Tony's Workbench - No Longer "New-Fangled" - Comments still welcome (Done!)

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Forum topic by freixas posted 12-05-2011 03:00 AM 4749 views 2 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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24 posts in 2573 days

12-05-2011 03:00 AM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench design adjustable height question critique

This is version 2 of my workbench design ( see ). I no longer retain any of the features of John White’s bench, so I’ve dropped the “new-fangled” moniker. The design is now more influenced by the Roubo bench design in Chris Schwartz’s book.

Here’s what the workbench looks like:

The first view is the front of the bench, with all holes covered. The second view is the back with covers removed.

  • The bench is narrower: 24” vs. 36”
  • There is just one removable panel instead of three (and it’s larger)
  • There is no trestle base
  • The bench is on wheels
  • The legs are stouter
  • There is no apron
  • Most of the T-track is gone
  • Dogholes and a vise have been added
  • There is some height adjustability
  • The long top stretchers are gone

As a beginner, I decided to start with only the features that couldn’t be added later. The T-track in the first design might reappear in the future, but after I have some experience with the bench. This is the same reason there aren’t any fancy vises—there’s one, but only because I found that a prior house-owner left some vise hardware behind. I might as well use it.

Here are my initial solutions for clamping.

I may have to carve out a bigger hole for the vise. Blocks of various heights can used as needed. I came up with this installation idea and later found that it’s called a “wagon vise”.

A common worry seems to be how high to make the table. I considered making an adjustable height table and found this incredible design: I finally decided that was a bit of overreach for me and opted for a minimalist system.

Here’s my idea: the top narrow stretcher is just a collection of boards that bolt to the top. By adjusting the number of boards used and the length of the bolts, the height of the table can be altered by at least three inches, maybe more.

The stretcher also needs to be attached to the legs and the attachment may be similar. There will always be at least one board and it may be sufficient to attach only that one to the legs.

Finally, my available space is small, so I plan to use the table for power tools. The most important option is to use the workbench as a router table. Other tools can be mounted on the table, but they are not as critical. I would have liked to have a miter saw option, but the typical saw is rather large and needs to be mounted so that the cutting surface is level with the workbench top.

Here are some potential tools that could be mounted:

I thank everyone who responded to my original thread—you gave me a lot to think about.

11 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3171 days

#1 posted 12-05-2011 03:35 AM

This is a clearly better design, IMHO.

For attaching the legs to the top, may I suggest making a 1-1/2” deep dovetail in the top of the legs and adding another board to the bottom of your short stretcher stack with matching dovetailed ends to fit into the leg tops.
The new board would stay attached to the legs to make the base a stable self supporting entity while you raise or lower the top with the shims.

What ever you do, remember, it’s your bench. Make it so it’s comfortable for you.

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 3126 days

#2 posted 12-05-2011 03:41 AM

I personally keep my grinder, drillpress, etc away from my workbench. Don’t like the idea of iron filings from driling or whatever comes off of my grinder to spray on my lumber which is usually on the bench. Too picky maybe?

I like the revisions you made. I think T track is better used other than on your workbench.

Waiting to see the final product!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View freixas's profile


24 posts in 2573 days

#3 posted 12-05-2011 07:40 AM


Thanks for the suggestion. My idea was that one board would always be attached to the legs, so I’m with you on that. I’ve never made a fancy joint in my life and certainly not a dovetail, so I’ll probably look for something easier.

If you were to take a close look at the design (which you can’t, really, because I didn’t include an exploded view), you would see that all the cuts are really simple. Some joints are created simply by gluing the wood to form the required shapes. I will need to route some things and square some edges, but that’s about it.


Good point about the iron filings from the grinder! Thanks for the tip.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15694 posts in 2818 days

#4 posted 12-05-2011 02:29 PM

How about a t-track across the front of the top to hiod a sliding crochet? Simple way to avoid futzing with four clamps when working the end of a board or panel in pic above.

I like the drop-in tool station idea.

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

View freixas's profile


24 posts in 2573 days

#5 posted 12-05-2011 02:58 PM


The T-track on the “back” side of the bench (is there a back side?) will allow me to try out a sliding crochet. With a sliding crochet, I need a way to support the work piece, right? In my old design, I had a planing beam inserted into T-track running vertically in the legs. In Schwarz’s Roubo bench, a sliding deadman does the job.

