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There are a number of instructables on building "workbenches" of various degrees of cost and sophistication, but most of them are really just tables. They'd work fine as craft or assembly tables, but they're not true woodworker's workbenches.

What is a workbench?

A woodworker's workbench isn't a table, it's a work-holding system. It's not something you set things on top of, it's a tool that holds your work. Where a worktable might have a machinist's vise bolted to its top, a woodworker's bench is built to accommodate a number of different workholding mechanisms, such as bench dogs, planing stops, hold fasts, or board jacks, and will usually have one more woodworker's vises integrated into its structure.

A workbench needs to be heavy enough that it doesn't move under you while you're working, and stiff enough that it doesn't rack itself to pieces under the forces that will be placed upon it. It doesn't take many hours of planing a board or hammering a chisel for a worktable made of nailed 2x4s to come apart. Traditional bench designs use mortise-and-tenon joinery, which is strong and rigid, but not really suited for a novice woodworker who doesn't already have a bench.

The design

This instructable shows how to build, with basic tools and readily-available lumber, a bench that provides most of the function of a traditional woodworker's workbench. I began with a design by Asa Christiana that was featured in the second season of finewoodworking.com's video series Getting Started in Woodworking. The project plans are available on their website.

Christiana's design was a simplification of a bench from Sam Allen's book ''Making Workbenches''.

The bench I will be describing differs from both of these in a couple of areas, the most significant of which is the top. Allen's top was made from three layers of 3/4" medium density fiberboard (MDF), topped and edged with 1/4" hardboard. Christiana's top was just two layers of 3/4" MDF. My top is two layers of 3/4" MDF edged with 1/2" oak and topped by a 1-1/2" thick edge-glued oak Ikea countertop. My top is more expensive in both time and money than either Christiana's or Allen's. If you're looking to build something fast and cheap, I'd recommend Allen's approach over Christiana's. The hardboard significantly increases the durability of the top.

The essence of the design is a joinery system using threaded rod that provides a great deal of strength and rigidity. The base is formed with 4x4 legs and 2x4 stretchers, connected with dowels and threaded truss rods. As screws are tightened down at each end of the rods, the structure is pulled together forming a rigid unit.

I am new to woodworking. I'm learning as I go along, and I'm documenting as I learn, in the hope of being helpful to other novices. On the range from slap-dash to deliberate, my method is definitely on the deliberate side. If you have enough experience to be confident in using techniques that are more time-efficient, go for it. The techniques I'm using are those I thought least likely to go wrong, not those that would produce a product in the shortest time or at the lowest cost. You'll notice that I made a number of mistakes, spent considerable time on work I later determined to be unnecessary, and in a number of cases I used different techniques at the end than I did at the beginning. These are all the result of learning. I thought it would be better to demonstrate how I made errors, and how I corrected them, than to provide a set of instructions that presented the false impression that everything went together perfectly.

Step 1: The materials

The bench is built from construction-grade lumber, of the sort you can buy at any home center or lumber yard. I built mine from the same. There is nothing that says you can't use better material. Better wood costs more, but you don't need all that much of it.

If you decide upon construction lumber, you want kiln dry lumber. Green lumber will warp on you as it drys. Dig through the stacks and pick out the straightest, cleanest pieces. Generally, the boards that are sitting loose on the stack are those that other people left behind, as they sorted through looking for better. Be prepared to move them out of the way, and to dig down to the better stock. Be nice, though, and put everything back when you're done.

For the base:

The base is made of four legs, four short stretchers, and four long stretchers. The legs are 4x4's, roughly three feet long, the stretchers are made of 2x4's, the short are two feet long and the long are four feet long. You can cut two legs and a short and a long stretcher out of standard length stock, so you need:

Two 4x4's
Four 2x4's

In addition, you will need four pieces of 3/8" all-threaded rod, two feet long, and four pieces of 3/8" all-threaded rod, four feet long. I bought four pieces of six-foot length, and cut them down.

For the top:

Christiana's design uses three pieces of MDF - one two-feet by four-feet for the shelf, and two two-feet by five-feet to laminate the top. These can be cut from a single 49x97" panel. Allen's top was three layers of 3/4" MDF topped and edged with 1/4" hardboard.

I made my top from two layers of 3/4" MDF and an edge-glued oak Ikea Numerär countertop.

