Workbenches: What type do you favor and why?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Focus on the Workspace forum

Forum topic by Bart Steed posted 01-29-2014 03:12 AM 2435 views 0 times favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Bart Steed's profile

Bart Steed

24 posts in 1606 days

01-29-2014 03:12 AM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench bench opinion handplaning rigidity rigid help

I’ve purchased a small solid oak workbench from harbor freight for $150. It’s OK – it came with only a shoulder vise and provides nowhere near the amount of rigidity I’ll need to handplane. I’ve been told that you can glue the joints to help with this but the more I get into woodworking the more I realize that it will not be enough. It just has no room for a front vise and it’s fairly small…

So with the help of my hand tools and my local sawmill, I intend to build one. I really like the well board bench used/built by Paul Sellers. It seems a bit high but that’s another topic all together.

I would love to hear real tradesmens’ opinions on what they love about their bench and why. Furthermore, what kind of work they do and how it helps them do it? Do you use an apron and why? How about the wellboard? Twin screw vise? Quick release? I would love to hear all about it…

Help me build a bench that will I will love and turn this harbor freight model into my sharpening station! :)

Anxiously awaiting your Lumberjack opinions…

-- Bart Steed, Apprentice, Ohio USA

29 replies so far

View waho6o9's profile


8168 posts in 2547 days

#1 posted 01-29-2014 03:30 AM

Here’s a little reading for ya.

Have fun on your journey.

View Kelby's profile


134 posts in 2381 days

#2 posted 01-29-2014 03:58 AM

I have posted a picture of my bench in my workshop page.

I incorporated a tail vice, and it is one of the most used things in my workshop. I highly recommend adding a tail vice.

My shoulder vice is a quick-release vice. I believe I bought it at Woodcraft. It works well, and I’m happy to have it. However, as dust builds into a gunk on the sliding parts, it takes a bit of effort to slide it. I periodically have to take the shoulder vice apart, clean it, and get it sliding smoothly again. That’s a hassle, but otherwise I’m happy with it

I also have a tool tray on my bench. Also known as a “junk collector.”

I have added a set of drawer beneath the bench. That makes it very convenient to access my hand tools and measuring tools. Also, it adds a lot of weight. The bench doesn’t budge.

-- Kelby

View richardwootton's profile


1699 posts in 1925 days

#3 posted 01-29-2014 04:37 AM

+1 to waho! Options are wide open, and you can build something worth a good god damn for a relatively inexpensive price tag that will beat the hell out of that HF bench. I seriously entertained the idea of buying one of those when I was getting started, and I can’t tell you how happy I am that I didn’t!

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

View Texcaster's profile


1277 posts in 1643 days

#4 posted 01-29-2014 10:15 AM

Anything with moveable dogs. Hands free to route, sand, plane & carve. The traditional tail vise is the most versatile, I use it for everything, my leg vise only gets a look in for edge planning. I have a high and low bench. The trad. base design has the rails almost half way up, making the base more rigid and stable.

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

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2354 days

#5 posted 01-29-2014 01:02 PM

Here’s my estimation of the +’s & -’s of each:

>Traditional tail vise: Very versatile, can be used with dog holes, or used without to hold small pieces. BUT…it is a much more involved build, and can tend to sag over time.
>Wagon vise: simpler to build, works well with dog holes…but not quite as versitile as a tail vise.
>Simply attach a quick-release vise to the end: simple install…but you have a large chunk of metal hanging off the end of your bench.
>Twin-screw vise (Like Veritas): Great for holding wide pieces down on the workbench with dogs…But may tend to rack if you are only using one side (as with a smaller workpiece using only your front row of dogs.
>Veritas inset vise: This fairly new, but has gotten good reviews…it is basically a metal wagon vise. Check it out.

>Quick release vise: easy install…but you run the risk of running your planes into metal.
>Double-screw vise: Great for dovetailing large case sides…but when used to hold a large board for edge jointing, the screws mean the board sticks up pretty high. Also, many people have found that their bench height is a bit low for dovetailing, which has led to….
>Detachable Moxon vise: This is a twin-screw vise that is clamped to the top of the bench, raising your work up to a more confortable sawing level. Many people swear by them, but it means getting it out and fixing it to your workbench when you want to use it.
>Leg vise: great for planing the edges of long, large boards, because the screw is half-way down the leg, and people say it is one of the strongest grippers….but for dovetailing large case sides, this will only hold one side, and you’ll need to hold the other side with a clamp or holdfast to the front of your bench.

