For those who would like to have the benefit of a woodworker’s extensive experience with hand tools, this is the book to own. Crammed with practical information, it is the next best thing to looking over a craftsman’s shoulder as he works with his tools, asking questions and getting straight answers in plain language, seeing how each tool is held and manipulated to get the best work out of it. From bit brace, chisel, and mallet to saws, specialized planes, drawknife, and spokeshave, Aldren Watson describes in detail the actions of the tools basic to good woodworking. All the procedures are explicitly illustrated with handsome line drawings, and an appendix gives plans and dimensions for making a workbench and other necessary pieces of shop equipment.”

Cut 15 top boards 5 ft. long and rip them to 3 in. wide with a table saw so the top will glue up flat without the typical rounded edges of 2x4s. For the leg slot, cut two of the top boards into three pieces: a 39-in. middle piece and two 7-in. end pieces. Glue and screw the top together, one board at a time, with 3-in. deck screws, keeping the ripped edge facing up and level with the adjoining boards. Use a corded drill so there’s plenty of oomph to drive each screw below the surface. Note that the third glue-up from each end is where each leg notch is inserted. You can also create a nifty tool tray in the top by notching the three top pieces with a jigsaw. Clamp every 8 in. or so before driving in the 3-in.deck screws. Predrill the screw holes near the ends to prevent splitting. When you’re screwing on the 7-in. long 2x4s to create the leg slots, use a scrap piece of 2×4 as a spacer.
For those who would like to have the benefit of a woodworker’s extensive experience with hand tools, this is the book to own. Crammed with practical information, it is the next best thing to looking over a craftsman’s shoulder as he works with his tools, asking questions and getting straight answers in plain language, seeing how each tool is held and manipulated to get the best work out of it. From bit brace, chisel, and mallet to saws, specialized planes, drawknife, and spokeshave, Aldren Watson describes in detail the actions of the tools basic to good woodworking. All the procedures are explicitly illustrated with handsome line drawings, and an appendix gives plans and dimensions for making a workbench and other necessary pieces of shop equipment.”
The edges of MDF are fragile, easily crushed or torn. MDF is also notorious for absorbing water through these edges, causing the panels to swell. In Sam Allen's original design, he edged the MDF with 1/4" hardboard. This edging is one of the complexities that Asa Christiana left out in his simplified design. I think this was a mistake. MDF really needs some sort of protection, especially on the edges.

One quality about this bench that is definitely lacking is space – both tabletop and storage. The Olympia Tools does provide an adequate shelf, but it does not come with any drawers, nor does it offer the option of adding them later. The table top is the smallest we saw at 50” long and 2’ wide, though the width is actually better than most of the other table we reviewed. Still, a significant chunk of that width is occupied by a trough. This trough is designed to hold smaller workpieces to keep them from falling or getting knocked over, but it removes about 6” of width from the tabletop.
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.
Thanks Chris! I found this page while looking for a link to your e-mail address. I recently finished your erudite volumes on workbench design, and am about to embark on my own bench inspired by your take on the Holtzapffel design. As my vices and planer arrive, I’ve been agonizing over whether to use SYP or rough maple for the top. I don’t have a big budget, so all-maple is not an option. But after reading your ten tips here, I’ll stop agonizing — all SYP it is! This is, after all, my first of what I hope are at least several handmade benches. Your scholarship and craftsmanship are truly inspiring.
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.
Glue up the trim on the end, first. Do a dry fit, first, then as you take it apart lay everything where you can easily reach it as you put it back together again, after adding the glue. To help keep the edge piece aligned, I clamped a pair of hardboard scraps at each end. I used the piece of doubled MDF I'd cut off the end as a cawl, to help spread the pressure of the clamps. Squeeze some glue into a small bowl, and use a disposable brush. As you clamp down, position the trim just a little bit proud of the top surface.
Woodworker’s Visual Handbook. This is a book for people like me, who can understand an idea faster if they see it than read about it. Woodworker’s Visual Handbook has more than 1,300 illustrations and 430 pages of advice that visually explain such issues as how to install smooth-sliding drawers in frame-and-panel cabinets, how to lay out a complicated project and cut the joints, and the pros and cons of working with more than 60 species of wood (a topic on which author Jon Arno was an expert). There’s even a section on furniture styles, another topic Jon knew well.
Next is the shelf. Start with the 24x48" piece of MDF. Clamp this on top of the base, and pencil in the outside of the stretchers and the inside angle of the legs. Flip it over, pull out your trusty cutting guide, and cut it to width and to length. Cutting out the angles is simple, with a jig saw. It's not much work with a hand saw. If you took enough care with supporting blocks and stops, you could probably do it with a circular saw. Since I did have a jig saw, I used it.
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.
×