Workbench Design

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Forum topic by Ben posted 09-22-2016 11:07 PM 338 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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242 posts in 2278 days

09-22-2016 11:07 PM

Hey Gang,
I recently bought an old Yost patternmaker’s vise and I plan to build a workbench around it.

My main question relates to benchtop thickness. How thick is thick enough?
Is having a 2 3/4” thick top mostly just cachet over, say, a 1 1/2” top, assuming both are hard Maple?

I will probably build a sort of “modified” roubo, basically a classic bench with a four post base, the patternmaker vise and a dovetailed tail vise. Probably have some drawers as well.


6 replies so far

View TheOtherMrRogers's profile


41 posts in 1602 days

#1 posted 09-23-2016 03:36 PM

Ok, my two cents
First, what do you want to do with the workbech? If it’s just going to sit in a corner and look pretty, then I can’t give you any advice.

If you want to make it into an heirloom for your grandchildren’s children, then go whole hog.

Unfortunately, we are somewhere in the middle, I’m sure.

Thickness gives you a few thing:
1: Stability – you don’t want your top to warp over time and humidity.
2: Strength – you may never need the strength to hold a massive timber for hand planing, carving etc. But at 1 1/2” you probably won’t be able to hold it anyway.
3: Life: after a few years of pounding on the bench, you will want to flatten it. Even if you take off 1/32-1/16, that’s a lot for a 1 1/2” table top.

I’ve nt done this, yet, but I’ve thought about making an additional bench using a hybrid design. Find plans for a fir bench, and then put in a maple front and a few strips of maple for dog holes, looks, etc. If you do this using 2×4’s glued up, you won’t be too expensive.

Just my two cents.

-- For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

View bondogaposis's profile


3969 posts in 1772 days

#2 posted 09-23-2016 06:44 PM

If you plan on using hold fasts the the thicker top will work better with them. Another issue is mass, the thicker top gives more it weight and less likely to rack and move while planing. It is not any more trouble to make a thicker top versus a thinner one and the cost difference is minimal. By far the easiest part of making a bench is the top, so why not make it massive. It will look far better, too.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View JayT's profile


4680 posts in 1632 days

#3 posted 09-23-2016 07:18 PM

I think bondo covered it all very well.

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


13570 posts in 2039 days

#4 posted 09-23-2016 07:26 PM

How thick is thick enough?
Is having a 2 3/4” thick top mostly just cachet over, say, a 1 1/2” top, assuming both are hard Maple?

- Ben

Good comments above, I’d add this response to your questions: A top of 2 3/4” is thick enough. A top of 1 1/2” is not. A top of 4”+Plus is not required for holdfasts or pounding or repeated flattening, but it is good for mass. And with heavy cast iron vise(s), a 2 3/4” thick top would be particularly good to resist the forces of gravity over time.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Ben's profile


242 posts in 2278 days

#5 posted 09-23-2016 10:00 PM

Thanks Guys.
I’ll go with a thicker top.
And instead of using 12/4 slabs I’ll use 6/4 – 8/4 ripped to the height of bench, and do a lamination.

View Ben's profile


242 posts in 2278 days

#6 posted 10-03-2016 01:49 AM

I’m wondering about something:

Instead of laminating and flipping on edge with a million glue joints on the top, what about laminating on the flat, say 2-3 4/4 or 5/4 boards, then edge gluing those onto 2-3 more boards glued together.
So in effect, I’d have a 3” thick top, but it would look like only 2-3 boards. I’d have a lot less work to do, it would look nicer, and I can use cheaper, utility grade stuff for the bottom two layers.
Then wrap the whole thing with a nice edge board/breadboards.

Any issues with this idea?

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