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.
@cahudson42 I bored the holes in my sandwich top with a 3/4" power auger bit with the drill in a portable drill guide that kept it vertical and in a way a bit like a plunge router. The guide screw of the auger was dead easy to centre over the laid out grid points. The holes are dead straight and clean sided. The auger bit was new which probably helped. As stated I have three rows from an end vise running the length of the front as well as from the front vise and holes in the front apron to support long pieces as well.

This gem starts with a wink that’s explained further down on the cover: “Three Practical Ways to Do Every Job—and how to choose the one that’s right for you.” Bob introduces the main woodworking processes from dimensioning stock, to cutting dovetails, and then offers a variety of ways to get the job done using traditional hand tools, modern machinery, and an assortment of slick jigs.


The Handbuilt Home. Ana White has created a wonderful DIY book. It’s filled with 34 projects she describes as simple, stylish, and budget-friendly. And you’ve probably already guest that they are related to improving your home. Each project has diagrams and instructions. And she tells the level of difficulty and project costs. This book resonates with many readers who want to make things themselves, but they may not have the fancy tools or the budget. Ana shows you how to make beautiful and affordable DIY projects.
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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.

Finishing is often an afterthought and spraying a finish isn’t exactly the first technique discussed when the topic does come up. While it’s often easier to wipe on a couple of coats of finish and be done with it, there are times when spraying a finish makes the most sense. There are many advantages to spraying a finish but there are some drawbacks too. Spray Finishing Made Simple does what it claims – it takes an imposing, unfamiliar topic and makes sense of it. This book is for the first-time spray finisher, as it starts with the basics and progresses through the stages. Don’t let the unknown stand in your way if you’re interested in learning about spraying. Pick up this book and get spraying.
Cut 15 top boards 5 ft. long and rip them to 3 in. wide with a table saw so the top will glue up flat without the typical rounded edges of 2x4s. For the leg slot, cut two of the top boards into three pieces: a 39-in. middle piece and two 7-in. end pieces. Glue and screw the top together, one board at a time, with 3-in. deck screws, keeping the ripped edge facing up and level with the adjoining boards. Use a corded drill so there’s plenty of oomph to drive each screw below the surface. Note that the third glue-up from each end is where each leg notch is inserted. You can also create a nifty tool tray in the top by notching the three top pieces with a jigsaw. Clamp every 8 in. or so before driving in the 3-in.deck screws. Predrill the screw holes near the ends to prevent splitting. When you’re screwing on the 7-in. long 2x4s to create the leg slots, use a scrap piece of 2×4 as a spacer.
Finding a toolbox for a mechanic, for his hand tools, is not a big challenge at all - there are dozens of the tool boxes available on the market, from huge roll-around shop cases to small metal boxes. Plumbers, electricians, and farmers are well served, too, with everything from pickup-truck storage to toolboxes and belts. But, if you are a shop-bound woodworker then the case changes. You get to need a tool box that suits the range and variety of hand tools that most woodworkers like to have. For those who deny making do with second best, there's only one solution, you’ve to build a wooden toolbox that should be designed expressly for a woodworking shop.

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.
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.
A couple nice qualities about this bench include the weight and vice capacities. The weight capacity of this bench is 330 pounds which is decent, though it will not wow you too much. The vice, on the other hand, provides a 7” capacity which is tied for the most on our list. That said, there is only a single vice, and it is not able to be repositioned. This can make things a bit frustrating for lefties as it is a right-handed configuration.

