A Workbench's Progress #6: Base plan

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Blog entry by TheGravedigger posted 06-03-2007 04:39 AM 5100 reads 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Leveling the playing field Part 6 of A Workbench's Progress series Part 7: The Base Begins »

Workbench base plan.

As requested, here is my basic plan for the workbench base. This was my first (semi) successful drawing with Google SketchUp, so please pardon the crudeness. I plan on starting on this phase in the next week or two (after payday).

The wood will be southern yellow pine dimension lumber. With the exception of the 2x6 lower stretchers, the rest will be 2x4's. The upper stretchers will be single thickness, the outside legs and feet will be glue-lams of 2 studs, and the center legs and foot will be three studs thick. The reason for the additional thickness in the center is to allow for deeper mortises for the opposing tenons. The front-to-back stretchers are offset for the same reason.

The reason for using feet instead of straight legs is to alleviate the need for front-to-back stretchers at the bottom. This lets me place my 2x6's lower, giving more room for the later addition of tool storage cabinets between the legs. It's not shown in the drawing, but each foot will have a slight relief cutaway in the center, leaving a pad at each end to help compensate for any unevenness in the floor or later warpage.

All joints will be 1" thick pegged mortise-and-tenon, with as much length and width as possible. The upper stretchers will be low enough to clear the hardware for the front vise, but still give as much cabinet space as possible. The top will have 1" holes that fit over 3/4" pegs in the top of each leg. This should keep the top in place and still allow for wood movement during climactic changes.

Overall height, including the benchtop, will be 38" (hey, I'm 6'4").

I'm wondering if I should raise the 2x6 stretchers up some for more racking resistance, or if they'll be fine where they are. I want room for cabinets, but not at the expense of strength. The present distance between upper and lower stretchers is now 22".

Any thoughts, questions, or suggestions will be greatly appreciated

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

11 comments so far

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4125 days

#1 posted 06-03-2007 04:58 AM

Great plan. Any thoughts about adding dog holes to the legs?

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

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 4051 days

#2 posted 06-03-2007 05:18 AM

Yes, dog holes and/or a sliding deadman. The deadman may actually be an add-on to the front. I’ll have to see how the whole thing actually goes together.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View CapnRon's profile


27 posts in 4056 days

#3 posted 06-03-2007 05:57 PM

Nice looking drawing, ours look vary similar, I’ll be sure to post pics when I’m done.

-- ~Capn Ron, workin wood is a way of life...

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4166 days

#4 posted 07-01-2007 03:39 PM

Robert -

Obviously some budding SketchUp skills demonstrated – excellent! This is going to be a very sturdy bench – looking forward to the projects that are built your bench!


View Kirk's profile


111 posts in 4081 days

#5 posted 07-09-2007 02:18 AM


How long it the bench?

Center legs, if you made them the same, they have a thru mortis, then cut the ends of the tenons at a 45 degree angle and have it like one long stretcher.

I don’t have upper stretchers to allow room for storage/box of some type.

1” pegs should be a beautiful site…

As for the 1” hole and ¾” pegs, if you ever want to move the bench you will have to move two pieces? Expansion, I better not get any.

I really like your design over all. Heavy, solid. Just what you need in a workbench.

W. Kirk Crawford
Tularosa, New Mexico

-- W. Kirk Crawford - Tularosa, New Mexico

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4338 days

#6 posted 07-09-2007 02:31 AM

I’m no expert, but I feel once you put the top on there should be no problem with racking. Your drawing looks like a nice sturdy base for your bench.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 4051 days

#7 posted 07-09-2007 03:05 PM


The top is 74” long and 27” wide. The upper stretchers are set 3” below the bench top to clear the vise hardware on the front vise. I originally went with 2”, but my mockup showed that this would interfere with the opening of the quick-release nut. I added the upper stretchers specifically because the top was not directly connected to the base. You’re in a fairly dry climate in New Mexico, but in central MS the humidity can fluctuate greatly between summer and winter, making wood movement a real concern. This design still gives me about 18” of height for two cabinets. This should be plenty for planes, chisels, measuring tools, etc. I’ll have plenty of storage room overall in my shop (30’ x 40’), so I primarily want to store the “good stuff” in the bench.

I added the center support because I was concerned about sag in the spruce top over time. If I had it to do over, I would probably use SYP instead of whitewood, but sag would still be a concern. Oh well, time will tell. Really, replacing the top wouldn’t be that big a deal now that I’ve done it once.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View Chris 's profile


1879 posts in 4018 days

#8 posted 07-13-2007 04:33 AM


As I am 6’ 4” as well I have couple of questions. I am at the point of needing to build my first bench Are you planning to use this soley for hand tools or a combination of hand and power?

And… How did you arrive at this height?

I have been trying to determine how tall to make it as I blew a couple of discs in my back while in the military.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 4051 days

#9 posted 07-13-2007 02:11 PM

I’m planning on using it for both hand and power tools. This bench truly is an experiment for me, and the ergonomics is a part of the process. I wanted it to be low enough to give me good authority with a plane, but high enough that I didn’t have to bend over too far for chiseling, scraping, etc. Plus, I wanted to be able to stand fairly straight when running sanders and other such long-use power tools.

I started with the present height of the benchtop on sawhorses, which is about 34”. This was just low enough that I had to bend over slightly to place my palms flat on the bench. 38” worked out to give me “flat palms” standing erect with slightly bent elbows. This seemed to be a good compromise height. I guess only time will tell.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View AZZO's profile


12 posts in 2601 days

#10 posted 05-24-2011 12:52 PM

Nice sketch and a unsual bench, one question, i don’t know because i see a lot of workbenches with just 2 stretchers, since the legs hold in the top, is there need to all that stretchers?
My bench is kinda heavy and i have 3 stretchers instead of the usual 2 i see a lot, do you think make a difference?

Please visit my sketchs of my future workbench:

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 4051 days

#11 posted 05-24-2011 02:59 PM

In this case, the top isn’t joined to the top in the normal manner. It sits on large dowels that project out of the tops of the legs. This makes it possible to break the bench down into two parts to move it. The fit is good, and the top isn’t “shifty”. However, I don’t think it’s secure enough to dispense with the upper stretcher.

On something like a Roubo, with the legs fit directly into the top with those massive through tenons, no upper stretcher would be needed.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

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