When most people ask about the split top in my workbench, it is in regard to the removable tool trays. Do they fill up with junk? Yes, but it’s a piece of cake to pick one up, take it to the trash can and dump it. Do they keep tools safe and out of the way? Yes they do – the tools are right there under the shavings and other flotsam. The tool trays however are not why I designed a bench with a big hole down the middle. This is why:
If you accept the Gospel according to Schwarz, a good workbench should be able to hold common furniture parts easily and securely so you can work on them. Drawers are pretty common and before I had this bench I cobbled together all sorts of devices and gizmos to hang onto a drawer to clean up the joints and plane down the sides. Now I just pull out one of the tool trays (you can see it leaning against the end of the bench in the photo above) and slide the drawer box over the end of the bench. The drawer is at the same height as any other work, I can get at it from all sides, and most important, the corner is supported on the inside. I use a holdfast when cleaning up the joints, that lets me come in from any angle.
When I want to plane down the entire side, the edge of the bench top catches the inside edge of the drawer front acting as a stop. There isn’t anything in the way and the force of using the plane keeps the drawer box in position. If you’d like more information about this bench, it was the cover project of the October 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. I also made of video while I was building it, and you can find a preview of the video here.