Happy bench building folks. I hope you make it your own and not worry too much about what someone else thinks it should be. Use the rules as a guideline, they have validity, but make it your own in the end. If the rules fit you that’s great, if they don’t quite fit you then make it to fit yourself. It’s you using it, not some guy making a nice living off of telling you how he thinks you should do it. One size does not fit all. Never has, never will.
Thanks! Great information. As an advanced novice worker, I finally decided to build my first bench a couple years ago. After reading several of your blogs knowing full well mortised dove tale leg joinery is yet beyond my capability, I elected to build Robert Lang’s “21st Century Workbench”. I also chose his VERITAS Twin Screw Vise in the face vise position. Used an old Craftsman face vise in the tail vise position. Constructed of laminated 9/4 x 31/2″ Pecan and 60″ long because of my small crowed shop. Super happy to this point. As I mature in woodworking I may live to construct one of a different choice at a latter date, but I’m 73 so we’ll see. Thanks again for the advise.
This book addresses a key dilemma of the beginning woodworker: how do you build good projects without the basic shop furnishings to get the job done? And, why struggle with makeshift workshop equipment when you can create your own? Now you have the guidance of an expert woodworker to help you build workshop basics that you will use for years to come.
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One thing that surprised me about the forthcoming article is that while some authors – James Krenov, George Nakashima, Roy Underhill and Bob Flexner– feature in both the list below and the “Young Makers’ Bookshelves” article, a lot of the titles on the upcoming list are new to me. So of course, I’ve ordered them (a disease for which there is no cure).
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.
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.
Assemble the vises, for the final time. You'll not be taking them off again, so tighten everything down, and attach the endplate to the ends of the screw and guide rods. Then mark and drill benchdog holes in the outer jaws inline with the benchdog holes in the top. Generally, through-holes are preferred for benchdogs, so that they don't collect sawdust and gunk. With these vises, that isn't possible, there are screws and guide rods in the way. I drilled them just deep enough to hold a Veritas Bench Pony (their reduced-height benchdog), without it sinking to where I can't get a grip to remove it. Rockler sells some very inexpensive plastic benchdogs that can't be adjusted for height, and aren't as strong as metal or wooden dogs, that I intend to keep in the holes full-time, to keep sawdust from collecting in them.

My advice? Don't do this. If you have jointer and a planer, use them. If you don't, seriously consider using dimensional lumber that has already been planed and sanded. If you are going to try to clean up construction lumber by hand, using a hand plane is a lot faster and more pleasant than using a belt sander. Except, of course, that to do a good job of planing a board you need a solid bench to hold the board, and you don't have a bench, yet.
With the top laying on the floor, bottom side up, the next step is to flip the base upside down, and attach it to the top. I followed Asa Christiana's design, in using s-clips. When I stopped by my local Woodcraft, though, they only had two packages of ten, so I didn't use as many as I would have, otherwise. For the top I put four on each side and two on each end. For the shelf I put three on each side and two on each end. If it turns out that I need more, I can always add more.
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If you opt for a bench with drawers or cabinets built into its base, don’t forget the toe spaces: Leave a space roughly three inches deep and four inches wide at floor level for your toes, just like kitchen cabinets. The absence of a toe space means you’ll be forever kicking the face or sides of the cabinets which is irksome and, with tools in hand, potentially dangerous. And you’ll have to lean over farther to reach the back of the benchtop.
I decided to make my own top out of white ash because I had access to a planer and jointer at my local college where I was taking an intro woodworking class. Trim and vice jaws are white ash as well. Everything else is built pretty much as jdege describes. A plunge router with a 3/4" spiral up bit really made quick work of the dog holes. Finished with Danish oil.
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.
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.
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