One 49x97" panel of 3/4" MDF
One 25x73" panel of 1-1/2" edge-glued oak
One 1/2x1-1/2" oak board, six feet long
One 1/2x1-1/2" oak board, five feet long
One 1/2x1-1/2" oak board, two feet long

For the vise:

If you're installing a vise, you'll need hardwood for the jaws and you may need some scrap MDF or plywood to make up the proper mounting thickness. For the vises I chose:

Two 24" lengths of 2x8 oak
One 13" length of 2x6 oak

Hardware:

4 - 3/8" all-threaded rod, 48" long
4 - 3/8" all-threaded rod, 24" long
32 - 3/8" dowels
16 - 3/8" nuts
16 - 3/8" washers
30 - 1-1/2" drywall screws
30 - 2" drywall screws
30 - s-clips
4 - levelers

Plus whatever you need to attach the vise or vises

Note: I've photographed the lumber lumber leaning against the wall, but storing it that way can cause it to warp. Stack it flat, and leave it for a week or so to adjust to the shop's temperature and humidity.
That's a sweet bench! Does everything you need doin'.
Where do I go to get dimensional lumber planned and sanded as you suggest. Does HD or Lowe's offer this?
<p>HD in my area doesn't sell kiln dried 4x4...i got them at lowes though</p>
<p>check instructions from WoodPrix projects</p>
<p>Great tutorial <a href="http://www.instructables.com/member/jdege/" rel="nofollow">jdege!!</a></p>
<p>Great instructable </p>
<p>Hi, I've added your project to the <em style="">&quot;Make Your Own Workbench!</em><em style="">&quot;</em> Collection</p><p>This is the link If you are interested:</p><p><a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Your-Own-Workbench-For-the-Workshop/">http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Your-Own-Work...</a></p>
<p>Thank you for the excellent instructable. I had a little extra funds and short on time so I skipped the edging and went with two ikea beech countertops. Vise jaws were old oak stair treads doubled up. Two coats of natural Danish oil. I am pretty happy with it, can't wait to start on some projects.</p><p>Lessons learned: Watch out for knots! Also countertop seems a bit thinner at the front and back not great for using the entire depth. Next time I would go with the 2&quot; prefinished hardwood workbench top they sell at lee valley. Same price, not quite as thick though, and they don't deliver. They also just added a nice bushing/bit set for making your own jig to drill the holes. I will probably move the flip down casters to the outside of the leg and higher up they don't get enough leverage to lift the table easily where they are. Also bolt through the leg don't use the little screws they give you.<br><br>I make a sketchup file for the workbench here: </p><p><a href="https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/model.html?id=ufc9f7839-a28b-47a0-b8a7-51fd47c02377" rel="nofollow">https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/model.html?id=ufc9f7839-a28b-47a0-b8a7-51fd47c02377</a></p>
Looks amazing. I'd like to go for a solid hardwood top too. How did you laminate the two pieces of beech? Glue, screws, both? If you used screws, did you pre-drill larger holes on the bottom slab to allow for movement? Or is this defeated by the glue? Thanks!
<p>I lined up the top and bottom pieces, and drilled the holes using an upcut spiral bit on my router before gluing. It wasn't long enough to go all the way through the second layer so I had to take a second pass to finish up the holes on the bottom. Then I used dowels in the holes to perfectly line up the pieces and used bolts with big washers through the holes to clamp them together while gluing, then routed the edges flush. Make sure if the counters are bowed you want the gap in the middle not the edges. One problem I had is the counters are tapered at the edges and I only took 1/8&quot; off which was not enough so I wound up with a little gap I had to fill with glue before routing the edges. I used yellow glue so it matches pretty good and looks like it's supposed to be there.</p>
<p>Has anyone tried using a vacuum bag and a vacuum pump, like they use in autoclaves, to use air pressure to an advantage in gluing multiple layers into one top? The general idea is to use the pressure of the atmosphere to your advantage. Put a soft blanket on a flat floor (to avoid tearing plastic), then a large sheet of thick plastic, large enough to fold over and encapsulate the whole table top in plastic. Place your first laminate layer down, add adhesive, then the second layer (continuing as many layers as you want.) Position the layers exactly as you want them, close the plastic over it, tape all openings, then use an automotive vacuum pump to draw out all the air inside the bag. The weight/pressure of the atmosphere would then provide 22,464 pounds of clamping pressure on a 72&quot;x24&quot; top, just as strong in the middle, as on the edges. For multiple layers, use an adhesive with longer working time, or take it in multiple steps. It works in aerospace, but is no more complicated than my wife's vacuum food saver. Vast clamping pressure. Automotive stores rent the pumps out. They are engineered to hold zero pressure for extended periods. </p>
