Another Workbench Newbie!

  • Advertise with us

« back to Power Tools, Hardware and Accessories forum

Forum topic by nd23rin posted 04-28-2009 03:48 PM 8509 views 1 time favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View nd23rin's profile


20 posts in 3366 days

04-28-2009 03:48 PM

Hey All-

I know this is a well threaded question, but I will ask it as it applies to my situation anyway! I am very new to woodworking, but have some decent tools (3 LN Hand Planes, good chisels, Router, Miter Saw, Japanese saws). I have been agonizing over my workbench build for two weeks now, and need some help from the wise people here.

I see tons of workbench plans on the web, but they tend to fall into distinct categories:

1. “Easy Workbench” – Build in a day, uses ply wood and looks like a toy”
2. “Sturdy but Easy Workbench” – Build in a weekend
3. “High Quality Workbench” – looks very difficult to build, and seems to take people a year to complete

I really would like to build something nice and sturdy, but not necessarily just a box with a door on top, even though I know doors work great…I’m just being facetious. On the other hand, I have read Chris Shwarz’s book, and the Ruobo looks great, but quite frankly very difficult. I see many agree that laminating strips for the top is the best alternative for the top…but I don’t have a planer or jointer…yet. That whole process seems to be very time consuming and looks to be one of those things that is much harder then people admit to! Is there a middle road? I am open to MDF tops, as long as they are thick 2-3 inches. I am open to challenging myself on the base with mortise tenon joinery.

In my area, SYP is not hard to find per say, but it’s either 2X8, 2X10 or 2X12. DOuglas Fir is always really thin, like 1 inch. I am getting very frustrated because it seems every bench I consider building, I have some obstacle with materials or so forth. I will be using it for hand tools a lot so it needs to be sturdy.



25 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3678 days

#1 posted 04-28-2009 04:11 PM

search for the New Fangled Workbench here, and on

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

View NedB's profile


659 posts in 3595 days

#2 posted 04-28-2009 04:29 PM

I’ll second the newfangled bench. I’m almost done with mine, could have built it in a weekend, but life happens sometimes. I’ve got less than $150 in mine in materials. Might add on another $10 or $20 worth of materials, but not much more than that. Oh, and if you read the article, they recommend buying larger widths, and cutting the stock out of those pices, as they’re usually cut from the center of the log and are relatively straighter grained etc…

-- Ned - 2B1ASK1

View nd23rin's profile


20 posts in 3366 days

#3 posted 04-28-2009 04:52 PM

To be honest, I just came accross the new fangled workbench last weekend. I have heard two possible negatives:

1. It may be too light for heavy planing?
2. People claim it is difficult to build??

I have also strongly considered the workbench 1.0 design, nicholson workbench, Bill Taggart’s Easy Shaker style bench, $175 dollar workbench (although involves planing many strips of wood for top.”

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3678 days

#4 posted 04-28-2009 05:01 PM

aaaaah, so you want a heavy duty sturdy workbench, that would be simple and quick to build AND will look like a fine woodworking piece of furniture? ;o)

here’s my suggestion to you, I’ve given it last week, but will give it again- build yourself a quick, easy to make, good-enough workbench that will give you a platform to start working on. as your skills progress, and you gain more insight as to what features you need in the workbench for your type of work, what is the perfect work height of the bench for YOU, and what other ideas you can put into it – THEN, you can build another workbench that would answer all those needs. be able to plane it’s large top (if thats what you will choose), make it sturdier, make it nicer… use the right vice for your work (shoulder? front? end? tail?) make it at a comfortable height for your needs, have drawers/cabinet for tools under/over/besides…

you get the idea.

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

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3702 days

#5 posted 04-28-2009 05:06 PM

Laminating the top isn’t that hard, I did it all with a table saw (good rip blade, not a combo) and a No 7 plane

Just buy decent lumber and let it sit for a few weeks. Then Rip to equal sized pieces.

I spent a weekend just doing the top, but not a tough weekend. I spent most of the day putzing with the BBQ I was doing and listening to music on the deck while drinking some beer. Great weekend

It took the weekend because I did it the slow but sure way. Adding 1 piece of the laminate every 2 hours or so. By doing it 1 piece at a time you give yourself a good chunk of time to ensure the board is as even as you can get it.

Once glued and cured it only took an hour or so to hand joint it flat on both sides.

Around here one of the Borgs carry decent looking Doug Fir 4×4’s in 8’ chunks, it would make great legs without glue up.

I basically built a Roubo with out any nice features and love it, I’m going to do a second one out of better lumber and put in the plane stop, shoulder vise, and just use my big 10” wilton quick release for the face vise.

A good bench is one of those things that you appreciate the minimal time over the “build it in a weekend” time it took.

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 3597 days

#6 posted 04-28-2009 05:12 PM

I’ll echo PurpleLev here – you’re far better off to build a really basic and simple bench to get started. Then, once you figure out what you want/need/like you can move up the workbench ‘food chain’. (And you’ll probably do so more than once over the course of your woodworking life.)

Trying to build a ‘perfect’ bench right out of the starting gate will lead to nothing but grief. Heck, as a newbie woodworker I had a hard enough time figuring out how to build my basic bench.

Click for details

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View nd23rin's profile


20 posts in 3366 days

#7 posted 04-28-2009 05:19 PM

Points well taken…I don’t really need it built in a weekend, just not a year long process which I need to start a full blown blog to document along the way!

Thing is, something about doing the M/T work on the base and so on may actually be a bootstrapping process….learning as I build right?

