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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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tailslide made it!6 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

Workbench.jpg
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!

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" 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.

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.

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.

riteshk227 days ago

Hi Jdege,

How does a front vice differs from an end vice : In Mechanism or In Size ?

Regards,

Ritesh

jdege (author)  riteshk227 days ago

The only difference between the two vice mechanisms is the distance between the screws. The end vice has them placed farther apart.

riteshk2 jdege27 days ago

Thanks!

Gr8 help!

However, I am finding it tough to get them india..may be I have to wait.

Alex andra1 month ago
This is professional works ! Thank you Jdege ! Please do one foe me... ^~^
pto1892 months ago

Hi Jdege,

I don't see anywhere you mentioned the over all length of the bench top. A piece of 1 1/2" x 25" 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" x 25" x 74" solid Beech ($99 each plus tax) on top of a layer of 3/4" Birch plywood. That would be 3 1/4" over all.

pto1892 months ago

I was at IKEA in Philadelphia today. There is no 1 1/2" glued edge beech counter top. They only have either 1 1/8" solid wood or 1 1/2" beech over particleboard.

jdege (author)  pto1892 months ago
Yep. They discontinued it a year or so ago.

Try Lumber Liquidators. They sell butcher block countertop, and might have a store close enough that you could avoid shipping.
nanotwitty2 months ago

Thanks so much to share step by step to build workbench

http://tedswoodworkingprojectplans.blogspot.com/

yanitho2 months ago

This makes me want to buy a house just so I can build a workbench!!!

ritesh555in4 months ago

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)  ritesh555in4 months 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)  tylerbrownfield4 months 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.)
ryder.dilley4 months ago
How much did it cost you overall? As like an estimate?
jdege (author)  ryder.dilley4 months 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.
WilliamD144 months 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)  WilliamD144 months 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)  tylerbrownfield5 months 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)  tylerbrownfield5 months 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)  tylerbrownfield5 months 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)  tylerbrownfield5 months 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)  jdege5 months 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.

kertas5 months ago

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

thank you

a_d_fletcher made it!5 months ago
Thanks so much for the great instructable. Just finished mine, can't wait to put out to use.
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bigsamrichards made it!7 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 J11 months ago

Awesome! I hope to build this some day.

Twobits2 years 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 Twobits11 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...

Twobits Twobits2 years ago
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)  Twobits2 years ago
Nice job.
tailslide11 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

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