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Forum topic by James posted 07-13-2010 03:31 AM 2848 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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138 posts in 2892 days

07-13-2010 03:31 AM

Buy or build a workbench, what do you think? I am fairly new and have limited set of tools and it seems one of the most important is a workbench. I don’t feel I have the skill set to build a quality workbench that will last several years and be functional so I am contemplating buying one at some point soon. Here is the problem, I also need a new table saw and would like to get a jointer, bandsaw, Jointer plane and jack plane. I am not in a huge hurry with my tool purchases I would rather take my time and make and educated decision and not have to buy a replacement tool in a few years because the one I bought is not adequate. Has anyone else bought a bench before and what do you recommend? thanks, James

25 replies so far

View bigjoe4265's profile


52 posts in 2899 days

#1 posted 07-13-2010 03:56 AM

Harbor Freight has an oak workbench that accepts dogs. It’s relatively reasonable, but I never stopped to look at it to scrutinize it or see how sturdy it is. If I’m not mistaken, the current issue of ShopNotes (Vol. 19 issue 112) has a torsion box workbench plans that should be similar in price to build, and it’s simple construction. Personally I would build the one in ShopNotes for the experience. Just my 2 cents.

Hope this helps,


View bigjoe4265's profile


52 posts in 2899 days

#2 posted 07-13-2010 04:00 AM

As far as a table saw, I would recommend you take a look at the Sawstop. They are not cheap but the safety features of this saw make it worth every penny, imho. I am saving my pennies for the 3 hp cabinet saw. I currently have a Bosch 4100 contractor saw and I’d like to keep my fingers and hands.


View knotscott's profile


7980 posts in 3342 days

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

A bench is a great asset to your shop, and is a good early project. You don’t have to build the end-all, be-all workbench of your dreams on the first try. There are some simple reasonably priced benches that are fine for getting started. Or if you’re a Sam’s Club member you can also buy something like the Seville benches they sell….you’ll get a 1.75” x 25” x 72” solid maple top on a steel leg system for ~ $200. Add a vice and you’re good to go.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Ole's profile


67 posts in 3043 days

#4 posted 07-13-2010 04:10 AM

Um, your choice should really be based on what type of work you’re planning on doing. Do you want to use hand tools? Or do you want an assembly table with a vise on it? Building one really isn’t too difficult. Most of the ones you can buy fail at on or the other work holding task that is essential for hand tool work. If I may, I would like to suggest Christopher Schwarz’s book on workbenches to you. It is very well written and a huge eye-opener when it comes to workbenches.

View CyBorge's profile


79 posts in 3141 days

#5 posted 07-13-2010 04:34 AM

If you have the time and ambition, I would lean toward building your own bench rather than buying. Nobody says you have to get super crazy with the design, so entry-level skills should be more than adequate to make something functional. A few simple 2×4’s and 4×4’s, even held together with nothing but screws, would likely hold up just fine as long as you aren’t intentionally trying to wreck the thing. The top could be as simple as a double layer of 3/4” plywood or MDF.

More advanced features, or even a new top, can sometimes be retrofitted down the road after you have better skills and more experience. Or, if you’re really not satisfied, you can always take it apart and start over. A lot of the lumber can be reused; the same can not always be said for a premade bench.

Last, when you build it yourself (which helps your skills!), you can incorporate features from any number of different designs that are freely available all over the internet. Not to mention the fact that you can customize the dimensions for your area and preferred working height.

-- "How can I be lost if I've got nowhere to go?"

View Jim K's profile

Jim K

94 posts in 3103 days

#6 posted 07-13-2010 04:52 AM

I have found a quick and easy workbench that is fast to build and is easy to adopt to what ever you need.
Some people on this site may call this cheating. You build what ever a can afford to. I found a product called 2×4 basics from finley products. You use straight cut 2×4’s and the bench is any size you want up to 4×8. You can do whatever suits your need and you can change it later if you feel the need to?


