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When the holes were complete, I flipped the legs and drilled the countersinks with a 1" Forstner bit. Trying to drill a countersink when the center was already drilled would be impossible with a spade bit or an auger, but Forstner bits are guided by their edges, not their center, so they can handle this job. On thing about Forstners, though -- they have a tendency to skitter around a bit when starting, before they bite. An easy fix for this is to drill a hole through a piece of ply, and to clamp that to your work, creating a jig that will prevent the bit from drilling in the wrong spot.

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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.
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Once you start spreading glue, you have maybe five minutes to get the two panels mated, aligned, and clamped together. So make sure you have everything on-hand, and you're not gong to be interrupted. Start squeezing out the glue on one MDF panel, and spreading it around in a thin, even coating, making sure you leave no bare areas. Then do the same to the other MDF panel. Then pick up the bottom panel and flip it over onto the upper panel. Slide it around some to make sure the glue is spread evenly, then line up one corner and drive in a screw. Line up the opposite corner and drive in a screw there. Clamp all four corners to your flat surface, then start driving the rest of the screws, in a spiral pattern from the center.

A workbench needs to be heavy enough that it doesn't move under you while you're working, and stiff enough that it doesn't rack itself to pieces under the forces that will be placed upon it. It doesn't take many hours of planing a board or hammering a chisel for a worktable made of nailed 2x4s to come apart. Traditional bench designs use mortise-and-tenon joinery, which is strong and rigid, but not really suited for a novice woodworker who doesn't already have a bench.


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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.
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.
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.
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 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 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".
Drill a pair of 3/8" holes in each end of the short stretchers, just over half of the depth of the dowels, using a brad-pointed bit. These stretchers already have a groove running their length, centered on the bottom edge. Precise placement isn't necessary, but keeping track of which part is which is. We need a hole in each end of each stretcher. Take care to keep these holes square, you don't want them running at angles.
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.

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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.

I don't see anywhere you mentioned the over all length of the bench top. A piece of 1 1/2" x 25" x 8' glued edge oak at Lumber Liquidators costs $192 including tax. Two piece is almost $400! Would that be better if I use two IKEA 1 1/4" x 25" x 74" solid Beech ($99 each plus tax) on top of a layer of 3/4" Birch plywood. That would be 3 1/4" over all.
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.

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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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