Tony's "New-Fangled" Workbench - Critique Desired

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Forum topic by freixas posted 11-26-2011 10:32 PM 14092 views 9 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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24 posts in 1795 days

11-26-2011 10:32 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question workbench new-fangled workbench critique

NOTE: Edited on 11/29/11 to correct the images (exploded view missing, some images duplicated or in wrong place).


I’ve dabbled with woodworking for over 30 years, but I am only now starting to learn about fine woodworking techniques, so consider me a beginner. Like a lot of people, my first step is to put together a woodworking shop and the heart of a shop is the workbench. So I went to the library, got a lot of books on building workbenches and put together a design. I’m sure the design has problems and I’d like to see what you more experienced folks think. All critique is welcome.


  • I stole the majority of my ideas from John White and his “New-Fangled” workbench.
  • The T-track and leg modifications came from David Pruett’s “The Folding Rule Show”.

Here’s an overview of the workbench design:

The workbench features T-track on all four legs, the two long sides and on the top. The T-track is intended to replace John White’s pipe clamps which themselves replaced the traditional bench vises. The top has removable panels. Although I don’t need them for the pipe clamps, I liked the idea of using them to create modular extensions to the bench. Here are some images that illustrate the features.

This first image shows how the top T-track can be used to clamp wood in a variety of ways. The “clamps” can be shaped as needed. The biggest problem I see is that these have a lot of height and could could get in the way. In the image above a piece of wood is clamped using shims to reduce the height problem.

Here is the planing beam as suggested by David Pruett. More T-track! The wood is held by planing wedges.

To hold the wood really tight, just add more planing wedges.

In this image, I replaced the middle section of the removable top with a router insert. I drew a crude fence (more T-track!). I know a router fence would be designed differently, but you get the idea.

Finally, here’s an exploded view of the whole thing.

Ok, drawing all this is relatively easy. Joining all the pieces into a solid, long-lasting workbench is another story.

I see a lot of bench tops that are assembled with splines, dowels or even metal rods. How necessary is this? The top is supported by four stout pieces of lumber and two endcaps. It seems to me that even the top boards weren’t fastened to each other, they are not going anywhere. Well, the top would slide on the supports unless it was attached, but it doesn’t seem like the boards that make up the top need more than to be glued together.

I tend to think in terms of screws and bolts for this project, so I’ll screw together the top and its perpendicular supports. Any tips? The top is made from lumber 1.5” x 3”, the supports are 2.25” thick. Should I screw down from the top (and cover the holes) or up from the bottom? Are there better ways to join these?

The long rails need to be fastened to the legs. I’d put a bolt through the center of their junction, but there’s T-track in the way.Suggestions? Also, what’s the best way to attach the legs to the base? Any tips on joinery would be great, the simpler the better.

I’d love to have the bench on lockable wheels, but the basemenet floor is not level. Any ideas for getting a level workbench in a basement other than making the table non-movable? That’s my current plan and the blocks under the trestle base will be adjusted to make the benchtop level.

A big mystery for me is planning for wood swelling and shrinking. Despite the multi-colored example, I’ll probably make the bench mostly out of the same kind of wood so I don’t think I’ll have to worry about differential shrinking rates.But there are several places where the grain of one piece runs perpendicular to that of another. The worst case is a 6’ board perpendicular to a 3’ board. How do you attach the pieces together so that they don’t warp or break?

Thanks for any tips, general or specific, big or small.

27 replies so far

View Byron's profile


92 posts in 1802 days

#1 posted 11-27-2011 07:39 AM

At a quick glance the tracks seem like a good idea but they seem a little clumsy and bulky. From my experience of having to clap very obscure pieces not much beats the simplicity and ease of bench dogs and some good vices. If you delve into the world of vices you can find all kinds of amazing features, especially in pattern makers vices. Emmert made some incredible ones like this one

This early style “turtle back” version of the famous Emmert universal vise is in fine working order, with no breaks or repairs. The jaws are 18” wide by 7” deep. The vise can be rotated 360 degrees and locked by means of a lever below the bench. It can also be tilted up 90 degrees to a horizontal position and easily locked anywhere in between by means of another lever below the table. The front jaw can also pivot to clamp tapered stock, such as a table leg by means of a knob on the front of the vise. Two dogs on both the front and rear jaws can be raised to clamp irregular shaped work. Rotating the vise 180 degrees brings into position a small pair of jaws for clamping metal stock. The vise is properly let into the top of the workbench.