Woodworking Workbenches are available in a variety of styles. Open Style Wood Workbenches feature a large work surface and a lower shelf. 2-1/4" thick maple top with maple plywood lower shelf. Open Style Wood Workbenches are available as a 2-station unit (28"W) or a 4-station unit (54"W). Open Style Auxiliary Workbenches are used for placement against walls. Shelf features a rear curb to keep contents in place. Solid maple top features angle iron front edge. Plywood shelf is open for maximum functionality. Solid maple legs. Environmentally-friendly UV finish. Units measure 24"D and are available in several lengths and heights. Mitre Box Benches ensure wood pieces are kept flat while mitres are cut. Bench is made using solid maple unit with environmentally-friendly UV finish. Holds a mitre saw up to 26"W and provides a 24" square work surface on both sides. Mitre Box Benches measure 33-3/4"H. Sheet Metal Workbenches are made with a 2-1/4" thick maple top and is protected on two long edges with 2" x 2" angle iron. Solid maple legs and stringers. Plywood shelves are designed to provide open storage of 30" metal sheets. Measures 40"D x 32"H and available in widths of 60" or 96".
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.
Dark colours appear heavier and create a feeling of stability, whereas light colours hold less visual weight and can appear unstable. When joining woods of dark and light colour, the visual effect of heavy and light suggest that darker woods work better when used on the bottom. A suggestion from my mentor to help getting proportions right was to spray paint mock-ups with a colour similar to the woods to be used later.
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.
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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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.
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.”
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.
Ok, I’ve had my morning coffee and now it’s about time to get out to the shop to see what I can do to make that bench a little more pleasing to my eye. I like that Craftsman flair idea. That was my intent at the time I built it, too bad I got lazy and rushed the job. It’s not like I was going to make hundreds of benches for someone else and would never see it again. I should have taken the time to make it the way I wanted it to look. This could keep me entertained for awhile. I see major surgery in the forecast! Gotta plan it all out just right.
The latest edition of this highly regarded instructional manual. See the great reader reviews posted for the previous editions. With this book and a weekend of your time you can make a plane and learn to use it effectively. You’ll also discover a wealth of general woodworking tips and acquire a solid grounding in many fundamentals of fine woodworking. Now in its third printing, “Making and Mastering Wood Planes” by master craftsman David Finck is the definitive book in the field and a classic introduction to the art of fine woodworking.
With the shelf secure, get a couple of friends to come help, and stand the bench on its feet. I said earlier moving the top by yourself is dangerous. Trying to lift the entire bench is foolhardy. Of course, I already said I'm stubborn, so I did it myself by rigging a simple block-and-tackle using lightweight pulleys I got at the hardware store. (Not the lightest-weight pulleys, those are meant for flag poles and have a design load of something like 40 pounds. These had a design load of 420 pounds.)
Once you have all the clamps on, take off the scraps of hardboard. You can clean up the glue squeezeout with a damp rag.. When the glue is dry, trim down the strip flush with the panel using a router and a flush-trim bit. Then cut off the ends of the strip with a flush-cut saw, and clean up with a block plane, an edge scraper, or a sanding block. Leaving the ends in place while you route the edge helps support the router.

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.
Do you want to use an oil stain, a gel stain, a water-based stain or a lacquer stain? What about color? Our ebook tells you what you really need to know about the chemistry behind each wood stain, and what to expect when you brush, wipe or spray it on. It’s a lot simpler than you think! This is the comprehensive guide to all the varieties of stain you will find at the store and how to use them.
The bench would end up being about 5 feet long. I thought about cutting 5 feet out of my 8 feet long countertop and use the rest for a small support table. However, after a consideration, I decided to bypass the front vise altogether together with the overhang so my bench will be 4 feet long. This allows me to skip the MDF and just glue the two halves of the 8 feet board together.
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.
“The Complete Guide to Woodworking features detailed plans for 40 stunning projects for woodworkers of all levels, plus more than 1,200 step-by-step illustrations. It also includes expert information on setting up a workshop, safety, how to use and look after tools, and much more. For beginners and experienced woodworkers alike, this is the ultimate step-by-step guide.
When this book showed up at my studio I was very sceptical. Yet another “book of every­thing”? But after spending only five minutes skimming through it, I learned about a couple of storage ideas my shop needed, some cool new jigs that would come in handy and a few tricks to make my time in the shop more enjoyable and productive. There will be hundreds of ideas in here you will have no interest in whatsoever, but that’s all right … there are over 650 ideas in total, so some are sure to tickle your fancy.
If you're using drywall screws, you'll want to countersink the holes. Drywall screws are flat-head, and need a countersink to seat solidly. If you're using Kreg pocket screws, the way I did, you won't want to counter-sink the holes. Kreg screws are pan-head, and seat just fine against a flat surface. Both drywall screws and Kreg pocket screws are self-threading, so you don't need pilot holes in the second sheet of MDF.
So drill the benchdog holes through the MDF layer. Begin by laying out their positions. You'll want these to be precise, so that the distances between the holes are consistent. The vises you are using will constrain your benchdog spacing. My front vise worked most naturally with two rows of holes four inches apart, my end vise with two pairs of rows, with four inches between the rows and eight inches between the pairs. Because of this, I decided on a 4" by 4" pattern.
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.
1. Cabinet Making and Millwork by John L. Feirer. I read this book cover to cover when I first got into woodworking, and its still my number one reference book when researching a project or technique. I believe it was intended as a textbook for a high school shop class, so it's laid out in great 101 style. It includes descriptions of everything from how sandpaper is made to best practices for shop math, and provides details for both hand and power tools.
The end vise will have both jaws made out of 1-1/2" thick oak. The front vise has its moving jaw made of 1-1/2" oak, but uses the edge of the bench as its stationary jaw. So while for the end vise, if we mount it lower, we can make both the jaws deeper to compensate, for the front vise we cannot, so we want it mounted as close to the edge of the bench as possible.

