Making a Workbench – Part 2

making a workbench

As I worked through my recent workbench project, I got a comment on one of the build videos about how the build might not be suitable for the inexperienced woodworker. I reflected on that for a moment and I actually think they had a point. I’d wanted my workbench project to seem accessible, from both cost and method perspective. I think with cost it’s hard to beat, but it does ask you to be able to saw pretty straight, be reasonable with a chisel and know how to sharpen pretty well too. Let’s face it, we all have to start somewhere and those skills we take for granted might not be in everyone’s locker just yet.

To that end I thought I’d share what we use everyday in our workshop. There are no real joints to speak of and they are about as forgiving to build as anything possibly could be. They need very little tools to build: a drill/driver, hand saw, adjustable spanner and some flat bits would pretty much see you right.

making a workbench

Materials are cheap (in price), they’re made from 2x4s & 2x6s and a sheet of 18mm (around 3/4) OSB for the top. Ours use the full 4’x8′ OSB sheet as many of our projects are very large. I can honestly say that even though the tops are thin, they have never given us any problems at all. The top overhangs the edges of the bench allowing F clamps to have something to grab. Also, because the top is so cheap, we literally screw cleats and scraps to the top to create work-holding surfaces with no issue. Even in a busy joinery shop these tops last for years, so if you work mainly on weekends there should be little issue.

The vise of choice is a simple quick release, supported by blocks under the top but bolted straight through with coach bolt heads visible but set below the surface. I think the great thing with a bench this simple is that it can get you a stable platform for working quickly, enabling you to brush up on your skills before committing to a more in depth build or you could also choose to purchase a ready made bench.

making a workbench

Clearly, no bench is the ideal solution for everyone. I think what’s important is to keep an open mind, keep it simple and don’t feel like you need to get bogged down on a bench build right at the start of your journey. Anyway I hope you enjoy part 2 of the workbench build.

— Graham Haydon


workbenches-designInterested in making a more in depth workbench? Check out Workbenches Revised Edition: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use by Christopher Schwarz.

8 thoughts on “Making a Workbench – Part 2

  1. Bill Lattanzio

    I’ve never worked in a furniture shop, but at my former job (a print factory) we had a half dozen similar work tables throughout the plant (we used them to lay out the print screens). They were quick and simple to construct, and they could take a beating.

    1. Graham HaydonGraham Haydon Post author

      Hi Bill!

      That’s the idea, good solid table. Traditional benches, both building and using are a great idea but not essential and might not be the best use of a beginners time.

      Best

      G

  2. drnono

    From the “tracks” on the bench top it looks like someone built something big and round and beautiful! Are ALL those weight on the bottom of the workbench in the background for glue up “clamps”? That was a really great series of videos on the bench build. Thank you so much. Not only did you build a great bench but you demonstrated a lot of very interesting woodworking techniques and reasonings for each step of the build. Absolutely BRILLIANT!!!

    1. Graham HaydonGraham Haydon Post author

      Hi drono!

      The tracks were likely templates being made for the shaper (with the router plunged a bit to much). The weight are various 56lbs. Useful for glue ups and in years previous years a strength test. One in each hand, lift above the head and tap together, repeat until fail. I could never do one, Dad could do many.
      Glad you liked the videos, was good fun and thank you for making the time to match them.

      Best

      G

  3. photon

    This is a great idea. If I could add a suggestion, in the workbench from the New Yankee Workshop series Norm Abrams suggests adding a 1/4-inch masonite piece to the top so it can easily be replaced once it gets ‘beaten up’. I’ve done this and varnished it to make cleanup simple with good success. It’s fastened to the underlying 3/4-inch piece with flat head screws countersunk so flush with the surface.

    1. Graham HaydonGraham Haydon Post author

      Hi photon

      Nice tip! We have a sheet of 1/4″ MDF on our stair building bench for that very purpose. It becomes a giant setting out board too, very useful!

      Best

      G

  4. mtnjak

    I have plans (and the rough cut wood ready) for a heavy duty “Schwarz” bench but haven’t gotten around to building one yet. It’s interesting you included this Pt 2 excerpt because this is pretty much the type of benches/outfeed tables that I’ve had for the past 10 years. Sturdy, practical, cheap and quick to build. Right now I’m actually enclosing them and retrofitting shelves below my benches to fill up all that unused space and get my clutter under control.

    1. Graham HaydonGraham Haydon Post author

      Hi mtnjack

      I think this type of quick improvised bench is something we’d find in many shops. I thought it would be good to show that we use them too and as you’ve found they are pretty effective. Yes the bench you plan to build will be an excellent companion but it’s not always the right time to commit to a big shop project and these basic benches allow us to get on and make something.

      Best

      G

      Edi

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