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.

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.
With more than 1,800 drawings, diagrams and photos, this authoritative guide encompasses the whole art and craft of woodworking. Designed to instruct and inspire every woodworker from the beginner to the most exacting expert, it has become a classic. It includes a discussion of all the principal hardwoods and softwoods, how to choose and use hand tools, detailed information on every woodworking technique–jointing, bonding, fastening, laminating, and much more.
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.

When the top is done, we want the edged MDF and the oak countertop to have exactly the same dimensions, and for their width to exactly match the width of the base.I could see three ways of doing this: 1, join the MDF to the countertop and use my belt sander to sand down their joined edges to match the base; 2, join the MDF to the countertop and use a hand plane to plane down their joined edges to match the base; or 3, use a flush-trim bit against a straight edge to route the MDF to the width of the base, then join the MDF to the countertop and use the flush-trim bit to route the countertop to match the MDF.


If you’re even the slightest bit interested in the history of Japanese furniture, you will love this thorough collection of chests. The attention to detail is astounding, the photographs glorious and the historical insight intriguing. This is exactly what you would expect from a book that covers such a proud history of chest mak­ing on the land of the rising sun. Almost 100 pages of colour plates are complemented by information on typical construction materials, finishing techniques and regional charac­teristics. This book will please the antique collector, interior designer or wood­worker equally. 
Having done all this, I'm not sure I'd do it this way again. It might well be faster to layout the positions with compass and straightedge directly onto the top. Either way, you'll want to use a scribe rather than a pencil. Scribe lines are hard to see, and impossible to photograph, but the scribe and compass points click into them, allowing a precision that pencils simply cannot match.
“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!

I’ve seen antique cabinetmakers’ benches that are sixteen and seventeen feet long, more than three feet wide, and supported by a dozen drawers and doors—and that weigh as much as a felled oak tree. In contrast, jewelers’ cabinets seem to be on a dollhouse scale, with tiny tools to match. For most of us, however, space limitations preclude the biggest, and the smallest are just not big enough.

Tools: I am inspired by tools, whether the tool is a good chef’s knife, a watercolor paintbrush or a lowly marking gauge. I find 18th-century tools particularly beautiful and elegant in their simplicity. To openly admit I am inspired by my tools makes me somewhat of a kook. But here, amongst friends, I suspect I am not alone. I’ve copied many tools in these books and sought tools that resembled these and been a happier person for it.


If the holes of the first jaw are in the proper position, drill holes in the same locations on the other jaw. I lined the drilled jaw on top of the undrilled jaw, clamped things down, and then drilled about 1/4" into the undrilled jaw, to mark the location. Then I removed the drilled jaw and drilled out the marked locations the same way I did the first.

Woodworker’s Visual Handbook. This is a book for people like me, who can understand an idea faster if they see it than read about it. Woodworker’s Visual Handbook has more than 1,300 illustrations and 430 pages of advice that visually explain such issues as how to install smooth-sliding drawers in frame-and-panel cabinets, how to lay out a complicated project and cut the joints, and the pros and cons of working with more than 60 species of wood (a topic on which author Jon Arno was an expert). There’s even a section on furniture styles, another topic Jon knew well.
With more than 1,800 drawings, diagrams and photos, this authoritative guide encompasses the whole art and craft of woodworking. Designed to instruct and inspire every woodworker from the beginner to the most exacting expert, it has become a classic. It includes a discussion of all the principal hardwoods and softwoods, how to choose and use hand tools, detailed information on every woodworking technique–jointing, bonding, fastening, laminating, and much more.
My bench is MY BENCH. In other words, it’s a thing of evolutionary beauty. I built the top 10 years before deciding on and designing the base. I spared no absurdity. It is supremely stout and the much maligned drawers are accessible from either side. The larger drawers have dust lids and can be extended to provide support for large workpieces or as a step for climbing on top of the bench. The top alone weighs more than most Roubos. So NYAH! Did I mention that I designed it to fit in with the Arts & Crafts vernacular? Who said you can’t build your bench to be furniture? Beautiful as well as useful shop furniture? Just sayin…
Working on one side at a time, glue and nail the side to the back. Apply glue and drive three 1-5/8-in. nails into each shelf, attach the other side and nail those shelves into place to secure them. Clamps are helpful to hold the unit together while you’re driving nails. Center the top piece, leaving a 2-in. overhang on both sides, and glue and nail it into place. Paint or stain the unit and then drill pilot holes into the top face of each side of the unit and screw in the hooks to hold your ironing board. Mount the shelf on drywall using screw-in wall anchors.

