Workbench Book Highlights

Notes from Work­benches book.  It's dense with great knowl­edge.  A must have if you're build­ing a work­bench.  Here are just a few of the things I high­lighted.

  • South­ern Yel­low Pine, 2x12x12 untreated (2x12 or 2x10's, not 2x4' — they are the worst for knots, bow, etc.)
    I don't have South­ern Yel­low Pine here in OR so I used Dou­glas Fir — from what I can tell it's pretty sim­i­lar:
    South­ern Yel­low Pine Doug Fir
    E Value (stiff­ness) 1.93 1.95
    Speci­fic Grav­ity (weight) .67 .48
    Janka (hard­ness) 690 660
  • Dri­est wood for any­thing with a tenon, wettest for any­thing with a mor­tise. Wet mor­tises will shrink on the dry tenons.
    So wettest for top and legs
  • At least 5' long
  • 24" deep
  • 0 top over­hang
  • make front stretch­ers flush with top
  • face vice on the left
  • rear jaws of vice flush with front of top
  • dog spac­ing should be 3–4", 3" rec­om­mended
  • the line of dog holes is usu­ally nearer the front edge than it is to the cen­ter­line of the top
  • Top of table saw is usu­ally 34" from the floor, so a slightly shorter work­bench makes a great out­feed table.
  • Height: From the floor to where your pinky joins your hand.
  • Thick­ness: 4" or more
  • Gal­lon of slow set­ting glue like Tite­bond Extend
  • Spread the glue with card­board
  • Make sure grain is run­ning in the same direc­tion since you'll be hand plan­ning later
  • Plan sec­tions so bow faces the inside of the assem­bly
  • Use ply­wood spac­ers to cre­ate tenons in your legs
  • Plane a 1#4" x 1#4" cham­fer on the bot­tom edge of the legs to keep them from snag­ging when slid­ing the bench
  • attach­ing the top — lots of notes.  I found this topic oddly miss­ing from numer­ous other arti­cles.  Tenons go half way through the top and are attached with­out glue.
  • mark high spots with chalk then plane them off

After look­ing at numer­ous plans I decided on the $175 Work­bench plans as my main guide.

Phase 1 : Cutting

Time: 5pm — 8:30pm
Task: Rough cut 4, 2x8's to 16, 1 1#2 x 3 3#8 x 54 1#4

Took awhile and they ended up far from per­fect but the best *I* could do with no table saw.
I started by cut­ting the 2x8's down to 54 1#4 with my miter saw.

I then ripped 2#16's off each side to knock off the round edges. One last rip to get 2, 3 3#8 boards.  I used the guide on my cir­cu­lar saw for the rips.

With wob­bly saw horses and no rip­ping skills the final boards did come out with nice square cor­ners, but no where close to flush when stacked face to face.  It may have been bet­ter to do the rips before cut­ting them down.

Looks like some seri­ous plan­ing is in my future.

Update (2016): My bench is now fin­ished and if you've never done a project like this before and are at this stage, if you're boards look any­thing like this, STOP. Stop, find a table saw, and do this step cor­rectly. These need to be per­fect because chances are you won't do the seri­ous plan­ing you need.

Phase 0 : Workspace & Wood

Tem­po­rary Work­bench
First to cre­ate some kind of tem­po­rary work­bench.  I cur­rently have this so was able to cre­ate at least a basic work­sta­tion.

The under­side of the table how­ever was an impos­si­ble clamp­ing sur­face.





So I sawed off the front to make it flush with the top rail then took one of the shelves and drilled it up under­neath to cre­ate a fairly flat sur­face.  I also knocked out the back a lit­tle so I could feed a clamp in from behind.

Not great, but it beats my pre­vi­ous sad excuse for a "work­bench"…

With the tem­po­rary work­bench ready to go I headed to Spaeth Lum­ber and picked out 8 of their best 2x8x12 kiln dried Dou­glas Fir boards.  I choose Doug Fir because that's as close as I could find to South­ern Yel­low Pine here in Ore­gon.  Kiln dried was a tad extra but seemed worth it to avoid the dry­ing and flex­ing issues of green wood.


Here is my attempt to build a work­bench. I have almost zero wood­work­ing expe­ri­ence (see the desk I built when I had zero wood­work­ing expe­ri­ence) and have found that there is sur­pris­ingly lit­tle out there with the details, and step by step guid­ance I was hop­ing for. To put my wood­work­ing level into per­spec­tive, prior to this project I didn't know what a dog hole was. So if you've decided to embrace wood­work­ing, have lit­tle to no knowl­edge of the trade and need a bench — maybe this will help.

A num­ber of arti­cles expect you to have machine plan­ners and a table saw. I have nei­ther. So every­thing I've done was done with some very basic power tools, and your basic hand tools.

Here are the main resources I used.  There have been numer­ous other arti­cles and forum posts but these are the best I've found that I based my design off of.

A few other benches that are based off of Bob and Dave Key's.

Vir­tu­ally every idea, con­cept or solu­tion I men­tion in the fol­low­ing posts have come from some­one else.  They deserve the kudo's. I'm sim­ply try­ing to con­sol­i­date every­thing I've learned with as much detail as pos­si­ble for all the other noobs out there.

  • Phase 0 : Tem­po­rary work­bench and lum­ber
  • Phase 1 : Cut­ting down 4, 2x8's for the top