Ken’s Workbench

Viewer Project - By Ken
Added on July 21, 2009

This workbench is the first step in my shop reorganization. I have been using my old bench for the past 9 or so years. It was made from 2X4s that were left behind by the previous owner of the house. The top was some 3/4″ maple veneer chip board. Everything was put together with screws. It worked as a basic bench, but was lacking in certain aspects. After doing some research on benches, which included looking through all my magazines, reading Chris Schwarz’s book Workbenches from Design & Theory to Construction & Use a couple of times and watching the Rob Bois video series on building his bench I decided on the design of my new bench.

It is 35 1/2″ tall, 26 3/4″ deep, with the top 55 1/2″ long X 1 1/2″ thick. The legs are 3 1/4″ square with aprons and stretchers that are 2 3/4″ X 2 1/4″. I started this project by working on the top. I had collected a fair number of large pine boards from shipping crates that I had kicking around for the past three years and decided that although maybe not the best surface for a woodworking bench, it was free and it would be nice to finally use them up.

I started by face jointing and planing all the stock to either 1 1/8″ or 3/4″. I then ripped and jointed the boards to 1 3/4″. Once all the pieces were ready, I laminated all the pieces face to face so the edges would be used as the top. One slab is 10 1/2″ and the other is 13″ wide. When the glued dried, I was able to run them through my 13″ wide planer to the final thickness. I then set them aside and started on the base.

The base was originally going to be whatever I could get at the local big box store. But on a trip to my local lumber dealer, I came across some very nice looking Elm that was reclaimed from an old barn. The best part is it cost a lot less than what I could get from my local home center. The legs are laminated from two pieces of the Elm to provide the thickness I wanted. I decided to use mortise and tenon joints to connect all parts of the base together. I also decided to draw bore the mortise and tenon joints together rather than gluing them so that if I ever need to take it apart, I just have to bang out the pins. There is also a 2″ X 2″ board in about the center of the base running from front to back that has been attached by sliding dovetails.

Once the base was together, it was time to introduce it to the top. I positioned the front edge of the top, flush with the front of the base to make it easier to clamp things on the front of the bench. To attach the top to the base, I used wood screws with a washer through a slightly over sized hole to allow for any seasonal movement. I also left a 3 1/2″ wide space between the two top planks which I set in two boards that are flush with the top. I can take out the two boards if need be to use bar clamps to help clamp work to the front of the bench.

The twin screw front vice is 26 1/4″ wide Maple with 15 3/4″ between the screws and is adjustable to open about 11″. The single screw end vice is 12 1/2″ wide Ash that can open to about 6″. I drilled pairs of 3/4″ dog holes 3 1/2″ apart in line with the end vice dog holes. The shelf at the bottom of the base will hold some of my bench top tools and is made up from boards reclaimed from shipping pallets. I have also milled a slot in the top front rail and a runner on the bottom rail that will hold a dead man. So in the future if I find I need more clamping options, I can easily make and use a dead man.

To finish off the bench, I put several coats of blond shellac on the base and several coats of Watco Natural Danish oil on the top.