'Popular Workbench Magazine' - Popular Woodworking Magazine

‘Popular Workbench Magazine’

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July 1997: Jim Stuard’s Bullet-proof Bench. The title is based not only on the weight and strength of this bench, but on the bullets Jim found in the 10/4 maple as he milled the stock for the top.

“Popular Workbenches” is often suggested as a title revision for the magazine, given the number of workbench plans we’ve offered over the years. And it’s true that we have published a generous number of them – but every one is different! And given that a worksurface of some kind is integral to any workshop, well, it’s a perennially important topic.

So in this post, just for fun (and to procrastinate on a spreadsheet I have to dig into today), I’m listing every workbench we’ve ever published in Popular Woodworking Magazine and Woodworking Magazine (the first one, from 1997, is above). Also, I think it’s fun to see how the design of the magazine pages has changed over the years.

February 2001: This was, as far a I can tell, the first bench Christopher Schwarz built for Popular Woodworking. If you build it today, it will cost you around $260.

workbench

August 2002: Power-tool Workbench. This one (built by Christopher Schwarz) was “my” bench when I first joined the staff; I used it until I built my own in 2009 (see below).

December 2003: The 24-hour bench, by Christopher Schwarz and Kara Gebhardt.

workbench

Woodworking Magazine Autumn 2005: The Southern yellow pine Roubo…the first of a gazillion Roubo workbenches Christopher has since birthed.

Woodworking Magazine Autumn 2007: This historic form (built here by Christopher Schwarz) is from Charles Holtzapffel’s 1875 “Holtzapffel’s Construction, Action and Application of Cutting Tools, Volume II.”

workbench

December 2007: This Shaker-inspired workbench by Glen Huey offers plenty of storage. (Is it wrong that I would like this as my kitchen island, minus the vises and dog holes?)

workbench

October 2008: Bob Lang’s ash bench features a tool well down the center with removable trays; they can be flipped over to create a solid worksurface.

November 2009: This bench has aged better than its primary user (I built this with lots of help from Christopher Schwarz), and it’s the one I still use in our shop.

workbench

August 2010: On the cover, we call this a “Burly French Workhorse,” and it is. But it looks downright petite next to some of the other benches Christopher has built.

workbench

June 2013: This little tabletop bench by Christopher Schwarz can hold a 19″-wide panel in its twin-screw vise.

workbench

November 2015. This is the least-expensive full-sized bench in the bunch – and it’s a quick build.

February 2017. Bill Rainford’s beefed-up version of Tage Frid’s bench was our most recent.

Note that some of the above are collected in “The Workbench Design Book,” followed by a two-page critique of each bench after years of use. A couple others are in the revised edition of “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction and Use“; in that book, you’ll also find photos and illustrations that weren’t in the magazine, new information on workholding and more – plus a behemoth of a French bench that’s not been in our magazines.

But…surely we’ve written more about workbenches? Well, yes. The “English Nicholson Workbench,” for example, is in “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction and Use” – but we never published it in either magazine. And Christopher has written a lot on his blog about workbench builds, and you’ve seen me build a bench on the blog as well, and add a Sheldon vise to it – the 6′-long Roubo bench that’s in my basement. (And if I ever finish my bathrooms, I’ll have time to build another bench. I now have room for an 8′- or 9′-long one in my basement shop. I’ll want that before I tackle the kitchen.) Plus, there are bench videos. Plus it’s possible I missed one! (Do let me know if that’s the case.)

— Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 15 comments
  • prov163

    I’m glad to see all of the workbench articles in PW. I’m planning on building a new one soon and these articles have helped me narrow down what I like and don’t like. I also really appreciate Chris’ historical approach to understanding why craftspeople of old built their benches in a particular way – plus I have no intention of reading Ruobo’s L’Art Du Menusier or even learn to pronounce it 🙂 Keep the articles coming!

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      So…which one(s) are you thinking of building? 🙂

  • gdblake

    Forget building a toolbox into the base they are a hassle to use. Just go with the shelf to act as a stretcher and build a separate toolbox that will fit on top of the shelf, but can be pulled out and set anywhere to give quicker access to the tools inside.

  • marknoakes

    Many workbench articles are fine. Please don’t change a thing. While I’d like a Roubo, time limitations dictate the English bench for now. They are all good for future ideas.

  • tpobrienjr

    “Popular Dovetails”, “Popular Loose-Tenon Joinery”, or “Popular Obsessive Sharpening”?
    I guess it’s too late for “Popular Over-Arm Routers”.
    I’ve enjoyed every one of PW’s workbench articles.

  • Dr Rob

    So many workbenches, so little time. Inspiration? Priceless!

  • Andrew E

    A timely post! I’m planning to build the knockdown Nicholson this spring. I had no idea it had both an article in the magazine and a section in Chris’s book. I’ll have to pick up one or the other… or both. I’d just been working from the generously provide plans and info on Chris’s blog.

  • Tedstor

    I’ve been meaning to build one of those English workbenches ever since Schwarz wrote that article. I’d probably try to incorporate some sort of piano-hinged tool box into the base though. Or maybe I’ll just build it as shown. In any case….I’m motivated now……off to the lumber yard.

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      Excellent – you won’t be sorry! Except maybe with the piano-hinged tool box…Chris put one on his 18th-century cherry Roubo, and it’s always buried under a miter box or two and other assorted tools and appliances 🙂 But perhaps you have other places to stash such things!

      • NuneRex

        How to you like the Moravian workbench? I am currently building one now from some pallet 4″ x 4″‘s that I have been able to obtain. Excited about beginning this new hobby.

        • Megan Fitzpatrick
          Megan Fitzpatrick

          I’ve not worked on that form, so I can’t comment from experience – but I’ve not heard anyone say they _didn’t_ like it

  • Mike Ramsey

    I built a flavor of that Holtzapffl bench a couple years ago. It’s a beast, I love it.

  • Christopher Schwarz
    Christopher Schwarz

    I cannot remember the issue number, but David Thiel built a portable, knockdown workbench that was supported by two roll-around cabinets (one of those cabinets is now my outfeed table…).

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      Yeah – I vacillated as to whether that should be considered a workbench given that there’s no workholding, dog holes, etc. (August 2001: Storage & Assembly Bench.)Storage and assembly bench

      • Tommyreese

        A few years ago, I was looking for a workbench plan, and i went with Robert Lang’s Shaker Workbench. It is classic and very functional. Best of all I made it form 100% reclaimed material.

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