Workbench for $175 #1: The top is done

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Blog entry by NBeener posted 12-16-2010 04:35 PM 8084 reads 2 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Workbench for $175 series Part 2: Forget treble. Give me some BASE ! »

There’s an article, by the well-known Christopher Schwarz, that tells how to make a workbench for about $175.00.

I like that idea ;-)

He raves about SYP, but … not much of that in my neighborhood, so …. I went with the dimensional Doug Fir, from the Depot.

I’m working on the base, right now, but … here’s the top … before being trimmed to length:

Got his recommended vise, bench dogs, and Wonder Dog, from Lee Valley. The top will dress out at about 3-1/8” thick by 27” wide by 70” long, and … considering it’s Doug Fir … is pretty darned heavy !

Working on some jumbo M&T joints, now. Things move slowly for me, in the woodworking arena, so … stay tuned :-)

-- -- Neil

16 comments so far

View ellen35's profile


2734 posts in 3398 days

#1 posted 12-16-2010 05:01 PM

Seems too nice to use!

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View Paul2274's profile


330 posts in 3078 days

#2 posted 12-16-2010 05:09 PM

Now that’s a cutting board! I mean bench top ;)

I made mine out of old 2×4’s and a sheet of MDF on top for a flat surface and then a sheet of high density fiber board on that…. when the top gets worn out, in 10 years or so, I’ll just replace the fiber board and BAM! new bench! I don’t have anything fancy but I did build it myself and I think I spent all of $30 on it… recycled most of the wood from older projects and leftovers.


View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3639 days

#3 posted 12-16-2010 05:17 PM

Thats a nice looking workbenchtop top, Neil.

View Tim29's profile


307 posts in 3116 days

#4 posted 12-16-2010 05:24 PM

Nice work. Looks like it is coming right along. It appears that it is about hernia worthy. I have made all my workbenches out of 2X also. I did not think the tops would be that heavy.
Keep us posted.

-- Tim, Nevada MO

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3130 days

#5 posted 12-16-2010 05:28 PM

Looking good Neil. Timbo made a very nice bench from SYP, I think you remember that. I made my bench about 1970, using my own plans, and figuring I would be moving around and I might need to break it down. It traveled from Wisconsin, to Kentucky, to Fairbanks, to here in Anchorage. It is Douglas Fir, legs 4×4, bracing 2×4. It is bolted together with 3/8” carriage bolts, and the top is lag screwed on. The top boards were 2×10’s laid flat with a layer of 3/4” ply on top, giving a top that is 2.25 inches thick and nearly perfectly flat. With the various tools and things in it, since I added shelves and crude drawers, it must be well over 500 pounds. The ends and back are covered with 3/4” ply, adding to the weight and rigidity. It has a large machinists vice and a wood workers vise installed. The shelves are also 3/4” ply. An end cannot be lifted nor can the bench be moved without emptying it. It feels like it is bolted to the floor and wall, which it is not.

It seems some people think they have to use extraordinarily heavy construction to get the heft and weight. But good solid construction, and a number of drawers and shelves filled with tools….....many of my hand power tools socket sets, etc, are stored there…....make it extremely heavy and solid. Bolts make the joints very strong and rigid.

But, I envy the traditional design you and Timbo used, they make for very pretty additions to the shop.

I guess I am making the case for shelves and drawers. It is a great place to store things, and the weight is an added benefit. It is something you can add on down the line as the need and time arises.


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View mafe's profile


11643 posts in 3055 days

#6 posted 12-16-2010 05:41 PM

Wauu, that looks just great!
You are going to get a wonderful workbench I’m sure.
I have bought the new book of CS about workbenches, so if you need his advice let me know.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Joe Watson's profile

Joe Watson

316 posts in 3512 days

#7 posted 12-16-2010 05:44 PM

i started down the same path recently too. mine is all SYP. i just have the top made and i am making the other parts. i have legs and side stretchers. making the front stretchers next and working on the joinery.

ill be watching yours with anticipation.

