Maple workbench

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Project by Lumber2Sawdust posted 11-27-2010 06:15 AM 3891 views 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My current bench was something I put together from the scrap lumber left over from tearing down our old detached garage before we built a new one which now houses my workshop and cars. It got the job done, but left a lot to be desired.

I wanted to build a more traditional style workbench what would have plenty of clamping options and vises. This design is based on the cover story from Fine Woodworking’s Tools and Shops issue from 2004. On CraigsList I found someone selling laminated maple slabs. It turns out they were workbench tops from a wood shop in Denver’s school district. As you can imagine, they were pretty beat up – holes drilled everywhere, nails, screws, pencils, chalk and broken drill bits were embedded in it. I nicked plane and chisel blades working on it! I like the history of my new workbench and I hope it has many more years of woodworking left in it.

I had to buy some more 8/4 maple, but the 5’x5’ top I bought for $150 made most of my bench. Because the top was in such bad shape, I flipped it over. There were old dog holes that were drilled through the top with no backer board, so they were blown out. The holes were later plugged with dowels. In order to make the top look better, I took my first attempt at inlays. I added the diamond-shaped walnut pieces into the top to cover the holes. These inlays complement the walnut pegs I used to attach the apron on the sides in a tongue and groove to allow for movement. The picture shows that there are a lot of other holes and stains from it’s years of use and abuse. I just realized that this picture was taken before I drilled the dog holes across the front and right sides to use with the vises.

The base is very solid – it is pegged mortise and tenon from the legs to the feet and all the other joints are through mortise and tenon. This was my first attempt at making an M&T joint. I’m fairly happy with the results, but learning to chop mortises in 3” hard maple is a tough way to begin! Rookie mistake: I didn’t chop the tenons from both sides, so I had some blow-out when I went through the far side.

The apron is joined using half-blind dovetails so that the vises will each have a flat place to clamp a board to. The dovetails aren’t as good as I would like, but they were great practice.

The vises are cheap front vises from Woodcraft that I bought from a guy on craigslist. In the photo, the end vise isn’t attached yet. The vises are ok, but this is a place where I thing spending a little more cash would be money well spent.

I finished the base with boiled linseed oil. In these pictures, the top hasn’t been oiled yet. The oil really made it “light up”. It brought out the contrast with the walnut and added a lot of depth to the maple. I used BLO because some say it is a nice finish without being too slick. I would agree. It isn’t a durable finish, but it is easily repaired and this bench is a user, so I expect it will show some use. I’ll try to post an updated photo soon.

While I hope this doesn’t go down as my finest woodworking achievement it was a good project and I’m already using it to build some christmas presents. It has been great.

Since I found so much stuff from Craigslist, I didn’t have to buy much new stuff and the whole project cost less than $400.

9 comments so far

View dakremer's profile


2672 posts in 3118 days

#1 posted 11-27-2010 07:33 AM

cool bench! looks like it’ll serve its purpose well! thanks for sharing

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 3368 days

#2 posted 11-27-2010 01:34 PM

That is one serious bench and the inlays are a nice touch. I am sure it will not be your finest achievement but the next step in the journey.

-- Marc

View helluvawreck's profile


31393 posts in 2893 days

#3 posted 11-27-2010 02:52 PM

That is a very sturdy looking workbench and I know that it will serve you well. Good job.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2883 days

#4 posted 11-27-2010 03:13 PM

Now the fun begins.

Great bench.

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View twobyfour16's profile


69 posts in 3511 days

#5 posted 11-27-2010 04:04 PM

Great bench. Did you use wedged tenons to attach the stretchers to the legs?

-- Allan, Portland, OR

View workerinwood's profile


2717 posts in 3094 days

#6 posted 11-27-2010 04:32 PM

Nice job!! Let the fun begin.

-- Jack, Albuquerque

View blackcherry's profile


3338 posts in 3849 days

#7 posted 11-27-2010 06:09 PM

Enjoy your new work horse, it came out super…BC

View Ken90712's profile


17563 posts in 3215 days

#8 posted 11-27-2010 06:15 PM

Nice solid bench you have made. Like all the details on the benchtop… Well done.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 2892 days

#9 posted 11-30-2010 05:04 AM

Thanks for the comments everyone. It is fun to have a solid bench!

twoByFour, yes, I did use wedged tenons on the base. Between the weight and the big wedged tenons, that base is rock solid!

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