchers, lay in 3/4” bottom material, and you’re done. It’s an inside span of perhaps 20” after all. With a bottom in place, build your cabinet and set it in.

3” of maple for the top, unsupported, should work just fine. 4” would be great too, of course, if you have the material to use.

Top won’t move if the wood is acclimated to your shop. The through tenons will handle even if it does shrink over time. Either way, it’s most critical that the legs are as stable (from a moisture standpoint) as possible. Don’t want those shrinking in the through mortises. A benchtop that shrinks around those legs a bit, though, would be an okay event.

Good luck, and Keep Us Posted!

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

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2969 days

#5 posted 08-24-2011 06:05 AM

If you haven’t read it, the second Chris Schwarz book on workbenches, “The Workbench Design Book” is an excellent read. I had my bench almost done before he published that book, but I made some changes after I did.

My top is 3-1/2” thick, but it is made out of 4 layers of 3/4” plywood and topped with MDF and a replacable hardboard layer. 3” solid maple should work fine. I built my top, upside down, on saw horses first, mainly so I would have a good solid flat place to work on the base. I built the whole thing upside down, then rolled it over, and onto its legs last.

If you do build your top first, be sure to use winding sticks to verify it is flat and not twisted. If the glue sets on a twisted top and you don’t notice it till later, you will have made yourself a very difficult job to get it fixed.

View Letorix's profile


119 posts in 2501 days

#6 posted 09-08-2011 04:05 AM

Well I finished Chris Schwarz’s book, a lot of reading to express his admiration of a leg vise, crochet, wagon vise, built in plane stop.

While it was helpful he seems full of contradictions, he suggests not having drawers underneath so that you can use long F clamps through the table, makes sense but his table has no holes to utilize F clamps through the top middle. Plus I think the Veritas hold down clamps or equivalent is my calling. Hopefully I can find an adjustable one without the Veritas price.

Any how, ripped most of the top pieces, I’m joining a few of the left overs those to use in the top too.

Currently I’m at the point of deciding dog holes, location, and types per location. I’ll need to rout those out before gluing up the bench top.

Being that I almost never use the bench tops near the walls, only to pile junk and tools on them. I prefer to work in the middle of the room and on a bench where I can walk around on all sides.

That said I think more vises and dog holes add more possibilities.

Also I’m concerned about the joinery on the ends of the table. Pondering the best method.

Personally I think LJ’s feedback and suggestions are better than any book yet.

Also I must say, I’m using this blade to rip.
Freud LU87R010 10-Inch 24-Tooth FTG Thin Kerf Ripping Saw Blade with 5/8-Inch Arbor and PermaShield Coating

I’ve never been privileged to use expensive blades..but this blade has been going through this hard maple like butter.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2969 days

#7 posted 09-08-2011 07:24 AM

I like my bench in the middle of the room as well.There is a workbench out there called “The New Fangled Workbench” that has a Crochet on the back side and a narrow shelf below it, running the length of the bench, that adjusts vertically; useful for planing the edge of doors and panels. I liked that idea and incorporated it into my bench. Front of the bench has a face vise on the left and I’m in the process of putting an identical face vise on the righ end, to use as an end vise. This gives three distinctly different ways to clamp and hold work and works well for me.

That’s the beauty of building your own bench; it’s yours. You decide what you want it to do and built it to suit your work style.

View Letorix's profile


119 posts in 2501 days

#8 posted 09-11-2011 12:25 AM

Well I started gluing up the top, left me wondering if my crappy free planer is going to cause me more grief than I expected. I’sure the wood has moved so as well be I thought the joint was going to be a bit tighter. I’m also wonder if being stingy and using the board with the knot, also the board made of the scraps from ripping down the other pieces is a wise idea.

I know its just a bench, but I want it to be a lessoon craftsmanship. I don’t think I have the tools to make it as I want it. Perhaps this gap isn’t too bad for a bench but it would be horrible for anything else…

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2446 days

#9 posted 09-13-2011 04:12 PM

Looks like you have a good design so far.

My little bit of advise is to get very acquainted with some hand-planes, and you’ll be needing some big planes at that. A #7 jointer will be your best friend when it comes time to finally flatten the top, trust me on that! I have a 26” long Stanley Transitional plane (wood sole, metal blade adjustment pieces, etc) and i never would have flattened my top without it. That, my Veritas low-angle block plane with the optional tote and knob, my Dunlap #5 jack plane and Stanley #4 smoother were my most used tools during bench construction and especially during final flattening.

As for joinery, I despise bolts. They crush the wood where they are located, even with big washers, and they will always loosen both from crushing the wood and seasonal movement. Through-tenons that are wedged (with removable wedges) are a better break-down system if you will need to move the bench later.

My bench is not capable of coming apart in any way. The legs are through mortised into the top with a dovetail beside that, like what Chris Schwarz used on his “Petite Roubo” and then have a large peg driven through the outer dovetail and then through the tenon as well. The stretchers are through mortised into the legs, wedged from the end and draw-bore pegged through the side. I built it to be bomb-proof, and I feel sure it is.

If you need your bench to come apart, through tenons that are wedged are a good option. The wedges can be removed if needed, and if it does loosen from seasonal movement, a couple mallet whacks tighten the wedges back up nicely.

I also do not like aprons. My first “real” bench had aprons, and I HATED them in a very short time. They inhibit clamping, make adding a leg vise near impossible in most cases and don’t add enough of anything to make any of the drawbacks worth it. I prefer a top thick enough not to need them and legs flush with the bench sides. My first bench was sold 6 weeks after completion and before I had a replacement finished as I despised it so badly.

Good luck on the bench, please continue to post your progress, as I would really like to watch it all come together.
And please don’t take offense to anything I said either. It’s not meant to discourage you from anything you are doing, or to change your mind either. They are merely my thoughts and feelings, and are just posted to ponder over. If you like them, good, if not, then ignore them. I won’t be offended by the way you build your bench, as we are all different and we all like different things. To each their own, basically.


-- Kenny

View Letorix's profile


119 posts in 2501 days

#10 posted 09-13-2011 08:22 PM

I’ve been on the look out for hand planes, currently I only have an old Miller Falls No 900B smoothing plane, and some smaller ones that need TLC that I’ve picked up here and there…none used by me thus far.

I’ve got to study the use of these tools, I may have to buy one from Ebay.

Well slowly the glue is coming along, its gotten very heavy already.

Scraping glue off the top:

On its side:

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