-- Got Wood?

View b2rtch's profile


4851 posts in 3014 days

#8 posted 12-16-2010 05:50 PM

I made on like this one last year which is longer and wider, I agree that this thing is heavy.
I made mine of 2×12 and I spent time selecting the straighter grain I could find.
For cost reason, my wises are from HF.
After I dried, mine shrunk over 1/4” wide-wise.
I believe that when finished my cost was around $250.00-300.00

-- Bert

View Ben 's profile


163 posts in 3330 days

#9 posted 12-16-2010 05:58 PM

Looks great! I have added it to my favorites and hope to make one like it someday.

View dbhost's profile


5705 posts in 3198 days

#10 posted 12-16-2010 06:06 PM

I am in the process of making a new bench. Okay prepping the stock for it. I have never been happy with the one I made last year. I got stupid and used Cedar. Too light, and the stuff flexes a LOT…

SYP is plentiful around here, but size selection is sort of weak. I am gluing up some stacks of 2×4 SYP then will plane that down to get 4×4s to make my legs. I had not considered a 2x lamination top, but seeing as I REALLY want the mass that I am missing I am honestly thinking it might be time to go that way… I guess the Cedar base can get attached to the PT 2×4 top I built for LOML’s potting bench. I need something bug and weather resistant anyway…

Do you folks have any advice on how to proceed with building one of these tops? It looks like Bert said he did his out of 2×12. I am guessing there was a lot of ripping of long stock involved then… And I am assuming that there will be a good deal of hand planing to be done once it comes out of the clamps…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View b2rtch's profile


4851 posts in 3014 days

#11 posted 12-16-2010 06:26 PM

Chris Swartz recommended to use 2×12x10, as that is structural lumber and so it is better quality wood; ie less knots and straighter grain.
Yes there is a lot of ripping and doing everything alone was quite a bit of work but I am very pleased the result.
I used tiebond 3 glue, which sets quite fast.
If you want mass, this the way to go, this thing is extra heavy, I am a strong man and I can hardly lift one end.
I first ripped the 2×12 and I selected the best face up, then I glued them 3 or 4 together.
Then I made this 1.00” pipe ( extra heavy walls= not flexing) clamps.
Then I glued the whole top.
If I was going to make it again I would make the legs and stretchers heavier, they work fine as they are but for the look I would like them more massive.
I bought two end wises from HF and I installed them.
Finished the top is 2 5/8” thick.
I also made the crochet (hook) and the adjustable rest. They work fantastic when you work an a long piece to work on.
I drilled holes for hold fasts also in the runner right under the top, and then I built the shelves under and a drawer.
( sorry Neil for hijacking your blog!).
If necessary send a PM for more question

-- Bert

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1567 posts in 3531 days

#12 posted 12-16-2010 08:18 PM

Good looking workbench top Neil, now just be careful so not to hurt yourself moving that behemoth!

Did you flatten the top yet? or are you waiting until it is on the base?

Are you going to draw bore the mortise and tenon joints? I did on mine and they are just as tight today as a year ago, no wiggling on this bench.

Anyway, good luck on this “rite of passage ” bench project, it will be fun to follow along.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3639 days

#13 posted 12-17-2010 01:19 AM

Bert, thats a nice looking workbench!

View Woodwrecker's profile


4137 posts in 3542 days

#14 posted 12-17-2010 04:29 PM

That’s going to be a nice bench Neil!
I’m moving in to a smaller shop and put a two layer MDF, one layer Oak Ply & one tempered hardboard conglomeration on top of four large tool boxes I got at HD along one wall, and it looks like it’s going to work out fine.
I’m looking forward to seeing your bench when it’s done.
Thanks for posting it.

-- Eric, central Florida / Utor praemia operibus duris

View jack1's profile


2103 posts in 3993 days

#15 posted 12-18-2010 01:05 AM

Just in time to serve Xmas Dinner too! What are you serving??? Nice bench, seriously.

-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

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