Workbench - Start to Finish #2: Building the Base

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Blog entry by beaudex posted 07-08-2008 02:05 PM 1244 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Design Part 2 of Workbench - Start to Finish series Part 3: The Top »

Well on to the building:

As I mentioned in my first post I would recommend that you complete the workbench as though it were 2 projects, the base and the top. Both portions of this project demand exacting results so it pays to put the effort into each one individually. Spreaking from experience I thought ‘how hard is it to glue a bunch of lumber together to make a slab top’. Trust me its hard enough.

So the base, I did not mention lumber selection in the design post so let me touch on it here. I chose red oak for the base mainly because I had a bunch of stock that I lucked into from an old neighbour that I had no use for it. Had I had to buy it I may well have ended up buying the same species as red oak is fairly cheap and plentiful locally running about 2.50-3.00 a board foot if you know where to look. I chose the ash simply because I thought I should try playing around with the stuff.

So I started with the legs, I decided on 2 1/4” square legs because it was a multiple of 3/4”. I laminated 3 peices of 3/4” stock together to form the legs. had I bought the stock for this project I would have bought solid legs if only for the nicer look. The legs were by far the most complicated part of the base, they had to have 4 mortises in each as well as a rabbet for the plywood. I had thought when gluing up the laminated legs I would leave a gap for the mortices but I gave up on that as its faster to layout and cut the mortises then planning out the gaps prior to lamination.

I had a hard time trying to decide on the joints I would use for the mortises, I am still unsure about whether I made the right choice. Please find a clipped sketch-up image below detailing the rough joint design(please note I have never used sketch-up before today so please bear with my learning curve).

Internal mortise joint Internal mortise joint

So cutting the parts went fairly routinely and it came time for assembly. You defintely want to dry fit these parts prior to assembly. As well you want to be sure you have plan about assembing them. I ended up with three steps, the sides, the front and back and finally the center post(plywood) I left this part until the end to hand fit it in case of things being slightly out of square (heaven forbid).

I mentioned using brass pins on the joints (see photo below) I chose brass only because I love the look. I have never seen it done before so my thought was that it does not work that well but it has held up for 3 years on the bench. In the end I think it would look loads better if I had used it on a darker wood. Another thing to note about this image is that I failed to flatten the bottom of the top, in retrospect I should have done both sides of the top (someeday I will take it apart and flatten the bottom)

Brass pinned joint

At the time I had read that the PVA gllue (gorilla glue) was the best you could buy so I used it. Now having read more about the glue I would not use it again, Having to wet each joint prior to assembly and with the short open time I will never use it again. Plus the literature now says that yellow glue is stronger.

Well that the base in a nutshell. I had planned on removing my old bench once the base was done but as you can see from the photo below I ended up keeping the top of my old bench and put it on the new base while I worked on the top.(I actually ended up building a project out of walnut between the 2 projects you can see parts of it on the top in the photo) The next post building the top (minus the tail vise).

new base old top

-- Derek Tay, Venerate the Tree Design

4 comments so far

View SPalm's profile


5249 posts in 3302 days

#1 posted 07-08-2008 03:27 PM

Good Stuff. I see that you also use your bench for a drafting/thinking table. This was a big dilema for me (too much thinking about it). I opted to make a heavy bench with two vises and lots of dog holes for clamping/banging. I then place a smaller sheet of hardboard on top for drawing and finishing.

Another concern I had was being able to pull up a stool and rest my feet a bit. This negated under the bench storage, at least for now.

You do fine work. I don’t know if any bench solves all the problems.

Thanks for the blog,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View beaudex's profile


64 posts in 3059 days

#2 posted 07-08-2008 03:54 PM


Thanks for the comments, I like to do alot of drafting/thinking at the bench. In fact since I finished the bench I find myself actually doing at little watercolour painting now and then as well. One thing I found recently which I think is great is a huge peice of tool leather. I got a 2 ft by 2 ft peice for about 20$ which I leave on the bench like a placemat. I use this leather to place hand tools on and to draw on etc.. I highly recommend this for anyone doing alot of hand work, drawing or router work. I find I use it as a collector for all the tools I am currently using, if it is not on the leather then it should be put away.

Hope this helps,


-- Derek Tay, Venerate the Tree Design

View Texasgaloot's profile


464 posts in 3121 days

#3 posted 07-08-2008 10:35 PM

I’ve found the solution for conflicting bench needs: two benches. I have one for my traditional joinery which I insist stays clean (it’s a Woodcraft cheapy, but so far it’s getting the job done until I can afford that huge haul of maple.) The other is my “ghetto bench,” which I’m trying to win the “ugly bench” award with. Normally I keep a carpet scrap on top of it for when I work on violins and such, which I haven’t been doing much of so consequently it’s the catch-all. That way I can keep any metal work off my good work bench.

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

View Kipster's profile


1076 posts in 3173 days

#4 posted 07-08-2008 11:50 PM

Thanks for sharing.

-- Kip Northern Illinois ( If you don't know where your goin any road will take you there) George Harrison

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