An Inexpensive Workbench #1: base complete & hand planing the top

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Blog entry by Rob posted 01-16-2009 08:11 AM 7163 reads 3 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of An Inexpensive Workbench series Part 2: Mounting the top and vise »

I’ve been working on a new bench and thought I’d share the progress in case anyone is interested. I read Scott Landis’ Workbench book and a few excerpts from the Swartz’s book and I’ve come up with this. I’ve totally cheaped-out so far, and so far no regrets. Everything accept the vise faces is going to be constuction lumber; 2×6’s and 2×4’s (where I come from these are made from Spruce). $60 is the total bill for the base and top so far; I haven’t bought the jaws yet.

Here is the base. The dimensions are 33 high, 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. Once the top is on the bench should sit at 36” the same height as my table saw so that it can be used to help support long boards for infeeding. The joinery for the base is with dadoes.


Tonight I glued up the 2×4’s for the top. I picked the straightest boards from the Home Depot pile. I know you should let wood acclimatise but I wanted to get them together while they were still straight so I glued them up right away. It gives me a bench top over 3” thick so I’ve got room to plane it flat again if need be.


I then cut the glue up down to 6 feet in length with my circular saw. And then I broke out my new (well really old actually but new to me) jointer plane and went to town. This is a lot of fun and excellent exercise to boot. First I planed the bottom flat, flipped it and started on the top. This pic is where I’m at now, mid-way though the top. I’m done for the night, I feel spent after planing for two hours straight!


16 comments so far

View BarryW's profile


1015 posts in 3935 days

#1 posted 01-16-2009 10:29 AM

It looks very solid…

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3851 days

#2 posted 01-16-2009 01:25 PM

The bench is looking pretty good so far and I like your use of construction lumber. It does look like you got a nice workout flattening the top. :)

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View PKP's profile


95 posts in 3475 days

#3 posted 01-16-2009 03:13 PM

I like it so far.

View AaronK's profile


1506 posts in 3493 days

#4 posted 01-16-2009 03:39 PM

yeah, it looks sweet.

what sort of joinery are you using, and how is the top affixed to the frame?

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3790 days

#5 posted 01-16-2009 03:45 PM

A really neat project. Are you going to drill a double row of dog holes down the length?

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Rob 's profile


216 posts in 3696 days

#6 posted 01-16-2009 03:46 PM


Thanks. I used a simple lap joint for the base. I haven’t affixed the top to it yet. In the pics I’m planing it on my assembly/outfeed table. I just screwed the table to it temporarilly.


View Rob 's profile


216 posts in 3696 days

#7 posted 01-16-2009 03:50 PM


So far I only have one vise to put on and I haven’t decided whether to use the front or tail to mount it. So I’ll definitely drill holes where I need them. Any suggestions on the vise?


View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3757 days

#8 posted 01-16-2009 03:56 PM

Its looking good so far. I have a question if you don’t mind my asking. One think I’d been thinking about is how to handle the rounded over edges on the lumber. It there a reason you didn’t rip the boards first on a table saw to remove the bulk of the material? I was thinking that maybe there would be two reasons:

1) you wanted to have some fun with a new toy (jointer plane)
2) you figured the glue up might not be that level and a lot of planing would be necessary anyway

I just wanted to get your thoughts. Keep up the great work and thanks for the post.

View spaids's profile


699 posts in 3722 days

#9 posted 01-16-2009 04:17 PM

I am so intimidated by the process of flattening a workbench top with a hand plane. Had you done this before?

-- Wipe the blood stains from your blade before coming in.--

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3656 days

#10 posted 01-16-2009 04:20 PM

That’s a whole lot of hand planing with a jointer. I am with Hokie, I would have rip’d em first. Would save you about 3/8in of hand planing to remove the rounds. For removing that much material I would use my no5 set with a wide mouth. Can’t say that I have ever gotten that adventurous though. Closest I have gotten was face planing a cupped/warped 9ft x 8in board.

Kudos for diving in and going for it. How much life are you getting out of your blade?

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View jackd942's profile


44 posts in 3840 days

#11 posted 01-16-2009 04:48 PM

Nice bench. What kind of finish are you planning to use on the top?

-- --Jack D - Southeast Missouri --

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3911 days

#12 posted 01-16-2009 05:30 PM

Good for you. That’s a lot of planing. At least it is fairly soft wood.

I hand planed my top, but I never could get all the twist and dome out of it. Fun for a half hour. I don’t have enough patience, or a jointer plane. So I clamped straight boards to the sides and made a simple router sled. Leveled the top pronto. Then I skimmed it again with a plane.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Rob 's profile


216 posts in 3696 days

#13 posted 01-16-2009 06:02 PM


I thought about ripping the boards but I hesitated because I wasn’t sure how the glue up would go. These were 2×4s; I tried to get the straightest ones but they are still 2×4’s. I also want to end up with the thickest top possible for weight and future flattenings.


No, never!


Yeah, In retrospect I’m thinking I should have broken out the jack plane for a while. Oh well. I am getting some thick shaves with the jointer though and everything is staying nice and flat.

I think I’ll go with an oil/varnish. Something that wipes on easy.

I thought about the router sled but it seemed anithetical. I making the bench so that I can plane boards easier so I may as well get the practice with the top!

To all,
I appreciate the comments, questions and general interest. I plan on doing some more work today so I should have an update soon. Take care.


View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3757 days

#14 posted 01-17-2009 06:14 AM

thanks for the reply. I’ll keep my eyes open for the updates. I’m going to go take an advil now. The thought of that planing is making me sore! lol, actually I’m quite impressed.

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 3817 days

#15 posted 01-17-2009 06:39 PM

This is a great bench. Since the advent of Schwarz’s book there has been an explosion of benches out there. I really like that you are keeping it simple as so many (me included) are making really complex benches. Great job on flattening the top and saving time by just glueing the 2×4 together. This would be a great use for a fore plane or even a scrub plane to level then to the jointer but god bless you for jumping straight to the jointer plane!

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

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