View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5807 posts in 3161 days

#7 posted 07-13-2010 05:14 AM

Greetings James, All of the above mentioned infromation is vital to your woodworking experience as you grow into it. But my suggestion to you is this: Before jumping in and start buying up tools to use, I would suggest that you read as many woodworking books and magazines as you can (you never finish doing this). This will give you ideas about the tools and ww machines that’s out there, instead of jumping off the deep end(as they say). If you have some idea as to what you want to build, i.e, furniture, boxes, turning, toys, etc, then you will have a better idea what tools you’ll need. Start out with small and easy projects at first, then work your way up as you gain confidence in your ability to advance…. I’ve been ww for over 26 years, and I still read ww magazines (as we all do on here). Good ones to read are Wood, Woodworkers Journal, Fine Woodworking,
Shopnotes, Woodsmith, etc. Vital information is the best tool for you right now….. And I’m still learning, also…

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3430 days

#8 posted 07-13-2010 05:19 AM

I’m in the build it yourself camp. The size, placement of accessories and overall weight are your choices. As others have said, simple and functional while building the skills. I would say half lap joints and bolts in about any style of framing and you’ll have a stout ready to go table.
Good luck and have fun.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2950 days

#9 posted 07-13-2010 05:55 AM

I have built all my benches from scrap wood and have made 2 very useful benches. It allowed me to work with the tools I had on hand and to practice joinery Technics for future projects. My next work bench project will be the new fangled work bench. I have found that by building my own benches I learned what I needed in a bench. One thing to remember in bench building is to have clamping abilities and some form of vice. Plus you can make it to your comfortable working height and length.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3026 days

#10 posted 07-13-2010 06:01 AM

I am using commercial tables with MDF on top. I use that when I was starting woodworking.

For start up get a miter saw, circular saw, and a drill.

View James 's profile


138 posts in 2892 days

#11 posted 07-13-2010 07:08 AM

Thank your for all the advice and feedback.
BigJoe- I have seen the HF one in person and it just does not look stable enough. A sawstop would be great but the truth is I don’t have 220 and its more then I want to spend on a saw.
Scott- I saw your post on another website with that exact same bench suggestion. I will consider it.
Ole- I have Christopher Schwarz’s book on workbench’s a great book but well beyond my skill level at this point.

I have couple work tables that I have built out 2×4’s with MDF tops and they are ok. I am talking about a serious workbench one that is sturdy and has dog holes and 2 vises. I am going to continue to build furniture and I plan on being a hand tool and power tool guy. I want to continue to build furniture and I have already built a couple pieces but in doing so I noticed that a good bench and a good table saw would have been extremely helpful. I have since gotten rid of the table saw and am shopping for a new one. I also want a legit bench before I build another project. I am not opposed to building one, I just worry that it is not going to be perfect and I am afraid that with out dead flat top, dog holes that are parallel and 90 degrees and solid vises I am doing more harm then good. Thanks again for all of your advice.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3041 days

#12 posted 07-13-2010 01:55 PM

Don’t try to build the ultimate bench yet. You can get by with 2×4 frame and a top of MDF. It will be easy to build and it won’t cost much. Later, after you have refined your skills a bit, you can build the ultimate work bench.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View rydonmf's profile


48 posts in 2841 days

#13 posted 07-13-2010 02:35 PM

Yeah, build it. Making stuff for your workshop is a great way to refine skills. I just built one and it’s a damn tragedy. But it’ll do for now and I learned some things while doing it. I don’t regret the attempt at all. I agree with bigjoe above, the one in the current Shopnotes looks like a quick build and pretty stable. I wouldn’t worry too much about perfection. It’s a workshop. Tinkering is required.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3447 days

#14 posted 07-13-2010 03:06 PM

If you are on a budget or like to give it a try, I would build it. On other shop equipment, be sure to check the new and used stuff on Ebay and Craig’s list. There are some great buys there if you are patient and wait for what you want.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Rileysdad's profile


110 posts in 3245 days

#15 posted 07-13-2010 03:08 PM

I built my first bench out of 2×4s and 3/4 plywood. It’s about 200# and pretty stable. I still have it. Drill some dog holes and mount a face vice. It’s served me pretty well; but if I were to build it today, I’d use 2×12s and rip them to 4”. Add some Bench Pups from Lee Valley and you can figure a way to hold just about anything. As your skills progress, you’ll want a proper bench. There are plenty of options once you know the kind of work you’ll be doing and the type of bench you need. I found Chris Schwarz book to be really good.

Good Luck

-- Measure twice, cut once, buy extra stock.

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