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It’s funny how a project idea can come out of left field. I had no long burning plan or urge to make our son Stanley a workbench and give him a selection of tools. I’ve never wanted to force my children in any direction; I’d like them to make up their own minds on what they want to do. However, there is a balance to be struck. Woodworking is how food is put on our table and it’s something I truly enjoy, especially when it’s on my own terms. Perhaps he’d like a chance to be around that.

We were also discussing the pressure (doubtless self-imposed) of buying toys that break all too readily and perhaps don’t always do the best job of nurturing a creative mind. For whatever reason I decided that today’s lunch break and the offcuts of my workbench project needed to come together.

There is not a “real” joint in sight. Everything is butt jointed and screwed with a dash of PVA to make extra sure. The top and shelf is a piece of leftover 3/4″ flooring-grade ply. The shoulder vise is a cheap ally bar clamp with the end cut off and bar screwed to the leg frame rail. The only hand tool I used was a hammer; the good fortune of having a fully equipped joiner’s shop meant I could cut everything to size quickly and safely – and winding in screws with modern drivers takes moments.

kids workbench

I was happy to donate some tools. I removed the irons from a jack, smoother and spokeshave, and supplied one of the try squares I made a while back. I also had a surplus mallet, brace and rule. A few minutes removed the teeth from a saw and rounded its edges. Clearly I won’t leave all the tools with the kids unsupervised, but the wooden smoother and jack can stay on the bench at all times. Maybe one day we’ll put the irons back in the planes and cut some teeth into the sawplate again.

The great thing about this little bench is it can be used as a modeling area, for painting … whatever really. Stanley really gets into creating things and it’s nice to think he feels he has his own space to do it in. The role play was amazing; we had to prepare a “cup of tea with biscuit” (warm milk) and he felt compelled to work in his vest. I wonder if he picked up on the fact that I wear a T-shirt in most of my videos. And Ivy enjoyed the bench so much that I have another task for tomorrows lunch break!

I also passed on some pictorial books that I proposed we read at bedtime. It was a step too far. “That’s sounds boring Dad.” No problem, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” it is!

kids workbench

— Graham Haydon


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Showing 10 comments
  • DavidWood

    Encourage your daughter as well. I see her in the picture. Girls should be in on the good stuff as well.

  • KAUnfried

    Don’t be afraid to let him use SOME tools. My son was always welcome in my shop while I was out there and by the time he was 6 could use a skew on the lathe. Supervision is the key.

  • Bernard Naish

    My twin Granddaughters, like their Mother before them love learning hand tool woodwork. They will become teenagers in July so perhaps their interest will pale a little, but I am sure they will come back to it. They have to use my bench and as it is too high they stand on a box. They also have some of their own tools – full size and sharp and proudly display them to their friends and teachers.

    I think I will make them a bench later in the spring as I have an idea of how to make it adjustable in height. It isn’t just for them of course as I have been itching to make another after my first disobeyed Mr. Schwartz in every respect. I may just obey him this time.

  • Bill Lattanzio

    I may think I’m Captain America, but you ARE Captain Britain!

  • tsstahl

    I would suggest picking up a copy of Grandpa’s Workshop (

    My daughter loved the pictures.

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