Workbenches have flat tops, though sometimes at the rear there is a cavity called a tool well that contains tools and components (and prevents them from falling off). One advantage of having the well set into the top of the bench is that, even with a variety of objects in the well, a large sheet of material can still be laid flat over the entire surface of the bench; the contents of the tool well offer no interference.
With the inner jaw fastened to the bench, I used the router to flush-trim the jaw to the benchtop, across the top and down the sides adjacent to the top (stopping short of the discontinuity between the top and the legs). I'd thought this would be the best way to match up the jaw against the top, but I'd not do it this way again. It was very difficult to hold the router tight against the face of the jaw, and the result was a surface that wasn't as even as I had hoped.

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.
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.
The last thing is to semi-permanently attach the bolts for the vises. Given the amount of work necessary to get to the bolt heads, once the top is joined, I had intended to tighten them up so they wouldn't spin, and lock them that way with blue Loctite. (That's the strongest non-permanent grade.) That didn't work. What I found was that the bottoms of the countersinks weren't quite flat, and when I tightened the nuts down that far, the ends of the bolts would be pulled far enough out of alignment that the vise bases would no longer fit. In order for the vises to fit over the bolts, I had to leave the nuts loose enough that the bolts had a bit of wiggle - which meant that they were almost loose enough for the bolts to spin. So I put Loctite on the nuts, to keep them from unscrewing, and filled the countersinks with Liquid Nails, in hopes of keeping the bolts from spinning. I considered using epoxy, or a metal-epoxy mix like JB Weld, but I didn't have enough of either on hand. It seems to be working for now, though the real test won't be until I have to take the vises off.
Shape is critical to the ultimate success or failure of a piece of furniture. Knowing this, custom-furniture maker Lonnie Bird has taken the complex subject of shaping and in this book made it accessible to every woodworker. He guides the reader toward first visualizing, then drawing a shape, and then choosing the appropriate tool for creating it. Shaping techniques of all kinds are covered here — from the simplest ones to more complex bending and carving.”
With the inner jaw fastened to the bench, I used the router to flush-trim the jaw to the benchtop, across the top and down the sides adjacent to the top (stopping short of the discontinuity between the top and the legs). I'd thought this would be the best way to match up the jaw against the top, but I'd not do it this way again. It was very difficult to hold the router tight against the face of the jaw, and the result was a surface that wasn't as even as I had hoped.
1. In this post, you kindly remind us not to make it too deep or worry too much about the height. I presume you still believe a bench cannot be too long or too heavy? I’m with you — just asking if that’s actually still your opinion, since the bench above appears to be yet another six footer. (If longer is better, why don’t you build an 8 or 10′ for your home shop?) TYIA – remember, I’ve bought all my lumber to start my new bench, but I haven’t milled anything yet, so you’re really helping in an immediate way here!
Of course, few benches can be ideal, and this one does have some drawbacks. That being said, most of the disadvantages of this bench are minor annoyances rather than deal breakers. For instance, this bench does not include any kind of storage whatsoever. Though, it does have the option of adding numerous additional features like a storage area. Still, for the bench, you would expect a drawer at the very least, maybe a shelf below the main table area.
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