workbenches thoughts and opinions

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Forum topic by jacob34 posted 11-22-2013 07:58 PM 1349 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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465 posts in 2465 days

11-22-2013 07:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench clamps

So I am a subscription holder to Wood Magazine and in October issue #221 they have an article or project “built-to-last Work center”. I am always amazed at the ability for woodworking to take an project and present a million solutions to both the inherent issues as well as a myriad of cost ranges. The work bench in the article uses F clamps as vises and simple dowel and a square block for dogs. Now I realize it is not a new concept and that the bench is easy and cheap and if one is seriously into hand tools it is not going to cut the mustard. I also think though that no other hobby or profession for some gives as many possibilities for both creativity as well as failure.

I remember when I started, and lets be honest I am not a pro or veteran of woodworking by any means I am still in baby stage, thinking of all the crazy things I wanted to build I even purchased some woodworking plans such as one for a challenger locomotive (that will open a new woodworkers eyes), and feeling confronted by not feeling like I could figure out how they where made. Now my outlook or focus is on the range of things my tools can do and which one can accomplish what I am looking to do.

Which brings me to the point of the posting (yes there is a point) I am curious what we choose to view as a work bench. Is there a difference in our minds between a bench for power tool woodworkers versus hand tools guys and are they looked as less than as a bench? Is a handmade more important than one purchased? What things are accepted corners to cut, example I have heard a lot of people pooh, pooh using pipe clamps as vises. Anyway I hope everyone’s shop time is plentiful during the holidays as well as time with our families and happy holidays to all.

-- so a bear and a rabbit are sitting on a log

12 replies so far

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2978 days

#1 posted 11-22-2013 08:25 PM

I have had 4 or 5 workbenches – all of them were good for different things. Start simple and modify to your needs. It is all good in the end. As you get better and change, your ideal workbench will change as well.

Put in the elements that you need – it is as flexible as you make it.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3850 days

#2 posted 11-22-2013 08:32 PM

a workbench is a raised (from the floor) surface you work on – nothing more nothing less.

now, how you build/buy your workbench all depends on your needs (height, mass, stability, size, friction/smoothness, accessories, work holding) – all these are point to consider and are personal to each one, but none make anything into a “workbench” or take from one if it doesn’t have those.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2586 days

#3 posted 11-22-2013 09:08 PM

My 2 cents: yes, hand tool vs power tool makes a difference, though I suspect a good hand tool bench will also be fine for power tools, the reverse is not the case…

If you want to hand plane edges, you need something to hold the work…if you want to hand plane faces of boards, then a Flat bench is necessary so the board doesn’t flex…

as to pipe clamps…i have been using a double pipe clamp vise for about 4 years, and like olit so much I am planning to build a better one when I build my new “real” bench (3 in. Top, dog holes, etc ).

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View Don W's profile

Don W

19010 posts in 2769 days

#4 posted 11-22-2013 09:15 PM

Do some reading on the workbench smack down thread. There is lots of very good information and lots of bench builds shown, including some with pipe vices.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2487 days

#5 posted 11-22-2013 09:16 PM

For me, a workbench is an elevated surface to work on (rather than the floor), and a giant clamping jig. I want to be able to hold pieces of various shapes and sizes in various positions. AND it needs to be solid enough to pound on and not slide around if I’m hand planing something.

How that’s accomplished is up to me but it usually starts with basically a box (framed or filled in with drawers and doors and shelves) and a top that overhangs the box. I can clamp to any edge. I can clamp to the FACE of an edge (because it’s thick) and all in all, it looks like crap, BUT… it works for what I do.

I absolutely LOVE looking at some of the great benches other LJers are building. But when I have time in the shop I don’t normally have time to build a bench.

So… shoot me for voicing a sacrilegious opinion (no… I’m kidding… don’t really shoot me) but I’ll probably never have a gorgeous bench. What I WILL have is an elevated work space to which I can clamp stuff in various sizes and in various positions. :)

A workbench is IMPORTANT.... but it’s not an altar. It’s a place where I BUILD altars. :)

View JayT's profile


5961 posts in 2412 days

#6 posted 11-22-2013 09:24 PM

I don’t think anything needs added to PurpLev’s complete and concise post.