*A word about front vises: I have read very convincing arguments that the best combination is to have a leg vise, and then also have a moxon vise to break out when you want to saw at a higher height. This makes a lot of sense…BUT I decided moving the moxon around was too much trouble, so I went with a twin-screw vise mounted on my bench, which is at a hybrid height between the lower ideal planing height, and the higher ideal sawing height.

APRON OR NO: No apron means easier clamping things at the front end of your bench, and if you put in a sliding dead-man; you have most of the advantages of an apron,....THAT SAID, I chose an apron (english style) because I wanted to be able to roll my tool chest under the bench, and the wide apron gives me the racking resistance that I lose by not having a lower front stretcher. An apron full of holes lets you support long pieces that are held in your front vise, and if your apron is thick enough (usually about 1.5”) you can use holdfasts on the front of your bench.

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

View dhazelton's profile


2756 posts in 2266 days

#6 posted 01-29-2014 01:42 PM

If you’re keeping the Harbor Freight bench until you build your keeper you might want to just stiffen it up with a piece of sheet goods screwed to the back and ends to make it rack less.

View Texcaster's profile


1277 posts in 1643 days

#7 posted 01-29-2014 10:10 PM

You will get many miles out of a tail vise before it needs attention. To service, just clean the wear spots and glue in a bit of veneer.

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

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3099 days

#8 posted 01-30-2014 12:02 AM

I made this bench out of quarter sawn white oak about seven years ago. I installed Veritas Twin Screw vices on both front and tail. Have to disagree with Twelve Strings, these Veritas vices don’t wrack that’s the whole idea of the twin screws. Also, if you need to work an upright – like a table leg or something – you place it between the twin screws and you can apply awesome clamping pressure. I also ditched the whole trestle design. I see no advantage to it except that it allows companies to ship their tables flat. Instead I used four 3×4” legs with fully mortised stringers and aprons. It can’t be knocked down flat for shipping, but its not going anywhere -There is NO movement in this table. This design also allowed easy installation of a sliding peg board and a cabinet with drawers for tools.

View richardwootton's profile


1699 posts in 1925 days

#9 posted 01-30-2014 12:36 AM

mcase, that’s a gorgeous bench you have there!

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

View Kryptic's profile


294 posts in 1630 days

#10 posted 01-30-2014 01:10 AM

with all the luxuries that a nice bench can give you, the beast can only look awesome if you know how to use a camera for some, for others only a varied degree of conflict, as to whats important.

I will remain for the rest of my life, knowing that anyone who thinks they cant do nice work without the state of the art, euro bench is as naive as they get, Not the kinda a person I would hire to make me money but maybe some one to make me laugh. They are a bit of a testament to dedication, and the pursuit to being purist which too often ends in the offering of a trophy that never receives a scratch, which in my humble opinion, is the last trophy they ever make : )

My preference is for dollies with wheels, that I can whip around the shop, where the height of the dolly, is the same height as my most popular tools, that way my entire shop can become a giant workbench without busting my nuts and torque my spine out of joint.

Real Tradesman


View widdle's profile


2069 posts in 2968 days

#11 posted 01-30-2014 01:15 AM

Kryptic..tradesman as in carpentry and or cabinet making and woodworking are two very different skil sets..

View Kryptic's profile


294 posts in 1630 days

#12 posted 01-30-2014 01:21 AM


both I guess ?

View Kryptic's profile


294 posts in 1630 days

#13 posted 01-30-2014 01:37 AM

How could one be a good cabinet maker without understanding how to frame and how could one be a good framer without knowing how to make a cabinet, or a set of stairs, or a door, or a timber framed front porch, there are some who swear by the bench, others dont have that luxury, and rely on what comes off the bench : ) and joiners must adapt promptly, or terms of $endearment$ end quickly

Not to say I dont have memories, of the days, when I enjoyed foolishness : ), ….still have the bench, but she only warms up in summer and only then do I get to visit the scars I placed in it.


View Texcaster's profile


1277 posts in 1643 days

#14 posted 01-30-2014 01:48 AM

Kryptic it’s not about having a status object, ( ok, it is a little bit ) it’s about working hands free & and changing the work around without any fuss. I fit / plane assembled drawers in my tail vise with ease. Funnily enough I can make it work for guitar bodies as well.

Show us your trolleys.

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

View Kryptic's profile


294 posts in 1630 days

#15 posted 01-30-2014 03:45 AM

My “Troll” eys , one from the states

the other from my own backyard

an international view of the imf

showing 1 through 15 of 29 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