-- Byron Conn, Woodworking/Furniture Design at Rochester Institute of Technology,

View freixas's profile


24 posts in 1795 days

#2 posted 11-27-2011 08:18 AM

@Byron: Thanks for your comments!

View IrreverentJack's profile


724 posts in 2265 days

#3 posted 11-27-2011 04:29 PM

Tony, What T tracks were you going to use on the side. Are the standard 3/4” robust enough? A lot of possibilities there. Look at leg or machine levelers. Thanks. -Jack

View tigger959's profile


50 posts in 3151 days

#4 posted 11-27-2011 09:08 PM

Looks great. Still trying to decide what benches to build for my new workshop. Is there anyway I can get plans or would you mind if I just print your pictures and create my own?

-- Tigger, Texas

View freixas's profile


24 posts in 1795 days

#5 posted 11-27-2011 09:33 PM

@IrreverentJack: Re: T-track robustness—I don’t have a clue if t he 3/4” is robust enough. That’s what you guys are for! :-) David Pruett, a professional woodworker used T-track in his design. I’ll have to review his videos to see if he says what size he uses. Re: levelers—thanks for the pointer! Now if I could only combine the levelers with wheels…

@tigger959: I don’t mind if you use my design to build the bench. I don’t even mind giving you the Sketchup model or putting up images with dimensions. The only thing is: this is an untested design made by a beginner. Are you sure you want it before it’s been reviewed? If you are an experienced woodworker, though, you’d probably find all the problems and know what to do. Send me private message with your email and I can send you the model or just the dimension images. Eventually, I’ll put this up in the Google Warehouse if it seems like a reasonable design.

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50 posts in 3151 days

#6 posted 11-29-2011 09:57 PM

I don’t know how to send a private message. Help

-- Tigger, Texas

View freixas's profile


24 posts in 1795 days

#7 posted 11-29-2011 10:06 PM

@tigger959: Click on my name to get to my profile page. On the left, you’ll see a link that says “Send a message.” Use that.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


13571 posts in 2040 days

#8 posted 11-30-2011 12:54 AM

You are obviously a T-track guy, and I’ve never used them or aspired to use them, so we’re on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to holding boards or panels to be worked on edges, faces and ends. The front mounted tracks, for example, seem very klunky to me. And top-mounted track will constantly fill with detrius from projects. They’re only as strong as the screw that hold them down, as well.

That’s not to say your design is bad, To the contrary, you’ve obviously thought about it a great deal. Like an engineer, I would say. Kudos to you! But I’d suggest also, before jumping in, that you review the elegant simplicity of a sliding deadman, crochet and leg vise along the front of your bench, and an end vise with hold downs on the top of your bench. There are lots of examples here on LJs, mine being one of them.

I don’t want you to think I’m endorsing my way. Far from it, do what you wish because it’s your bench. I debated a couple of days before writing this post, but because you stated the library was your primary source, I’ve opined that the books there may not be current. Which means no discussion of 21st century workbenches (flexible, like yours, but also traditionally grounded) or Roubo benches that fully support hand and power tool use with very simple workholding methods (face vise, end vise, wagon vise, etc.)

Bottom line, good luck!

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

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 2948 days

#9 posted 11-30-2011 01:35 AM

I think the perfect bench is one we build after using a few dozen others. A work bench should feel like a good pair of shoes, comfortable, durable and from days start to its end you are glad to have them.
One thing about your design that sends up a red flad is the wedge claps on the side of your bench. Could they damage the crisp edges of clamped wood?

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View freixas's profile


24 posts in 1795 days

#10 posted 11-30-2011 01:54 AM


Thanks for your info and I’m sorry you felt a reluctance to post. I appreciate all comments and will probably learn the most from those who find flaws with the design.

I haven’t used T-track much (did I mention I was a beginner?) so I appreciate hearing from those who have experience. They just seem so … flexible. For instance, I was wondering how I might clamp a board for sawing and looked for T-track clamps. It looks like there’s a lot of stuff available.

Having the top tracks clogged with gunk is definitely a problem.

As for the strength of the T-track … well, they’re already using for clamping. I guess the question is how much force do they need to withstand? In other words, what kinds of construction techniques would put a high degree of stress on the tracks? Real-world experience with T-track failure would be great—I’m just guessing.

And yes, I am engineer—a software engineer. Good catch!

