The weekend bench

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Project by dsb1829 posted 01-15-2009 06:27 PM 4404 views 10 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Okay, unveiling the bench here in completed project land. Now that it has the finish on it I can call it complete (not sure a bench ever is, so this is as good a land mark as I can get). For those who visit the blog section the bench is nothing new…
It has been blogged throughout the entire construction process. Follow the link for some light reading.

For those that haven’t checked out the blog this is all news. For additional photos check out my picasa web albums. Here is the finished photo album:
Photos on my web album are bigger, more detail, and can even be blown up to full size to really check stuff out.

The bench was originally thought to be do-able in a 3 day weekend. I kind of missed the boat on that due to planning as I went and sorting out a lot of details that I hadn’t anticipated. I started the bench on Dec 27th and completed it on Jan 11th (okay, I spent 20 minutes applying finish last night for the sticklers). By my time tracking I logged just over 40 hours of work time. I imagine with solid planning and pre-milling of lumber that the bench could be built in a weekend.

101.5lg x 27wd x 36tall
Poplar – legs, aprons, braces, and shelf (mostly milled to 3.5wd x 1.75-2.0thk)
Oak – Vise mounting block and chocks (I still need to make an oak chock for the end vise, currently poplar)
MDF – Top is 4 layers from 2 sheets, shelf is 1 layer

(I am only going to include the cost of materials in the bench as pictured. I had a fair amount of excess wood, glue, hardware, and finish left in the end. Last tally by the receipts was about $400.)
$70 – 2-1/2 sheets of 3/4in mdf
$60 – rough poplar (approx 60bdft)
$40 – S4S oak for vises, 1in x 8in x 8ft (1X), 1in x 4in x 8ft (2X)
$15 – 1/2 gallon of titebond3
$60 – 2 vise screws from woodcraft, bessey qr iron vise (both on closeout)
$50 – hardware 3/8in(16X) & 1/2in(4X) (nuts, bolts, washers), pocket screws (32X), 3/8in steel rod, #12×3in wood screws(12X), 1/4in(2X) (nuts, bolts, washers)

Total = $295
So you could save some money with a plan and no extra HW or materials (this is more like a magazine would price the project vs. reality)

-Capacity- can hold just over 9ft boards for edge/face surfacing
-Mass- about 300lb of bench and 300lb of sand in the tubs on the shelf
-Vises- Twin screw opens to just over 10in and skews 5-10 degrees, QR bessey open width is about 10in
-Finish- BLO thinned with turps
-Knock-down- The bench can easily be broken down for transport, could also easily be modified to fit in a smaller workshop (I am not planning on moving, but you never know)

In retrospective
closing thoughts
- pre-mill all lumber next time
- fully detail out a plan in the beginning (saves money and time)
- invest in a better QR vise (hey, for $35 I can’t complain much)
- skip the MDF (bench would have been cheaper in solid poplar)
- it is hard to build a bench without a bench, this was a good compromise in that respect
- twin screw is cool, but a second bigger QR vise in this position would likely work about as well and would take less time to install/tune
- inspect joinery with more care (I ended up with slightly mismatched legs that I had to account for in the shelf construction)
- I couldn’t have done this bench without my hand planes (No5 was a work horse and the LA block and jointer were also used often) If you don’t have hand planes get surfaced stock.

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

16 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3670 days

#1 posted 01-15-2009 06:47 PM


skip the MDF – solid poplar would have been cheaper? can you explain that one? are you referring to the top of the bench? from what I’ve seen MDF is darn cheap… compared to Poplar that you’d have to laminate quite a bit of boards to make the top…. ? or am I missing something here.

I do believe that a laminated poplar top would be more durable and look nicer though.

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

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3649 days

#2 posted 01-15-2009 07:01 PM

I have a somewhat local sawyer that I can get poplar 2×8x12-14ft for under $10ea and I had enough poplar from my last visit to do the whole bench. My statement would be different if I could only get poplar at $3-4/bdft. I went mdf so that I didn’t have to spend an extra 20 hours of time laminating and flattening the benchtop. Add the time to surface and plane down the rough lumber. In the end it is a good tradeoff, but I am stuck with it. I am also out almost $100 that I didn’t have to spend.

As far as I can tell the poplar and mdf are similar in terms of resistance to dents and dings, but the benchtop would have been stiffer with respect to bending. Of course you would have to put a couple of hundred pounds in a concentrated location to tell the difference.

