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When most people ask about the split top in my workbench, it is in regard to the removable tool trays. Do they fill up with junk? Yes, but it’s a piece of cake to pick one up, take it to the trash can and dump it. Do they keep tools safe and out of the way? Yes they do – the tools are right there under the shavings and other flotsam. The tool trays however are not why I designed a bench with a big hole down the middle. This is why:

If you accept the Gospel according to Schwarz, a good workbench should be able to hold common furniture parts easily and securely so you can work on them. Drawers are pretty common and before I had this bench I cobbled together all sorts of devices and gizmos to hang onto a drawer to clean up the joints and plane down the sides. Now I just pull out one of the tool trays (you can see it leaning against the end of the bench in the photo above) and slide the drawer box over the end of the bench. The drawer is at the same height as any other work, I can get at it from all sides, and most important, the corner is supported on the inside. I use a holdfast when cleaning up the joints, that lets me come in from any angle.

When I want to plane down the entire side, the edge of the bench top catches the inside edge of the drawer front acting as a stop. There isn’t anything in the way and the force of using the plane keeps the drawer box in position. If you’d like more information about this bench, it was the cover project of the October 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. I also made of video while I was building it, and you can find a preview of the video here.

– Robert W. Lang

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Showing 6 comments
  • corgicoupe

    This link to the preview doesn’t seem to work. The video never loads

  • tsproul


    If you wanted/needed to narrow the bench, how might you do it? Make both sections more narrow? Narrow just the back section? Something else?


  • CessnapilotBarry

    Last night, while gluing a case, I needed a single clamp in the middle of the bottom. Before my 21CWB, I would have needed blocking to clear the clamp body. Obviously, I;m not alone, as there are vendors out there that SELL special devices to raise work off the bench.

    I slipped out a tool tray and moved on, with the missing tray providing plenty of clearance.

    I the 6 months since I’ve completed this bench, I’ve lost count of how many bench devices and work arounds I no longer need.

    Thanks again, Bob!

  • TNWoodwright

    Why don’t people use vacuum pumps and jigs with there work benches??

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