Whether you’re setting up a new shop or upgrading your old one, a good, sturdy workbench will almost surely be central to your plans. We can help. Our editors and contributors have produced more than two dozen articles and videos about benches and assembly tables. We’ve included everything from a simple but workable plywood bench to a classic hardwood bench complete with vises. You’ll also find full project plans, as well as tips for installing vises, making your bench portable, adding storage, and more. Some of our workbench plans are free, and the rest can be purchased in our store (check the links below).

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If you bought this superb polished table in a store, it would cost you a fortune, but our detailed instructions will help you make one for less than $100. And it looks like highly polished stone, but no-one would know it’s actually made from concrete with a wooden base. Also, you can embellish the top with leaf prints, like the table shown here, or personalize it with glass or mosaic tiles or imprints of seashells.


“Woodworking in Estonia” by A. Viires (National Technical Information Service). This is our share of the booty from the cultural exchanges of the Cold War years. The Soviets got models of our nuclear subs, and we got one of the best books on folk woodworking ever. Aside from showing how to make everything from wooden wheels to bentwood cheese boxes, this book is also an education in the way Eastern European history gets written. Imagine Eric Sloane dividing early American woodworking into feudal, capitalist and socialist periods!
Even with all of those faults my only regret is that it is too ugly. I didn’t take the time to make it more visually attractive as I was eager to get right into making beautiful furniture instead. Twenty years later the furniture is still beautiful (or not) but I go out to the shop and look at a drab uninspiring workplace. Yeah, nothing wrong with having a visually inspiring workplace in my opinion. All that shop furniture I slapped together years ago with no concern about aesthetics is getting replaced bit by bit. Why should my shop be downright ugly when it is one of my favorite places in the world to spend my time? I see no reason for that, but that’s just my opinion and as we all know everyone has their own one of those… Sadly, no one pays nor reveres me when I offer mine. bummer, I could be a rich egotistical maniac if they did coz I sure offer it enough. 😉
Time for Geometric Shapes – Neil Moledzki Tribute clock is a reproduction of a clock made by James Krenov. The sweeping curves and the impression we get of the clock weighing down the stand produces an organic and even animated feel to the piece. It should be noted that something that has an organic feel is not the same as having an organic shape. If we break the parts down on the clock, we can see it is made entirely of geometric shapes.
Then I flipped the top and the base, lied up the base in the proper location relative to the top, I then positioned the front vise and the support MDF for the end vise, and marked the locations of the bolt holes. Then I flipped the base right side up, drilled small pilot holes from the bottom side where I had marked the locations, and then drilled shallow countersink holes from each side, then a through hole that matched the bolts. Finally I tried out the bolts and washers, and deepened the countersinks until the heads of the bolts were just below flush.
I ended up making a number of practice cuts. The first revealed that I hadn't tightened the screws on the edge guide enough. The second revealed that the design of the edge guide provided very little support at the end of a board, because of the cut-out for the router bit. In the "Getting Started in Woodworking" video, they had screwed a piece of hardwood to the edge-guide, to provide a continuous -- and longer -- bearing surface. I may do that myself, some day, but I didn't have the materials at hand, so I clamped some 2x4 scrap to the end of each board, to provide a continuous bearing surface past the ends. The two grooves in the long stretchers and the side groove in the short stretchers have identical layout. I made practice cuts in scrap until I had the edge guide set correctly, then I cut them all with that one setting. The bottom groove of the short stretchers uses a different setup, so it was back to the scrap, before cutting them.
As I was handling the 2x4's, during the routing, I realized that I really wouldn't be happy with the look of the bench, if it were made from these unfinished boards. They had stamps, pencil marks, and more importantly, incipient splinters left by the saw, none of which I wanted. And I was remembering what other shop furniture made from unfinished pine had looked like, after a few years in the grime of a shop.
The ultimate in cabinet design inspiration. Fantastic photographs, coupled with a little bit of information on each piece, is more than enough to give you that nudge to go ahead and try something different with your next cabinet. From surface decoration to using different materials, non-stan­dard shapes to unique finishes, there’s a taste of everything for everyone. You won’t learn how any of these pieces are made but it will make you wonder. 500 Cabinets is the extension of the “500” series by Lark Books and, like the rest, this one will delight readers of any skill level. It will even interest those who know nothing at all about woodworking. There are many Canadian makers included. This is a col­lection I’ll refer to over and over again, because each time look through it I’ll do so for a different reason, getting some­thing different each time. This one rarely makes my bookshelf … it’s always right on my desk. And of the collection here, this is my favourite.
Being a lover of Japanese design and tools, I’m embarrassed to say I only picked this book up in the last year. I was anticipating a straightforward, almost encyclopaedic, approach documenting the history and use of most Japanese woodworking tools. I got that, but also so much more. The stories Odate tells of his youth and apprenticeship are truly jaw-dropping, and reveal as much about working wood in Japan as what life in a fascinating and secluded Pacific country was like when he was young. I was five minutes into this book, and I guess I had an astonished look on my face, when my wife politely asked how I was enjoying the book. I looked up in bewilderment, paused for about five seconds, and said “It would take me an hour to explain what I’ve learned in the last five minutes,” and went on reading. Even though this book has been around for decades, it’s worth reading today.
Abstract shapes are considered in two ways. Shapes that are difficult to identify and sit outside our daily visual experience are called abstractions. The others are highly stylized organic shapes that are recognizable and usually provide specific information. Letters of the alphabet and the male/female symbols for washrooms are examples of abstract images.
I made a low table out of a couple of step-stools, my hollow-core door, and one of the MDF panels that would eventually form part of my top. I was concerned that any oil that dripped on the door might interfere with its glue adhesion, when I finally get around to the project for which I'd purchased it. The top side of the top sheet of MDF, though, I planned to oil, anyway. (Ditto for the bottom side of the bottom sheet.
If you remember, when drilling the MDF I finished the holes from the other side using a Forstner bit. It made for a clean hole, but the positioning wasn't as precise as I really wanted. So for this, I decided to clamp a length of scrap MDF to the back side, and to drill straight through. My Forstner bits were too short, so I bought an extender. And then I found that the spade bits I was using gave a cleaner exit hole. Whooda thunk?