View Planeman's profile


97 posts in 3606 days

#8 posted 04-28-2009 05:39 PM

Actually, you need two types of workbenches in woodworking, a “project” or “assembly” bench and a work-holding bench. The project bench is for pounding, painting, assembly, etc. that can take some abuse. The work-holding bench is just that, it holds your work tight and immovable in various comfortable positions so you can work on with various tools like planes, chisels, etc. The work-holding bench needs to be heavy enough so it doesn’t move when this is being done. A work-holding bench should be treated with care.

I suggest you begin with the project bench and then move on to the work-holding bench. There are many project bench plans available from each of the available woodworking publications, just chose the one that strikes your fancy and needs. You can also find plans for work-holding benches from the better woodworking publications like Fine Woodworking. I built the Danish design by Taige Fried published in a 1970s edition of Fine Woodworking and I love it.


-- Always remember half of the people in this country are below average.

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3678 days

#9 posted 04-28-2009 05:42 PM

learning as you build – you got that right. and the fact that it stayed in the “shop” means you have some wiggling room for mistakes/correction without worrying about it too much.

I made my base from 4×4 douglas FIR from HD like marcb stated… cheap, sturdy, no need for glueups, looks better than pine (in my opinion). I used M&T and connected the 4 legs with 4 strechers, and 4 aprons, and have the top just site on that (secured with table top fasteners)

there’s a really good set of videos on on how to build a sturdy workbench. I made my base similar to what they show there, but mine is not a knock-down design (but M&T as I stated) – it’s amazingly sturdy, but not as easy to transport if I ever need to. my top is laminated (softwood of some sort) 30×60 that I found at a yard sale.

eventually I’ll replace the top with a hardwood lamination, with a better set of vices, and build a nicer looking base – but for the time being I have a work surface to work on. and I do all my milling with handplanes – it works great!

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

View nd23rin's profile


20 posts in 3366 days

#10 posted 04-28-2009 05:53 PM

Has anyone seen this bench:

Joshua Finn at FWW using two beams over large sawhorses….I got really close this weekend to building this due to its ease and speed, and versatility. However, I can’t believe this would hold up to heavy planing of hardwood??

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

716 posts in 3648 days

#11 posted 04-28-2009 06:28 PM

Don’t agonize over your workbench. My starter workbench was a door with 2×4 legs that I added drawers below and was built 25 years ago. It is also the bench I still use. My workbech is a place to mount my vise. Usually I am working on sawhorses, the table saw table or whatever surface is not cluttered. My advise is to build something cheap and sturdy and put your money into the best vise you can afford, that way if you ever do decide to build another workbench you already have the vise.

-- Don, Pittsburgh

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3422 days

#12 posted 04-28-2009 06:36 PM

My experience:

1. I built this Traditional workbench. I found it to be the most boring, inefficient thing to work with…..Sold it!
2. After moving to a small apartment, due to resecion, I started working on the floor and clamping the material in my balcony handrails, doing this coffe table. Japanese Traditional woodworking was a big help for me in this particular situation. What I learned, was about the most necesary ways of holding the work ACCORDING with the type of work I like to do.
for instance, I like mortising by hand, so I know now I need a good set of Hold Downs, horizontally and vertically. I do a lot of hand planning, so I need a Tail vise with bench dogs and a good shoulder vise to hold boards.
3. I bought a couple of weeks ago an old workbench I found at Craigslist, the guy told me it’s probably from the 50’s. Something that caught my attention having the bench at home, was that after all those years of use and abuse, the wear was ONLY on the first 6 inches on the top, with scratches and dings not depper that 1/8”........So, why spend $500 (That’s what I paid only for wood) to build a Hard Maple Top, when the only “hard” section needed at the front of the top is 3/4” x 10” x 6’??????

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View JimmyNate's profile


124 posts in 3379 days

#13 posted 04-28-2009 06:52 PM

If you have room for 2 workbenches, I would build one on the cheap now and make it as solid as you can. This has worked out well for me and I’ll build my more expensive bench once I have enough basics in place to pull it off. If you have to joint/plane boards for the top by hand but have no bench on which to do it, that’s the problem to solve first.

I made mine from 2×4 studs, 3/4” plywood and some 2-1/2” screws with a space beneath for lumber storage that doubles as weight to keep the bench solid.

This seems to be more or less up your alley as you want to try some basic M&T’s and don’t have the means to make a laminated or butcherblock top yet.

The total cost was practically nothing…$30 or so. I’d say grab some lumber and give it a whirl and if it doesn’t suit you, you’ve lost nothing but time and you’ll gain some experience and more knowledge of what you like/don’t like about the bench.

-- "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act but a habit." ---Aristotle

View nd23rin's profile


20 posts in 3366 days

#14 posted 04-28-2009 07:42 PM

The traditional Japanese “style” is sort of similar to what that link I added is I guess. That idea interests me because you really are not limited in any way…

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4154 days

#15 posted 04-28-2009 08:11 PM

I use power tools, so a big beefy workbench isn’t as important, but for a top keep your eyes open on Craigslist. I recently picked up a bunch of laminated maple countertop for a song (it’s going into the kitchen), and ages ago I picked up a 6’ chunk of bowling alley that I built into a roll-around work table for the outside shed that’s pretty bomb-proof.

And, this last weekend out bicycling I found the splintered remnants of a laminated red oak countertop that had fallen out of somebody’s truck. I went back later to pick it up with the car. with a little work I could re-glue it and it’d make a heavy top.

But as others have said: Get something up and working, worry about the masterpiece later.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

showing 1 through 15 of 25 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