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Picture of Building a real woodworker's workbench
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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.
 
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Hey Jdege!

Greetings from India!

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.S : I am brand new to woodworking, but surly build this workbench

Regards,

Ritesh

jdege (author)  ritesh555in22 hours ago
I used Rockler's quick release front vise and end vise. There are links in the I'ble.

I'd suggest that you have the vices in hand before you start, rather than trying to fit by measurements.

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.

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&ie=UTF8&qid=1426440611&sr=1-5&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.;

jdege (author)  tylerbrownfield15 days ago
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?
jdege (author)  ryder.dilley15 days ago
Didn't really keep track. The vises were somewhere around $200 each, the countertop was about the same. The rest of the lumber and hardware was under $100.
WilliamD1417 days ago

Question: I'm new to this and thinking about tackling the project: did you consider using two dowel centers at the same time when marking the legs rather than one in each position, one at a time - did you have a reason to avoid doing it that way?

jdege (author)  WilliamD1417 days ago
Asa Christiana's design only had one dowel for each stretcher. I had started out that way, when I found Sam Allen's book, which used two. I thought that was a good idea, and went back and added the second.

I don't see any reason why marking both holes at the same time wouldn't work.

Any specific reason to make the end vise area flush with the base dimensions other than additional stability for the end vise?

In Asa's workbench, although he doesn't use an end vise that end extend 2-4" from the base legs.

I plan to add an End vise in the future, but not right away. Just trying to figure out if I keep the 2-4" overhang on that side if I'm setting myself up for worse end vise solution when the time comes.

jdege (author)  tylerbrownfield25 days ago
I never really considered doing anything else. Most of the end vises I've seen were full-width. What I was thinking, when I decided to add the end vise, was how useful it would be to be able to clamp large panels with the bench dogs. And for that, you want to have bench dog holes that are widely separated.

When I'm just clamping something, I use the front vice more often than the end. The end vise I more often use with the bench doGs.

Appreciate the effort on the post. With reference to the Sam Allen tabletop design (3 sheets MDF and hardboard), what's the best approach to laminate all the layers?

Should you screw & glue through 3 layers of MDF from the bottom up, then screw the hardboard from the top? Or is there a better route?

jdege (author)  tylerbrownfield25 days ago
I'd screw through the third layer into the two. I can see no advantage to screwing through twice as much material.
jdege (author)  tylerbrownfield1 month ago
If I had a vacuum press, I'd just glue and press. Since I don't, I'd glue and screw two layers together, then remove the screws and glue and screw the third. I'd not fasten the hardboard at all, I'd just hold it in place with edge banding

Clamp a slightly oversized piece of hardboard to the top, then route the edge so it's a perfect fit. Then screw strip of hardboard around the edges, so that they are slightly proud, then route them flush. The hardboard top should be sufficiently secure, just sitting loose, constrained by the edge banding.

I'm in the process of constructing an assembly table that will use this technique to build a sacrificial hardboard top. I'll have an I'ble posted in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for walking through the 3 layer lamination idea. I had planned to go 3 layer with the floating hardboard and oak for the edgebanding - so you helped to confirm that.

So, after the initial 2-layer glue and screw, do you then screw again through the 2 layers (now one) into the 3rd with glue. Or, just glue the 2 layers part into the 3rd and call it a day?

jdege (author)  tylerbrownfield1 month ago

I just pulled out my copy of Sam Allen's book (http://www.amazon.com/Making-Workbenches-Planning-...

In it, he suggests using nails to provide clamping pressure between the layers of MDF, and using contact cement to hold the hardboard top in place.

jdege (author)  jdege1 month ago

Sorry, just noticed that link was to a newer book. The Sam Allen book I have, that contains the plans that inspired Asa's, that inspired mine, was:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1561585947/ref=pd...

The older book was from 2004, the newer from 2008. I don't know whether the later book includes plans for the same workbench as the old.

kertas1 month ago

great tutorial for building a real Woodworking Bench Vise Made In USA

thank you

a_d_fletcher made it!1 month ago
Thanks so much for the great instructable. Just finished mine, can't wait to put out to use.
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tailslide made it!2 months ago

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.

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" 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.

I make a sketchup file for the workbench here:

https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/model.html?id=ufc9f7839-a28b-47a0-b8a7-51fd47c02377

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bigsamrichards made it!2 months ago

I skipped the 2 layers of MDF and just mounted a work top on top (got this off ebay - new, 2m 40mm solid beech for 70 quid, delivered!)

