A Workbench's Progress #1: In the Beginning

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Blog entry by TheGravedigger posted 05-29-2007 04:17 AM 1956 reads 14 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of A Workbench's Progress series Part 2: How to use a half-gallon of glue on one project. »

In the beginning were the catalogs, and in the catalogs were beautiful workbenches, and attached to the workbenches were not-so-beautiful prices.

Is there a single one of us that has looked at a catalog and not drooled over the incredible workbenches therein? Some may have unlimited funds, but I have trouble dropping a grand on a work surface. There are too many areas that have a greater demand on my hard-earned dollars. On the other hand, trying to edge-plane a board on a 6-foot folding “church dinner” table is counterproductive – the table and wood both take off across the floor at the first touch of a blade. Also, the height is definitely less than ideal for my 6’ 4” frame. Backaches were the order of the day. There had to be something better that was still affordable.

I picked up a copy of Popular Woodworking’s special issue on workbenches and shop cabinets, and compared designs. No single one was exactly what I was looking for, but many had features I wanted to incorporate, so I began to synthesize. I have an internal CAD system of sorts that lets me build projects in my head, so I considered my requirements:

  • A design that could be built out of common box-store dimension lumber.
  • Large front and end vises with wooden jaws and a bench dog system.
  • A sturdy base that would be rack-resistant, and allow me to add under-bench storage.
  • A working height that would be optimal for my height and work techniques.

I settled on a top made from dimension 2×4’s glued together in an edge-up orientation. I would add a pair of inexpensive quick-release vise hardware sets from Woodcraft (the Chinese, not the German) mated to maple jaws. This would rest on a base again made using standard dimension lumber in some sort of sturdy configuration.

The base details could wait till later. The objective for now was the top. The next step was a trip to Home Depot.

More to come in the next installment.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

7 comments so far

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4094 days

#1 posted 05-29-2007 04:19 AM

Looking forward to the next installment. I have a commercial bench and hope to make another bench one of these days.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4033 days

#2 posted 05-29-2007 04:13 PM

I too have a commercial bench but feel I missed a right of passage not building one. I look forward to this series.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4048 days

#3 posted 05-29-2007 08:43 PM

I look forward to seeing what you come up with. I am just starting to build mine now. I will be following a plan that I found on the internet.

-- Hope Never fails

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4397 days

#4 posted 05-30-2007 02:22 AM

gravedigger: I got lucky. I came across a bowling center going out of business. I got 3 lanes (the maple end, I didn’t want the fir.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 4021 days

#5 posted 05-30-2007 04:33 AM


Shucks, if it’s free, I’d take the whole lot! The fir would make great tabletops or assembly areas.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4158 days

#6 posted 05-30-2007 12:08 PM

the beginning of a great series!! This will be fun – you do all of the work and we’ll enjoy the benefits of watching it unfold :D

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4136 days

#7 posted 07-01-2007 03:23 PM

Robert -

Just reviewing this series again. Its great you started this because a bench is such an importan tool, and, a very personal tool. It will be interesting to see the final product!


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