Chris Schwarz's Blog

Knocking Together a Workbench

On the final day of a workbench class, the students either assemble all their benches or pack up the parts in their cars to assemble things at home.

Assembly is easy. I usually do it by myself, but I never decline offers of help. Plus, it’s the best part of the entire job because it is usually followed immediately by beer.

During this class at Dictum GmbH in Germany, I built a bench along with the students to leave with the school. Because I was also teaching, troubleshooting and helping out, I was running way behind everyone when the day began on Sunday morning.

Before lunch I cut all the mortises in the top (thanks to the Mafell chain mortiser), fit all my legs and stretchers and planed off all the tool marks on the pine. After lunch I drilled all the holes for the drawbores and prepared my beech pins and wedges.

The rest was easy. Here are some things to consider after you watch the little movie.

1. You don’t have to use glue in the mortises and tenons. Drawbores and wedges do the work just fine. Glue is cheap, so why not use it? I prefer hide glue but we had used it all up the day before.

2. All the drawbore pins are lubricated with wax. I usually use paraffin, but we used all that up. So I used beeswax.

3. The base joints are fit a tad loose. The joints to the top are fit tight. This makes assembly easier.

4. Use a big sledge to drive the drawbore pins. And big-diameter pins. These are about 3/4”.

5. Once you start assembly, do not stop. But do not rush. I made a mistake in the film because I failed to double-check my cabinetmaker’s triangle, but it worked out OK in the end.

6. Drive the wedges into the top until they stop moving. If they crack, stop hitting them.

7. Throwing axes after assembly is not essential, but it is highly recommended. Follow that with beer.

— Christopher Schwarz

Other videos in this series on building a bench in Germany:

1. French Bench. German School. American Teacher. Day 1.
2. Mafell Chain Mortiser. Dang.
3. More Mafell Madness: Day 3 of the Workbench Class
4. My Assembly Tricks for Old World Workbenches

19 thoughts on “Knocking Together a Workbench

  1. Katzengreis

    Hi Chris,
    I’m absolutely new in woodworking and started this hobby building my roubo which will be assembled within the next days. You recommend hide glue instead of titebond. Is it the same assembling procedure or do I have to observe something special because the short open time etc.?
    Thanks
    Michael
    Germany

    1. Katzengreis

      After reading your first book, I decided to use hidden tenons and drowbore pins for all joints. Is there a disadvantage compared to the wedged through tenon?
      Thanks
      Michael

  2. riverbend

    I have to have a large ( 28″DIA) Ash tree cut down. If this wood is a good choice for a workbench how should I have it cut?
    Six inch thick quartersawn, 2″ thick quartersawn ( easier drying), 6×6 timbers ?
    Thanks
    Riverbend

      1. laofas

        Workbenches

        One of the most important tools in the shop is the workbench. And for years, Christopher Schwarz (formerly the editor and now a contirbuting editor to Popular Woodworking Magazine) along with all the editors, has been investigating various methords of workholding and workbench designs from around the world. In 2005, Chris built his first Roubo workbench, and since then, he’s personally built two more, and helped countless others do the same. Here, you’ll find workbench plans and workbench SketchUp models, reviews of various vises and more. In short, everything you need to make the perfect workbench for your shop.

        I was following the links that said Plans and Projects…expecting to find plans.

  3. jdelmon

    Chris,
    As I watch you evolve your workbench design I am wondering if you have posted a sketch up model of the new design or are planning an addendum to one of your workbench books? Also, did you cut the mortises on the bench top a little large to accommodate the wedge afterwards?
    Thanks
    Josh

    1. Maurice

      Chris,
      I am also intriqued by your departure from the Roubo dovetail tenon. Other than being a more expedient design to execute, what were the main reasons for the base to top joinery? I’m sure it’s equally as strong, and allows for dog holes close to the edge for an uninterrupted run.

  4. wallachuck

    One of the German traditions of successful project completion is to “pour beer over it”. If you pour it on the bench top, you have missed the message.

    Chuck Walker

  5. Sgaffin

    Who is singing Birmingham Jail in this video? Musical credits would be an awesome addition to future videos since most of them I want to hunt down and purchase.

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