In ancient times, the woodworker’s bench consisted of a plank or split log with four splayed legs. Descendants of those benches are manufactured today, usually with a top of hardwood slabs glued together. The norm nowadays is four straight legs supporting the bulk above, often with braces and a shelf below. Despite the improvements, the linkage to Greek and Roman antecedents is still evident.

“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.

Cut off a 21-in.-long board for the shelves, rip it in the middle to make two shelves, and cut 45-degree bevels on the two long front edges with a router or table saw. Bevel the ends of the other board, cut dadoes, which are grooves cut into the wood with a router or a table saw with a dado blade, cross- wise (cut a dado on scrap and test-fit the shelves first!) and cut it into four narrower boards, two at 1-3/8 in. wide and two at 4 in.

Of course, I, on the other hand, with my Ikea oak countertop, probable went overboard in the other direction. Since I needed to trim the countertop to width,I figured I'd take off a couple of 1/2" strips to use for edging the MDF. I clamped the countertop to my bench base, and used the long cutting guide. I'd asked around for advice on cutting this large a piece of oak, and was told to try a Freud Diablo 40-tooth blade in my circular saw. I found one at my local home center, at a reasonable price, and it worked very well.

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I mocked up the two scenarios, and determined that with the plate inside the stretcher the vise would have a reach of 8 inches, and with it outside the stretcher it would have a reach of 9 inches. I decided that 8 inches was enough, and that the extra inch wasn't worth the extra effort. With the end vise mounted like this, the right edge of the top would have no overhang.

Even in today’s world of electric machinery, when most people were asked to name a woodworking tool, planes and scrapers would probably be at the top of the list. They are as useful now as they were years ago but, because of their electrified cousins, they are often overlooked in favour of a faster option. In this compre­hensive book, John English explains what each type of plane is for, how to set it up for optimal performance and how to use it. The text is thorough and the photos are informative. All in all, this is a good read for a beginning or intermediate woodworker. Or a woodworker who simply never gave hand planes and scrapers a fair shake.
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.
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.
Here’s a traditional Swedish farm accessory for gunk-laden soles. The dimensions are not critical, but be sure the edges of the slats are fairly sharp?they’re what makes the boot scraper work. Cut slats to length, then cut triangular openings on the side of a pair of 2x2s. A radial arm saw works well for this, but a table saw or band saw will also make the cut. Trim the 2x2s to length, predrill, and use galvanized screws to attach the slats from underneath. If you prefer a boot cleaner that has brushes, check out this clever project.
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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