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Last Thursday I put the finishing touches on my new workbench, just in time for a Friday-morning photo session. The plan was to shoot on location, and editor Christopher Schwarz and I were discussing the plan. The one item not resolved was actually moving the bench from our shop to another shop with a more photogenic parking lot. Chris proposed moving the bench completely assembled, and I said “why don’t we just take it apart and move the pieces? I think that will be easier.”

His response was, “that will take 45 minutes or an hour; it will be quicker to just throw it in the truck.” Never afraid to disagree with the boss, I said “It won’t take that long, this will come apart in 10 or 15 minutes, and we won’t need more than two people to carry the parts.” We went back  and forth for a few minutes. “No you can’t,” “Yes I can” led to “No way,” “Absolutely.”

I don’t remember which of us was the first to say, “Want to bet?,” but the introduction of that phrase changed things from theoretical discussion to practical demonstration. The stakes were settled, and the time set for the following morning. As news of the contest spread through the office, it was mutually decided to record the proceedings on film and video.

When I designed this bench, I kept the component parts few in number. The two top slabs are held to the leg structure with four lag bolts coming up through the top rails on each end. With those bolts removed, the tops were placed out of the way on a rolling cart, and I went after the four lags that secure the lapped dovetails at the end of the upper rails. With that task accomplished, I put down the wrench and removed the boards that make up the lower shelf. Those pieces are half-lapped and simply sit on cleats attached to the rails. When those were removed and stacked, I grabbed the hammer.

I lifted the idea for the joints on the ends of the lower rails from an old drawing of a Nicholson bench. There is a dovetail-shaped slot in each leg, and half a lapped dovetail on the  end of each rail. The rails slide into the slots, drop into position and a wedge is tapped in from the outer side of the leg to lock the joint together. This is a surprisingly strong connection, and if the joints loosen over time all I need to do is reach down and give the end of the wedge a rap with my hammer. Tapping from the other direction removes the wedges, allowing the rails to move up and out. One of the wedges escaped my grasp and went scooting across the shop floot, costing me about 10 seconds of time to retrieve it.

Here’s a look at the joints coming apart, and the two leg assemblies and lower rails were added to the pile. Elapsed time: 6 minutes, 30 seconds. Putting the bench back together is nearly as fast. It went back together for the photo shoot, and apart again for the return trip to the shop. At the moment it’s not assembled. Another challenge has been issued, and we’ll soon gather in the shop, stop watches and digital cameras at the ready, to see how fast an old man can move putting the bench back together.

Details on building and using the bench will be included in our October issue, which will be on sale around the first of September. In the meantime, there will be more about it here on the blog as I put it to use. I’ve enjoyed building this bench, and I’m looking forward to using it.

, Bob Lang


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Showing 12 comments
  • Bob Lang

    The links are a little funny, they’ll be fixed first thing in the morning. If you click at the far right end of the 60-minute video link, the link does indeed take you to the store where you can purchase the video. Here is the working link: . I’ll probably have the SketchUp model up on the blog in a day or two as well. Sorry for the confusion, this is what happens when you let an old woodworker write html code.

    Bob Lang

  • S Jones

    Thanks. I’ll probably end up buying the video to watch while my workshop gets built (drive-by gloat). Then we’ll see what happens when an old html coder butchers wood.

  • S Jones

    Help! I want to build this bench! I have the ash! I have the vises! Where are the plans? The mag says (p. 37) "Videos, plans, and text … are available on the PopWood Editor’s blog". But no plans! Also the free video and 60-minute video links are the same.

  • legraciea

    It’s Really nice. Good Design but difficult it build.

  • Terry

    Interesting design. This may be the one I build for my garage. Can’t wait to see the plans in September.


  • James

    I love the bench and can not wait to build it. Great job.

  • Alan

    Must say that’s a nice looking bench Bob!

  • Tom - SoCal

    Nice design, Bob. Clever use of the lapped tails and wedge to facilitate assy/disassy. Couple of things, though.

    1) I suggest that regardless of what the blog entry title states, there’s no such thing as a ‘friendly’ wager among staff members.

    2) (This is actually a cautionary note for Chris). Bob has a few years on you. Before suggesting (or agreeing to) another bet remember: Old age and treachery will win out over youth and skill.


  • Mike

    Great job Bob. Isn’t it nice when an "old dog" teaches the young pups a lesson. Great looking bench. Might try building one myself.

  • Stephen Kirk

    Nice Job Bob. The bench looks really good and a 6 min breakdown time is quite impressive. I can’t wait to read about it in the next issue. I’ve wanted to build a new bench …

  • David

    OK, but you have to tell us what the stakes were (no doubt something suitably humbling, like a staek dinner?)

  • rgdaniel

    You gotta love it when a plan comes together. Especially when there’s a few bucks riding on it… B-)

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