Introduction: HOW TO MAKE a TRADITIONAL WORKBENCH
In this project, I’m making a traditional woodworking workbench. Watch the video and follow along below for step-by-step details of how I did everything:
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Step 1: BACKGROUND
I’ve wanted to build one of these workbenches for some time now. In fact, in this post, I talk more about how long I’ve had the lumber in my shop for this project and what my hangups about it are. I purchased these plans from Jay Bates. They were very detailed and spelled out everything from the dimensions to the shopping list you can take with you to the home improvement store to buy just the right materials.
Step 2: TOOLS & MATERIALS
Japanese pull saw: https://amzn.to/2ZuzYvG
Table saw - https://amzn.to/2C11FzS
Miter saw - https://amzn.to/2uC092T
Bessey parallel clamps - https://amzn.to/2S4m4tv
DeWalt planer - https://amzn.to/2CXLyo7
Random orbit sander - https://amzn.to/2C0gR0k
Forstner bits - https://amzn.to/2pGFSGn
Jointer - https://amzn.to/2myoGBj (Mine is a Grizzly, but couldn't find a link for it)
Bandsaw (same model as mine, but mine is anniversary edition)- http://amzn.to/2BI2xJV
5 Minute Epoxy - http://amzn.to/2pw2zxp
Drill & driver - http://amzn.to/2C0JDfa
Stanley Bailey chisel set: https://amzn.to/2GTZgZJ
Step 3: MILLING
There's a lot of milling that happens in this video. There, you’ve been warned. I only say that so that when I don’t take as much time explaining all of the milling process, you understand, because there is a ton of it! I explain in much more detail the milling process in other posts.
These are 2x10's that you can find pretty much anywhere. I'm just cutting them to the rough length for my workbench top pieces, then ripping them in half.
Step 4: APPLY GLUE
Next, I glued them up in sections being careful not to have any knots showing on one of the sides. That will become the top side.
Step 5: PLANE TOP SECTIONS
Then, I milled up the pieces for the legs and get them glued together in the clamps. While the glue was drying on those, I turned my attention back to the sections for the top. I ended up doing the top in 3 sections so they would still fit through my planer (which has a capacity of about 13”).
I don't have a jointer wide enough to use for these pieces, so I made a sled for my planer out of some melamine and then shimmed the section where it would not move and secured it with some hot glue. Then, I could pass it through the planer a few times to create one flat face. This was pretty difficult since they weighed so much...each of these panels was over 50 lbs. I had to catch them and lift them as they came out of this little planer so it would not snipe into the cutterhead with the counter weight. Plus, I didn’t want the whole planer cart to tip over with all of the weight.
After i got one flat face, I could remove it from the melamine panel, flip it over and start making the other side flat and parallel. Each of the sections ended up being right at 4" thick.
Step 6: ALIGN TOP SECTIONS USING DOMINOS
Next, I took the sections over to the jointer to get one square side so I could pass them through the planer again and have a good joint for gluing them together. I cut them all to the final length and then started adding some dominos.
I marked out where to put the dominos and then made the mortises. These would help me keep all of the pieces aligned when I was gluing them together and would make for a more even top. I didn't have anything wide enough to flatten these at this point, so I wanted to keep them as flat as possible during the glue up.
There was a little gap toward one end, so I just taped it off really quickly and added some epoxy in there.
I used the jointer to square up the legs and get them all sized the same.
And it was time for even more milling and gluing...this time, for the stretchers.
My friend Brandon came over to help me flatten the top of this workbench. He is a woodworker too and has a YouTube channel as well, Maddux Woodworks. He brought over his No. 5 hand plane, and we worked on it for a couple of hours together. It's actually a pretty good time if you have a friend near. Invite them over or see if you can meet up, have a chat while you're working. I’ve linked to Brandon’s channel so go give him a follow.
Now, it was time to break out the dado stack and start creating the tenons for the legs. I'm going with half-lap joints, so I just cut halfway through the legs, and then marked out the corresponding mortise on the workbench top. I used a marking knife to score each of the mortises and then started clearing the material. At first, I used a large forstner bit to hog out a lot of the waste, and then broke out the chisels to take care of the rest.
This was a tedious process for me, because I don't have that much experience with chiseling out things by hand, but this sure gave me a lot of practice.
Step 9: CUT HALF-LAP JOINTS
I marked out where the hole for the leg vise needed to be drilled and did that at the drill press. It's way easier this way rather than waiting until it is all assembled. I'm going to be making another post about making and installing the leg vise, so when that video is done, you can check in the description below for a link to it.
Next, it was time to cut the half-lap joints in the legs for the stretchers and the matching half-lap joints in the stretchers.
Once you get it dialed in, it goes pretty fast. I actually had a little discrepancy between some of my legs slightly, so I just used a lot of tape to mark which joints went with which. It really helped me keep it straight in the end.
Someone commented on my Instagram post about this that it looked like my bench cut itself shaving with all of the tape pieces. ha! If you want some behind the scenes stuff and progress shots of projects as I'm building them, that's the place to go. I'll link it below.
Step 10: ADD STRETCHERS
Time to add the stretchers!
I clamped everything together and pre-drilled and added screws. Then, I would take one section off at a time, add glue, and add the screws back again. This worked quite well.
Then, I just trimmed off the excessive length of the stretchers for a very nice look.
Step 11: TRIM STRETCHERS FLUSH WITH LEGS
After securing the stretchers with glue and screws, I used a large and small flush trim saw to trim the stretchers perfectly flush with the legs. I left these long on purpose so I could come back at the end and do this.
Step 12: REMOVE TOP
My wife helped me wrestle this beast to the floor and we put it in its final resting place.
I needed to remove the top so I could glue the tenons into the top. This proved to be quite difficult, partly due to a good fit and partly due to gravity. What we had to do is for me to prop up the top while my wife hammered down on the base with a small sledge hammer. Little by little, we worked our way around, adding some boards into the gap so the top would not fall back into place. Then, it eventually came all of the way out.
Step 13: HAMMER WEDGES AND TRIM FLUSH
I cut some wedges and after getting the tenons glued in, I hammered in the wedges
The good thing is that when I went to put the tenons back into the mortises, gravity was on my team that time. When the glue was dry on the wedges, I used a small flush trim saw to cut off the waste.
Step 14: FILL GAPS & HAND PLANE
After flushing up the tenons to the top with a hand plane, There were a few gaps that the wedges didn't cover, so I just mixed up some glue and sawdust and filled the gaps with it.
Step 15: HAMMER AND SAND DOWEL PLUGS
I decided to cap the screw holes off with dowel plugs, so I had to drill out the screw holes a bit more, and I added in some red oak dowel plugs that I cut off camera. Then, I came back and flush cut them and sanded them perfectly smooth.
I broke all of the sharp edges with a little hand sanding, and the first phase of this thing was done!
Step 16: CONCLUSION
It feels really good to have this workbench finished and in my shop. I’ve already been using it a ton, and I know it will get many more years of use, hopefully to be handed down to my kids one day.
Thanks so much for stopping by and following along with another project. I’d love to know what you think about it. Have you made a workbench of some kind? What does yours look like? This is not the first one I’ve built, but merely one of the most recent iterations in my shop. I’m going to put some of the finished shots below, so be sure to brows through them and see the finished result!
This design is not mine, as I mentioned above. I purchased these plans from Jay Bates, and if you want to head over to his site and pick up a set of the plans for yourself, I recommend them. They were easy to follow and explained everything quite well.