Advise on first workbench

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Forum topic by nordichomey posted 06-27-2010 04:25 PM 1508 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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100 posts in 2521 days

06-27-2010 04:25 PM

I am finally going to take the time and build a good solid work bench. I am still practicing my skill so I do not want a massively complex project at this time. I want to utilize a plan as starting point and customize to suit my needs.

This plan from Woodsmith seems to suit my needs. Do you have advise for or against this plan? Do you have plan you really like?


-- nordichomey

15 replies so far

View Jim Brown's profile

Jim Brown

32 posts in 3188 days

#1 posted 06-27-2010 04:59 PM

I built pretty much the same bench, maybe from those plans though I don’t remember, and I was generally pleased with the results. I used spf 1×12s for the top (ripped to 3” and turned on edge for glue up). If I were to do it again, I’d use maple for the top for durability … the fir is too easily banged up. But it’s what I had access to and could afford.

84 lumber had 4×4 douglas fir posts that I used for the legs. I rabbeted the bottom stretchers with the intention of building some drawer units to set in there for storage, but I ended up cutting a piece of plywood and leaving it as a shelf.

Which I guess is a long way of saying that even if you do it half-burroed, like I did, you’ll wind up with a usable bench. If I could find the bench in my shop, I’d take a picture or two of it for you :)

View bench_dogg's profile


63 posts in 2557 days

#2 posted 06-27-2010 05:20 PM

The bench I built has a very similar base but without the shelf. I punted on the top and used 2 pieces of MDF glued together so it is 2” thick and finished with BLO. My thinking was that I would use this bench for a few years and sort out which vises and dog hole configurations work best for me, then build a ‘proper’ top.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2417 days

#3 posted 06-27-2010 05:59 PM

I personally don’t like it. For pure handtool work, it should be more robust. It would be much more stable with another set of stretchers a few inches below the top. If you are going to be clamping things down and working with electric routers, it would be fine. It all depends on how you work and what you want to build on it.

I suggest that you don’t get so hung up on the bench itself. Decide first what you want for the clamping. Your choice revolves around that. After all, a workbench is just a stable clamp platform. Once you decide the way you want to clamp things, then the bench will take care of itself. Lots of designs around for the bases. Some commercial, some free. It is not that complicated at the basic level. Taken to the extreme, it can be an art form in itself.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View nordichomey's profile


100 posts in 2521 days

#4 posted 06-27-2010 09:42 PM

Thanks for the great insight. Today I do not do a lot of hand tools. Adding an extra set of stingers would help the design be more robust.

-- nordichomey

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2417 days

#5 posted 06-27-2010 11:05 PM

What are you planning on making the top out of? That will also be a bit of a consideration for how things work together.

If you are not going to be pounding on it with mallets and chisels chopping hugely, there are some really nice torsion box designs. They make a REALLY rigid top which is nice for assembly and work holding for power tool work and it doesn’t take a forklift to move it around the shop.

My little 2’ x 4’ bench gets the dollys to move around the shop. Even with a light base made out of cedar, we are talking about 300+ lbs. once you have a vise on it.

There is not really a right or wrong design. It is matching one to the way you work.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View nordichomey's profile


100 posts in 2521 days

#6 posted 06-28-2010 04:03 AM


Interesting comment as I just noticed this afternoon in the recent ShopNotes they have a torsion box workbench! It caught my eye as soon as I saw it but I do not have a lot of experience with the torsion box so your insight is greatly appreciated.

Today my work is mostly hand power tools and I mostly need a clamping surface. Actually, I just need a open work space. I am more seasoned at finish carpentary so I could use a little practice before tackling an overly complex project.

I have some more reading and assessing to do now!


-- nordichomey

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3068 days

#7 posted 06-28-2010 04:09 AM

for powertool and general hand tool work it would work just fine -although it presents a limitation of clamping long pieces on the side of the bench for edge work.

google ‘roubo bench’ to see a similar design that keeps the legs flush with the top so you have more clamping abilities, and in general a better design in my opinion.

other than that – this one would do just fine. and should be robust enough. my workbench also only has 1 set of stringers at the bottom, and the thing is rock solid and won’t budge an inch – even if you really wanted it to.

