How to build a work bench like a Sjoberg.

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Forum topic by Sanderguy777 posted 04-03-2015 08:57 AM 8845 views 0 times favorited 46 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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176 posts in 1199 days

04-03-2015 08:57 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question pine clamp plane chisel carving tool joining sanding carving

I really need a new work bench. Whenever I use my hand planes, I move the whole bench and I can’t use my hold fast cause I don’t have a thick enough bench top. I plan to use pine for the whole thing.

I need your ideas on design and advise on the vises especially. I have a cheap vise but it is not the quality, or the size that the nice big benches have. I was looking at a nice fat 1” x 20” bench vise screw, or the cabinet maker’s front vise from Grizzly. I don’t want to spend all that money but I think it’s worth the money for a good solid vise that will last forever.

Do you think that I should use the wimpy vise I have or should I get the front vise?

Basically what I need is a REALLY solid and indestructible bench that will not move when I use my planes on it.
What about storage? I am thinking about cabinets and drawers. I also think that I will use a slanted board or something for the dust and chips that fall through the dog holes.

I also carve so I would like any advise on related accessories.


46 replies so far

View Greg In Maryland's profile

Greg In Maryland

553 posts in 2995 days

#1 posted 04-03-2015 10:56 AM

My google-fu tells me that a simple search for ‘workbench plans’ will result in 100’s of options. The latest rage is Roubo bench – thick heavy top with plenty of clamping options.

Here’s a link to my Roubo bench:

Good luck.


View rwe2156's profile


2925 posts in 1477 days

#2 posted 04-03-2015 11:30 AM

You only want to do this once, so I recommend you do a bit of studying before you get started.
Both Scott Landis and Chris Scwarz have excellent books on the subject.

The workbench is kind of a rite of passage for ww’ers so building it yourself is traditional.

Workbenches can be anything from simple utilitarian devices to works of art, so it depends on what you’re philosophy is and what you’re going to do with it.

You can buy a workbench, but plan on spending at least $1K for a decent one.
Tops can be made of everything from 4” thick hard maple to laminated sheets of plywood.

Yes, the Roubo is all the rage these days, but personally I don’t like the knee vice.
I do like the idea of flush legs to faciliate clamping wide boards vertically for edge work.

Two basic principles apply:

1. A sound, heavy, base structure that will not rack or move.
2. A heavy, thick, durable top that will stand up to hammering, chiselling, etc.

You’re finished bench should be weighing in the 200-300 pound range.

As for vices, it depends on the type of bench you decide on.
There are tail vices, shoulder vices, wagon vices, roubo vices, twin screw vices, etc.

The simplest route, and one you’re familiar with is the ageless woodworkers vice or front vise.
Personally, I have a Jorgensen on the front of my bench and a Rockler on the end.
Plan on spending $150-$180 for a decent vice.



Once you decide on a design, then you need to decide on material.
Personally, I like the Scandinavian (Frank Klausz) type bench with the shoulder vise.
I will eventually build one of hard maple.

I made my bench from a section of bowling alley lane and I made the base of 5×5 pine beams.
I wrapped it with an apron and put my dog holes in.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View johnstoneb's profile


2914 posts in 2169 days

#3 posted 04-03-2015 01:06 PM

Try this forum. More info than you will ever be able to process.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2968 days

#4 posted 04-03-2015 01:10 PM

Very minor technical point.
The Jorgensen vise Robert posted in his thread is a “Face” vise.
A “Front” vise is often made of components to which you add your own faces (jaws).
I never had a front vise that didn’t rack and move around.
The face vise, as shown, has always been my preference.
I have two of them; one on the front of my bench and one on the end.
They are great, and I paid less than $100 each for them.

And +1 on the work bench books.
I got the Schwarz books about half way through building my bench and had to back up some.
Excellent books. Very practical advise.