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.
Line is defined by two points and is long relative to its width; it can be thick, thin, vertical, diagonal, straight or curved. Lines are often used to define a space, draw attention to a particular area and guide the viewer's eyes around a piece. To critically examine line in your design, look at the relationship between the lines, including ones which may be created in the negative space. How do they align? Do they lead your eye around the piece or do they stop abruptly and create disorientation?
Permanent or Portable? This is a distinction that decides much about your bench choice: Is it to remain stationary or must it fold, roll, or otherwise make itself scarce between jobs? Large, heavy benches are more stable and, in general, more adaptable to different jobs (sometimes several at once). But the bigger the bench, the more hassle involved with stowing it.
I was raised by crafty people. In every sense of the word. Just kidding! My parents were lovely people who loved to work with their hands in their spare time. For a brief period of time as a kid my mom even earned a living by selling her wares at local craft fairs, but for the most part their crafting was a hobby that filled our home with beautiful and practical pieces of woodworking.

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.


Originally published at the turn of the twentieth century by an anonymous “Practical Joiner,” Woodwork Joints: How to Make and Where to Use Them remains an incredibly useful and practical guide for deciding which joints to use and how to make them the right way for carpentry, joinery, and cabinet-making. Here is the carefully illustrated source on joinery that not simply a collectible classic, but also a requisite and invaluable tool that withstands the test of time, containing more useful information than any other woodworking guide. Inside are illustrated instructions for making all kinds of joints, from simple to complex, suitable for novices and experts. The comprehensive list includes joints such as glued; halved; bridle; tongued and grooved; mortise and tenon; dowelling; scarf; hinged; shutting; dovetail and many more. Instructions specify which tools are required (i.e., planes, gauges, saws, chisels, the try square for testing purposes, etc.) and how to use them on each joint. Extensive chapters on each type of joint contain precise illustrations that make identifying joints for different purposes easy. Not a word is wasted in this short but entirely comprehensive guide, making Woodwork Joints the perfect aid for any joinery project.

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.
Put the upper panel of MDF on your glue-up surface, bottom side up. Put the bottom panel of MDF on your other surface, bottom side down. (The panel with the holes drilled in it is the bottom panel, and the side that has the your layout diagram on it is the bottom side.) Chuck up in your drill the appropriate driver bit for the screws your using. Make sure you have a freshly-charged battery, and crank the speed down and the torque way down. You don't want to over-tighten the screws, MDF strips easily.
Working on one side at a time, glue and nail the side to the back. Apply glue and drive three 1-5/8-in. nails into each shelf, attach the other side and nail those shelves into place to secure them. Clamps are helpful to hold the unit together while you’re driving nails. Center the top piece, leaving a 2-in. overhang on both sides, and glue and nail it into place. Paint or stain the unit and then drill pilot holes into the top face of each side of the unit and screw in the hooks to hold your ironing board. Mount the shelf on drywall using screw-in wall anchors.
Professional woodworker Jim Tolpin offers solid instruction on the principles of measurement and proportion, walking you through every step of the woodworking process. From design and layout to developing a cutting list, his easy-to-follow style introduces a variety of tools (new and old) used to transfer measurements accurately to the wood. You’ll learn the best cutting techniques, how to prevent mistakes before they happen, and for those unavoidable mistakes, you’ll learn how to fix them so no one will know!