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

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2417 days

#8 posted 06-28-2010 05:02 AM


Yeah, but you have a really massive top that is the top stringer :) Nice job too, real pretty.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View tooldad's profile


659 posts in 3134 days

#9 posted 06-28-2010 05:22 AM

I have built several from the woodsmith TV show plan. I made 6 for my school shop. I would suggest using 2×8 or 2×10 spruce pine, not the doug fir that 2×4s and 2×6’s are made out of. Also use pine for the first bench, put a few months or a couple of years of work on it, then redesign for what you do the most.

I happen to have 2” maple tops that I reused for my benches. The plan I used allows for a laminated 2x top or wrapped mdf.

Good luck.

View Greedo's profile


470 posts in 2380 days

#10 posted 06-28-2010 07:14 AM

for the design i would personally base it on the 21’st century workbench, you have no clue how many times such a bench will allow you to do operations on it that no other design will allow. the opening in the middle allows you to clamp, rout, saw, drill,... on the workbench without damaging it.
the other designs are usually nothing more than thick tables with a vise or two, doing any powertool operation on top is complicated

View paratrooper34's profile


865 posts in 2371 days

#11 posted 06-28-2010 07:28 AM

I built my bench from a plan located on It is a simple bench, easy to make, and has proven to be very sturdy and useful. I modified a couple of things on it: I used a beech top (about 2” in thickness as these are available at much less cost here in Germany than the MDF suggested in the plan) and I built a small tool cabinet underneath to allow for some tool storage and a bit of added weight.

I built the frame from standard 4”x4”s and 2”x6”s. I also used threaded rod for strength (just as the plan says). I bought a used Columbian vise off Ebay that I placed on the left side. After one year of use in a variety of operations, this bench has definitely held up well. I wish I had a tail vise, but I am not going to put one in for this bench. I am going to take advantage of being in Germany and buy an Ulmia while I am here, but until I get that, this bench suffices just fine.

To enhance some operations at this bench, I built a “Benchtop Bench” which I also found on It proved to be very useful, especially for cutting dovetails and other procedures which require a higher elevation than my bench provides.

All in all, the bench I built was simple to build, was not expensive, and is up to almost any woodworking task. Highly recommended for beginners like me. It got my feet wet in learning some simple tasks, and just like any other “tool” that you make yourself, you have more pride in what you make.

Here are links to the workbench and the Benchtop Bench:

If any of you from FWW are out there, thanks for getting me started with a decent workbench.

-- Mike

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3207 days

#12 posted 06-30-2010 02:37 AM

I have built several benches, and the only advice I would give is to make sure you buy the hardware (i.e. vises) first. Some of the plans lists are designed for specific brand vises, and all do not have the same clearance dimensions. After the bench is built it may be very hard to alter it to fit a different brand vise. After all, a woodworking bench is mainly a flat surface designed to hold the vises you want to hold your work where you want it.


-- Go

View nordichomey's profile


100 posts in 2521 days

#13 posted 07-01-2010 04:08 AM

Thanks Gofor!

I am going to build a torsion box benchtop (thanks David). It is a relatively easy project and I need to get something built to work from. It is a low cost venture so if I do not like it I can build a new one in the future. Since I am building the torsion box I need the vise ahead of time so I can lay out my stringers properly. For now I am just installing a Jorgensen cast iron front vise. I can add a end vise at a later date if I need one.

Have not decided on what type of base to build. For now I am going to set it on saw horses to help determine the height. Think I will follow PurpLev advise and build a base with flush legs.

-- nordichomey

View knothead's profile


162 posts in 3368 days

#14 posted 07-01-2010 06:31 PM

If this is your FIRST bench then by all means build something similar to the one in the Plans now link you referenced. Then use it for a time (In my case it’s been 3 years since I built my bench) in that time I have come to realize what works for me and what does not…..

Bench height, number and placement of dog holes, type of vises installed, where the vises are installed, the weight of the bench, tool till or no tool till, construction material ect ect. (the workbench can also make an absolutely outstanding outfeed table for the tablesaw too).

Don’t get me wrong here, I love the bench I made but now that there are some nicks in the top and more than a couple of projects have been across the benchtop I have a much better understanding of what I will want to build for my lifetime workbench.

-- So Much Wood - So Little Time! --

View nordichomey's profile


100 posts in 2521 days

#15 posted 07-02-2010 02:37 AM

My thoughts as well on the outfeed table. My space is limited.

-- nordichomey

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