Workbench #1: Replacing an old bench

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Blog entry by David Craig posted 02-24-2012 09:36 PM 3628 reads 2 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Workbench series Part 2: Wrapping it up »

For the last few years, I have been doing the majority of my work on an old bench that was in my basement when I moved in. As a work surface for dropping old oily lawnmower parts or fiddling with a child’s broken toy, it was adequate. For woodworking, not so much. The height of the bench is about 36 inches and the width was a little over 3 feet. The boards have shifted over the years and the surface was very uneven. The amount of nails and screws made it impossible to safely flatten and posed too much of a danger to my blades to attempt to reuse the lumber. This is what it looked like before complete disassembly -

I needed a bench with a thick, flat surface, some heft and rigidity for planing. I have a basement shop so the dimensions are going to be 5 feet long with a depth of 20 inches. Design is from a variety of sources including a weekend workbench design by Shop Notes and some articles by Chris Schwartz. No drawers will be added as I need a bench not a cabinet. Aprons and drawers will only get in the way of clamping so I will work on some cabinetry for storage in the future and will make a foldaway assembly table for finishing and assembly work. This will strictly be used for working the lumber into parts. This will not be designed as robust as other workbenches I have seen on here, but should fit the bill to end much frustration I have experienced in the past.

Legs are not mortised but half lapped with the side stretchers. The legs and stretchers are 4×4 generously donated by a friend -

For the top, I picked up some SYP from a local lumber company. They only stocked 2×8s so had to rip to size the boards. I ran the faces through a planer not to flatten but to give a decent face to face glue-up. Due to the amount of sap in the wood, I gave each board a wipe down of acetone. This was advised in an article by Schwartz as it cleans the surface but also evaporates quickly. Sappy pine can resist glue absorption so a thorough wipe down removes any substances that causes the pores to resist soaking up the glue. I utilized about every clamp I had in the shop (and probably came up a little short) and was able to get a decent face to face glue-up. After that, I used a scrub plane, jack plane, and jointer plane to flatten the surface. Scrub planes can be aggressive in stock removal. I have a planer for thicknessing so I actually set my scrub plane with a more gentle sweep so that I can flatten in a hurry, but not at the cost of losing too much thickness. After flattening and smoothing, I mixed some glue and fine saw dust to make a paste to fill in any slight gaps. Gaps were surface only (I didn’t have perfectly flat stock) and did not run deeper than probably 1/8th of an inch. It just makes for a more pleasant appearance.

All the knots are on the bottom of the bench (that is what is currently shown) so that imperfections are not on the work surface. It will also make planning out the layout of dog holes easier because I will drill from the bottom and I can work around all knotted surfaces. I will add the front stretches to the legs, mount the bench top, and surface the top next. I have a wood vise I found at a garage sale for 5 bucks. It is a HF model but will suit my purposes just fine. I have a couple days off next week, so hopefully I will have some pics of a finished bench then.

Thanks to all for looking and keep the saw dust flying,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

12 comments so far

View cabmaker's profile


1731 posts in 2808 days

#1 posted 02-24-2012 09:42 PM

Boy David you took care of that problem. Nice job !

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4174 posts in 3164 days

#2 posted 02-24-2012 09:45 PM

Go for it. At least you have a reasonable project in mind, as opposed to my multipurpose bench, which kept me occupied a long time. So here is to a new bench, hope the birthing is without issues…........

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3672 days

#3 posted 02-24-2012 10:00 PM

Nice progress, David.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3108 days

#4 posted 02-24-2012 10:00 PM

Thank you cabmaker. The comments are appreciated.

Dr. Bertelson – I am not so cocky as to lecture an OB physician on the thought that all labor comes with some pain :) Fortunately this is not my first child so I know that the elongated head will eventually reform itself to be normal, the blue body will eventually be pink, and the crying only means it is healthy :)

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3108 days

#5 posted 02-24-2012 10:02 PM

Thank you Charles. I apologize for the lack of commentary of late but congratulations on your own workshop renovations. It is looking awesome!

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3115 days

#6 posted 02-24-2012 11:33 PM

here we wonder what you was tinkering with
and then you come up with a demolition job finished
and halfway thrugh a new build bench …. I´ll bett its going to serve you well :-)

good to see your smile again David
take care

View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2804 days

#7 posted 02-25-2012 12:38 AM

oh yessssss. that is comin along nicely. that’ll be an awesome bench

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

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2997 days

#8 posted 02-25-2012 02:25 AM

Looks solid, enjoy it !
The old one does have character though.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4174 posts in 3164 days

#9 posted 02-25-2012 04:17 AM

Hmmm, just looking, thinking, that’s a mistake….......

Those photos, hmmmmmmm, “baroque” comes to mind…......
......does that work…..?......(-:

Off to finish dinner…......

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3036 days

#10 posted 02-25-2012 02:55 PM

Nice work, David. I like a ‘no-nonsense’ workbench.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4246 days

#11 posted 02-25-2012 09:55 PM

You have really been busy buddy, looks really good. Got my 18” Ricon in the snowstorm yesterday, worst damn day of the year. Great guy though he slid all the way back to the garage and help me wrestle all 390 lbs into the garage. Tore up the yard pretty bad.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3108 days

#12 posted 02-26-2012 12:19 AM

Thanks everyone for the comments. “No-nonsense” is a good way of putting it Martyn. A simple bench that does what I need it to do as adverse to a complex one that doesn’t. Definitely not a slam against your bench Jim. That is an incredible piece of design and effort. I don’t think I would describe my piece as Baroque and to quote a Disney pun, “If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it…” Dennis, always a pleasure to exchange with you. I may be absent at times but am still tinkering :)

canadianchips I like the look of age and appreciate character in any piece. Unfortunately, the bench was created by the previous owner of this house whose “character” is seen in many projects in this house :) His bench was a classic representation of poor design and the excessive use of hardware in attempts to cover it. I am glad it is gone. I didn’t show the true gore of the piece, otherwise you would truly understand.

Mike glad you are not reporting that you lugged that megalith on your own. I will give you a hand with the beast next week.

Thanks for commenting Roger, I will hopefully have a finished project to display soon.

Thanks again all,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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