If you’re more interested in working with wood rather than machining it, you will be relieved to learn that expensive powered machinery isn’t required to build furniture. You can also forget the dust masks, face shields and hearing protection since many of the safety concerns related to woodworking—the use of power tools—are eliminated. In this book, you’ll learn to set up a hand-tool woodworking shop, then discover the toolset, practice the skillset, and understand the mindset—effectively completing a comprehensive course in hand-tool woodworking.
For an entertaining read (and proof that woodworkers lead interesting lives), treat yourself to Nancy Hiller’s Making Things Work: Tales from a Cabinetmaker’s Life, and George Frank’s Adventures in Wood Finishing. These two biographical books are beautifully written and offer similarly lively accounts of the adventures that come from making a living as a woodworker. As you spend time with Nancy and George, we think you’ll enjoy the stories that come with the sawdust
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.
This is technically a vanity factor, though the ability to store tools and other supplies at quick reach can be a time and energy saver. At the least, you will want a bench that comes with a shelf underneath. This will allow the storage of larger items that can otherwise be difficult to find a place for. Drawers are the other popular storage for benches and can make retrieving tools much easier – just make sure the inside of the drawer is lined with felt or the wood may prematurely dull your tools.

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.
“This hardcover book with internal spiral binding is 6.5in x 8in, a perfect size for carpenters and woodworkers to keep near their workbench or toolbox for quick access.The design of this book allows it to lay open flat, which allows for easy and frequent reference, and the interior photographs, illustrations and diagrams, make the learning process simple and fun for beginners, and provides useful tips for more advanced readers.

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The hits included Shop Tips, Woodworking: The Right Technique, Router Magic, Woodworker’s Problem Solver and the Woodworker’s Visual Handbook. Each of those books sold more than 100,000 copies because of the quality of the advice and projects. And the books still hold up well, as you can see if you view buyers’ comments on sites like Amazon, where most of the titles consistently receive 5-star ratings.
I wanted the left edge of the jaw of the front vise to be flush with the left edge of the top, the right edge with the left edge of the left front leg. So the amount of overhang on the left depends upon the width of the front vise jaw. The width of the jaw is, at a minimum, the width of the plate that supports it, but it's normal to make the jaw extend a bit beyond the plate. How far? The more it extends, the deeper a bite you can take with the edge of the vise, when, for example, you are clamping the side of a board being held vertically. But the more it extends, the less support it has. I decided to extend by 1-12", which gives me a 2-1/2" bite, and which should still provide solid support, given that the jaw is 1-1/2" thick. This means the top needs a left overhang of 12-1/4".
There are two books that I would consider highly influential in my personal woodworking path. Darrell Peart’s “Greene & Greene: Design Elements for the Workshop” (Linden) and “Adventures in Wood Finishing” by George Frank (Taunton). Peart’s book kicked off my fascination with all things Greene & Greene. Peart does a fantastic job of covering history as well as practical techniques.
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.
A super simple iPad Dock/stand made out of a single block of wood features an angled groove which gets to support the tablet device and a cut in a hole to revise access to the home button of your iPad. It’s possible to drill an access channel in the stand through which you can run a charging cable, although this mini stripped back iPad stand may have very limited functions.

