Workbench #1: Initial lumber and milling

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Blog entry by VTWoody posted 03-27-2008 02:26 AM 1316 reads 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Workbench series Part 2: Top and Base Glue-up »

Since I caught the sawdust bug, I have read many a book and blog, watched many a video and bought many a tool. I have even built some of my tools, and while I am a pretty frugal person, I like to only buy things once and do not like moving up the levels of quality for any given tool. Sometimes this is not possible, and sometimes buying something is either not the most effective, cheapest, or best way to broaden my woodworking skills. While I love working out in my shop, the workbench that I do much of my work on is not really up to par for Woodworking. It seems more like a general purpose bench that I have added things (and not very well in my initial lack of skills) to to make it work a little bit better than it was intended for my purpose. As a result, I have lusted after a true traditional woodworking bench for quite some time. I have seen many a picture of great workbenches, and even purchased several of the books out there that delineate the construction alternatives (namely: Lon Schleining’s The Workbench and Scott Tolpin’s The Workbench Book) I looked at Christopher Schwarz’s book, but I ended up not purchasing it as I had basically already decided on a design in my head that was better suited to the other two books. After having read a great deal in books and on the internet, I went through my own design process. For me, this involves a great deal of pondering and mulling over options. I like to let ideas percolate in the back of my mind for a while to let the best ones filter down into the conscious (this also involves me making the extra money to buy the tools that support my habit :) )

Some of the things that I thought about while mulling the idea of building my workbench were: Cost—Could I afford to buy one of the commercial benches? The answer, probably not all at once. I can easily stretch the cost of something over a long period of time, as I am pretty patient, but plunking that much money down for something that would help me learn if I built it, didn’t make much sense to me. I thought I would be better off building the darn thing on my own and learning a few things along the way. Plus, I didn’t think I could get the initial cost of a large woodworking bench past my wife at the time, whereas I could sneak the relatively minor purchases of things by her over the long haul (We both have our vices, woodworking for me, and shoes and clothes for her. We just have that great unspoken agreement to keep our habits within limits LOL)

Space—How would one of these benches work in my limited shop? I love the look of the Frank Klauz benches, but that extended vise on the front just wouldn’t work for me. I had to decide on a different design. That different design ended up being the Dunbar bench for the most part. I made some modifications along the way, but overall, I liked the versatility of having a face vise that was pretty hefty and the an end vise in the same mold.

*Wood—What kind of wood would I be building this bench out of? While I ultimately may end up building a new bench down the line out of maple or beech, I thought the learning process and my skill level would not allow me to spend that much money on lumber that I would be just hacking at. Some day maybe, but not now. I decided to go with Douglas Fir, as it is readily available and cheap. Once I had made that decision, it was simply a matter of purchasing the best cheap lumber.

Sometime last summer, in between a vacation of a lifetime to Europe with my wife, and the beginning of the new school year, I purchased the best 2”x12”s that I could find at my local Home Depot (whatever one may say about HD, they have cheap lumber and it is just around the block from my home, so it is my easiest alternative in this area). As I knew I didn’t have a great deal of time to work in the shop and the lumber was still a little wet, I decided to lay them out and sticker them for a while until I could begin working on them later in the fall.

That time came in October when I had an extra day off. I pulled the boards out and chalked them up the way I wanted to rough cut them.

After having drawn out my rough outlines to get the top pieces out of these boards with the best grain and least number of knots, I rough cut the pieces for the top.

After I rough cut them that day, I jointed and planed them down to the sizes they would need to be for glue up in sections. I only have a 13” planer, so I would be gluing them up in approximately 6” sections, so I laid them out for best effect before I started gluing them up.

I think that’s about it for tonight, I will add more in a day or two.

8 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3987 days

#1 posted 03-27-2008 03:29 AM

Looking good. I look forward to seeing your progress.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3821 days

#2 posted 03-27-2008 03:54 AM

VT Woody,

I really like posts of this type whereby the construction process is documented in step-wise fashion. It is just enough material to be informative and keep the reader interested and ready for the next installment.

One of these is on my to do list (along with a myriad of others) so I will be following along with interest.

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

View coronet1967's profile


24 posts in 3949 days

#3 posted 03-27-2008 03:55 AM

excellent project and the best way to learn. that bench will teach you loads and then will be your companion for many years and projects.

jay angel

-- "not all those who wander are lost" JRR tolken

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 4113 days

#4 posted 03-27-2008 04:12 AM

I’m using Douglas Fir on bench and I’m really liking how it’s coming out. My lumber was cheap too and the bench is looking really good. I’m getting close to being done with my bench and can’t wait to put it to use.

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 3787 days

#5 posted 03-27-2008 04:18 AM

Can’t wait to see more of this blog. I think I will do the same once I get started on my bench. I have the lumber sitting stickered in my garage right now and I am hoping to get started in a few weeks after I wrap up some other projects. Nice work so far, love the format.

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

View Kevin's profile


291 posts in 3957 days

#6 posted 03-27-2008 04:50 AM

I like the looks of the Douglas Fir as well.

Can’t wait to see the end results.

-- Kevin, Wichita, Kansas

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3873 days

#7 posted 03-27-2008 10:32 AM

Coming along nicely. Thanks for posting the progress.

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4050 days

#8 posted 03-27-2008 02:19 PM

Thank you for the post and keep them comming.

-- Hope Never fails

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