A New Workbench





Introduction: A New Workbench

The Getting Started In Woodworking (GSIW) Workbench is cheap and easy to build. If you have a circular saw, drill, router and a need for a decent bench I would highly recommend giving this one a shot. 

Detailed instructions (including video) can be found over at finewoodworking.com, so I won't go through it step by step. I'm just going to point out the more clever stuff. 


Step 1: Routing Channels for the Allthread

This GSIW bench is held together with allthread laying in channels. Here's the set up they recommend for holding the 2x4s. I also added a strip of trim underneath to give a little more height.

Step 2: Cut the Legs at the Same Time

It's a no-brainer right? it'll take two passes to get through the 4x4s.

The cutting guide is a piece of hardboard w/ some 1" trim stapled to it. These guides are easy to make and save a lot of time.

Step 3: A Nice and Sturdy Base

Here's the base assembled.

You don't have a lot of room for error when you drill your holes for the allthread in the legs. So, if you don't own a set of brad point drill bits consider picking up a set. I've found they're much more accurate than regular wood bits which always seem to travel off the mark a little before they begin to bite.

Note the top rails have two channels. The bottom is for the allthread, the top for the S-brackets you'll use to to attach the bench top. Strangely I couldn't find these brackets at Lowe's or Home Depot, but they were at Woodcraft and for once weren't overpriced.

Step 4: Layout the Top

You should both glue and screw the top to ensure a good tight lamination between the layers of MDF. Pilot holes and countersinking are your friends (as always). If you don't own a countersink bit use the largest drill bit you have and just touch the pilot holes lightly.

The layout is important when it comes time to drill bench dog holes so don't just go randomly driving screws all willy nilly.

Step 5: The Vise

This thing is great. It's a Groz 7" rapid action. Worth every penny. The pic is before I attached the jaw liners.

For the block underneath I used a scrap piece of MDF and an additional piece of hardboard. 



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    I built this same bench, but used 2 2x4's laminated together for the legs. I also couldn't do the wood clamp trick for routing the stretchers, since I had nothing to clamp the wood clamps to, so I ended up clamping them in a cheap workmate and going to town. That was a pain, but I got it done. I also routed them slightly off but got everything smoothed away with a bench plane before putting the top on. It's a good plan because it has some room for error, and the materials are cheap. I used a dirt cheap circular saw and a dirt cheap corded drill with spade bits instead of forstners and was quite happy with the results.

    Good design and easy construction.
    Mine is similar with 2 doubled heavier legs at one front corner to support a 5" metal vice,and a doubled leg in the center/front where I do most of my heavy pounding

    The nice part is when the top gets too messed up, you can just add a thin layer of hardboard to the top for a whole new surface.

    If you buy your top as a 4'x8' sheet, you can cut a slice off the 8"side for a shelf underneath.

    Congrats on getting your workbench in the Instructables newsletter. Impressive.

    I was reading it over and I noticed all of a sudden that I knew you. Lol. can't say that's ever happend to me before.

    1 reply

    Great instructable. Thank you.

    One suggestion would be to move the vice from the front of the bench to the end of the bench. That way you have the entire bench to work with for putting in bench dogs if you are going to work with longer panels. Most of these vices support having a taller 'front' block that in combination with a flush back block allows you to use the entire work bench as your vice, rather than just the 7" throw that the vice has (minus the thickness of your vice blocks.)

    That said, I need to get on the ball with making my own bench. Probably more for general projects including metalwork, but from the looks of this, it's a great starting point.

    Thanks for the incentive.

    Asa Christiana's bench is a simplification of a bench from Sam Allen's book ''Making Workbenches''. I've read the book, and watched the video, and there are a couple of "simplifications" Christiana made I'm not sure I agree with.

    1st. I don't think MDF makes a sufficiently durable top. Allen added a sacrificial layer of 1/4" hardboard, and I think that'd make a huge difference.

    2nd. Allen used three layers of MDF, resulting in a top that was 2-1/2 inches thick, as opposed to Christiana's 1-1/2". That extra thickness means you can pound on it anywhere, instead of only over the legs.

    3rd. When Allen places the shoulder vise flush with the front of the bench, rather than extending out 1/2". That makes it possible to use the vise to clamp material across the front of the bench.

    6 replies

    I've made this very same bench and I'm very happy with it.
    Tell me, what do you mean by mounting the vise flush instead of 1/2" extended? I haven't bought my vise yet and I'm wondering why one would decide to extend by 1/2".


    Compare this the vise above to this:

    In the latter, the inner face of the vise is in the same plane as the edge of the top and the front of the legs. This means that you can use the vise to clamp long pieces across the front of the bench, and have the pieces supported across their whole length:

    If you were to do this with the Groz vise as mounted above, there would be a 1/2" gap between the board and the edge of the bench - making it much less stable.
    In Allen's book, he inset the vise into the bench by just enough that the face of the vise would be flush with the edge. Christiana left that out, to simplify construction. In my mind, the advantages gained are worth the extra complexity.

    Ahh, yes, I see. So that means you can mount the vise without the other jaw? I didn't know that could be done. I haven't yet ordered the vise but I will this weekend. Thank you for going to the trouble to explain it to me!

    "So that means you can mount the vise without the other jaw?"

    No. Some woodworker's vises are designed to use the edge of the top as their inner jaw, others - like the Groz - have a metal inner jaw.

    Allen's book used the Groz, and notched the top so that its inner jaw would fit flush.

    ... and with a .75" liner on the bench side jaw you'd have a 1.25" gap between the clamped board and the bench

    I can agree w/ all those suggestions.

    You can see my old bench in some of the photos. I wanted to re-use as much of it as possible.

    It's interesting you recommend using three layers of MDF w/ a layer of hardboard. I ended up using a scrap piece of MDF and scrap of hardboard between the vise and the underside of the top to get it positioned vertically. So your recommended set up would be perfect for my vise.

    I thought about flush mounting the vise too, but I was in a hurry. There's always the next iteration. I'm already thinking of re-doing the top.


    I made the same workbench with some changes from the original design (Asa Chrsitiana right? from finewoodworking?) I will post an Instructable as well, when I finish all details and modifications.
    I agree with you is a great easy to make workbench!

    1 reply

    Congratulations on your new workbench! I'm in the process of building my second workbench for woodworking. My first workbench is looking small since I have my grinder and a vise on it. I like the design of your workbench. Great work!

    1 reply

    Thanks! I certainly can't take credit for the design, but so far it's been an incredible step up from my last bench. I've also since added some shelves on the lower runners for extra storage. I might put my own grinder there while it's not in use.