Workbench top width

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Forum topic by mtnjak posted 05-07-2012 01:11 PM 5445 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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41 posts in 3081 days

05-07-2012 01:11 PM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench ash walnut maple jointer planer

I spent part of my weekend planing my rough stock for my new workbench. The source of lumber for my bench is home sawn lumber using a chainsaw mill. The plan is to use all home sawn lumber for the project. I had originally calculated I should have enough maple from my rough stock to build a bench with a 24 inch wide top. However, this past week when I was jointing the faces of the stock there were about 4 pieces that were too badly twisted to use. My final finished width after all faces were jointed/planed measured 20 inches. I know some people could be happy with 20 inches but I’m thinking I’d still like to go with a 24 inch top. I can achieve this width by using some ash that I milled from a friend’s tree this past winter (already at 10-12% MC). Although, I could also save the ash and use it for something else and just go with a 20 inch wide bench. Thoughts ? For those who have built workbenches, how wide is your bench?

25 replies so far

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484 posts in 2476 days

#1 posted 05-07-2012 01:22 PM

Sounds like you WANT 24” anything less and you won’t be happy. I’m building a bench right now and 24” is all i will settle for.

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

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Mainiac Matt

8094 posts in 2358 days

#2 posted 05-07-2012 01:29 PM

you could always put a tool trough on the back side

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

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41 posts in 3081 days

#3 posted 05-07-2012 01:49 PM

Well…I think the engineer in me wants 24”. LOL When my “workbench journey” began 3 years ago I was originally thinking more like 30”. Then more practical influences (like 2 Schwarz books) got to me and talked me back down from the 30 inch ledge so to speak. ; )

View jmos's profile


840 posts in 2399 days

#4 posted 05-07-2012 01:51 PM

You could do a split top, get a little more width with the same lumber (handy for clamping from below in the center and adding a planing stop, probably more uses I’m not aware of as they seem popular.)

Ultimately it’s your preference. Some arguments I’ve seen for a more narrow bench it the ability to clamp a standard 24” cabinet on the bench and work both sides.

I ended up with 26”, which is working well, but I don’t really need the last 3-4”, 22”, or 20”, would have worked fine. I think too much wider than 24” and you don’t really utilize the area, but that’s just my opinion.

-- John

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2722 days

#5 posted 05-07-2012 02:04 PM

I’m going with 24 just because the math was easy;) Depending upon your work style, I don’t see 20 inches being a problem. Like Jmos says, the split top is getting a lot of attention. I think that would be a great way to go.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2316 days

#6 posted 05-07-2012 02:08 PM

I like to have several benches, but the one I use most is in the middle of my room where I can get completely around it. It measures 4×4 and is MDF with a couple very sturdy saw horses as a base which sit on some short nap carpeting. I can plane on it without it moving much. I build Adirondack chairs and it’s nice to be able to work on it up on the bench, saves my back.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

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41 posts in 3081 days

#7 posted 05-07-2012 02:19 PM

John, in my 3 year journey of figuring out what kind of bench I want or need I had also kicked around the split top idea. But when it finally set in that I was getting ready to start making my bench I decided against a split top. Also I decided against want what everybody and their brother, sister and crazy uncle is building (aka a Roubo) just because everybody and their brother, sister and crazy uncle is doing it. I even thought about a walnut wrapped edge around the maple with fancy joints in the corners. I finally thought back to the original reason for making a bench in the first place – to build log furniture. Now granted, that’s not the only thing I’ll be doing with the bench (as 3 years of going off on different tangents can attest to). But I thought, why not keep it simple? Solid top all the way, common QR face vises at each end. Flush front. A little extra time to intall a sliding deadman. Done.

After that I can get on to using my new “tool” to build some much needed shop cabinets and (finally) a log bench I thought of building 3 or 4 years ago.

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41 posts in 3081 days

#8 posted 05-07-2012 02:35 PM

Russell, my benchtop will actually be sitting (temporarily) on Shop Dog folding sawhorses (you can search the forums for this guy’s design) I made last year until I get the base done.

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15369 posts in 2647 days

#9 posted 05-07-2012 03:54 PM

24” for mine. I vote to use the ash to get there!

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

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8211 posts in 2606 days

#10 posted 05-07-2012 03:58 PM

Tool bin may come in handy, here’s one I like.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3509 days

#11 posted 05-07-2012 04:02 PM

I have a Sjoberg bench. Its 21 inches wide. I wish it was much wider. If you are going to use it for assembly, the wider the better if you have the room. I have never liked the tool trough on the side…I think it just takes up usable space.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

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41 posts in 3081 days

#12 posted 05-07-2012 04:41 PM

That 2 votes for using the ash (including my vote). Ash it is. I should have enough cut off length from the four 8-1/2 foot ash pieces (for a 6-foot bench) for a couple ash vise chops as well. Blonde chops, contrasting against an outer strip of walnut (both sides of the bench), two walnut strips in the middle, with blonde maple/ash everywhere else.

That’s quite a unique looking Nicholson-esque bench Waho609. Is that yours?

I already have a wider multi-purpose 2×4/mdf tablesaw outfeed bench/table for basic assembly so a 24” workbench should work fine for it’s purpose.

Thanks everyone for your input.

View jaidee's profile


51 posts in 2808 days

#13 posted 05-07-2012 04:44 PM

I don’t think you’ll see much difference in the Ash and Maple if they’re kept natural. Of course you could dye/stain the Ash for contrast and use it as a decorative design touch. I agree with Snowy on the tool tray. Mine is more useful for collecting wood shavings and sawdust than anything else and limits me to working on one side of the bench for the most part. If I were to have a new bench and “had to have” a tool tray I think I’d put it in the middle of the bench with a removeable bottom panel, allowing more clamping versatility.

-- I used to be all thumbs......'til I got a tablesaw!

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41 posts in 3081 days

#14 posted 05-07-2012 04:56 PM

I’m a fan of natural looking wood projects so I’ll probably go with a wipe on Danish oil or BLO.

I like this reference from Schwarz regarding workbench design. While it may not suit everyone I think it has a lot of good information.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3677 days

#15 posted 05-07-2012 06:26 PM

20” is fine for working boards and joinery. A Danish bench
is only 12-14” wide in the middle, with a tool tray in the
back and an additional extended surface made by the
shoulder vise. Not the best bench for sanding panels
and using a router if you are tall but for planing boards
and cutting joints the narrow working width is not
an impediment… then there’s the narrow benches used
for building chairs.

showing 1 through 15 of 25 replies

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