View BubbaIBA's profile


387 posts in 2373 days

#5 posted 04-03-2015 01:47 PM

One of the replies stated “You only want to do this once…”, I disagree. A work bench is very personal and the only way to have a bench that fits you is to find what works for you by working on different benches. Books will not do that job. Over the years through many bench builds I’ve finally built what I expect is my, emphasis on “my”, perfect bench. Early benches were built to the fashion of the day and were built to cover all perceived needs. I’ve found that approach makes a overly “fussy” bench. With each bench build the benches have become simpler and more functional. BTW, I will get to the chase.

Here it is: build it simple, build it stout with good joinery (it is hard to make it too heavy), build it quick, and build it cheap. Once built, go to work on it, once there are enough things about the bench that bug you, build another using the same build it quick and cheap routine. Move the first bench to a secondary position, you always need more benches in a shop, work on the second bench. Wash and repeat.

I’ve built many more but at this time I have three generations of work benches in my shop, each different but all work as needed. The current bench is as close to perfect as I expect is possible.

View mramseyISU's profile


534 posts in 1542 days

#6 posted 04-03-2015 01:59 PM

Another bit of advice, pick up the Chris Schwarz workbench books.

The blue book only has plans for a couple benches the red book has plans for like 10 benches. In both books he says don’t bother copying the benches, use them for ideas and come up with what you want in a bench. I’m in the middle of gathering supplies for the Holtzapffel style bench shown in the red book with the vices in the Lang Bench. Another good place to look is on you tube. Paul Sellers and Renaissance WW both have video series on building benches worth checking out.

-- Trust me I'm an engineer.

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 2982 days

#7 posted 04-03-2015 02:02 PM

First, may I state that I have never used, but mostly because I don’t trust the look, of a Sjorberg. It just looks too lightweight for me, so I would recommend coming up with a design that looks borderline overbuilt. I made mine out of materials from the hardware store: 4×4’s for the legs, 2×6’s for the stretchers, and 2×4’s for the top. I used mortise and tenons, big ones. The legs are drawbored and the stretchers are bolted so that I can break the whole thing down for moving (which came in handy moving from NY to TX last year).

I agree that you will find things that bug you about your first bench. It’s just going to happen. How you work will change some over time. That is why am not going to build a bench out of walnut and curly maple for a LONG time, if ever :). I would love one, but I need several years of refining my approach and technique before I want to commit that much cash to a bench.

I recommend storage underneath. I have some drawers and shelves that store sandpaper, measuring and layout tools, fasteners, etc.

As for vises, I bought the LV economy front vise and am satisfied with it, especially for the price.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Andre's profile


1830 posts in 1803 days

#8 posted 04-03-2015 02:14 PM

Sjoberg design hybrid is what I am in the process of designing and building. Picked up my vises from Lee Valley, A face vise above a flush leg and of course a tail on the other end. Intend to have a sliding deadman and use holddowns so the dog holes will be 3/4” round. I was lucky enough to get some old dry rough milled Birch at an affordable price and have been collecting some other hard woods for vice faces. IMHO the most important thing is do not rush into it, take your time and enjoy every detail of the build. Also great excuse to buy more tools that you may need for the build!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View CharlesA's profile


3320 posts in 1794 days

#9 posted 04-03-2015 02:39 PM

I did the Chris Schwarz SYP bench, ripping floor joists for the top, 2×6’s for legs (doubled) and stretchers. I used a Woodriver Large Front Vise ($74.99) for the end vise and Small Front Vise ($52.49) for the front vise. About as cheap, sturdy, and durable as you can get for your first homemade bench. There are lots of interesting vises out there: Moxon, Tail Vise, wagon vise, Leg Vise, etc. I decided to go with the 2 WoodRiver vises because it got me up and going the fastest. When I make a new bench (no time soon), I’ll reconsider what vises I have.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1677 days

#10 posted 04-03-2015 02:53 PM

This book has a large section of it dedicated to talking about different bench type operations and explores the different work holding options. It’s probably the best reference I have read to date on work holding options.

I didn’t realize it until I looked it up this morning but if you are a Amazon Prime member you can read the book for free.

