The Workbench #3: The Hybrid

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Blog entry by Tomcat1066 posted 01-30-2008 12:55 PM 1437 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: The Next Step Part 3 of The Workbench series no next part

This morning I awoke to the meows of a hungry cat. This is fairly typical. She knows that I get up at 5:00 AM during the week, so she makes sure I don’t oversleep. This is usually a good thing, except she does the same thing on weekends. Anyways, I digress. After feeding the cat, I pop over to Chris Schwarz's blog on the Woodworking magazine site. It usually has all sorts of interesting bits of information. Today, he posted a workbench built by one of his readers.

He had been asked what his dream bench was, and he finally responded a French style bench with Holtzapffel work holding. Well, someone else built this bad boy! In the right corner is the twin screw vise. One the end, it looks like just a quick release vise. A sliding deadman, holdfast holds, and dog holes round out this interesting bench. Honestly, it just looks simple to build, sturdy, and would easily handle damn near anything I can see myself throwing at it.

The question is, is it the design I’m looking for? Another thought I had bouncing around my noodle was to just use a crochet on the front in conjunction with holdfasts, a very traditional approach, and use the twin screw vise on the end. I could still cut dovetails and such with the twin screw, and the crochet approach would let me end joint almost any sized workpiece. However, this might work better in a larger shop, and this idea popped into my head when imagining making enough profit from the sale of this house I’m currently in to pay for the shop. However, that might not happen, so I have to be realistic.

Designing a workbench is a real pain for me. Everything I’ve read says that the workbench is the most important tool, especially for a hand tool workshop. The odd thing is, if I hadn’t been looking at moving in a couple of months, I might have already thrown something together that would have been less than ideal. So, the delay is, ultimately, a good thing. It will force me to make sound decisions rather than running off half cocked and be disappointed with the result.

While I doubt I’ll find the perfect workbench design first time out, I have to make sure it’s a good design that will work for what my plans are. So…here’s hoping!

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

6 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3844 days

#1 posted 01-30-2008 01:33 PM

A good bench is a valuable tool to have but like any other tool in the shop you can come up with a suitable alternative. If I were in your situation I would worry about the bench when I was in a position to design, build and put one to use. From your description of you shop space it would be cramped to put in a regular sized bench at this time. A smaller bench may suit your purposes now.

Just a thought.

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

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3984 days

#2 posted 01-30-2008 02:05 PM

Work benches are everything from a door on sawhorses to the most elaborate things you can imagine. Start with some kind of table and go from there. Until you are working on it you won’t know what will suit you best.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3818 days

#3 posted 01-30-2008 03:11 PM

Well, my plan is for a 2’x5’ workbench that should fit in the small shop well enough. The real trick will be which design will work best initially, or at least appear to work best. Obviously, there’s a good possibility that it won’t work that well for me, but I’ll never know until I try ;)

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View jcees's profile


1060 posts in 3821 days

#4 posted 01-30-2008 03:23 PM

Ditto on Thos. Angle’s notion. I built the top to my bench about five years ago and am just now building the base. While it is more of a traditional cabinet base I did steal a feature I read about a few years ago. I can access the drawers from BOTH sides.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I knew what I wanted for the top and vises but I wasn’t sure what height would be best so I used an old table base that I got free from a school that was cleaning out their shed and simply added chunks of 2×4 to adjust the height and thereby figure out where I needed to be. So in other words, DO SOMETHING! You can’t do anything without a surface to clamp, chop, saw, plane and assemble on.

I also suggest you go for MASS in whatever you do. Especially If you’re going to work on your hand skills. A wobbly bench is not to be suffered. Whether you’re pushing a plane or chopping a mortise a bench needs to NOT move. Everything else can be worked out with regards to your methods and the work you produce.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3805 days

#5 posted 01-30-2008 03:24 PM

Or you could go the route of Christopher Schwarz and build like 10+ benches. Oh yeah, and have a sweet job that gives you someplace to put them all.

-- Eric at

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3818 days

#6 posted 01-30-2008 04:12 PM


I agree with you completely. It’s actually the reason I’m leaning toward a French style over the English style which I prefer aesthetically to the French. I’m just not sure the English bench would have enough mass for me.

I will probably see about clearing out the room that will be the shop this weekend so I can actually get started in building the bench and using the space since I’m antsy and I already have keys. I’m sort of tired just looking at other people’s work. I want to crank out something myself!

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

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