These sorts of things are usually glued and screwed, but it's actually the glue that holds them together - the screws just hold everything tight while the glue cures. Screwing into hardboard or 1/4" ply is an exercise in futility, so I just used glue, and used my two 4x4's as long clamps. It would have been a bit easier, if I'd done this before I'd rough-cut the 4x4's, but it worked out.

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Fast forward to adult me. I’m a full-blown city girl whose idea of crafting mostly consists of small handheld tasks (i.e. jewelry making, crocheting, colouring books, etc.). I’ve completely forgotten about how much woodworking was a part of my childhood and how beautiful the work of it can be. Then NBC came out with what (in my humble opinion) is one of the greatest television shows ever created. Making It is a traditional competition style reality show that showcases the work of different crafts people from around the United States. They specialize in everything from paper crafting to (you guessed it) woodworking. Oh and it’s hosted by these two fabulous goofballs.
“Traditional woodworking using hand tools can offer a more satisfying relationship with the wood and the creative woodworking process. It’s quieter, cleaner and maybe even a little spiritual. It’s no surprise that many “”plugged-in”” woodworkers are returning to the roots of this treasured skill. Where some hand-tool books focus solely on the use of hand tools, Made By Hand takes you right to the bench and shows you how to start building furniture using these tools.
There’s a lot of space above the shelf in most closets. Even though it’s a little hard to reach, it’s a great place to store seldom-used items. Make use of this wasted space by adding a second shelf above the existing one. Buy enough closet shelving material to match the length of the existing shelf plus enough for two end supports and middle supports over each bracket. Twelve-inch-wide shelving is available in various lengths and finishes at home centers and lumberyards.
If you decide upon construction lumber, you want kiln dry lumber. Green lumber will warp on you as it drys. Dig through the stacks and pick out the straightest, cleanest pieces. Generally, the boards that are sitting loose on the stack are those that other people left behind, as they sorted through looking for better. Be prepared to move them out of the way, and to dig down to the better stock. Be nice, though, and put everything back when you're done.
For the router you'll need a a 3/8" straight bit, an edge guide, 1/4"- and 1/8"-radius roundover bits, and a flush-trim bit with at least a 1-1/2" cutting length. Bits of this size are available only for a 1/2" collet. Some routers are capable of using multiple collet sizes. I was fool enough to buy a router that only had a 1/4" collet. More on that, later.
Permanent or Portable? This is a distinction that decides much about your bench choice: Is it to remain stationary or must it fold, roll, or otherwise make itself scarce between jobs? Large, heavy benches are more stable and, in general, more adaptable to different jobs (sometimes several at once). But the bigger the bench, the more hassle involved with stowing it.
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.
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.
The original design had a height of 35-1/8". Their two-layer top was 1-1/2" thick, so their legs were 33-5/8" long. I want a height of 35", but I'm using a top that's 3" thick. My basement floor is anything but level, so I'm using levelers that are adjustable from 3/4" to 1-1/2". In other words, I want legs that are around 31-3/4" long. (If you're not using levelers, your legs need precise lengths. The levelers give about 3/4" of adjustment, so precision is less necessary.
The last thing is to semi-permanently attach the bolts for the vises. Given the amount of work necessary to get to the bolt heads, once the top is joined, I had intended to tighten them up so they wouldn't spin, and lock them that way with blue Loctite. (That's the strongest non-permanent grade.) That didn't work. What I found was that the bottoms of the countersinks weren't quite flat, and when I tightened the nuts down that far, the ends of the bolts would be pulled far enough out of alignment that the vise bases would no longer fit. In order for the vises to fit over the bolts, I had to leave the nuts loose enough that the bolts had a bit of wiggle - which meant that they were almost loose enough for the bolts to spin. So I put Loctite on the nuts, to keep them from unscrewing, and filled the countersinks with Liquid Nails, in hopes of keeping the bolts from spinning. I considered using epoxy, or a metal-epoxy mix like JB Weld, but I didn't have enough of either on hand. It seems to be working for now, though the real test won't be until I have to take the vises off.
“Introducing a new woodworking series in the tradition of Tage Frid…a series filled with essential information required by woodworkers today. For the first time ever, all the techniques and processes necessary to craft beautiful things from wood have been compiled into three comprehensive volumes: The Complete Illustrated Guides. Highly visual and written by woodworking’s finest craftsmen, these three titles — Furniture & Cabinet Construction, Shaping Wood, and Joinery — will establish a new standard for shop reference books.
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.
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.
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