Workbench in a Tokyo Toilet

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Project by murrayintokyo posted 07-13-2016 03:17 PM 2649 views 6 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I grew up in Canada spending time in my dads workshop and soaking in all those years of experience . But I moved to Tokyo and always lived in closet sized apartments and never dreamed I could be woodworking myself. That all changed when I moved into a house that happened to have a large toilet/bath I was not going to use. A small but workable space at my disposal; First Step, a proper place to work on!

——I had two design goals; 1) no metal (except for the vice hardware) and 2) can be disassembled.

My dad sent me a router, and I had a cordless drill and a palm sander. Otherwise is it was all hand tools. I got a very good Japanese hand plane, a few saws, a few chisels and a box of Band-Aids as a precaution.

There is no home depot, and the local hardware stores are limited. I was lucky enough to find a local timber yard run by a friendly Japanese man trying to get more Japanese into the DIY/Woodworking world. He sourced me some high quality Douglas Fir for my bench.

——Douglas Fir body with Manchurian ash for drawbores, and Japanese cherry (sakura) for wedges and vice handle.

I started with a Paul Sellers design but digressed to meet my own goals and tastes. I carved in a tool well, used mortise and tenon joinery (first time to chisel a mortise!!) with wedges on the stretchers, legs flush to the front, a few simple bench dog holes.

In the end, I am pretty darn happy with how it turned out. Final specs are 160cm x 65cm x 99cm and 80 kg (63” x 25.5” x 39” and 175 lbs) finished with Danish oil.

Big thanks to all the you-tubers and bloggers, of whom I spent hours studying and referring back to as I went though this process.

—————————————————- More Pics
Douglas Fir
You can see the toilet where the bench is going to go. Tool well taking shape

Arrghh too many shavings!! (honey, can I buy a jointer? pleeeease?)

Almost there

Thanks for the router dad!

Wow, that took longer than I thought… but oddly satisfying.

A small place to try and work in!! (the view from the toilet)

Toilet removed, bench assembled, and finished !

Done !!!!!! time to finally open that beer I have been saving (Local Japan craft brew!!)

16 comments so far

View theoldfart's profile (online now)


7944 posts in 1875 days

#1 posted 07-13-2016 03:35 PM

Outstanding work and great job fitting it to the available space. The tusk tenons look good. Looking forward to your project posts made on the bench.

You my want to cross post this to the workbench smack down thread, folks there will really appreciate your work.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View chrisstef's profile


15486 posts in 2430 days

#2 posted 07-13-2016 03:41 PM

A bathroom bondo …. unheard of!

Great way to feed the addiction of woodworking and a mighty fine way to jam it in there. Best looking bathroom vanity ive ever seen.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View NotaJock's profile


35 posts in 522 days

#3 posted 07-13-2016 04:12 PM

Looks like you also had to make a bunch of wooden clamps.
Did you also make the mallet, marking guage and square?
Nicely done.

-- Mike in SoCal

View csnyderdvm's profile


20 posts in 1163 days

#4 posted 07-13-2016 06:12 PM

terrific project with such limited space and resources- I can only imagine how fulfilling it must have felt!
Now go build more things on it! :)

View kiefer's profile


4873 posts in 2090 days

#5 posted 07-13-2016 06:15 PM

Nice bench in an unusual location but then why not as long as it works .
Love the additional photos with the construction details .

Like the beer commercial . LOL


-- Kiefer

View htl's profile


2039 posts in 583 days

#6 posted 07-13-2016 07:58 PM

Nicely done and as they say if there’s a will there’s a way.
I can really see some great projects in your future.

-- There's a hundred ways to do anything, alot depends on the tools at hand.

View TheGreatJon's profile


293 posts in 657 days

#7 posted 07-13-2016 08:16 PM

Fantastic solution. Also, the photography is just as good as the woodwork!

I’m wondering how often you had to do calisthenics in order to make it to the toilet while the project was in-process and taking up the bathroom space? :)

-- This is not the signature line you are looking for.

View Scott 's profile


214 posts in 1691 days

#8 posted 07-13-2016 10:20 PM

Hmm, the toilet is gone, I hope there is a plan B. Nice job!

-- Scott in North Carolina

View Levex's profile


38 posts in 579 days

#9 posted 07-14-2016 03:58 AM

Bravo! An excellent job of making the most of what you have.

View builtinbkyn's profile


650 posts in 364 days

#10 posted 07-14-2016 04:01 AM

Super bench! Tight work space, but your determination is to be applauded. And no doubt you’ll amass a nice collection of Japanese hand tools too.

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn :)

View helluvawreck's profile


22707 posts in 2290 days

#11 posted 07-14-2016 09:37 AM

Murray, you have done a wonderful job on this workbench. Congratulations and welcome to Lumberjocks.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Sergio's profile


464 posts in 2116 days

#12 posted 07-14-2016 11:18 AM

Great workbench, great work! An inspiration to those dealing with limited spaces.
Have fun with it. I hope to see some projects made on it.

-- - Greetings from Brazil - --

View murrayintokyo's profile


5 posts in 110 days

#13 posted 07-14-2016 11:34 AM

Thanks for all the encouraging comments!!!
You can see the bathtub still there on the side, in fact I need to put one foot in the tub if i’m sawing anything off the left end using the vice!! There is also a standing shower behind me I think I want to remove (at the moment I have scrap lumber piled in the shower)

Time to get busy !! Thanks everyone !

Mike in Socal – Yes! I found along the way I needed to make a few tools; marking gauge, mallet, tri-square, router table, a few jigs.

Murray in Tokyo

View gsimon's profile


1153 posts in 1537 days

#14 posted 07-14-2016 01:56 PM

awesome post

-- Greg Simon

View duckmilk's profile


1588 posts in 748 days

#15 posted 07-14-2016 06:15 PM

I’ve heard of putting a bathroom in a shop before, but——
Nicely done sir!

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

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