Recommend me a quick-and-dirty (but nice) workbench design

  • Advertise with us

« back to Focus on the Workspace forum

Forum topic by jonah posted 10-18-2013 12:46 AM 3686 views 0 times favorited 33 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View jonah's profile


1727 posts in 3327 days

10-18-2013 12:46 AM

I’m interested in moving past my “old kitchen cabinets with sheet goods on top” bench to something a little more suited to power and hand tool use.

Can anyone recommend a (preferably free) plan for a quick-and-dirty workbench? I’m not looking for a “forever” bench, just an upgrade that’ll allow me to continue to develop my skills until I have the time, money, and skill to build something better. Money is limited, so I’ll probably be using kiln dried construction lumber for the base and possibly for the top as well. I haven’t worked out exactly what I want to spend yet, but it won’t be much. I won’t be making the thing out of maple, that’s for sure.

I picked up a couple of old Columbian woodworking vises off Craigslist recently, and I’m currently in the process of cleaning/de-rusting/repainting them, so I’ll be using those on whatever I come up with for a new bench. I’m not sure my old bench could even support the vises – they weigh probably 60lbs each and I think they’d probably collapse the rickety old cabinets if I tried to bolt them on.

My current bench is fine for an assembly table, but it’s nowhere near stable enough for hand planing.

Any advice on a design/plan?

33 replies so far

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 2067 days

#1 posted 10-18-2013 12:50 AM

There’s a workbench smackdown thread with 7800 posts. Some of those are actually about workbenches.

Might be something there to spark your interest.

-- This Ad Space For Sale! Your Ad Here! Reach a targeted audience! Affordable Rates, easy financing! Contact an ad represenative today at JustJoe's Advertising Consortium.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3172 posts in 3260 days

#2 posted 10-18-2013 12:54 AM

Check You Tube for “Ron Paulk ultimate workbench”. You might get some ideas from this custom home builder…or do like I did and buy his plans.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3320 days

#3 posted 10-18-2013 01:00 AM

Here's a writeup on one that’s about as plain as you can get: laminated construction lumber for top and legs and framework. You don’t really need a plan to build something like it. Bolt on your vises and you’re in business. You can also look up Paul Sellers’ multi-part series on Youtube where he builds something similar, but more English style.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1921 days

#4 posted 10-18-2013 01:09 AM

Haha, reading the workbench smackdown thread with 7800 posts is definitely NOT quick and dirty.

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

View MrFid's profile


876 posts in 1933 days

#5 posted 10-18-2013 01:09 AM

Woodsmith Shop episode 601 has a “heavy duty workbench” made. Plans available for free on their website if you sign up for their emails. Here is the link. The plans are well-written and really well designed, and easy to follow. Mdf top and 2x stock are used. Here is the one I made from their plans. I love mine, and any doubts I had about the MDF top are gone. I like how it has performed so far.
Best of luck!

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View richardwootton's profile


1699 posts in 1984 days

#6 posted 10-18-2013 01:53 AM

I definitely second the Paul Sellers series. Super informative and straight forward. I have just taken his concepts and made them my own, like deciding to beef up the legs on one side, make them flush with the top, add a leg vise, and put the tool well on the other side instead of in the middle. I would definitely read through his series and watch his videos then take those comments and build the bench right for you.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View richardwootton's profile


1699 posts in 1984 days

#7 posted 10-18-2013 01:57 AM

I’m also taking this opportunity to make this bench my first “practice” bench, before I dive into my next hardwood bench, at which point I will donate this bench to a woodworker also learning this art. Preferably using hand tools. ;)

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View JayT's profile


5679 posts in 2240 days

#8 posted 10-18-2013 02:19 AM

I recently finished a bench using construction lumber based on Schwarz’s Knockdown Holtzapffel design. It is a pretty simple build, but very strong and stable. I use it for hand planing with no issues or movement. Check out my projects for more info and a link to Schwarz’s plan. On the tablet or I’d link it for you.

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

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2605 days

#9 posted 10-18-2013 12:39 PM

Fine woodworking's GSIW workbench is a great design and pretty simple to make.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View jonah's profile


1727 posts in 3327 days

#10 posted 10-18-2013 02:27 PM

Thanks for all the replies, some really great information there.

I’m a little skeptical of using MDF for a top, to be honest, but a lamination of kiln-dried dimensional lumber is right up my alley. I think I’ll start with the one JJohnston linked, and customize from there. I don’t think I’ll use a tool tray – it just seems like a place where crap will collect and I already have enough of those. The bench will also double as an assembly table, so I’ll need as much real estate as possible.

I’ll check out Paul Sellers’ stuff on Youtube.

View jayseedub's profile


128 posts in 1994 days

#11 posted 10-18-2013 03:37 PM

Last summer I made the Woodsmith “Heavy Duty Workbench” and I love it. I added a cabinet with sliding doors in the opening, and it is so heavy I can’t even move it when I HEAVE against it. Rock solid, and really really easy to make. And affordable.

I drilled a series of holes for bench dogs in the side and MDF top (hmm. maybe I added some hardboard to the top too—can’t remember)—and no issues at all. Laminating is a pain, and I don’t think you get sufficient value out of the effort.

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4126 days

#12 posted 10-18-2013 03:40 PM

Chris Schwarz has a new two day workbench design video coming out… It looks interesting.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4126 days

#13 posted 10-18-2013 03:41 PM

Actually looks like it is released.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2661 days

#14 posted 10-18-2013 04:02 PM

I like a few of the designs on the site. Some of the older pictures are not currently working, hopefully they’ll be fixed. But here’s an idea. A minimalist design, but looks like an easy, cheap build. Douglass Fir from the local big box would get it done.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2683 days

#15 posted 10-18-2013 04:13 PM

I won’t lik it because it moves all the time, But do a search for “Bob and daves good fast and cheap” bench. Then make the following changes.

1. Skip the tool well
2. Move the doh holes closer to the front
3. Move the lower stretcher down a bit (this will help you not run into it so much)
4. Attach the top so it’s flush with the legs

That will make for a KILLER bench.

Here’s mine without those mods (and it’s still good).

Click for details

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

showing 1 through 15 of 33 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics