Swaying Bench? Solutions?

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Forum topic by LucasWoods posted 04-18-2015 10:17 PM 1206 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View LucasWoods's profile


420 posts in 1330 days

04-18-2015 10:17 PM

My stretchers sit pretty low compared to the top of my bench height is 35” with my stretchers sitting 22” below the top. My legs are 4×4’s and my stretchers are 2×4’s. My stretchers are connected to the 4×4’s by lap joints then bolted to the legs themselves.

I get excessive wobble front to back and a decent amount side to side. This was not an issue a few weeks ago. I did make a single change to my bench and that was cutting the legs shorter because my bench was sitting at around 37”. cutting of the legs made the stretchers closer to the floor instead of the top.

Last thing… my top is removable the legs sit in pockets on the bottom of the top which are 1 1/2” deep. I could flip my base over so my stretchers end up very close to the top but then from the stretchers to the floor would be 22”.

anyways thank you for reading and hopefully leaving a helpful hint on how I can resolve this issue.

-- Colorado Springs, CO - USAF

22 replies so far

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1677 days

#1 posted 04-18-2015 10:34 PM

Do you have a objection to glueing and pegging the stretchers to the legs? The lap joints might be getting loose due to season changes even if just by a tiny amount or just taking them apart and putting back together loosened the joints enough to cause racking. How many bolts do you use on each leg? I would think that 2 would be the minimum but more would be better with glue and pegs being ideal. You could use the bolt holes to peg as long as they are a tight fit and cause the shoulders to sit tight otherwise plug the holes and drill new ones ideally using draw boring.

If I am reading what you are saying right your stretchers are still about a 1/3rd of the way up from the floor over the entire height of the bench which seems like a good height to me. The ones on my bench are lower than that and it’s very solid but they are pegged and glued into the legs which are also splayed out some.

View kwolfe's profile


108 posts in 1561 days

#2 posted 04-18-2015 10:38 PM

I vote for gluing as well. Bolts are great but wood moves and shrinks etc.

View LucasWoods's profile


420 posts in 1330 days

#3 posted 04-18-2015 10:56 PM

each 2×4 where it makes contact to the benches leg is bolted through the 2×4 and through the leg. so in total 4 screws are holding 4 2×4’s to my bench legs.

-- Colorado Springs, CO - USAF

View TheFridge's profile


9454 posts in 1483 days

#4 posted 04-18-2015 11:08 PM


-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View LucasWoods's profile


420 posts in 1330 days

#5 posted 04-18-2015 11:22 PM

so I should unbolt my 2/4’s and glue them as well as bolt them?

-- Colorado Springs, CO - USAF

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1677 days

#6 posted 04-18-2015 11:42 PM

so I should unbolt my 2/4 s and glue them as well as bolt them?

- LucasWoods

I would glue the legs on than after it drys drill out the bolt holes to the next size up dowels and peg them. Make sure the dowel is a tight fit for the best results. A better option would be to draw bore the joints but glue and pegs would probably be sufficient as well if you make sure they are tight against the shoulders and well secured before you peg them. I think you will notice a significant difference in strength if you do that.

I always liked the idea of having a bench that could broken down but after giving in and glueing/pegging the joints I will never go back with the possible exception of though tenons that have removable pegs like this bench.

View LucasWoods's profile


420 posts in 1330 days

#7 posted 04-18-2015 11:56 PM

yeah I need a bench that can break down because I am in the Military and move a lot

-- Colorado Springs, CO - USAF

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1677 days

#8 posted 04-19-2015 12:07 AM

yeah I need a bench that can break down because I am in the Military and move a lot

- LucasWoods

Than checkout the stretcher tenon design in the link I posted in my last post. The though tenon with a peg that pulls it tight against the shoulder is a really good design that has proven itself for long term use in antiques.

Good quality bed bolts with tenons might work also but I think the design Will Myers talks about is a good cheap alternative. You would glue the short side joints than have to redo the long joints to though tenon’s.

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2528 days

#9 posted 04-19-2015 02:13 AM

An alternative would be to screw a piece of plywood to the back of the base. Doesn’t have to be a thick piece (1/4” would be sufficient), but size it to span the legs and reach from the bottom of the top to about 4” off the floor. Screws up each leg, about 3” spacing. Quick, easy, but quite effective.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View BubbaIBA's profile


387 posts in 2373 days

#10 posted 04-19-2015 03:08 PM

Lap joints in a workbench base will move. Mark’s suggestion is the best one, make a plywood “box” around the legs to rid the base of its pivot points.

Better would be a new base with housed M/T joints and if you want to make it portable connect the legs to the stretchers with rods and captured nuts.

BTW, It has been ages since I’ve used glue on a work bench base. A draw bored M/T joint is all that is needed and I expect stronger than a glued joint. As always with anything wood….YMMV.


View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3082 days

#11 posted 04-19-2015 08:08 PM

You mentioned cutting the legs shorter, any chance the cuts were uneven, creating a wobble

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View rwe2156's profile


2925 posts in 1477 days

#12 posted 04-19-2015 09:02 PM

Your problem is the lap joints.
Mortise and tenon are necessary for a workbench.

Also, 5×5 or 6×6 would be better for legs.

I don’t think bolting anything is a long term solution.

I would replace all the 2×4 stretchers with 2×8 and see what that does first.
Don’t make a bigger lap joint, just notch the 2×8.

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

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4929 posts in 3957 days

#13 posted 04-19-2015 10:11 PM

The PT legs are gonna shrink.


View bbasiaga's profile


1232 posts in 1992 days

#14 posted 04-19-2015 10:44 PM

I bet if you recess those bolt holes and then sheet the outsides and back of the bench with plywood you’ll be fine. The 4×4 legs and 2×4 stretchers should have plenty of rigidity. I think its just the joint that is getting you. I built a bench using mostly 2×6s because of the weight of the machine. It wan’t until the plywood sheet was on that it got super solid.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View LucasWoods's profile


420 posts in 1330 days

#15 posted 04-20-2015 12:17 AM

Thank you all I am going to end up doing a combination of everything lol. Eventually I will probably just build a new bench but this will do for a begginer like me.

-- Colorado Springs, CO - USAF

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