Can Workbench Legs be too Big?
Jacques writes: I have your workbench book, and I am currently working on my version of the French bench. I had soft maple cut down from my woods, so I had it sawn, and I am working with it for the top.
For the legs, a friend of mine gave me four beams that are about 9″ x 9″, out of some resinous wood. They are cracked and dry (must be about 60 years old).
The question I have is: Can I make the legs too big? I was planning to cut them down to 6×6 but, to save a lot of work, is 8×8 a good idea? I know it would add mass and stability to the bench, but having only 8″ between the legs seems to be a little over the top…
Answer: A.J.-Roubo specifies that legs should be 3” to 4” thick x 6” wide (though in the plate they look more square to me).
The legs of the bench are of hard oak, very firm, 6 thumbs in width by 3-4 in thickness. They are assembled on top by tenon and a dovetailed tenon in the style of a slip joint/bridle joint.
I think the only real danger of making the legs 8×8 would be that you would add a lot of work when cutting the dovetail and tenon. The joints would have to be a lot bigger or you would have to remove a lot of wood from the tenon.
My gut says it would be easier to plane down the legs than do the extra joinery work.
Second, I think they would look weird. A guy sent me photos of a bench he had made using 2x8s for both the top and legs. It did not look right. That is probably because of what I am used to seeing on a bench, so take that with a grain of salt.
— Christopher Schwarz
You can buy a copy of my first book “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” (Popular Woodworking) here at ShopWoodworking.com.