New Workbench Build

Shaker BenchIn 2006, as I began my first round at Popular Woodworking Magazine (PWM), I was told I had to build a workbench. Even with then editor Christopher Schwarz chest deep in workbench publications, it wasn’t a mandate as much as it was a necessity. In the PWM shop, there was no usable bench empty and awaiting a woodworker.

I did not need to look far for a workbench to copy as I was always interested in a Shaker-designed bench – loved the painted bases in strong, bold colors. I built my bench which was published in our December 2007 issue (#166). Need a copy, click here, or if you just need the article, click here.

As I return to PWM, I find myself in an identical position – I’m not bringing my Shaker bench back because I use it in my home shop. I have, in turn, decided to build another bench. With this bench I plan  to have a simple frame, a weighty top and a stack of drawer squeezed into the center. It’s the drawers on which I want to focus.

After my Shaker workbench was published, I was asked to write a page on what I would change if I were to build that bench a second time. The only change I had at the time concerned the drawers, which were way too deep to be best used. I could divide those drawers from top to bottom, but I am not found of having to slide drawer tills as I dig for tools.

DrawerIn my SketchUp model of my next bench, there are ten drawers that are not nearly as deep. Ten drawers have a lot of hand-cut dovetails, so I plan to dig into different drawer construction methods before choosing how to build my drawers. As of now, I plan to study spline construction, dowel-pinned joints, sliding dovetails, dado & rabbet joinery and box joints.

I’m not looking for the best joint, or the easiest joint. I’m looking for a solid designed joint that does what it needs to do. So If you have suggestions that I may have forgotten or  skipped, I am open to your ideas.

—Glen D. Huey

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26 thoughts on “New Workbench Build

  1. jbreiby

    Hi Glen,
    In 1983, before I knew how to do it any fancier, I built my kitchen cabinets drawers using drawer joints cut on the table saw in AB fir plywood. Though they’re not fancy, they were quick to build and have held up to daily sliding in an out for the past 30 years with no apparent damage to any of them.
    But here’s a question for you: I built a Roubo workbench last summer with a 4 1/2″- thick top, and also would like to fit drawers in it. But how do you do it so they don’t obstruct the hold-fast holes? I love the Gramercy Holdfasts, but they hang down 4 3/4″ below the top, right into where the drawers would be. Do you not use holdfasts, or have you come up with a solution?

    1. jqlouie

      Hi Glen,
      I had worked in Asia for over twelve years before returning state-side; where I had access to the Ships Carpenter Shop and its power tools. Now home and remodeling all my hand tools where in several boxes and limited power tools (drills, routers, biscuit jointer) I needed tool storage and organization. My solution was to get to know the people at the local lumber yard and for a couple of pizzas they cut my plywood to size at their convenience. I then build two drawer units with twenty-six drawer’s total.

      The individual drawers are not elegant but have stood up well for over three years now and where fast to build. The draw boxes sides were assembled with biscuit joints, glue, brads, and quarter inch plywood bottoms in routed dados. Maybe someday I’ll remake them but for now they remain strong and functional.

    2. Glen D. Huey Post author

      On the Shaker bench built for the December 2007 issue and the one I use at home, the top extended beyond the bench base at the front. There is enough room for those hold-fasts to work – they will prevent you from opening the drawers when being used. On my next bench, I plan to have the same arrangement, and I plan to leave open space between the top and rails.

  2. zepe

    When I built mine I later decided to add six drawers with full extension glides. I didn’t want fancy just quick so I used pocket screws for the corners which I also glued and they work great. KISS

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