How many benches do you have?

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Forum topic by SPalm posted 03-10-2008 03:36 PM 1589 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5322 posts in 4025 days

03-10-2008 03:36 PM

I am starting to upgrade my shop, both in size and capabilities. I am a hobbyist, who wants to build a range of things from furniture to smaller things like boxes. The shop is in the basement, and it is now about the size of a small two car garage, so there is some room, but it is filling up quickly. As far as how I work, I must admit, I am more likely to use a power tool over a hand tool, as in using a dovetail jig over hand cut ones.

I keep banging my head on picking/building a bench, or should I say benches. It seems like there must be a lot of other people with similar requirements. The way I am breaking it down I see three major requirements. These may be wrapped into one or two designs, but probably require more than one structure.

Clamping Bench. A heavy bench with a vise or two along with bench dog holes. It is used to hold a work piece while routing and sanding, along with some hand tool work. Messy work is done here so I would like dust control along with a downdraft. I would also clamp things like a dovetail jig to it. Three sided access is probably needed.

Assembly Bench. It is basically a flat table. Fairly strong with an overhanging top to allow clamping assemblies to it. Wipe on finishing would also probably be done here. Maybe this would double as an in-feed or out-feed table. Roll around might be nice. Four sided access is probably needed.

Desk Bench. This one is not usually discussed but I always find myself using this kind of object. You pull up a stool and fiddle with things here. It is fairly clean as far as sawdust, but messy as far as gizmos. This is where you repair tools, look at manuals, make sketches, or even disassemble the toaster oven (real life says this shop is not 100% woodworking). This is also where you stage things before they are used in a project or put away in a drawer. One sided access is probably needed.

So to me, it looks like three benches. I guess I need to make room somehow. Does anybody else see it this way or have another way of doing this or combining these requirements?


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

15 replies so far

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4105 days

#1 posted 03-10-2008 03:58 PM

I think you are on the right track. If you look at my shop photos, I have a bench along one wall and my big bench behind the table saw. I also have a big bench in the saddle shop with a cut-out table across from it and a glue up/finishing table as well. Then when I am working on cabinets I lay a pile of sheet goods on horses and use the top for more finishing space.This gives me an 8 foot square to finish on. Some times knock down tables work best for finishing and assembly. It’s always fun to make a shop work just the way you dreamed it.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Mark's profile


316 posts in 4277 days

#2 posted 03-10-2008 04:17 PM


At present I only have one bench that is about 8 ft. long and 33 in. wide. I plan on making at least 2 more benches when I can make room in my shop. One bench will be an extension for a radial arm saw that I have and for which I will also build a cabinet stand. Multi use benches seems to be the way to go.


-- Mark

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4131 days

#3 posted 03-10-2008 04:18 PM

I have 2. A desk bench in the “office” room of my shop, and a assembly/clamping bench which is my main

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4449 days

#4 posted 03-10-2008 04:22 PM

one big one, but also use the top of my RAS as needed and I also have and older, sturdier work mate from my wife’s grandfather. that’s it.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4133 days

#5 posted 03-10-2008 04:50 PM

Hey Steve, I have two. The first is a permanently fixed “L” shaped bench that incorporates a sheet metal covered area for brazing, soldering and grinding, and grease work. It’s also where my big combo metal vise is. There is storage for woodshop magazines and plans plus a “sit down” area for doing intricate work. The cabinets are directly overhead for easy access too.

My other bench (the one that really gets the most use) is on casters for mobility and serves as an assembly table and anything else for that matter. Being mobile allows you to tackle any project regardless of size. (Like a canoe for instance!) It’s electrified with 4 outlets and also serves as storage for all my power tools underneath. Keeps it heavy so it don’t move at all when you’re torqueing on it. This bench will snug up against the wall to the “L” shaped one to create a 13’ long bench. I’m currently wanting to add a fold down type heavy shelf on the end for the bandsaw, planer and power miter saw.

