After joining the ranks as senior editor with Popular Woodworking magazine, I was informed that I needed to build a workbench. It seems the bench that was in the shop upon my arrival was taken to its original home, so that left me with a slab of old door bridged across two rolling carts.
Building a Shaker workbench immediately came to mind , Shaker due to the bank of drawers and cupboard storage below the solid-wood top. Of course, I didn’t need anything near the 12- or 13-foot workbenches from either the Hancock or Mt. Lebanon Shaker villages, but I like the look and feel of Shaker craftsmanship and those workbenches have always been something I wanted to build.
I’m not a huge workbench fanatic. I worked without a workbench for the first eight years of my woodworking career. My table saw outfeed table was where everything came together. Later, I brought in a couple inexpensive benches for a bit of teaching and discovered the concept of a workbench with vises. They’re nice to have.
Also, I’m a power-tool guy so the workbench isn’t the center of my woodworking. I need a bench that will hold my panels while I lay out and cut dovetails, provide a clamping area as I use the router, and provide a large flat surface to assemble pieces (if not just a vast landscape for storing or hiding the tools I’ve used throughout the day).
Knowing that my workbench would not face hard use everyday, I decided I would build a bench that would leave future generations questioning if the workbench was ever really used as a workbench , maybe it was viewed as a piece of furniture. I wanted to have fun but also have the results be useful and look good. I turned to my fondness for tiger maple (just the idea of using this hardwood for a workbench makes most woodworkers shake their collective head) and to achieve the Shaker feel, I decided paint was the answer so poplar provided the substrate.
I am in the process of building this workbench in the Popular Woodworking shop. I have the majority of the framing complete although there are a few details left. I have the beaded poplar panels set in the sides and across the back waiting for paint, after which a tiger maple moulding will hold the panels in position. And, the cupboard area needs to be completed; I guess designed and completed would be more apropos.
The drawers look good, right? They’re drawer fronts only. I have the balance of the drawer materials ready to go, so the only obstacle to completion is the dovetails and drawer bottoms. The tiger maple top is in process too. I decided to use a substantial amount of 4/4 material for the top (material that lacks a great amount of stripe).
The 30-something pieces will be a solid top by weeks’ end. It has to be because we need to shoot the opening photograph for the magazine article on Tuesday of next week. And I still have to install the hardware, paint the poplar and add apply the finish on the tiger maple. It’s good to know that my “just-in-time” inventory system is alive and well (I hope?). Check out the December issue to see if I make it.