Comprehensive is the only word to describe this three-book set on joinery, shaping wood and furniture and cabinet construction. The three authors answer questions you didn’t even know you had. They also do it in a clear, concise and visually pleasing way. Even beginning to list the topics covered would be futile. Safe to say, if you want to learn about something that would fit under these three headings, this set will steer you in the right direction. Each book starts out with the basics and builds on that informa­tion, finishing off with quite advanced techniques. 
Sjobergs’ woodworking benches are recognized all over the world for their durability, handy design and extra features that make these benches well worth the money. This Hobby Plus bench is the perfect fit for a woodworking enthusiast, especially since it is equipped with two vices and bench dogs. This could become your one and only woodworking station!
A great example that highlights our emotional connection to the rectangle and circle is to look at how these shapes have influenced table design. Rectangle tables have often been used in boardrooms and for formal dinners with, traditionally, the most important person being seated at the head of the table, which can perhaps create an instant hierarchy. A solution to this perceived inequality may have been found in the design of the round table, much favoured by King Arthur who considered his knights as equals.
Drilling a precisely positioned, deep, wide hole isn't easy, without a drill press. So I bought a WolfCraft drill guide. After experimenting with it, and drilling some test holes, I build a jig around it. I screwed it to a scrap of MDF, and then drilled a carefully-centered 3/4" hole. The MDF can be clamped more easily than the base itself, and the 3/4" hole will keep a 3/4" Forstner bit drilling precisely where it is supposed to.

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The edges of MDF are fragile, easily crushed or torn. MDF is also notorious for absorbing water through these edges, causing the panels to swell. In Sam Allen's original design, he edged the MDF with 1/4" hardboard. This edging is one of the complexities that Asa Christiana left out in his simplified design. I think this was a mistake. MDF really needs some sort of protection, especially on the edges.
I marked the holes by putting a dowel center in the end of a long piece of 1" dowel. Run it through the holes in the base plate, and bang on its end with a mallet. Rotate it a bit and bang it again, and repeat. Odds are the dowel center won't be precisely in the center of the dowel, so you'll be making a small ring of marks. The center of the hole is, of course, the center of that ring.
Lay a leg flat on your work surface, with the countersink side of the thru-holes down. Stick a piece of threaded rod in each hole. Take a stretcher that is marked to have one end adjoin the top of this leg, stick a dowel center in its dowel hole, line it up against the leg, using the threaded rod for positioning, You want the top of the stretcher to be even with the top of the leg, or just slightly above it. Give the end of the stretcher a whack with your rubber mallet. This will leave a mark indicating where the matching dowel hole in the leg needs to be drilled. Repeat with the lower stretcher than adjoins this leg. Then repeat for the other leg that will form this trestle, and the other ends of the two stretchers.
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.

When you're working with linseed oil, never -- I mean NEVER -- leave used rags lying around. Hang them up outside, away from anything combustible, and where there's enough air circulation to keep them cool. Or put them in a bucket of water, and hang them outside later. If you're just setting a rag down for the moment, set it out flat, without folds, on something non-flammable. Hanging outside in the breeze, the oil in the rags won't retain heat while they oxidize. For the oil to completely oxidize can take in a couple of days, if it's warm, or more than a week, if it's cold and rainy. When fully oxidized, the oil will be solid and the rags will be stiff. At that point, they're safe, and can be thrown in the trash. Toss them in the trash before that, and you might as well say goodbye to your garage.
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.
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.
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.
The base needs to be as wide as the sum of width of the guide strip and the distance from the edge of the shoe, plus a bit extra, With my saw, the overhang is 3-1/2", so I made my guide strip 5-1/2" wide. The distance between from the edge of the shoe to the blade is about 4-1/2", so the base needs to be at least 10" wide. Since I was working with a 24" wide sheet, I just sliced it down the middle.
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.
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