Work bench or Shop Furniture?

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Forum topic by needshave posted 03-13-2013 11:19 AM 2447 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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177 posts in 2194 days

03-13-2013 11:19 AM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench shop furniture plane question

Work bench or shop furniture
I’m in the process of moving my shop from my residence to a larger commercial building. My current workbench has served me well, now about 12 years old, it has been used and abused but still has plenty of live still in it and I will be moving it as well and re purpose it within the shop.
I plan to build a larger workbench and incorporate some features I have seen here on LJ. One of the things I’ve seen on LJ’s is that some workbenches are really furniture grade, showroom quality. I know one individual, a good friend, spent the better part of last winter building his workbench. Now that it’s finished, he does not want to use it for any rough work in fear of damaging it and works off saw horses.
What are your thoughts on a workbench, should it be a thing of beauty and a joy forever or should it be a tool, designed to be self-sacrificing and designed so that those parts/items damaged, in daily builds, are easily replaced and are intended to be “wear items”? I look forward to you’re thoughts.

28 replies so far

View jackthelab's profile


313 posts in 2927 days

#1 posted 03-13-2013 11:25 AM


Interesting topic as I have seen those benches as well. Make something usable. I am not against a beautiful looking bench but what you put into the shop should be there to help you accomplish your tasks.

-- Dave in Minnesota - If it ain't broke, improve it!

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile (online now)


15794 posts in 2853 days

#2 posted 03-13-2013 11:30 AM

Build it for use, definitely. I avoid doing purposeful harm to my benchtop, but I also don’t baby it, and it will last my lifetime and more.

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

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1879 posts in 2204 days

#3 posted 03-13-2013 11:44 AM

I did searches when I was building mine about how they were done throughout history. When you find images of workbenches in museums you see that they were taken care of, although they weren’t babied. Of course if you are building something why not make it pleasing to the eye. Personally however, I wouldn’t want to build something that was so nice that I was going to beat up when I could use such nice wood elsewhere. Of course, I built mine out of pallet wood, so for me it’s not too much of an issue. And I am only a beginner yet. The guys with more experience hopefully will chime in. I’ll be watching this one

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3186 days

#4 posted 03-13-2013 12:21 PM

I’m with Smitty. Build something nice, but don’t baby it. A well-built workbench will be one that is truly functional, very sturdy, and at the same time showcases some of your abilities as a woodworker.

he does not want to use it for any rough work in fear of damaging it and works off saw horses.

Now that is just silly.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View johnstoneb's profile


3070 posts in 2407 days

#5 posted 03-13-2013 12:41 PM

Smitty X2
Build somthing pleasing to your eye. It just makes using it that much more enjoyable and you will probably keep it cleaner.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3186 days

#6 posted 03-13-2013 12:43 PM

Plus, nothing is nicer than a well-built bench with character.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3205 days

#7 posted 03-13-2013 12:50 PM

I think a beautiful workbench is a pretty thing to look at, but if that’s all it’s used for it would be a shame.

The true beauty and character of a real workbench is the nicks, cuts, scrapes and dents collected over time because these are badges of honorable service. They invoke memories of the jobs that were being done when they were collected.

It matters not if the bench is a piece of furniture when built, it is incomplete without the wear and tear that comes with a lifetime of service.


View needshave's profile


177 posts in 2194 days

#8 posted 03-13-2013 01:09 PM

I have asked him, why, when it took so long to build and he spent so many hours building and perfecting it, he now does not use it. His response, “Exactly”! Over a cup of coffee he shared that all though it was a great learning experience, he has spent so much money and time on it, he hates to damage it and regrets the outlay of time and money, when something could have be built of equivalent strength and durability and provide the same function. His efforts could have been directed elsewhere. He calls his work bench “eye Candy” My posting here, was a result of my discussion with him.

View Rileysdad's profile


110 posts in 3513 days

#9 posted 03-13-2013 01:43 PM

I think the key to making a workbench that functions as a workbench is in the selection of materials. Build a solid work holding platform from southern Yellow Pine or Douglas Fir and don’t put a finish on it. Flatten the top, but don’t bother making it glass smooth.

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

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3148 days

#10 posted 03-13-2013 01:52 PM

I started out feeling just like you express, about MY workbench being too good to use but I got over it. It now has a few rotational burn makes and several scratches. I now look at those marks as badges of honor, if you will… 8-)

BTW, I often use the 36in wide Contractors/Builder's Paper from HD to cover the bench when working with glue and finishes.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 3071 days

#11 posted 03-14-2013 12:40 AM

I’ve always admired those European benches but they are out of my league financially. But I didn’t want to do without the features so I rebuilt my bench which was a solid core door on a 2X4 frame built into the floor of my shop. It’s light weight, but sturdy.

I covered my bench with bamboo flooring from Home Depot. One box for $50 and I only used half of it. My bench is 79” X 30”. I used to use the same paper HorizontalMike uses, but I don’t need it any more. The bamboo flooring has a good finish on it and nothing sticks to it. I glue my projects on the bench, lift them off when dry and peel the excess glue off with a chisel leaving no scratches. I can do the same with stains and paint. They stay on the surface.

But my bench is VERY versatile and efficient. I imbedded 2 t-tracks into the surface and installed 2 pipe clamps below the surface on the end. I have 79 inches of clamping surface and the pipe clamps pop out in seconds to reveal more features. I clamp jigs, tools, mini benches, handscrews and more into the t-tracks in a matter of seconds. Here’s a link to it here on LJ

My “bench ”:

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2870 days

#12 posted 03-14-2013 03:09 AM

I felt a little apprehensive to really “use” my bench after it was completed. After some dents and scratches, the feeling disappeared. As HMike said, I really view them as badges of honor. I did however get a little worked up when I nicked the tail vice with a jigsaw. A quick and dirty piece of plywood piece for the shop doesn’t deserve that cut in my bench lol. I do have some plywood benches on either side of my mitersaw. Those are reserved for the abusive use like cutting sandpaper with a utility knife or holding a sweaty beverages in summer.

There is a place for sacrificial work surfaces, but that should in no way deter you from building a furniture quality bench.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3882 days

#13 posted 03-14-2013 03:18 AM

I’m pretty rough on my bench… and it’s not a sloppy

An analogy: some guys buy tools to collect tools,
others buy them to get work done. Festool and Lie
Nielsen and other makers profit from both

View Quixote's profile


206 posts in 3872 days

#14 posted 04-05-2013 07:38 AM

If it’s up for a vote, I prefer the bench as a tool. Unfortunately mine more often serves as a place to catch clutter.


-- I don't make sawdust...I produce vast quantities of "Micro Mulch."

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3203 days

#15 posted 04-05-2013 10:19 AM

It’s just a matter of being careful, put your work on top of a sacrificial piece if your boring, chiselling etc. Have your workpiece overhanging when you saw so don’t cut into the bench. Common sense things.

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