<p>Thanks, very helpful. Nice tip with the dowels and bolts. I was worrying about the two slabs contracting/expanding independently, but I guess that by gluing the two slabs any width-ways expansion will happen as a single block of wood. And that can be accommodated by the slight play in the table-top S fasteners.</p>
<p>You could also band the edges like the original plan and avoid the problem entirely but I was being lazy it seemed like a lot of extra work for just a workbench.</p>
<p>Thanks for the instructions.. I made a slightly modified version of this today. Because the nature of the poplar top I used, I plan on Epoxying it for added durability. I haven't added a end vise yet.. maybe someday. I made a <a href="https://goo.gl/photos/ranvcpky8Qo4GiAA9" rel="nofollow">6 minute time lapse</a> from 6 hours of video. Thanks again!</p>
<p>Is Edge Glue Oak&quot; the same as counters made of individual small oak blocks? If so, would beech be as good? It's a bit cheaper.</p>
What you want is a dense hardwood with closed pores. Oak isn't ideal because it's pores are too open. Maple is the usual choice in the U.S., beech is the more common choice in Europe.<br><br>So yes, beech would be fine. Would probably work better than oak. The third choice from Ikea is birch, which is far too soft.
<p>Thankyou. Am I correct in assuming &quot;Edge Glued Oak&quot; is the same as counters made of individual small oak (or beech) blocks glued together?</p>
<p><a href="http://community.woodmagazine.com/t5/General-Woodworking/Edge-grain-vs-face-grain/td-p/272662">http://community.woodmagazine.com/t5/General-Woodw...</a></p>
<p>Which woodworking plans site is best? Anybody have some good<br>recommendations?</p>
This may be a silly question or something no one has thought of but I need to ask...I am left handed and use most of my tools left handed. Would you recommend building it in a &quot;mirror&quot; fashion?
Absolutely. And it's not a silly question. Most left-handed woodworkers set their vises up reversed - tail vise on the left and face vise on the right.
<p>Hi Jdege,</p><p>How does a front vice differs from an end vice : In Mechanism or In Size ?</p><p> Regards,</p><p>Ritesh</p>
<p>The only difference between the two vice mechanisms is the distance between the screws. The end vice has them placed farther apart.</p>
<p>Thanks!</p><p> Gr8 help!</p><p>However, I am finding it tough to get them india..may be I have to wait.</p>
This is professional works ! Thank you Jdege ! Please do one foe me... ^~^
<p>Hi Jdege,</p><p>I don't see anywhere you mentioned the over all length of the bench top. A piece of 1 1/2&quot; x 25&quot; x 8' glued edge oak at Lumber Liquidators costs $192 including tax. Two piece is almost $400! Would that be better if I use two IKEA 1 1/4&quot; x 25&quot; x 74&quot; solid Beech ($99 each plus tax) on top of a layer of 3/4&quot; Birch plywood. That would be 3 1/4&quot; over all. </p>
<p>I was at IKEA in Philadelphia today. There is no 1 1/2&quot; glued edge beech counter top. They only have either 1 1/8&quot; solid wood or 1 1/2&quot; beech over particleboard.</p>
Yep. They discontinued it a year or so ago.<br><br>Try Lumber Liquidators. They sell butcher block countertop, and might have a store close enough that you could avoid shipping.
<p>This makes me want to buy a house just so I can build a workbench!!! </p>
<p>Hey Jdege!</p><p>Greetings from India!</p><p>Thanks for your detailed work description, they are very helpful. Can you please help me with the dimensions of the vices(jaw width and jaw openings) or post their model numbers!</p><p>P.S : I am brand new to woodworking, but surly build this workbench</p><p>Regards,</p><p>Ritesh</p>
I used Rockler's quick release front vise and end vise. There are links in the I'ble.<br><br>I'd suggest that you have the vices in hand before you start, rather than trying to fit by measurements.
<p>Almost complete with mine, will post a photo when I've had a chance to apply some finish to it. I have to say that I've never worked with MDF before, and I hope to never again for a similar application. In retrospect, it would have been work the money to just buy hardwood to avoid the stress.</p><p>I'll share the vise that I'm using since I'm not sure anyone else has pointed it out (http://www.amazon.com/Woodstock-D4026-Cabinet-Makers-Vise/dp/B005W16LVE/ref=sr_1_5?s=hi&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1426440611&amp;sr=1-5&amp;keywords=woodworking+vise+for+workbench) for ~70 buck you get an awesome vise, well-machines, that you just have to add lag bolts/ #12 screws, and a dowel to and it's functional. I'm using it for the front vise, but I think it would be viable on the end too with a large wooden jaw.;</p>
The plans I was working from used MDF for the top. I would not, even as a later under hardwood, if I were to make this again. I'd double up on counter top, or by a purpose made bench top. (Ikea has discontinued the countertop I'd used. The replacement is hardwood over particle board, which I don't think is suitable for a kitchen, let alone a workbench.)
How much did it cost you overall? As like an estimate?

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