As my interest in woodworking developed and my projects became increasingly complex, I realized it was time to put my makeshift work surface (sawhorses and an old door) aside and build a proper woodworker's workbench. Instructable members have published some great benches (see members jdedge and scotttland), but I wanted to build one that would meet my specific needs while providing the opportunity to develop a new woodworking skill at the same time. I settled on a plan from Fine Woodworking Magazine called the "Not so big Workbench" (plan available on the finewoodworking.com website for around $12 when on sale). This workbench is constructed using mortise and tenon joinery which I decided was a necessary skill to learn since I have a number of future furniture projects in mind. The plan also offers a great deal of tool storage which, while not part of this instructable, I plan to add to my workbench in the near future.
Note: This instructable is not intended to be a substitute for the actual "Not so big Workbench" plan. Instead, the goal is to provide a general overview of how to build any workbench using mortise and tenon joinery. If you decide to build the "Not so big Workbench" it would be wise to purchase the plan at the finewoodworking.com website.
Step 1: Using basic tools to build this project
If you watch any of the woodworking shows on public television you know the pros have workshops stocked with every sophisticated power tool available today.** Because they have a specific tool for every task their projects seem effortless and always go together flawlessly in a 30 minute show. Unfortunately, most of us (including myself) don't have many of these tools at our disposal. For that reason, the focus of this instructable is to detail the challenges and solutions in building a mortise and tenon style workbench using the limited number of tools many of us own.
** For example: in the fine woodworking step by step video for building the "Not so big Workbench", Ed Pirnik uses a mortising machine to cut near perfect mortises requiring minimal clean up with a chisel. The video is available to online fine woodworking members only. The charge is $4.99 a month for full access to the site but is well worth it, in my opinion.
Here are the tools I used to create this workbench:
Miter Saw - to crosscut workbench lumber to length
Table saw - to mill the lumber to the proper dimensions (4' x 4' x 6' Douglas fir, ripped to size for legs, stretchers and trestles)
Dado blade set for the table saw - to cut the tenons
Power drill - using Forstner bits to drill the mortises and dog holes (spade bits would be acceptable as well)
Wolfcraft drill jig - to control the drill and provide greater precision when drilling - purchased for this project at Amazon.com ($25)
Assorted chisels (1/4", 1/2" and 1") - to remove waste from the mortises and fine tune the tenons
Random orbit Sander - 80 up to 220 sandpaper grits to smooth surfaces for finishing
Hammer - for inserting hardwood pins in the base joints to help prevent racking over time
Rubber Mallet - for base assembly
Block Plane - to fine tune tenons
5' clamps - for assembly of the workbench base