I’ve designed the bench so that I can retrofit the leg T-tracks, add a leg vise and a sliding deadman, or maybe something else. The clamps are a temporary solution. If I find that I rarely need them, then they might be a permanent solution. If I find I use them all the time, then I’ll probably start thinking about a retrofit.

The concept behind this design is to keep it simple but adaptable and retrofit it based on my actual experience using the bench.

Thanks for checking out the design!

View freixas's profile


24 posts in 2573 days

#6 posted 07-18-2013 10:20 PM

I finally completed the workbench! The wood already has a lot of dings in it and, despite my best efforts, some joints are not optimal. I made a lot of mistakes, but I always figured this was a learning exercise and I learned a lot. Cost of the wood was ~$150 and the wheels were ~$70. There are a few screws, bolts and dowels—add maybe $30. The finish was another $12 for a total materials bill of ~$260. I found the wagon vise on an old bench in the basement—it came with the house.

There were a lot of side trips where I tried to figure out how to accomplish certain tasks without the right tools. I did buy a router pretty quick. but have no joiner or planer (except an electric hand plane and a few manual planes). I learned about sharpening and had a chance to use the planers, but still have a ways to go. The biggest problem was that due to various errors, the bench was too short—and I had just cut the parts for the legs before I realized this.

After trying some planing, I realized my locking wheels weren’t going to work, so I decided the bench had to sit on its legs (that was a 4” height loss right there). I found some alternative wheels which can be raised and lowered.

I spent a lot of time figuring out how to work around the construction problems. The height was fixed by bolting on some leg extenders. The joints weren’t precise, so the bench moved quite a bit when I pushed on it. I tightened things up and now it is rock solid.

I will use the removable insert to construct a router table. We’ll see how well that works.

Here are some pictures:

Overview of the bench.

Alternate view.

Close up of the wagon vise. I’m missing a pin that locks it in place. The white stuff is HDPE from a cutting board.

Another view. The way the vise is mounted is terrible and it was very difficult to mount. I’d like to redo it.

A close-up of the legs. You can see my “beautiful” leg extensions.

Here’s what’s underneath the plywood insert. The female side of the joints were chopped by hand. They came out pretty good.

Now on to the next set of mistakes!

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 2093 days

#7 posted 07-18-2013 11:51 PM

Good going, nice work! The router insert makes sense, IMO, I’m considering the same (still designing my first workbench).

I can tell you now though, you won’t want to have to move/remove a drill press or sander combo every time you want to use one of them or your workbench. Trust me on this.

And what’s with the cumbersome use of 4 clamps on the leg? A face vise or leg vise are your true friends!

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View freixas's profile


24 posts in 2573 days

#8 posted 07-19-2013 03:52 AM

Thanks, redSLED!

It’s been about a year and a half since I first posted my design and I have a lot more experience under my belt, so I agree with you on the drill press/sander/etc. issue. The only things I’ll add are probably things that might get some value being placed on a large, flat surface. And things like a drill press or sander can just as easily be placed on the bench, so there’s hardly a need for an insert. It’s possible even the router might be awkward, but I’ll give it a try.

By the way, I don’t own a drill press. That’s the alternate way of conserving space. :-)

Finally, about the four clamps: this bench took long enough. You want me to add another vise? One I have to pay for? :-) I have the clamps. They’ll work for now. And if they don’t, well then I can consider other options…

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15694 posts in 2818 days

#9 posted 07-19-2013 03:58 AM

Congrats on completion! Let the journey with your new bench begin!!

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

View JayT's profile


5960 posts in 2411 days

#10 posted 07-19-2013 11:56 AM

Interesting design. Looks like it should work well.

For a low cost leg vise, you might consider doing one of shipwright’s wedge powered versions. No real hardware to buy and easily removeable when not needed.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View moke's profile


1265 posts in 2976 days

#11 posted 07-19-2013 05:23 PM

I love your design! The T-track idea from a year or two ago was a good idea….and how about an insert that doubles as a Kreg assembly table and the drilling jig….I am going to do that with a drop into the dogs. I don’t use kregs all that much but sure are handy when needed and an assembly table is very handy. As stated the small DP and sander are nice but could be a PITA to replace when in the heat of a project. Make another table for them.

-- Mike

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