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.
Great advice. May I add #11?…if you’re left handed (like me), build a left handed bench. It sounds obvious, but when I made my bench, I had looked at all the pictures in my books, laid out plans for a nice, traditional bench, built it, then realized my front vise should have been on the other end (I have no tail vise). I plane from left to right, and the front vise is always in the way.

A bewildering variety of tools, clever marketing copy, and lack of knowledge can lead even the most determined new woodworker to make many unnecessary purchases, causing frustration or retreat. Written for true beginners, Your First Shop offers inspiration and encouragement, guiding readers toward smart tool choices by providing realistic, reliable information. Best-selling author Aimé Ontario Fraser started working with wood in high school, and has taught extensively in workshops and classes since. Your First Shop brings that experience to readers. Woodworkers of every taste can find a shop style that works for them in one of the book’s four sections: The Essential Shop, The Basic Shop, The Efficient Shop, and The Well-Rounded Shop. Topics include how each tool is used and what it is used for. The book also offers extensive advice on choosing a location for the shop, maximizing available space, and planning for future expansion.


Next is the shelf. Start with the 24x48" piece of MDF. Clamp this on top of the base, and pencil in the outside of the stretchers and the inside angle of the legs. Flip it over, pull out your trusty cutting guide, and cut it to width and to length. Cutting out the angles is simple, with a jig saw. It's not much work with a hand saw. If you took enough care with supporting blocks and stops, you could probably do it with a circular saw. Since I did have a jig saw, I used it.
Remember those fire safety tips you used to get in grade school, about the dangers of oily rags? It was linseed oil they were talking about. All oily rags are dangerously flammable. Linseed oil will self-combust. Linseed oil doesn't evaporate, it oxidizes. The oxidization generates heat, and the increased temperature increases the rate of oxidation.
My first attempt at making a cutting guide didn't work. What I ended up with worked fine for cutting panels, but the guide-strip was too narrow, and when the saw was extended fully for rough-cutting the 4x4's the clamp heads got in the way. So I made another. Actually, I made two more, so that I could cut one into shorter pieces that would be easier to handle.

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.


All glue & stain benches are made using a solid maple frame for lasting durability and strength. Side Clamp Benches are made specifically for bar clamps, and are used for gluing projects or clamp storage. Benches feature an open top with 17 sets of 3/4"W grooves that accept bar clamps measuring 3’ and over. Lower center rail is adaptable for storage of hand screws and C-clamps. Side clamp benches are available with or without a drip pan. Glue & Stain Benches are made with a 1-1/4” plywood top covered with heavy-coated galvanized steel. Bottom shelf has a 4” rear retaining lip. Glue and stain benches are available with or without casters. Limited Lifetime Warranty.
Before joining the top to the base, loosen the bolts and screws on the lower stretchers to create a little play in the leg posts. Align the top notches with the leg posts and tap the top into place with a hammer and piece of scrap wood, working evenly around the table until all leg posts are level with the tabletop. Tighten the lower stretchers and you’re done. A hefty thanks to Doug Merrill for this weighty idea.
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My first attempt at making a cutting guide didn't work. What I ended up with worked fine for cutting panels, but the guide-strip was too narrow, and when the saw was extended fully for rough-cutting the 4x4's the clamp heads got in the way. So I made another. Actually, I made two more, so that I could cut one into shorter pieces that would be easier to handle.
“With Hammer in Hand” by Charles F. Hummel (UP Virginia). Resurfacing like Brigadoon, the woodworking shop of the Dominy family was sealed up with the tools still on the benches and saws still sharp. Moved to the Winterthur Museum, the workshop is an open portal into village woodworking in early America. Hummel’s book takes it tool by tool, piece by piece, expanding our view with a true scholar/craftsman’s eye.
One aspect of the Windsor Design that is hit or miss is the vice. Notice we have to use the singular when describing it because this is the first workbench that we have reviewed which features only one vice. To make matters more frustrating, the vice cannot be repositioned along the bench. That said, the vice does at least have the largest capacity out of any we reviewed. At 7” capacity, the Windsor Design vice can secure any size workpiece you may have.
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