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.

A woodworker's workbench isn't a table, it's a work-holding system. It's not something you set things on top of, it's a tool that holds your work. Where a worktable might have a machinist's vise bolted to its top, a woodworker's bench is built to accommodate a number of different workholding mechanisms, such as bench dogs, planing stops, hold fasts, or board jacks, and will usually have one more woodworker's vises integrated into its structure.
Our understanding of what makes pleasing proportion is deeply imprinted in our mind and of all the design elements is the least influenced by one’s cultural experience. Desirable proportion has long been based around ratios we see in nature with an emphasis on the human body. The “golden rectangle,” considered to be divine proportion, has been used since at least the Renaissance period in art and design and has largely influenced our common experience with architecture and design. In fact, we often don’t even see proportion until something is out of proportion.
I don't see anywhere you mentioned the over all length of the bench top. A piece of 1 1/2" x 25" x 8' glued edge oak at Lumber Liquidators costs $192 including tax. Two piece is almost $400! Would that be better if I use two IKEA 1 1/4" x 25" x 74" solid Beech ($99 each plus tax) on top of a layer of 3/4" Birch plywood. That would be 3 1/4" over all.
The good news is that you don’t need a lot of shelf space to house a comprehensive collection of basic woodworking knowledge. Get started with Understanding Wood. In this comprehensive bible, professor Bruce Hoadley delves into the nature of wood and how its structure affects strength, workability, and other characteristics. He then shines a light on fundamentals like drying, machining, bending, joining, sanding, gluing, often accompanied by stunning macro photographs that zoom you in to the meat of the matter.
I clamped the top to the side of the base, as I had done before, so that the edge with the knot would be easy to work with. I mixed up some ordinary five-minute epoxy and added just a touch of black epoxy pigment. I applied this freely. After about twenty minutes I checked on it and found that in the deepest spot the void wasn't entirely filled, so I mixed up another batch and added more. After that had cured for a bit I eased the top to the floor and applied a coat of oil to the bottom side. I planned on attaching the base to the top the next day, and I wanted the bottom side oiled to keep it from absorbing moisture.
Here's the great thing about woodworking... it really hasn't changed much over the last few decades, even centuries. Sure, there are new tools and technologies that make things come together faster, light-weight power tools that cause less fatigue, and safety improvement measures like that table saw that stops if you put your tongue on it.    But the techniques are classic, and the purpose and design of hand tools are the same as they were for our grandparent's generation, and their grandparents before. All of which means - there's some staple, go-to techniques and joints and processes that every woodworker should know, and you don't have to make sure your sources are up-to-date before you seek out the best way to cut a mortise.

1. In this post, you kindly remind us not to make it too deep or worry too much about the height. I presume you still believe a bench cannot be too long or too heavy? I’m with you — just asking if that’s actually still your opinion, since the bench above appears to be yet another six footer. (If longer is better, why don’t you build an 8 or 10′ for your home shop?) TYIA – remember, I’ve bought all my lumber to start my new bench, but I haven’t milled anything yet, so you’re really helping in an immediate way here!
Beyond the weight capacity, the Grizzly is also the largest table top on our list and in more ways than one. For a workspace, the Grizzly provides 5’ of length by 2 ½’ of width. There is not another table that really comes close to that size. Another size advantage of the Grizzly bench is the table top’s thickness. While the standard thickness of the table top for a quality woodworking bench is 1” with lesser models often offering only ¾” of thickness, the Grizzly provides a 1 ½” thick table top.
×