Chris Schwarz's Blog

Free Drawing: The Knockdown Holtzapffel Workbench

Ever since we published plans for the Holtzapffel Cabinetmaker’s Workbench in Issue 8 of Woodworking Magazine, readers have requested information on how to build the bench so it could be easily knocked down and moved.

The version I built and published plans for in Issue 8 used old-world bench-building principles where the legs were tenoned into the top and the base parts were permanently drawbored. But when Kelly Mehler and I taught a class in constructing the bench last month, we decided to modify the plans to make the whole thing break down for easy transport. The students hailed from all over the country (Missouri, Alaska, Michigan), and so a portable version was necessary.

By the way, if you missed my daily blog posts about this class, you can find them over at the Popular Woodworking editor’s blog by clicking below.

Day 1: Sticks
Day 2: Glue
Day 3: Grit
Day 4: Gruntwork
Day 5: Grease
Day 6: Guessing
Day 7: Gone

This weekend my blisters from the class began to fade, and so I cleaned up the construction drawing and cutting list a bit , you can download them for free below.

Here’s how the knockdown construction works in a nutshell: The workbench’s base is made up of two end assemblies, which are permanently glued and drawbored, plus two long stretchers.

Compared to the original design, the only changes to the end assemblies are that the legs don’t have tenons on the top and you need to add a 3″-wide top stretcher to each end assembly. These top stretchers will help you attach the base to the benchtop.

The base’s long stretchers are significantly different. The long stretchers have short tenons and are attached to the end assemblies with 1/2″ x 8″-long hex-head cap screws, washers and nuts. All in all, the base’s joinery works a lot like a traditional bed.

The assembled joint that shows the cap screws in place and the plywood template.

The disassembled joint that shows the short tenon on the long stretcher.

To install the cap screws, drill 5/8″-diameter holes through the legs. Then rout out slots for the nuts and washers in the long stretchers using a plywood pattern, a 1/2″ spiral bit and a guide bushing (see the photo for what this looks like). With the slots routed, install the cap screws, washers and nuts. Snug everything up with a socket set and box wrench.

With the base assembled, attach the workbench’s top to the base with 3/8″ x 5″-long lag screws through the top stretchers in the end assemblies. We used four lag screws per bench. The screws at the front of the bench were in 3/8″-diameter holes. The screws at the rear of the bench were in 1/2″-diameter holes, which allows for wood movement.

Everything else about this bench is identical to the plans found in Issue 8.

Holtzapffel_KD_Bench.pdf (52.91 KB)

- Christopher Schwarz

14 thoughts on “Free Drawing: The Knockdown Holtzapffel Workbench

  1. mtuehling

    Hi Chris,

    I was thinking about using unglued tenons to attach the top as you mentioned in another article. In that plan, would the top side stretchers be necessary?

    Tim

  2. Tom Cross

    Chris,

    I noticed that some of the knock down bench tops were 24" x 96" which is the size I plan to make. What was the resulting length of the long stretchers. Was it 40" (for 72" top length) + 24" (for longer 96" top length) = 64" overall to retain the 12" top overhang on both ends?

    You said that you went from the large to small quick-release end vise so the vise travel did not hit the top stretchers on the knock down bench. Did the dog holes have to be placed closer to the edge when this smaller vise was used? What was the dimension?

    Thank you for the wonderful bench design. I am looking forward to building it. I plan to use hard maple that I picked up today.

    Tom

  3. John Fox

    With regard to the drawbolts passing through the tenons of the short stretcher, I lowered the short stretchers close to the floor so that wouldn’t be an issue. A potential side benefit to this is that the short stretchers might someday support a handy tool shelf bellow the level of the long stretchers. I also made the tenons only two inches long and I think that’s plenty.

    In a similar vein (following rules for rules sake) I also used haunched tenons in the top stretchers, completely unnecessary, given the massive nature of all the components. This bench ain’t no Chippendale lamp table.

  4. Christopher Schwarz

    Francois,

    You are exactly right. The bolt passes through the tenon of the short stretcher.

    It isn’t a problem at all. The 3"-long tenons on the short stretchers are overkill, so there isn’t any problem with reducing the gluing surface.

    Hope this helps.

    Chris

  5. Francois Fournier

    Hello,

    When you bore a hole through the leg to allow the use of bolts on the long stretchers I assume that you are also boring a hole through the tenons of the short stretchers as the latter are in the path of the hole. Am I correct in my assumption? If so, will this hole cause any problems with the short stretchers tenons?

    Francois

  6. Jason Parrish

    Christopher,

    Thank you tremendously for the knock-down design. I was wondering of it’s possible to use fir for the construction, instead of hardwood? Would the reduction in weight and stability of the wood drop to a relatively useless level?

    I ask as I don’t have a shop and would need to knock down and store the bench between uses during the day.

  7. Christopher Schwarz

    You have lots of options with the end vise. We opted for a Lee Valley small vise, which tucked in nicely under the top. You also can shift the top several inches right before you start interfering with the vise nuts on the face vise side. The bench does not get tippy if you shift the top 6" or so — promise!

    Or you can make the top a shade longer….

    Chris

  8. Chris F

    Not sure how the Schwarz did it, but on my bench the overhang is long enough that with a thick wooden chop on the end vise the guide bars don’t hit the upper stretcher.

  9. Francois Fournier

    Chris,

    I understand how adding another strecher to the side assembly makes it much easier to break down the bench, but doesn’t the right hand one interfere with the end vise’s mechanism? How did you resolve this proble? Did you 1) cut a notch in the stretcher to allow room for the guide rods, or 2) move the top toward the left to allow the mechanism to fit? Wouldn’t moving the top to the left make the workbench tippy?

    I look forward to your answer.

    Cheers,

    Francois

  10. Chris F

    I did something similar when I built my base. I used wider stretchers and so went overkill and used two bolts at each end of the long stretchers.

    I also drilled the holes for the bolts rather than routing out a channel, and counterbored the legs for the bolt head and washer so that it was recessed below the wood surface.

    Lastly, my top stretchers are quite a bit thicker and extend the full width of the bench…the legs are mortised into it rather than the other way around.

  11. Christopher Schwarz

    Matt,

    The ones I found at the site looked too short too work in this bench. The idea is sound, however.

    I have not found the system I used to be flawed or weak in any way. I’ve built several benches using this arrangement with complete success over years of use.

    Chris

  12. Matt Wilson

    So I was thinking about the attachment bolts for this design. And noting that there is alot of unsupported washer that could be bent around the stretcher end of the bolt due to the force vector. I found T-bolts at McMaster Carr (no affiliation) that I think would fit the bill perfectly, plue spread the force of the clamping over a larger area of the stretcher. (they’re under bolts>bolt-type>T-handle bolt type) I’d like to hear what you think.

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