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4240 days

#3 posted 01-15-2009 07:32 PM

Very nice bench.

I wish I could get hold of cheap poplar like that down here.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View topspin's profile


62 posts in 3440 days

#4 posted 01-15-2009 08:09 PM

Quick questions about your bench top… I”m doing almost the same design (modified Holtzapffel Workbench with square dog run and wagon vise). Do you have any stretchers under the top to prevent the MDF from sagging over time? How are the aprons attached to the MDF field (T&G)?

-- Seems that talent only gets you so far... effort makes you successful.

View BarryW's profile


1015 posts in 3928 days

#5 posted 01-15-2009 09:27 PM

That works for me…nice bench..

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3649 days

#6 posted 01-15-2009 10:27 PM

Charlie, careful what you wish for. It is cheap, but it definitely takes a bit of time to stabilize and then requires more that a little to get it straight, flat, and clear. I think it is worth nearly 3X the price to be able to work right out the gate with some s2s.

topspin, you give me too much credit. T&G? Nope, just face grain to the routed straight edge of MDF. Honestly sag due to gravity isn’t the issue. You can actually get enough leverage with a long board (6ft+) to flex the bench over the leg using the twin screw vise. I plan to support the end of any board I work out of the twin screw, so it is a moot point. But if I were to design the bench again I would add some support across the mid-span. Part of the issue with a knock down is that bracing leg-to-leg under the benchtop becomes exponentially more complicated to do effectively. There may also be some issues with respect to the scale of this bench. I will have to post back once I have some saddle time.

I would like to remind everyone that this is a bench that has bastard components of several other designs. It was designed on the fly and utilized mainly wood that I had on hand. I am cheap, hence using the lowest price wood I could come up with. I am an engineer by trade and a bit of a neat freak. The outcome is a hybrid bench. It is a Holtzapffel with traditional feet. It is an 8.5ft long mdf bench. It is quick and dirty construction. Fill in the blanks… Basically it incorporates all of the design aspects I wanted, was cheap, and gets me back to furniture work in short order (which of course keeps the Mrs. happy).

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View Quixote's profile


206 posts in 3660 days

#7 posted 01-15-2009 10:39 PM


I’ve enjoyed this series, especially your listing of how much actual time the project took to completion.

Too often I see a DIY show where a project like this is completed in a half hour episode without telling you that the entire project requred an additonal 40 hours off camera to complete. ( Not picking on the shows, I think it’s something that is either overlooked, or assumed to be unnecessary.)

Thanks for sharing.


-- I don't make sawdust...I produce vast quantities of "Micro Mulch."

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3649 days

#8 posted 01-15-2009 10:47 PM

Quixote, good point. I don’t so much think it is considered unnecessary, so much as trying to make a project more appealing by omission. Know what I mean?

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3694 days

#9 posted 01-15-2009 11:44 PM

Nice bench, Doug.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3750 days

#10 posted 01-16-2009 12:39 AM

I really enjoyed following alongthroughout the project. I great learnning experience for me and hopefully it will be an inspiration for a future project. Thanks for taking the time to post and answer questions!

View SteveKorz's profile


2134 posts in 3735 days

#11 posted 01-16-2009 12:57 AM

Nice bench, Doug… great job.

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View CodyC's profile


39 posts in 3451 days

#12 posted 01-16-2009 03:20 AM

Good job! I’d like to something similar in the near future, so thanks for the extra details.

-- Cody Crisp

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3649 days

#13 posted 01-16-2009 03:57 PM

Thanks guys. Always a warm reception round these parts. Glad that the bench and series is helpful to others. I have seen several other benches blogged during the build and really liked it. This was a great opportunity for me to do the same.

Check out these others:
you may have to dig around a bit to find all episodes, but these guys did a good job on documenting their benches

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View Waldschrat's profile


505 posts in 3457 days

#14 posted 01-16-2009 07:07 PM

I like this workbench and the parallel bench hook holes! that is something missing on my Ulmia work bench. I especially like the price! Nice work!

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

View Tony Ennis's profile

Tony Ennis

128 posts in 3158 days

#15 posted 10-25-2009 05:38 AM

Very nice indeed. Regarding the top… It will be fine. My bench has a single sheet of 3/4” ply for the top with a sheet of replaceable 1/4” fiberboard on top of that. It’s fine for this occasional weekend warrior.

-- Tony

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