Whatever you build, design the table top with enough overhang for clamping (on all sides) and a place to put your knees when sitting. I didn’t do this and regret it today. The next top will be wider. I’ve also read that proper counter top height should be appx. 4” below your elbow when standing. This is definately a back saver that you won’t regret at all!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3965 days

#6 posted 03-10-2008 04:59 PM

Hi Steve,

I have two- an assembly bench, basically made out of a full sheet of melamine, and a cheap work bench, that is practically useless.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View 8iowa's profile


1581 posts in 3904 days

#7 posted 03-10-2008 05:21 PM

I’ve had to operate for many years in a garage space of only a little over 200 sq ft. However, I found it necessary to have two “workbenches”. An 8’ bench, 2’ deep, is along the wall. This is my general purpose bench. I have built it so that the top has a 1 1/2 overhang for clamping purposes. Rather than permanently mount tools like a vice and bench grinder, I mount them on a 3/4” thick plywood mounting plate that is 7” deep and 11” long. I’ve even put my re-loading presses on mounting plates. Four carriage bolts hold the plate mounted tool to the table by tighting wing nuts underneath the bench top. Thus, I can have a nice flat unobstructed surface when I need it. A shelf underneath the bench holds my tools and accessories.

My second “workbench” is a traditional woodworker’s bench with both side and tail vises and bench dogs. It wasn’t easy in my small shop, but I managed to place this bench so that I could walk all around it. Through the years, this has probably been my most valuable “tool”. For my new 24’x28’ workshop in the U.P. I am staying with this two bench scenario even though I now have more space. My new traditional type bench is a Sjoberg 1660, a veritable “clamping” monster. I really like it.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Kevin's profile


291 posts in 4101 days

#8 posted 03-10-2008 06:00 PM


I’ll have three or four depending on final design.
One is included in the table saw work station and can be used a large assembly table.
One is a more traditional hand toold bench (you’re clamping bench) which I am planning on making 6’ by 30”.
One is along a wall and is 25” by 18’. This will include my “toaster” bench, desk, and misc bench top tools.
The other thing I was considering is an additional assembly table but that is going to be in the future.

-- Kevin, Wichita, Kansas

View DaveH's profile


400 posts in 3921 days

#9 posted 03-10-2008 06:05 PM

And…don’t forget the large flat area to use for temporary storage. Like when you get back from the toy store with a bunch of stuff and don’t have a clue where your going to put it.

-- DaveH - Boise, Idaho - “How hard can it be? It's only wood!”

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3887 days

#10 posted 03-10-2008 06:21 PM

Steve, I have a work bench, and an assembly bench. I also have this lift table. Some one posted this a few years back in FWW. I added a torsion box to make it bigger. This table was just over $100 at Harbor Freight. It comes in very handy for finishing. You can adjust the height from about 12” to 36” (with the torsion box). Saves my back, by cutting down on the bending over.
Lift Table

View OttawaP's profile


89 posts in 3869 days

#11 posted 03-24-2008 02:57 AM

That lift table is a great idea !!

-- Paul

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3911 days

#12 posted 03-24-2008 03:21 AM

right now i have the bench that i use in my blogs for basic things but its not very flat. i do most of my work on my workmate, and i am planning on building a wood whisperer style assembly table for my assemblies.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16276 posts in 4361 days

#13 posted 03-24-2008 03:40 AM

Steve, I agree with your three types totally. However, I’d say that the assembly bench and desk bench could be combined if you had the room to make it a long one. I think it all depends on the shape of the space you have to work with.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View SPalm's profile


5322 posts in 4025 days

#14 posted 03-24-2008 04:13 AM

Thanks guys, I just picked up a laminated slab of of a really nice maple table top. It is 1 3/4 inches thick and 3 foot by 4 foot is size. I spent the weekend cleaning/jointing old 2×4s to make legs for it. So without putting too much money in it, I plan (right now) to add a couple of vises and maybe make a clamp/assembly bench combo. Kind of a wierd size for a bench, but I still am not sure I really need a 6 foot bench.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View DocK16's profile


1184 posts in 4230 days

#15 posted 03-24-2008 05:33 AM

My assembly table is the heart of my shop. It also doubles as a clamping bench and tool storage. The solid core doors used for the top are a quick alternative for a Q-box design. it’s heavy, solid as a rock, and large enough to hold the unassembled components of even large projects and still have room for all the tools.

-- Common sense is so rare anymore when you do see it, it looks like pure genius.

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