Slice, dice and serve in style on this easy, attractive board. We’ll show you a simple way to dry-fit the parts, scribe the arc and then glue the whole thing together. We used a 4-ft. steel ruler to scribe the arcs, but a yardstick or any thin board would also work. Find complete how-to instructions on this woodworking crafts project here. Also, be sure to use water-resistant wood glue and keep your board out of the dishwasher or it might fall apart. And one more thing: Keep the boards as even as possible during glue-up to minimize sanding later. For great tips on gluing wood, check out this collection.

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.


Featuring each piece in highly-detailed, exploded drawings and applying time-honored dimensions and ergonomic standards, this comprehensive visual sourcebook takes the guesswork out of furniture joinery, assembly, dimension, and style. Woodworkers of any skill level will benefit from more than 1,300 crisp and detailed drawings that explain classic solutions to age-old problems, such as hanging a drawer, attaching a tabletop, and pegging a mortise.”
The space behind a door is a storage spot that’s often overlooked. Build a set of shallow shelves and mount it to the wall behind your laundry room door. The materials are inexpensive. Measure the distance between the door hinge and the wall and subtract an inch. This is the maximum depth of the shelves. We used 1x4s for the sides, top and shelves. Screw the sides to the top. Then screw three 1×2 hanging strips to the sides: one top and bottom and one centered. Nail metal shelf standards to the sides. Complete the shelves by nailing a 1×2 trim piece to the sides and top. The 1×2 dresses up the shelf unit and keeps the shelves from falling off the shelf clips.

The top is supported by the top ends of the legs and the top sides of the top stretchers. Stand your legs on end on a flat surface (like my door) and see if they wobble. If you have an end that isn't quite stable, use it as a foot, where the leveler will make it's flaws unimportant. Check the top edge of each stretcher for straightness. If one has a bit of a bow, use it for a lower stretcher. It's less critical that the shelf be well supported along its length.
I used the factory edge of the half-panel of hardboard as a guide for cutting the ply. I wanted to cut a 5-1/2" strip, and my saw cuts 4-1/2" from the edge of the shoe, so I wanted the edge of the hardboard 10" from the edge of the ply. So I set my combination square to 10", and used it to mechanically set the distance. Hint - if you need two things to be precisely the same length, try to avoid measuring them separately. Use some mechanical mechanism for setting the distance.
If you remember, when drilling the MDF I finished the holes from the other side using a Forstner bit. It made for a clean hole, but the positioning wasn't as precise as I really wanted. So for this, I decided to clamp a length of scrap MDF to the back side, and to drill straight through. My Forstner bits were too short, so I bought an extender. And then I found that the spade bits I was using gave a cleaner exit hole. Whooda thunk?
Being a lover of Japanese design and tools, I’m embarrassed to say I only picked this book up in the last year. I was anticipating a straightforward, almost encyclopaedic, approach documenting the history and use of most Japanese woodworking tools. I got that, but also so much more. The stories Odate tells of his youth and apprenticeship are truly jaw-dropping, and reveal as much about working wood in Japan as what life in a fascinating and secluded Pacific country was like when he was young. I was five minutes into this book, and I guess I had an astonished look on my face, when my wife politely asked how I was enjoying the book. I looked up in bewilderment, paused for about five seconds, and said “It would take me an hour to explain what I’ve learned in the last five minutes,” and went on reading. Even though this book has been around for decades, it’s worth reading today.
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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.
There are simple jigs like a trammel baseplate and T-square, but you’ll also find a vacuum-clamping jig you can use to rout surfaces without clamps getting in the way, a dowel-making fixture, and router jigs to help you make fluted columns and even flamed finials. Bill also included several variations of router tables, including an ultimate table I built for my own shop.
So since more than half the book is taken up with instruction, I thought there wouldn't be enough room for 40 projects. Thing is, the projects are mostly VERY simple and functional. There really does not seem to be any sort of eye towards craftsmanship and design. And they are almost all ugly. The picture frames included are literally the ugliest I've ever seen. Obviously, style is in the eye of the beholder, but I can't be making furniture to go in my home that looks like that, and my home is Ikea, Crate and Barrel, and Bombay to give you an idea.
One quality about this bench that is definitely lacking is space – both tabletop and storage. The Olympia Tools does provide an adequate shelf, but it does not come with any drawers, nor does it offer the option of adding them later. The table top is the smallest we saw at 50” long and 2’ wide, though the width is actually better than most of the other table we reviewed. Still, a significant chunk of that width is occupied by a trough. This trough is designed to hold smaller workpieces to keep them from falling or getting knocked over, but it removes about 6” of width from the tabletop.
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