Work Bench #1: The rails

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Blog entry by Woodfix posted 07-02-2009 10:50 AM 1542 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Work Bench series Part 2: The Verticals »

A work bench is variously described as the most important tool in the woodworker’s shop, or a wood worker’s right of passage. My motivation is I need a bench to work off and I dont have one. In deciding what type of bench to make, I looked far and wide on the net. A lot of information is available and certainly there are a lot of good ideas out there. The other consideration is do I make the bench a work of fine furniture in itself, or be more pragmatic about it.

Another student at the class I go to is making the traditional bench. Wedged tenons to hold the verticals to the rails. The stretchers have through tenons with wedges to hold the stretchers tight to the verticals. He is also going to have a twin screw tail vice and a front vice. This sounds like a lot of work for something that is likely to get a lot of knocks and scrapes.

Finally, my overall aim is to be able to reproduce the quality I am achieving in class at home, so I thought a good starting point is have a similar bench to work off. Sooooo, my bench is going to be an exact copy of the benches in class. That is; top rail, and bottom rail supported by two verticals at each end of the bench. Between each vertical is a stretcher. That means two stretchers at the same level (forming the support for a shelf). The top will be laminated but no bread board ends and no apron. Lastly there will be a 230mm Dawn quick release vice at the front left.

Here are my working drawings.


I am making this bench out of New Guinea Rosewood. The reason for this is that it is going in an outdoor courtyard and Roy assures me that it will resist the weather well. I also considered Kwila. Here is the rough sawn timber for the rails and verticals, as I got it. The slab for the stretchers can be seen behind.


The first day of work resulted in the rails being pretty much finished. This involved:
1 Cutting to rough length by hand x 2.
2. Ripping these 2 down the middle. This gave me 4 rough rails.
3. Using the jointer to flatten a side on each.
4. Using the jointer to make another side flat and square to the first.
5. The thicknesser was used to make size the timber. Some rough sawing marks were left on one side of some of the rails. This was because to removed them and make all the same would have made them to thin. These marks will either be against the floor or against the underside of the top.
6. Then I used the table saw with the cross cut sled to cut the rails to the exact length.
7. Next I marked the mortises. There are 8.
8. Using a spade bit I drilled out these mortises. These are not through mortises, they go about 3/4 of the way through the rails.
9. Lastly I used a hollow chisel mortiser to cut out the mortises.

The only other thing I did on the first day was rough cut the timber for the stretchers by hand. New Guinea Rosewood can be a bit wet. By rough cutting it, it will dry a bit better before it is dressed to size . Here is how it all looked at the end of my first day.


For those interested, this timber cost me $160 Australian and I have yet to buy the timber for the top .

-- I would rather have the most memories, than the most money.

6 comments so far

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 3360 days

#1 posted 07-02-2009 01:01 PM

Hey Woodfix,
That sure looks like it’s going to be a very strong bench….....pity the timber costs so much.
Are you going to build any cabinets under the bench and what kind of dog holes…round….square.?

View degoose's profile


7233 posts in 3353 days

#2 posted 07-02-2009 01:18 PM

Hey mate,
NGR will be very suitable and very pretty for a bench, don’t know why more people don’t use it.

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3647 days

#3 posted 07-02-2009 03:38 PM

looks like good progress mate, I’m on the same boat, and in the same process of building my 2nd workbench, after working with the first, and figuring what works better, and what doesn’t work for me. If the bench at class is comfortable for you -then this is an excellent bench to make.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View patron's profile


13603 posts in 3340 days

#4 posted 07-03-2009 12:39 AM

i like your practical and direct aproach ,
this is a good place to set the foundation for many years,
of enjoyable woodworking ,
for you .
enjoy !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#5 posted 07-03-2009 01:45 AM

good start

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2803 days

#6 posted 11-08-2010 02:58 AM

One piece at a time. You’ll have an awesome bench when yer finished

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

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