I’ve built workbenches with more than 100 students. In every class, there’s one guy who wants to put a vise on every corner of the bench. Not because it’s a partner’s bench for two people. Just because he wants it that way. While I support your freedom to choose, I also don’t want to spend two weeks installing complex tail-vise hardware on your bench when we could be building furniture instead.
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.

The reason I'd cut out the rectangles in the vise support was that I'd intended to put a benchdog hole through each, and I wanted the thickness of the top to be the same for all of the benchdog holes. Where I messed up was in not cutting out the ends, between the bolt tabs. I'd intended to put a benchdog hole through there, as well, but I'd forgotten to cut out the segments prior to glue0up.
2 - use a plunge router with a bottom bearing cuter bit such as this from rockler: http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=25160&site=ROCKLER .... I thought to use the short one as I plunge it directly downward in the centre of the hole until the bearing reaches within the tabletop hole. I suppose one could use a long one, but the stubbiness seemed more practical (the big bearing ensured accuracy?)
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.
The decision to be made with respect to the end vise is whether the support plate should be mounted to on the inside or on the outside of the stretcher. Mounting the plate on the inside of the stretcher reduces the reach of the vise - it can't open as far, because the support plate is back from the edge by a couple of inches. But mounting the plate on the outside of the stretcher means that we need to add some support structure for the inner jaw of the vise, which the legs would have provided if we'd mounted the plate on the inside.
There’s a lot of space above the shelf in most closets. Even though it’s a little hard to reach, it’s a great place to store seldom-used items. Make use of this wasted space by adding a second shelf above the existing one. Buy enough closet shelving material to match the length of the existing shelf plus enough for two end supports and middle supports over each bracket. Twelve-inch-wide shelving is available in various lengths and finishes at home centers and lumberyards.
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.
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.
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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The front edge of a woodworker’s bench is usually lined with square holes positioned at regular intervals. These holes hold bench dogs and holdfast clamps in place for securing work pieces. Beneath the top of the bench, some cabinetmaker models feature single storage drawers, others several drawers and even cupboards incorporated into a case-like base.

For the most part, furniture restorers/refinishers/conservators in the United States lack the necessary hand-tool skills to do proper wood repairs. But avid readers of Popular Woodworking Magazine do possess the skills. Like me in the 1970s, you just need instruction on how to go about it. These books provide this. They greatly influenced the techniques I use in my shop, and many are shown in the “Repairing Furniture” video/DVD I made for Taunton.
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.
Put the countertop on the base, put the MDF on top of the countertop, and line up the marks you drew on each end of the MDF with the countertop below it. When you have it lined up, clamp things down, and route the edge of the MDF using a 1-1/2" or longer flush-trim bit, with the depth adjusted so the bearing rides on the countertop. I clamped a couple of scraps of doubled MDF at each end to give the router base something extra to ride on at the ends.
We want to make these pieces square, and of identical length. Square is a matter of making sure the saw blade is square and that the cutting guide is square. The trick to getting the pieces of the same length is to clamp them together and to cut them all at once. For the 4x4's, that means making a rough cut in each first, so we have four pieces, each 3-4" longer than we need, from which we'll get our four legs.
The bench I will be describing differs from both of these in a couple of areas, the most significant of which is the top. Allen's top was made from three layers of 3/4" medium density fiberboard (MDF), topped and edged with 1/4" hardboard. Christiana's top was just two layers of 3/4" MDF. My top is two layers of 3/4" MDF edged with 1/2" oak and topped by a 1-1/2" thick edge-glued oak Ikea countertop. My top is more expensive in both time and money than either Christiana's or Allen's. If you're looking to build something fast and cheap, I'd recommend Allen's approach over Christiana's. The hardboard significantly increases the durability of the top.

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.
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Regardless of which type of screw you use, you'll need to flip the panel and use a countersink drill to on all of the exit holes. Drilling MDF leaves bumps, the countersink bit will remove them, and will create a little bit of space for material drawn up by the screw from the second sheet of MDF. You want to remove anything that might keep the two panels from mating up flat. I set a block plane to a very shallow bite and ran it over what was left of the bumps and over the edges. The edges of MDF can be bulged by by sawing or just by handling, and you want to knock that down.
This bench suffers from no such limitations as it provides an incredibly solid and stable workspace, albeit in a somewhat stripped down version. In terms of performance, Sjobergs tops our list at providing 80 lbs of weight capacity. This is one of the more quantifiable measurements to determine the quality of a work bench’s craftsmanship. This is achieved by using thick pieces of European birch wood and working it without using lower end joints – like butt joints.
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