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 (2×12 or 2×10’s, not 2×4′ – 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, 2×8’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 2×8’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, 2×8’s for the top