A Solid Foundation to Build a Future - A New Workbench #3: The Top

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Blog entry by bfd posted 08-24-2009 01:25 AM 3809 reads 3 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: The base comes together Part 3 of A Solid Foundation to Build a Future - A New Workbench series no next part

This has been an off and on project for me for several months. I have put it on the back burner to take a few commisions and finally got around to working on the top. To make things easier on me from a time stand point I bought a premade butcher block top and added the aprons saving me the time of milling all that lumber. The first thing that I tackle is routing the tongue on each end that will support each end cap. I route a 3/4” groove on each end cap.

Next I layout the dovetails on each apron and cut the tails first on my band saw and then the pins. I try any means necessary to remove the waste. Ultimately I end up removing most of the waste with a router and then following up with the good old chisel and malet. I decide that the front apron will have 3 tails while the end aprons will have one large tail on the back.

Once all the dovetails are cut I dry fit the aprons and when I am satisfied with the fit I then start work on the two vises. I ordered two large front vises from Lee Valley. The directions were very straight forward.

Once the carriage for the vise is mounted I am able to drill the holes in the right leg to alllow the vises’ screw and guide rods to pass through the leg.

At the same time I layout and cut the notches on each of the legs to receive the front apron. This is done with my dozuki hand saw. This allows the apron to sit flush with the plane of the leg.

I drill double rows of 3/4” round dog holes in the top.

Starting with the back apron I secure it to the top using lag screws. Next the side aprons are attached in the same manor. For the side apron I allow for movement. Finally I attach the front apron. To simplify this process I use 3 clamps to “walk” the apron in to final position. I secure it with 3 lag screws. Each apron is 1/16 high so that I will be able plane it down to the hgt of the top. I do this with my #5 and #4 planes.


Once the top is perfectly flat and level I flip the top over with the help of my friend. I locate and install the two cleats that are seated in the top of each leg and prevent the top from moving on me. We set the top and then I sand the top and put the first of 3 coats of whip on poly on. Here are a few shots.

Next Step is to work on the drawers.

13 comments so far

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2497 posts in 2529 days

#1 posted 08-24-2009 02:31 AM

Boy, that wood is beautiful and the dovetailing and attention to detail look perfect from here. A pleasure to see. Thanks for the post.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 2327 days

#2 posted 08-24-2009 02:33 AM

Wow, looking great so far.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View huff's profile


2826 posts in 2377 days

#3 posted 08-24-2009 02:40 AM

Great looking bench, a really nice addition to your shop. Looking forward to the drawers.

-- John @

View a1Jim's profile


113836 posts in 2669 days

#4 posted 08-24-2009 02:42 AM

Wow Brian thats a fantastic bench a real beauty.

-- Custom furniture

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile


665 posts in 2365 days

#5 posted 08-24-2009 02:58 AM


-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

View Chuck 's profile


88 posts in 2292 days

#6 posted 08-24-2009 03:00 AM

wow. Just … wow.

-- Chuck, Washington D.C.

View blackcherry's profile


3251 posts in 2915 days

#7 posted 08-24-2009 04:01 AM

Nice work all around. The tail are beautiful…thanks for posting Blkcherry

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8828 posts in 3191 days

#8 posted 08-24-2009 05:08 AM

Love the modern design! I really like our vision for furniture overall.

Purchasing a manufactured top was a smart way to go. They are very cost effective and of good quality, you can’t make one for what they cost to buy.

Great work.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13347 posts in 2765 days

#9 posted 08-24-2009 05:23 AM

Great bench!

View Napaman's profile


5439 posts in 3169 days

#10 posted 08-24-2009 05:52 AM

wow…this is really amazing!! you are an amazing craftsperson!!! nice work…

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View majeagle1's profile


1423 posts in 2588 days

#11 posted 08-24-2009 06:05 PM

As usual Brian, nothing but “Top Notch” !!!!

This is going to be another work of art, I would be afraid to do any work on it i think…...

Would love to see it in person…............

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View PurpLev's profile


8522 posts in 2740 days

#12 posted 08-24-2009 06:11 PM

looks fantastic!

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

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 2899 days

#13 posted 08-24-2009 08:07 PM

Thanks everyone for your comments they are truly appreciated. I just have to muster up enough energy to get this thing done and start putting it to good use.

Gene, anytime you want to swing by just let me know. It would be great to see you again and give you the nickle tour of my very, very humble shop.

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