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

View bandit571's profile


21764 posts in 2884 days

#7 posted 11-22-2013 09:40 PM

Starting out, I built one like Norm Abram did

Gave that to my brother. Used a tablesaw as a workbench for a long time.

Then, reclaimed some old barn wood, and made a English Style bench, with a pipe clamp leg vise. Was so heavy, had to leave it behind when I moved to a new place.

Reclaimed some other lumber, from a Dumpster, and built a small, cheap but usable for a small, cramped shop bench

Maybe IF I could just keep it cleared off…....

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3172 days

#8 posted 11-22-2013 09:47 PM

Since I do so many different types of work, the work workbench refers to many different things.
My welder/pipe fitters bench has a massive 6” vise on one end, a Ridgid pipe vise on the other and the top is a sheet of 3/4” thick steel. Thing weighs about 300 lbs but would fit into the trunk of a car.
My jewelers repair bench is birch, has a 48” high work surface with a tiny precision vise and a Foredom tool hanger, ceramic welding pad, and a tray to catch filings.
My wax carving bench is similar to the jeweler’s bench, but includes a lathe and mill for machining wax.
My electronics bench is anti static with a bazillion outlets and an exhaust fan to pull soldering smoke away from my face. It’s got a shelf to hold my meters and scopes and various hand tools and wire and sheet metal tools.
In my wood shop I built a Roubo style bench but it’s almost entirely made of laminated plywood. I also have a bench for my pen turning lathe and grinding station.

I guess what I’m trying to say is a bench is whatever it needs to be to make the work being done on it easier or better or safer or more accurate. And we even customize these to suit our own style and sense of what looks and works well.

View Texcaster's profile


1287 posts in 1875 days

#9 posted 11-22-2013 11:18 PM

I don’t make a distinction between hand tools, hand power tools and stationary machines. They are all just a means to an end for me. As long as you have two hands free and the job is secure it must be a proper bench.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View mahdee's profile


4021 posts in 1969 days

#10 posted 11-22-2013 11:42 PM

I made a simple workbench for my need which was based on using hand tools; didn’t want to collect shavings and such. So, using 2×4’s, every other piece was missing so things could fall right on the floor instead of accumulating on the bench. I have another solid bench, the top being a solid core door; that one is for sanding and finishing. All the comments here in regards to workbenches are reasonable; the workbench is just a raised surface to comfortably make your thing instead of having to work on the floor. Just make a simple one, use screws to hold it together, and when the time comes to modify it, un-screw everything and call it “reclaimed workbench”.


View Tedstor's profile


1678 posts in 2834 days

#11 posted 11-23-2013 12:15 AM

You can buy a decent, small vise off eBay for $20-30 all day. I’d rather go that route than using a rigged-up f-clamp vise.
I had grand ideas of building a Roubo or Shaker bench. But in reality, I don’t have the time to complete such a project in a timely manner. It’s still a goal of mine, but not something I’ll likely get to anytime soon. I considered building one of the “weekend-type” benches, but before I could, I stumbled upon a surplus shop class bench on Craigslist. It has a 2 1/8” maple top and the base is made up of a bank of six heavy gauge steel lockers. It’s a beast, and only cost me $90ish. I added a vintage 7” craftsman vise which works goodnuff. I do mostly power tool stuff, so this suits me well. And the extra storage is always welcomed.

View jacob34's profile


465 posts in 2465 days

#12 posted 11-24-2013 10:59 PM

I built a bench of sorts, it was or is a 2×4 framed in mdf top with a “ebay” vise. I found out though it racks pretty bad when you use a hand plane on it. Probably because it is put together with screws. I am getting ready to get or build a new one with hand tools in mind. I will most likely buy one honestly because I do not get all tingly about the thought about building one from scratch. I am looking forward to when I end up in my final shop building a mammoth bench. I kinda want to buy one and build a “on the cheap” bench and use them both to see if one is really better or if spending more just gives you a pretty bench.

-- so a bear and a rabbit are sitting on a log

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