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21st Century WorkbenchEvery day I receive dozens of e-mails. Everyone suffers from this affliction, but when you’re on the staff of a magazine you’re an attractive target for photographers, illustrators, PR people and marketing gurus. I wade through them all, and every now and then I’m pleasantly surprised to get a message from a reader with a photo of his version of something I’ve designed and built for Popular Woodworking Magazine. That happened this morning, when Nick from Brooklyn sent the photo at left. He had asked a few months ago about shortening my bench to better fit his workspace and what to watch out for if he did that. He also added a couple of drawers and drilled 3/4″ diameter holes in the ends of the tool trays to make them easier to remove.

21st Century WorkbenchAt right is my bench, about six months after I built it for the October 2008 issue. I was rather proud of myself at the time; years and years of making stuff on crummy benches is a good source for design ideas, and I wanted a bench suited for the way I work. Apparently I did pretty well, as lots of people have built their own version of this thing.It’s satisfying to get it right the first time and get on with making other, more challenging things.

Part of my design criteria was to make the project approachable to woodworkers with modest equipment. It may not be the most trendy bench, but it works and I built mine with 6″ jointer, a 12″ lunchbox planer, a hybrid table saw, a drill press and no workbench. This project was also the subject of the first video produced by Popular Woodworking. That video now lives on our streaming video sight, “Shop Class on Demand”. We also shot some video about shooting the cover photo, and if you want to see how a small group of people can complicate the simplest of tasks, click here.

– Robert W. Lang

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Showing 9 comments
  • Baidarka8

    I belong to a woodworking group on L.I. and would like to talk with Nick directly about his bench. Please email me.

  • CessnapilotBarry

    My 21st CWB has been in faithful service for over five years. In the unlikely event that it is stolen, I will quickly build another!

    The tool tray design makes this bench! Allowing it to be a solid top, center tool tray, split top, or any combination. The longer I have this bench, and the more I use other benches, the more I appreciate the simple flexibility of mine.

    Thanks again, Bob!

  • nickjp

    Hi, I am Nick from Brooklyn who made the bench. I appreciate snarkiness as it shows people are actually listening/ reading and we are all able to voice our opinions. Agree or not with the issue that is a wonderful thing. As for the bench it was my biggest project to date and I thank Robert for his plan – you will note both the article and video I shamelessly displayed in my photo. I would like to add one additional point. I too made the bench with the same tools used by Mr. Lang – actually one less as I do not own a sliding liter saw so I cut the ends of the top using a circular saw flipping the top then evening any mismatches with a plane and rasp. In the end it all worked out great! The key is to pick something you believe in from a design perspective and then execute as best you can – and you will have something you treasure and are proud of – I guarantee it. Thanks again Robert. Nick

  • Christopher Hawkins

    The snarkiness and envy in the original and follow-up posts is sad.

  • creatingsawdust

    Great blog post Bob!

  • bobro

    That’s a great workbench according to what I like in a workbench.

  • robert

    What do mean that “It’s satisfying to get it right the first time and get on with making other, more challenging things.” Clearly you missed the memo. You can build an entire career (company) out of building successive workbenches.

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