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I'd decided on an oil-and-wax finish. Oil finishes are by no means the toughest. In fact, they're really rather pathetic, so far as protecting the wood goes. But they're easy to apply, and not even the toughest finish will stand up to the abuse that a workbench will suffer, so it's more important that it be easy to repair. Wax is usually used to add a high gloss. On a bench, it's there to keep glue from sticking.

The bench I will be describing differs from both of these in a couple of areas, the most significant of which is the top. Allen's top was made from three layers of 3/4" medium density fiberboard (MDF), topped and edged with 1/4" hardboard. Christiana's top was just two layers of 3/4" MDF. My top is two layers of 3/4" MDF edged with 1/2" oak and topped by a 1-1/2" thick edge-glued oak Ikea countertop. My top is more expensive in both time and money than either Christiana's or Allen's. If you're looking to build something fast and cheap, I'd recommend Allen's approach over Christiana's. The hardboard significantly increases the durability of the top.


I’m building my second bench. I built the first years ago with wood from old machinery pallets – mostly oak and maple. Mortised the legs into the base, and pegged ’em with 1″ dowels. Of course, the legs warped a bit, but that made everything tighter and stronger. The top is 2″ thick Ash, one board cut in half and joined side to side. Wrapped a maple apron around the top, and I think I screwed the top from underneath to the leg braces. Solid. Over time, built a cabinet under for 3 drawers and a small cabinet door. Works for me.
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Put the upper panel of MDF on your glue-up surface, bottom side up. Put the bottom panel of MDF on your other surface, bottom side down. (The panel with the holes drilled in it is the bottom panel, and the side that has the your layout diagram on it is the bottom side.) Chuck up in your drill the appropriate driver bit for the screws your using. Make sure you have a freshly-charged battery, and crank the speed down and the torque way down. You don't want to over-tighten the screws, MDF strips easily.
“The Wheelwright’s Shop” by George Sturt (Cambridge UP). Here is the real deal. At the turn of the 19th century, a guy comes back from college when his father falls ill and can no longer manage the old family wheelwright business alone. He realizes that he has stepped into a vanishing world of “kindly feeling” when the “grain in the wood told secrets to men.” Thanks to Sturt, the old English way with wood is still alive in the pages of this remarkable book.
We cut the supports 16 in. long, but you can place the second shelf at whatever height you like. Screw the end supports to the walls at each end. Use drywall anchors if you can’t hit a stud. Then mark the position of the middle supports onto the top and bottom shelves with a square and drill 5/32-in. clearance holes through the shelves. Drive 1-5/8-in. screws through the shelf into the supports. You can apply this same concept to garage storage. See how to build double-decker garage storage shelves here.
In ancient times, the woodworker’s bench consisted of a plank or split log with four splayed legs. Descendants of those benches are manufactured today, usually with a top of hardwood slabs glued together. The norm nowadays is four straight legs supporting the bulk above, often with braces and a shelf below. Despite the improvements, the linkage to Greek and Roman antecedents is still evident.
I drilled from the mark. That way I could ensure that the hole was where it was supposed to be, on the side where the position was critical. I have two 3/8" bits -- a brad point bit that came with my doweling set, and a perfectly ordinary 3/8" twist bit. Brad-point bits are far more precise than twist bits -- they're more likely to start where you want them to, and they're more likely to stay straight. My problem is that my brad-point bit wasn't long enough to go through 3-1/2" of wood. So I started each hole with the brad-point bit, then finished it off with the twist bit. I clamped a piece of ply on the back, to reduce tear-out.
For one, the bench itself is a good size. While its width as a tad short at just over 1 ½’, the length is a great 5’ long. Even better, this bench is made out of birch wood. Birchwood is similar to beech in that it is strong but soft enough to prevent inadvertent dulling of your tools. However, birch has a bit of an advantage over beech in that it is not a porous which makes staining on the Windsor Design a more worry-free affair.
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