Workbench Construction

I put a lot of thought into making a workbench that is very functional for traditional woodworking.  In doing so, I investigated various books and references on the topic and tried to combine as many of the features that I felt I needed into my design.  I wanted a beefy understructure for taking planing forces, dog holes that could double for holdfasts in the top and down at least one side, good quick-acting vises located for jointing and sawing, an overhang along one side for clamping, a beefy top for taking pounding, and knockdown assembly since it may need to be moved out of our basement someday.  I made a few layouts in AutoCAD but largely worked out the details as I went along.  The following images finish the story on the construction process.

 Part 2, Workbench Top

Hauled home three red oak planks for construction of the top.  Unfortunately I do not have a photo of the planks before they were rough planed and jointed.  Here in Colorado finding nice thick hardwood planks is a challenge.  After visiting various places and sorting through a stack of ugly planks, these are the best I could find.  They were quite cupped but did not have much twist and were fairly straight.  The edges of two of the planks were water damaged and there was some insect/worm damage.  Anyway, this is what I started with.  I would have liked to have found thicker planks but since I could not I strived to minimize material removal across the thicknesses of the planks and the finished bench top.

You kinda need a workbench to make one so I did the rough planning on my garage workbench.  You can see edge water damage on the plank on the bench.  I put a Stanley #40 and #5 to very heavy use in getting the planks jointed.  

At this stage of plank prep I concentrated on only removing the worst of the cupping across the widths.

I did though, put a lot of work into getting very straight, square and flat plank edges for gluing.  Finishing was with Stanley #7 and #8 planes.

After trial fittings that ensured I would get the maximum usable length with the three planks I glued the planks in two stages.  First I made the joint between the first two planks.  I am relying only on the glue strength, there are no biscuits or dowels.

Then I glued the second joint.  You can see that I alternated the cupping directions.

Once the joints were fully cured I made clean cuts at each end of the bench top with a crosscut hand saw.

Now it is beginning to look like a workbench.  However, the top surface is facing up so you can see that there is a lot more hand planing to do.

I did a lot of hand planing to get the top reasonably flat and smooth.  In the interest of not removing any more thickness than necessary I did not overdo the flatness thing.  I used winding sticks to ensure that there was minimal twist.  And, I used a hand scraper in certain areas that did not plane well.  I did very minimal cleanup on the bottom surface.  Just enough for it to rest on the leg trusses without rocking.  I believe you can see a sinusoidal wave along the bottom edge which is due to the alternating cupping directions.

Here I have flipped the top over and am in the process of installing mounting features for the vises.  The clamped block is acting as a drill guide for drilling holes for threaded inserts.  You can also see one of the two dowels in the leg truss upper crossmember that are all that hold the top in place.  The dowels and the weight of the top are enough to hold it very stable even during hard use.  You can see too that I have already applied the first coat of finish (a beeswax, mineral spirits and boiled linseed oil mixture).

I used a socket wrench to thread in the threaded inserts.

This view shows the inserts installed for the larger side vise on the left and inserts for an alternate end vise location on the right.  The primary location of the end vise is at the other end of the bench.

The vises are installed.

Here I have put a drill guide block to use for drilling 3/4 inch diameter dog holes through the top.

Box-like oak covers were custom fit for the jaws of each vise and were attached in place with screws. These screws and the vise mounting bolts are the only fasteners used on the work bench other than glue.  And, additional coats of finish have been applied.  The bench is finished although I always figured that I would add more dog holes running across the width of the bench in front of the side vise (they were figured into the other dog hole pattern).  Since I have not yet needed them they have not been put in.  I also thought that I would do further flattening after a few years of letting the top stabilize, but, after more than 10 years or so I have not needed to.

Back to Part 1, Understructure

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