Woodturning: A Foundation Course When I decided to go beyond just turning writing pens, I turned to this book to help broaden my knowledge of woodturning. You will learn the tools of the trade and sharpening techniques for your turning tools. It introduces several turning projects like bowls, pepper mills, and table lamps. You also learn how to sand and finish your turned creations.

You can bookend my 30 years of woodworking with two volumes. Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Shop: A Practical Guide to Traditional Woodcraft” (U of North Carolina P) marks the beginning. Today, Steven W. Semes’ “The Architecture of the Classical Interior” (Norton) makes sense of all the conflicting mishmash of “design speak” tossed about. Hope I have another 30 years in me so the Semes book will someday be a midway milepost in a long, rewarding journey.


Projects to build on. Korn's book includes basic projects that you can put your own spin on. This Shaker footstool was inspired by one of the projects in his book. The last side-table project in his book (pictured) has the same pedigree as these two other FW projects: Tim Rousseau's small cherry cabinet and Stephen Hammer's small stand with coopered panels.


Assemble the vises, for the final time. You'll not be taking them off again, so tighten everything down, and attach the endplate to the ends of the screw and guide rods. Then mark and drill benchdog holes in the outer jaws inline with the benchdog holes in the top. Generally, through-holes are preferred for benchdogs, so that they don't collect sawdust and gunk. With these vises, that isn't possible, there are screws and guide rods in the way. I drilled them just deep enough to hold a Veritas Bench Pony (their reduced-height benchdog), without it sinking to where I can't get a grip to remove it. Rockler sells some very inexpensive plastic benchdogs that can't be adjusted for height, and aren't as strong as metal or wooden dogs, that I intend to keep in the holes full-time, to keep sawdust from collecting in them.
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.”
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.
Building a wine rack is usually a very common beginner's woodworking plan. Creating a wine rack is an easy plan that can most of the time be completed in a day or half, depending on how large and detailed you would like it to be. And the better news is that this free wine rack plan will let you build you a great looking wine rack for much less than it would cost.

With the shelf secure, get a couple of friends to come help, and stand the bench on its feet. I said earlier moving the top by yourself is dangerous. Trying to lift the entire bench is foolhardy. Of course, I already said I'm stubborn, so I did it myself by rigging a simple block-and-tackle using lightweight pulleys I got at the hardware store. (Not the lightest-weight pulleys, those are meant for flag poles and have a design load of something like 40 pounds. These had a design load of 420 pounds.)


These sorts of things are usually glued and screwed, but it's actually the glue that holds them together - the screws just hold everything tight while the glue cures. Screwing into hardboard or 1/4" ply is an exercise in futility, so I just used glue, and used my two 4x4's as long clamps. It would have been a bit easier, if I'd done this before I'd rough-cut the 4x4's, but it worked out.
I know, if you had a workbench, you wouldn't be building a workbench. Even so, you'll need some sort of work surface, even if it isn't as stable or capable as a proper bench. The traditional solution is to throw a hollow-core door over a couple of saw horses. The advantage of hollow core doors is that they're flat, stiff, and cheap. I used a folding table and a hollow core door I had bought for a future project.
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.
The Handplane Book is a complete guide to one of the best known and most collectable hand tools. It covers all the basics, including how to buy a plane, tune it up, and use it. Fascinating background information on the development and manufacture of handplanes shows the rich heritage of this versatile tool. Focusing on planes from the golden age of the handplanes (19th and early 20th century), it also profiles tools from many sources around the world.
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.
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