Modified 21st Century Workbench

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Project by Ottacat posted 05-26-2013 02:18 PM 14248 views 36 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been building a new woodworking shop from the ground up these past few months. I am getting back into the hobby after getting out of it about 10 years when family commitments were taking up too much of my time.

This time I knew I wanted a solid bench that could last me a lifetime. I also needed a good first major project to build back my skills. A good solid-maple workbench fit the bill. After doing a lot of research I realized there was no perfect workbench, nor any workbench design that had a broad consensus as being optimum. I finally found the plans for the ‘21st Century Workbench’ that Popular Woodworking published a few years back. What appealed to me was that the top consisted of two solid-maple laminations that were small enough to flattened in my 13” planer. They are separated by a series of 4 tool trays that can be used as normal tool trays or flipped upside down to create a large flat surface.

I found the dual lower stretcher design to be overly complicated from both the perspective of their joinery as well as the upper stretcher with all its dog holes was something I felt could be easily replaced with a sliding deadman so I modified the design accordingly. I also shortened the bench by 8” and used the smaller version of the Veritas twin-screw vice. My version is 16 7/8” between centres as opposed to the 24” between centre version used in the plans. However the wider centre is used when cutting full case dovetails. First I don’t know if I’ll ever do this and second if I did it seems that a Moxon vice mounted higher up would be a more ergonomic way to do it.

It took about 3 weeks to build as I had to buy the lumber over about 4 or 5 trips as I only had a car and could only carry 4 pieces of the 8/4 maple at a time. I was also accumulating equipment and tools for my shop as the project required them. Over the course of the project I had to buy extension stands for jointing and planing the boards, a router for the mortise and tenon joints and literally countless other things. I started out with a used Delta lunchbox planer but quickly replaced it with a DeWalt 735 as the Delta was sniping something awful

Once the slabs and leg assemblies were done it was on to the vice installation. Everything went fairly smoothly. The twin-screw vice does require you to carefully read and follow the instructions. Once I had the vices all installed I attached the two slabs to the leg assemblies using lag bolts.

The bench can hold work in several ways. I use a small quick release front vice on the right end as a tail vice. It has a dog hole in it’s chop and I drilled a series of dog holes in the front slab. This holds work down length-ways to the top of the bench. I can put larger pieces down the middle of the front twin-screw vice. I can use the side of the twin-screw vice and the sliding deadman for holding long boards on edge. The back slab has a wider spaced series of dog holes to use holdfasts to hold big pieces of work to the bench. The tool boxes are also removable if I ever need to clamp anything from the centre. The one thing I haven’t done was put dog holes in the chop of the twin-screw vice and corresponding holes in the slabs. This would be to hold very large pieces. If I need them I’ll add them later.

The completed bench weighs about 300 pounds. I didn’t put castors on the feet but I can slip a dolly under each end and move it around my shop quite easily.

I finished the bench with a oil-varnish blend that doesn’t build a finish. I put two coats on the top slabs and tool trays and one coat underneath the slabs. I then diluted the remaining finish 1/3 with mineral spirits to make a wiping varnish and put 3 coats on the leg assemblies, stretchers and bottom shiplapped shelves.

Its all done done and its time to get on with making some furniture.

21 comments so far

View clarkey's profile


468 posts in 2931 days

#1 posted 05-26-2013 03:55 PM

Excellent Job!!!

View helluvawreck's profile


29779 posts in 2742 days

#2 posted 05-26-2013 04:00 PM

Very nice bench. It should serve you for the rest of your life.

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 kdc68's profile


2637 posts in 2152 days

#3 posted 05-26-2013 04:28 PM

Beautiful bench….

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View Northwest29's profile


1624 posts in 2365 days

#4 posted 05-26-2013 05:01 PM

Whoa …. that’s one really great looking workbench!

-- Ron, Eugene, OR, "Curiosity is a terrible thing to waste."

View madts's profile


1833 posts in 2215 days

#5 posted 05-26-2013 05:12 PM

One hell of a great looking bench +++++

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View CL810's profile


3719 posts in 2863 days

#6 posted 05-26-2013 06:02 PM

Great job!

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View blackcherry's profile


3337 posts in 3698 days

#7 posted 05-26-2013 06:45 PM

Nice looking bench which I know you’ll enjoy using since this is the one Ive built some three years ago or longer. I probably spent most of my time on the tail end vise for most of my work, the center tray are a great catch all for all those handy tools we jock just love to use…man I can go on and on about the joy of having such a solid workbench but all I’m going to say is enjoy your new workmate…Blackcherry

View LeroyTheLips's profile


248 posts in 2123 days

#8 posted 05-26-2013 08:40 PM

Love it. Great idea. You stepped out of the box on this one. Ver versatile

View NormG's profile


5889 posts in 2879 days

#9 posted 05-26-2013 10:23 PM

Great bench design and nicely done

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View Holbs's profile


1772 posts in 1904 days

#10 posted 05-26-2013 10:36 PM

i love that mortise and tenon joint in the picture.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter

View oldnovice's profile


6479 posts in 3243 days

#11 posted 05-27-2013 12:10 AM

That is truly a good looking solid bench. Can’t a it to see what you build on that!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View HorizontalMike's profile


7730 posts in 2789 days

#12 posted 05-27-2013 12:28 AM

Very nice indeed! And welcome to the 21st Century WB Club!

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View oldnovice's profile


6479 posts in 3243 days

#13 posted 05-27-2013 02:43 AM

Can’t a it to see what you build on that! blasted autocorrect!

Can’t wait to see what you build on that! Is what I wrote but it thought it was wrong.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View hoss12992's profile


3989 posts in 1768 days

#14 posted 05-27-2013 04:14 AM


-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View buckeyetd's profile


39 posts in 2067 days

#15 posted 05-27-2013 02:36 PM

BaBaBaBaaad Ass Bench right there!


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