For many woodworkers, the biggest stumbling block when building a workbench is finding the right raw materials and the proper workbench design. I can say this with authority because my mailbox is jammed daily with questions about workbenches.
I am quite picky about my workbench designs (if you’re reading my blog I don’t need to say any more on this), and I’m picky about the quality of my raw material. I think you can use almost any species to build a workbench, but I have three favorites: maple, Southern yellow pine and ash.
Next month at our Woodworking in America Conference (Oct. 2-4 in Valley Forge, Pa.), Horizon Evolutions will be offering special “workbench bundles” of Pennsylvania ash that have the right amount of wood (plus 15 percent waste) for three of my favorite workbench designs. There will be bundles for the French-style Roubo workbench, the English/German Holtzapffel workbench and Robert W. Lang’s 21st-century Workbench. (You can see drawings of all three benches here.)
The Holtzapffel workbench I built for Woodworking Magazine.
Each bundle contains enough 4/4, 8/4 and (yes!) 12/4 kiln-dried ash so you can make your bench with the fewest laminations possible (without buying a whole tree). The material will be clear and defect free, according to Pete Terbovich at Horizon, but it will not be selected for color.
“So there will be some white sapwood along with some brown heartwood,” Terbovich wrote in an e-mail. “The good thing about Pennsylvania Ash is that the heartwood is a very light brown compared to most Ash heartwood, so the color should be attractive.”
Here are the prices on the kits: The 21st-century Workbench contains about 130 board feet of ash and is $600. The Holtzapffel Workbench has about 76 board feet and is $425. The Roubo Workbench has about 118 board feet of ash and is $650.
And if you still need a plan for one of these three benches, Horizon will be offering free printouts of our complete plans for these three benches. Plus, many suppliers of workbench hardware will be at Woodworking in America, including Lee Valley Tools, Lie-Nielsen and Benchcrafted. So the conference is a veritable one-stop shopping place for anyone building a workbench.
By the way, admission to the Marketplace is completely free. So even if you aren’t registered for the conference, you can visit the Marketplace and buy everything you need for your bench.
Oh, and one more thing: All three of these workbenches , the Roubo, the Holtzapffel and the 21st-century Workbench , will be at the conference, so you’ll be able to kick the tires on those designs , plus the designs at the Benchcrafted, Lee Valley and Lie-Nielsen booths.
If a workbench is in your future, a fact-finding mission to Valley Forge is in order for next month. Read all about the conference here.
– Christopher Schwarz
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