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).
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With the shelf secure, get a couple of friends to come help, and stand the bench on its feet. I said earlier moving the top by yourself is dangerous. Trying to lift the entire bench is foolhardy. Of course, I already said I'm stubborn, so I did it myself by rigging a simple block-and-tackle using lightweight pulleys I got at the hardware store. (Not the lightest-weight pulleys, those are meant for flag poles and have a design load of something like 40 pounds. These had a design load of 420 pounds.)
This is technically a vanity factor, though the ability to store tools and other supplies at quick reach can be a time and energy saver. At the least, you will want a bench that comes with a shelf underneath. This will allow the storage of larger items that can otherwise be difficult to find a place for. Drawers are the other popular storage for benches and can make retrieving tools much easier – just make sure the inside of the drawer is lined with felt or the wood may prematurely dull your tools.
Of all the machines in a workshop, we think two deserve their own books, not just because they possess the greatest potential, but when used incorrectly, are most likely to bite back. Bill Hylton and Fred Matlack’s Woodworking with the Router comes close to being the Router Bible. This tome provides an excellent overview of routers and bits while also explaining how to build and use jigs for router tables and handheld routing. Similarly, Paul Anthony’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Tablesaws gives entry-level and experienced woodworkers the information they need to safely use this workshop workhorse and accomplish more with their saws. Both books have excellent photos and great illustrations.
Begin by cutting off a 10-in. length of the board and setting it aside. Rip the remaining 38-in. board to 6 in. wide and cut five evenly spaced saw kerfs 5/8 in. deep along one face. Crosscut the slotted board into four 9-in. pieces and glue them into a block, being careful not to slop glue into the saw kerfs (you can clean them out with a knife before the glue dries). Saw a 15-degree angle on one end and screw the plywood piece under the angled end of the block.
Much like the dimensions of a bench’s tabletop, the weight capacity will similarly affect what size of projects you can work on with your bench. A common weight capacity sits between 220 to 250 pounds. While this is okay, it will limit some heavier projects. Ideally, you should shoot for 300 pounds, though some benches can offer 500 pounds of weight capacity or more.
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When the holes were complete, I flipped the legs and drilled the countersinks with a 1" Forstner bit. Trying to drill a countersink when the center was already drilled would be impossible with a spade bit or an auger, but Forstner bits are guided by their edges, not their center, so they can handle this job. On thing about Forstners, though -- they have a tendency to skitter around a bit when starting, before they bite. An easy fix for this is to drill a hole through a piece of ply, and to clamp that to your work, creating a jig that will prevent the bit from drilling in the wrong spot.
1. Cabinet Making and Millwork by John L. Feirer. I read this book cover to cover when I first got into woodworking, and its still my number one reference book when researching a project or technique. I believe it was intended as a textbook for a high school shop class, so it's laid out in great 101 style. It includes descriptions of everything from how sandpaper is made to best practices for shop math, and provides details for both hand and power tools.
I will admit, I'm not a pyrography genius. In fact the last time used a woodburning tool, it was Christmas Day and was about five years old. It didn’t go well. A lot has changed since then. The tools have improved, there is a large and growing group of woodburning artists and there are great books to show you the basics and inspire you to pick up the art of pyrography. Woodburning with Style is the perfect book if you’re just learning. Not only will it teach you about the equipment available, it covers decorative techniques, lettering, portraits and more, before providing a chapter of inspirational projects and photographs to really get your imagination going. Pyrography is an art in itself but can also be used in conjunction with turnings, carvings or furniture making.
Remove the jaws and route the edges that you could not route while they were still attached. Then use a roundover bit on all of the corners except the inner edge of the inner jaw of the end vise. Give everything a lite sanding, and apply Danish oil to the inner surfaces of the jaws. (By "inner surfaces", I mean those surfaces that will not be accessible when the vises are assembled - the inner surface of the inner jaw, that bolts to the bench, and the outer surfaces of the outer jaws, that bolt to the vise plates.)
First, cut one long edge. Second, cut a short edge, making sure it's square to the long edge you just cut. Clamp both pieces of the edging you'll be using along the long edge you've cut, and measure the width of the base plus 1/4-1/2", mark that, and then lay out a line through the mark that is square to the end you've cut, then cut along the line. Finally, cut the remaining short edge square to both long edges. (The length of the top doesn't need to precisely match anything, so we don't need to bother with clamping the trim before measuring.)
Many kids have the natural desire to learn about tools and make wooden objects, but as adults it’s difficult to know where or how to start teaching. Kid Crafts Woodworking starts at the very beginning, with short sections on, among other things, the properties of wood, gluing and metal fasteners. Nothing long or boring, just the basics, for a kid-length attention span. With straightforward paragraphs and clear, simple photos, the book goes on to discuss the safe usage of basic tools. Then comes the fun part – the 21 projects. Easy-to-follow instructions will guide your child through the projects, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be there every step of the way. Just don’t get too eager and do all the work for them … it’s their project after all.
But I still wasn’t entirely satisfied with our list. I wondered if we’d read enough woodworking books as a staff to create a solid list. So we surveyed the readers of my blog (the results of that are on our web site), then asked many of the woodworkers who write for us to contribute lists of their favorite woodworking books. Theirs are below, in their own words (publishers have listed only on first reference; but if no publisher has been noted, the book is available on Google Books at books.google.com).
Though still straightforward in design, this bench distinguishes itself from many of its competitors with the sheer wealth of storage options. It includes two drawers of equal size with an additional drawer of double size as well as a spacious cupboard. Altogether, this provides for more storage space and organization than any other workbench we reviewed. Of course, this bench also comes with many of the same advantages and disadvantages that you would expect to see on other models within this lineup.