Used sapele for the vice jaws (it has an end vice now too but hadn't installed that when I took this.) Couldn't find S-Clamps over here so made some buttons using leftover sapele to attach the top.

Including both vices (veritas, but one was second hand off gumtree), cost £330 quid!

So far have built a shoji/cinema projector screen. Next up - bookshelves! Wahoo!

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In fact - it was less than that - only cost £266 in total!

Mike J6 months ago

Awesome! I hope to build this some day.

Twobits1 year ago
Well, I finally have it almost finished, a couple of more coats of Danish oil and the shelf and it will be done. Bowling alley lane cut down to 7 ft by 3 ft, some stringers for the side rails are from the Detroit car show, 8 ft by 8 inches by 1 1/2 inch maple veneered plywood that I cut down to 4 inches wide, like little beams. The levelers are heavy duty for pinball machines (Ebay). Thanks again for the instructions.
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fr!th Twobits7 months ago

Geez. Is it a workbench or a dining room table for a queen?

Well, I guess even if your projects fail, at least you will always have something beautiful to look at in the workshop...

Thanks jdege. Although you can't see them very well, there are 93 holes in the table, 4 rows of 22 plus an additional 9 in between those on the side vise end. Three holes in the side vise jaw, 4 in the end vise jaw. There are 4 holes on the side vise leg and another 5 on the leg at the end vise leg, total of 109. Oh yeah, the jaws are bloodwood.
jdege (author)  Twobits1 year ago
Nice job.
tailslide7 months ago

FYI this looks like maybe an easier way to do the dog holes, using a spiral up-cut router bit:

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/video/workbench_dog_holes

hohum9 months ago

WOW!!!!!

graywulfen11 months ago

Hey there - I love the instructable, so much detail. Thanks for putting it together!

I have a question about the grooves in the long and short stretchers:

If the top grooves for both are both 7/16" in from the edge, wouldn't the threaded rods collide in the legs, since they both go all the way through?

Thanks! hope I get a reply this far in :)

Nevermind! figured it out by looking at the picture. That's why the threaded rods are grooved on the bottom for the short stretchers. I had thought threaded rods went through both grooves; now I get that the grooves "on top" are for the s-clips.

standard2112 months ago

Very impressive job's

zenbooter1 year ago
gotta check out SA's book and AC's video for comps,but this work of yours has me second guessing tapered wedge tenons and bed bolts for sure...man you are indelible
Navy1331 year ago
I am a Builder (Seabee) in the Military deployed to Afghanistan. I found you site I love this site I have my own work shop at home can not wait to start building again.  While deployed we have used some of  your projects. Thank you for this site.                                                                           
lainna6661 year ago
My goodness, I'm exhausted just reading this. Can't wait to get out and try it myself tho. Great job, man. Mad props.
White_Wolf1 year ago
One word, BRILLIANT!
Go to finewoodworking.com and watch the video series Getting Started in Woodworking. Download the project plans, then come here to get details.
I'm turning my old class A RV into a portable shop. Not much room so this will fit perfectly. I can't wait to build it. Bookmarking this and finewordworking. If this was in a contest, you'd have my vote!
tyreedaddy2 years ago
beautiful
great Ible, thought i can't help but notice those benchdogs of yours are round. i believe square benchdogs are the more common as they do not indent and bruise the wood as much, as they spread out the weight more. not to mention it's easier to hold something against a flat edge than a round one. that's my only problem with this ible though. otherwise, great stuff, very handy, shall make my workshop plenty more efficient :)
jdege (author)  awsomenesskid2 years ago
Square benchdogs were traditional, but most benches are using round benchdogs, these days. Round holes can be drilled after-the-fact, square holes have to be built into the construction of the top. With round holes you can use the same holes for benchdogs as for hold fasts, instead of having to have separate holes for each. And with round holes you can change the orientation of the benchdogs to hold angled and odd-shaped pieces.
KentM2 years ago
The effort you put into this Instructable, not to mention the workbench, illustrates a real talent that I'm sure will be evident in all your woodworking projects. Congratulations!
wow,
Thanks for the detailed ible, answers a few questions,
I’ve searched the net for a detailed how to and yours is the best diy I’ve found so far.
Thank you so much
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