Whether you’re setting up a new shop or upgrading your old one, a good, sturdy workbench will almost surely be central to your plans. We can help. Our editors and contributors have produced more than two dozen articles and videos about benches and assembly tables. We’ve included everything from a simple but workable plywood bench to a classic hardwood bench complete with vises. You’ll also find full project plans, as well as tips for installing vises, making your bench portable, adding storage, and more. Some of our workbench plans are free, and the rest can be purchased in our store (check the links below).
Editor’s note: In the September/October 2017 issue (which mails to subscribers on Aug. 1), we have an article from up-and-coming makers on the books that have influenced their work and woodworking philosophy. Below is a similar article we ran in June 2011, asking established makers what they felt were the most important woodworking books, plus we included our staff picks. I’ve linked to our store for the ones we carry, some of which are now available only as eBooks, and to those from Lost Art Press. For titles that are out of print, I recommend Bookfinder.com, or better yet, your local used bookstores. Or, ya know, the library.
Olympia Tools is a bit of a lesser known manufacturer. While they offer a wide range of products for a variety of construction fields, they are definitely more of a budget option. That said, Olympia Tools is one of the few brands that manages to produce a reasonable quality at a low price which makes them a solid choice for customers looking to get the best bang for the fewest bucks.
I'd intentionally made it oversize, intending to trim it flush. Trimming is a little more complicated than usual, because I needed to trim it flush on two faces. The end face extended a good 3/8", so I cut off most of the excess with a circular saw and the edge guide, then flipped the edge guide upside down to make a stable platform for the router. Aside from the use of the edge guide, flush trimming the edge face was unremarkable.
The Gempler’s Farm Supply Catalog has been a leading source for farm and outdoor work supplies for over 25 years. You’ll find all your old favorites and essential supplies. With 35,000+ products from work gloves to long-handled tools, Gempler’s makes it easy to find the gear you need to get the job done. Print and online catalogs available on request.
If you're using drywall screws, you'll want to countersink the holes. Drywall screws are flat-head, and need a countersink to seat solidly. If you're using Kreg pocket screws, the way I did, you won't want to counter-sink the holes. Kreg screws are pan-head, and seat just fine against a flat surface. Both drywall screws and Kreg pocket screws are self-threading, so you don't need pilot holes in the second sheet of MDF.
The Handplane Book is a complete guide to one of the best known and most collectable hand tools. It covers all the basics, including how to buy a plane, tune it up, and use it. Fascinating background information on the development and manufacture of handplanes shows the rich heritage of this versatile tool. Focusing on planes from the golden age of the handplanes (19th and early 20th century), it also profiles tools from many sources around the world.
Woodworking Books go hand in hand with the tools and the work. Whether you are a beginner or a master woodworker there is always a new technique or a great tip waiting for you on the pages. We have hundreds of woodworking books to choose from, written by woodworking authors who understand the craft and know the trials and tribulations of the path.
I’ve seen antique cabinetmakers’ benches that are sixteen and seventeen feet long, more than three feet wide, and supported by a dozen drawers and doors—and that weigh as much as a felled oak tree. In contrast, jewelers’ cabinets seem to be on a dollhouse scale, with tiny tools to match. For most of us, however, space limitations preclude the biggest, and the smallest are just not big enough.
Dark colours appear heavier and create a feeling of stability, whereas light colours hold less visual weight and can appear unstable. When joining woods of dark and light colour, the visual effect of heavy and light suggest that darker woods work better when used on the bottom. A suggestion from my mentor to help getting proportions right was to spray paint mock-ups with a colour similar to the woods to be used later.
After you have all the holes clean, set things up for your glue-up. You want everything on-hand before you start - drill, driver bit, glue, roller or whatever you're going to spread the glue with, and four clamps for the corners. You'll need a flat surface to do the glue-up on - I used my hollow core door on top my bench base - and another somewhat-flat surface to put the other panel on. My folding table was still holding my oak countertop, which makes a great flat surface, but I want to make sure I didn't drip glue on it so I covered it with some painters plastic that was left over from the last bedroom we painted.
With the top laying on the floor, bottom side up, the next step is to flip the base upside down, and attach it to the top. I followed Asa Christiana's design, in using s-clips. When I stopped by my local Woodcraft, though, they only had two packages of ten, so I didn't use as many as I would have, otherwise. For the top I put four on each side and two on each end. For the shelf I put three on each side and two on each end. If it turns out that I need more, I can always add more.
The hacksaw will often damage the last thread when it cuts. Running a nut off the end will fix this. You'll have to run the nut all the way down from the other end. This doesn't take long, if you chuck up the rod in your drill and let it do the work. Hold the rod vertically, with the drill pointing down, and just hold on to the nut enough to keep it from spinning.
The wide variety of landmark furniture pieces, no matter the style, is what makes this book so visually stunning. That, and the fact that all of the 84 pieces that comprise the collection are beautifully photographed and a short description about each maker and piece is included. Many of the great makers from the last 100 years are covered – Sam Maloof, Wendell Castle, Tage Frid, George Nakashima – as well as many lesser known makers. If you read this book one hundred years from now, I’m sure it would be as thought provoking as it is today. These are 84 great pieces, and this is one great book.
Another aspect that might irk some buyers is the fact that the capacity of this bench is less than great outside of weight. The top’s surface area is a bit on the smaller end, though its length is more in line with larger models. The width though is less than two feet which can limit some projects. Similarly, the vice capacity is the second smallest on our list at 4 ½”, though this too can be modded with optional additions.