Personally I would say making a bench with a stable base and good heavy top is more important than your work holding options. My current bench is based around the cantilevered leg design build out of construction grade 4X6’s. I consider it a temporary bench but it is rock solid and is working a lot better than I thought it would. it’s miles ahead of the bench’s I had before which the legs where to flimsy and the top to thin to really support hand work. They where good machine shop benches but horrible hand tool ones.

Something like this except not able to be taken apart.

View sepeck's profile


342 posts in 2138 days

#11 posted 04-03-2015 03:11 PM

Workbenches are funny things. There are a wide variety of designs and certainly Chris Schwartz has popularized some over others and been writing a lot about his latest ones which match his wood working style. Some of the above mentioned threads can also be overwhelming. I have a cheapy light weight one which works ‘well enough for now’ but I plan on something like Paul Sellers design. Since you mention pine, this would be an option for you.

Part 1-11 are here:

If you watch his other videos you can get an idea for how he works an decide if that matches or is close enough to how you work.

-- -Steven Peck,

View BigMig's profile


439 posts in 2610 days

#12 posted 04-03-2015 03:32 PM

I found a local guy who had some de-commissioned workbench tops. I guess they came out of a school or factory or something. Anyway, I made the led and stretcher structure and have an awesome workbench that went together pretty fast – compared to making a laminated top.

Investigate Woodsmith mag for designs…and others too.

Good luck !

-- Mike from Lansdowne, PA

View BubbaIBA's profile


387 posts in 2373 days

#13 posted 04-03-2015 03:33 PM

Just a little expansion on the first post.

Here is a photo of the next to last bench:

A photo of my current bench:

You might not be able to tell from the photos but the basic construction is the same, as it has been on the last few bench builds. A heavy base with a split top. The top is about 100mm thick, around 610mm across including the split, and close to 2500mm long.

Some of the evolutionary changes on the latest bench are: An asymmetrical slab. Working side 420mm, off side 190mm. Lost the deadman and replaced with an English style apron. Lost the wagon vise and replaced with nothing, stops, doe’s foot, and battens with holdfasts do the same job better and quicker. Lost the leg vise, what a PITA, a metal English QR such as a Paramo or Record works better and may be cheaper. Bottom shelf is flush with the stretchers instead of recessed, easier to keep clean. As I expected this bench to be the end of the evolutionary line it is made of European Beech vs. SYP. Beech is much nicer to work than Maple and when I built cheaper plus damn it’s nice to work on and pretty to boot.


View Sanderguy777's profile


176 posts in 1199 days

#14 posted 04-04-2015 09:12 AM

The first and only bench I built was in Idaho. It had ceder 4×4’s for the legs (somebody built a trash can holder out of ceder 4×4’s!! I took it apart and they made really nice legs.) and 3/4 in. plywood for the top. When that got too annoying, I took a bunch of random 2×4’s and put them on the plywood as a sacrificial top. The top was 4 in. thick but I didn’t have hand planes so I couldn’t make it smooth. In any case we moved about 6,500 miles from there so I left that one there for the next guy.

Anyway, I was thinking that I could build this one onto a wall. What would be the problems associated with that?

How high is the bench supposed to be for planing? The place on the wall that I was eyeing looks like it is high enough for what I need but I think there’s probably a science to bench height.

I just want a bench that will not move and I can clamp things in or on.

View Sanderguy777's profile


176 posts in 1199 days

#15 posted 04-04-2015 09:38 AM

The big problem for me is that lumber here is EXPENSIVE!!! It costs $3 a meter and is super soft (it grows faster and is a variety of pine that doesn’t hardly smell.

All I want is a bench that WON’T MOVE…EVER.

There are three options IMO. going from easy to better they are as follows.
1. use one of the benches that are already here and just mount a vise and maybe a top.
2. build a bench on the wall that is mounted to the wall on one side and a leg structure on the other.
3. I like this the best. I could build a bench out of pine the normal way and put a vise on it. This will be the strongest, and best customized to my needs.

What is the best? the only two problems with the wall mount are also it’s strengths. It doesn’t move so I can’t go around it. The other problem is it is on an end wall so I will have limited possible board length.


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