I took a look at your projects and the Roubo workbench. It looked familiar—it’s in one of the books I referenced (and with construction plans!). There are a lot of good ideas there. The dog holes and hold fasts function similar to my top T-tracks. The leg vise and the sliding deadman function like the planing beam but the planing beam doesn’t have a big piece of metal in the way (the clamp screw).

I won’t take credit for the good parts of the design. John White came up with the planing beam. The T-track there is a bit of a problem because if you put a heavy piece of wood on it and start applying a downward force, it seems like there’s a good chance it’ll slip. John White used pipe clamps.

Anyway, a lot to think about. Thanks for your input!

View freixas's profile


24 posts in 1795 days

#11 posted 11-30-2011 02:00 AM


Yes, if I were to build this workbench, I’m sure I’d learn a lot for version 2, 3 and beyond.

As for the red flag: John White uses the wedge clamps. Another version is in Christopher Schwarz’s book. In fact, look at Smitty_Cabinetshop’s Roubo workbench. There, it’s called a crouchet. David Pruett mentions lining his with leather. Anyway, I didn’t invent these things and they appear to be used without problems.

View crank49's profile


3979 posts in 2393 days

#12 posted 11-30-2011 02:12 AM

I wonder why you omitted the most significant feature of the “New Fangled” bench out of your design; the pipe clamps used for work holding? You even left the center channel where they mount. Do you plan to add them later?

I liked the ideas of the “New Fangled Workbench”, but was about 3/4 of the way through building mine before I ran across the article about it in FWW. Also discovered the “Roubo Bench” after I was into my build, but was able to incorporate some of it’s features, like having the face of the legs flush with the edge of the top. Never regretted that.

And both of those benches feature the planing wedges which I also incorporated. I’m not too sure you can hold one of those wedges tight enough with a “T” track however. Mine is embedded into the top with a 6×6 x 1-1/2” thick tennon. That might have been overkill, but I’m not worried about it lossening up.

I built my bench about 18 months ago. Still working on it. Biggest mistake I made was to put a crappy vise on the end to serve as an end vise. Just bought a duplicate of the quick release vise I have for the front vise to use on the end. I know I’ll like that.

I think would find it annoying to have to go to the end of the bench and slide my clamps into slots every time I want to clamp something or change my configuration. Maybe you are a t-slot kind of person, and that’s fine, just sayin I’m not too sure about all that aluminum on the surface of a bench.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

View freixas's profile


24 posts in 1795 days

#13 posted 11-30-2011 02:21 AM


Thanks for the comments. As for the pipe clamps, no important reason for leaving them out. I just didn’t like the way they looked. And I didn’t like the idea of having to remove a lot of stuff to clamp something on the top. The question is whether the T-track can adequately replace the pipe clamps.

Now I want to build this just to find out! :-)

View HamS's profile


1809 posts in 1811 days

#14 posted 11-30-2011 02:35 AM

I am not sure this counts as a new fangled bench or not, but I have been using this bench for ten years.

There are no vises on it, but I use a bench hook a lot and the top is 2” thick and four inches of overhang. I designed it that way specifically to use screw clamps to hold things. I often will clamp one of the screw clamps to the top and clamp the piece in screw clamp. It is also an adjustable height bench so I can match it precisely to the table saw and it serves as an outfeed table as well. The top is melamine chipboard glued to 1×6 white wood boards. I am getting the itch to make a different bench and my new plan is something inbetween this simplicity and a classical bench. Now if I could keep the junk off it and put things away …

The important thing is I have a flat area to work on and it is comfortable for me. Make sure yours is comfortable for you.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


13571 posts in 2040 days

#15 posted 11-30-2011 02:48 AM

You did address a couple of other reference books, and that’s good. That you’ve considered is all that matters – the bench is yours and only you can ensure it addresses your needs.

With the revisions to the graphics, specifically the graphic above that this title refers to – “a piece of wood is clamped using shims to reduce the height problem”, I have a question. Is it your intent to work around all four sides of your bench? Because if you’re intending to handplane that board, it’s too far away to address with strength. And I’m not sure it would hold if you’d plane cross-grain on that board. Regarding sawing, is that with a circular saw? I would suggest sawing length or ripping material on at benchtop height is not a confidence builder unless it’s coping or dovetail saw work.

The bench should support the ways you work, and the tools you use. Handwork (traversing hardwood boards, for example) will put the most stress on your t-track system.

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

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