The engineering involved in building this garden bench is pretty simple, and we have provided some links to get a full cut list and plans with photos to help you along the way. Additionally, to the stock lumber, you will need wood screws, barrel locks, and hinges to complete the table. A miter saw or hand saw is also extremely helpful for cutting down your stock to the correct angle and length.
Flip the base upright, put the MDF on top of it, then use a straightedge to draw two straight lines joining the outside edges of the legs and extending the width of the MDF. I used the countertop as the straightedge. We cut it with our cutting guide, which is based on the factory edge of a sheet of 1/4" plywood, so it should be straight enough. Use a carpenter's square to transfer these lines onto the ends of the MDF.
The jaw for the front vise needed to be 10" long - to span the distance from the leg to the end of the top, 1-1/2" thick - to allow for benchdog holes to be drilled in it, and 5" tall. The end vise was mounted 3/4" lower than the front vise, and the screw and guide rods were thicker, so its jaws needed to be at least 6-1/2" tall. Again, they needed to be 1-1/2" thick to allow for benchdog holes, and 23" long to span the width of the bench.

5. The Woodbook: The Complete Plates. This one contains no instructions, no techniques, and no how-to information. Rather, it's the most complete collection of American wood samples ever created. Assembled between between 1888 and 1913 by New Yorker Romeyn Beck Hough and originally published in fourteen volumes, Taschen's publication "reproduces, in painstaking facsimile, all of the specimen pages from the original volumes... For all trees, now arranged in alphabetical order, three different cross-section cuts of wood are represented (radial, horizontal, and tangential), demonstrating the particular characteristics of the grain and the wealth of colors and textures to be found among the many different wood types. Also included in this special edition are lithographs by Charles Sprague Sargent of the leaves and nuts of most trees, as well as texts describing the trees’ geographical origins and physical characteristics."

You may even want to put yourself in the picture. If your workshop space already exists, find a large piece of cardboard, wallboard, or plywood that’s about the size of the workbench top you envision. Find a couple of stools or chairs, perhaps a few books, and turn them into stanchions to support the “benchtop.” Is it too big for the space? Is it large enough for the tasks you envision will be performed upon it?
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The bench would end up being about 5 feet long. I thought about cutting 5 feet out of my 8 feet long countertop and use the rest for a small support table. However, after a consideration, I decided to bypass the front vise altogether together with the overhang so my bench will be 4 feet long. This allows me to skip the MDF and just glue the two halves of the 8 feet board together.
This book was put together to introduce people to the world of carving, and I think it does a great job. Starting with tool selection, sharpening and other important, but often overlooked as­pects of the craft, it moves on to discuss chip, relief and sculptural carving. With a chapter on surface decoration as well as a section of scaled patterns to get you started, this book has a bit of everything. And even if you’re not interested in traditional carving projects, the skills learned in this book will introduce you to techniques that can be used to add texture to your next furni­ture project.

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.
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What I did, when I came back, was to clamp down the strip where it had torn away, and then to start routing from the other end. I still moved the router from right to left, but I did it in six-inch sections, taking light passes, and sort of whittled the strip flush. As the sections I was working were farther to the right, the strip was thinner. Eventually I came to where I was trimming the strip away entirely, at which point I took off the clamps and the remainder fell away.
I was using 2-1/2" coarse Kreg pocket hole screws. Kreg screws are supposed to be self-tapping, but the coarse-thread screws are intended to be self-tapping in softwood, and the fine-thread screws they intend for use in hardwoods aren't available in 2-1/2" lengths. I decided to drill pilot holes in the oak. Just to make sure, I did a test hole in the scrap piece I'd cut off.
You may even want to put yourself in the picture. If your workshop space already exists, find a large piece of cardboard, wallboard, or plywood that’s about the size of the workbench top you envision. Find a couple of stools or chairs, perhaps a few books, and turn them into stanchions to support the “benchtop.” Is it too big for the space? Is it large enough for the tasks you envision will be performed upon it?
My woodworking mentor, Robert Van Norman, studied under the esteemed woodworker James Krenov. Robert remembers many of JK’s wise words, especially “trust your eye”. When it was time for me to hear those words, I remember feeling such relief and permission to embrace my inherent perspicacity. Intuition is essential in the design and creation process, and for developing work that reflects the maker beyond his or her technical skill alone. At times, the craftsperson is called on to explain the aesthetics of his design and saying “it just feels right” doesn’t always cut it. This article covers seven common design considerations, their definition and how they are generally accepted and understood. Not only will the article help increase design vocabulary and awareness, but it may also assist in problem solving and recognizing the aesthetic strengths and weaknesses of a furniture piece.
The jaw for the front vise needed to be 10" long - to span the distance from the leg to the end of the top, 1-1/2" thick - to allow for benchdog holes to be drilled in it, and 5" tall. The end vise was mounted 3/4" lower than the front vise, and the screw and guide rods were thicker, so its jaws needed to be at least 6-1/2" tall. Again, they needed to be 1-1/2" thick to allow for benchdog holes, and 23" long to span the width of the bench.
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.

I am surprised the the Hand and Eye combo by Tolpin didn’t make anyone’s list. I have also really found Chris Schwartz’s Anarchist’s design book very useful. Everything else that I really like is already in here somewhere; Moxon, Roubo, Estonia, Peart. The beginners book by Wearing is excellent, and I have taken to giving it to Eagle scouts at their Eagle Courts of Honor of late. (with an inscription about taking the raw stuff of life and developing the skills and tools to make from it what you need…); cheesy, I know, but it is a really good book to start folks off with.
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.

Chan’s desire for strong, lasting, easily repeated joints using power tools makes for a fun and educational read. He also has a strong interest in traditional Chinese furniture, and shows how some of those joints can be cut with power tools. This book will not only teach you how to ma­chine about 100 useful joints, but will also open your eyes to using new, fun to make joints in upcoming projects. Chan assumes readers know how to use their machinery and power tools, so he focuses on the procedures required to produce the included joints.
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The engineering involved in building this garden bench is pretty simple, and we have provided some links to get a full cut list and plans with photos to help you along the way. Additionally, to the stock lumber, you will need wood screws, barrel locks, and hinges to complete the table. A miter saw or hand saw is also extremely helpful for cutting down your stock to the correct angle and length.
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.
So drill the benchdog holes through the MDF layer. Begin by laying out their positions. You'll want these to be precise, so that the distances between the holes are consistent. The vises you are using will constrain your benchdog spacing. My front vise worked most naturally with two rows of holes four inches apart, my end vise with two pairs of rows, with four inches between the rows and eight inches between the pairs. Because of this, I decided on a 4" by 4" pattern.
In the "Getting Started with Woodworking" video, the holes through the 4x4's were drilled from the back. That is, they start on the side opposite the precisely-positioned mark, and drill through to hit it. If they can do this, more power to them, but I can't drill through 3-1/2" of wood to emerge at a precise mark without a drill press - and not always then.
Woodworking Business is an informative, common-sense-based book that may answer many questions for the amateur wood­worker who is considering going professional. This is not a gorgeous book. It doesn’t have glossy photos or beautiful graphic design. What it does offer is practical, down-to-earth tips while forcing you to consider the toughest question of all: Is running your own business right for you? Chapter topics include Setting Prices, Contracting Jobs, Getting Help and Everyday Lessons. Although it’s written from an American perspective, most of the information is pertinent to a Canadian reader.

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.


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.
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