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Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 2:46 am
by John Pratt
I have spent the last two days tearing out old shelving and workbench and getting ready to build (or maybe buy) a good woodworking workbench. I am wondering if anyone would like to share their opinion on design and features of a good workbench. Photos would be nice too :D .
Best Regards,

Re: Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 9:15 am
by Brian Evans
I like a wood working bench to have 360 degree access to the work top, a tool trench, a long vise and a cross ways vise. Maybe 3' by 6'. And heavy, or bolted down so you can hit on it. I don't have nor will I have such a bench, sadly. I have three main benches - one, used for just about all fine work, carving tops and backs, assembly, router table, form table, is a Black and Decker Workmate. The next is my side workbench, a typical long narrow bench against a wall, shelves above, too narrow to do much, but my guitar vise is there. The final one is in my power tool shop, and it's a 8' by 6' outfeed table for my tablesaw, and for cabinet assembly. Big, heavy work bench.

Re: Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 11:22 am
by JC Whitney
My two cents:
Build it like a battleship; heavy and thick. Bolt it to the wall or floor if you're able. Provide enough overhang at the perimeter to allow clamping all along the edge. Include a sacrificial tempered masonite top secured with a few countersunk brass screws around the perimeter. Don't make it too precious - assume that you're going to routinely drill through it and lag into it, and that it will probably be (briefly) on fire at least once in its lifetime.

Re: Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 4:03 pm
by Beate Ritzert
It depends on the properties of the workshop, doesn't it?

As i need a workbench i can still move around i built a small and "light" one (around 40kg). Intentionally simple, but it can grow in functionality if needed.

Re: Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 9:29 pm
by Randy Roberts
It should meet your needs. Whether size space, versatility, highth, ego, etc.
Only you know what those needs are.

I made a vacuum station out of an old kitchen cabinet and the compressor from an old freezer, and have ended up using it for almost everything I've built.
for vacuum clamping I've got a bunch of different sized thrown together vacuum beds that are just sheets of formica covered particleboard.
for woodworking, I just clamp on a sheet of the same, or a sheet of plywood.

my needs are:
My wife thinks she should get to park in my shop.
I need moveable, so I put 2 wheels on it that only touch the ground when you lift the opposite side an inch, otherwise it sits solid on the floor.
I need flexibility. it needs to be whatever size I need for the project I happen to be doing, from guitars to furniture. If I need a different size, I slap a different sheet of plywood on and clamp it to the base.
I want 360 degree access and need a small footprint
I don't want the opportunity to drop a tool on what I'm working on, so I want no room to set them down on the bench I'm working something on, or to have tools hanging over the workspace. (They go on another bench, a 30x 60 inch butcherblock top from Lowes, but since it is along the wall and only has access from 2 sides all it ever is used for is setting tools on, not working on anything. It won't kill me to turn and reach for that chisel.). If I need a vise, I clamp a piece of plywood with a vise bolted to it. If I need a router table, I clamp that to it.
Most of the time it has a 2 foot by 4 ft piece of formica on it.

Re: Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2018 7:35 pm
by Clay Schaeffer
For working on guitars some of us use whatever sturdy table or cabinet comes to hand and top it with a piece of white melamine coated particle board. The smooth surface is easily swept clean and the white color makes seeing small screws and other things that can scratch the guitar easily visible. Making it replaceable as mentioned is a plus.
In the run down bungalow I call my shop I have an old postal table with an MCP board just laid on top as my usual workbench. It's principle virtue was that it was free and is sturdy. I also found a Harbor Freight workbench at an estate sale for $15. It is of fairly light duty construction but has some features of a cabinetmaker's bench and would be O.K. for guitar making. A third surface is a section of bowling alley mounted to a large metal base that once housed computer hardware. I also sometimes use a table saw as a workbench, and if space was limited I would place a removable MCP top on it to increase it's utility. I have a workmate which is quite a handy device that can double as a workbench and be taken outside when the weather is fair and fine for working "al fresco". I have started doing some guitar building operations in the house, and have commandeered a tall hutch to which I added a removable MCP top.
As you can see from the responses the bench design is often dependent on the individual's situation.
The classic cabinetmakers bench is probably one of the most versatile designs for general woodworking and would be a good choice if that is what you have in mind. It may not be seen as the ideal for guitarmaking, but is certainly workable, and can be used for building many other things. Scott Landis "The Workbench Book" may give you some inspiration and guidance for building the perfect bench for you.

Re: Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2018 7:50 pm
by Beate Ritzert
Randy Roberts wrote:It should meet your needs. Whether size space, versatility, highth, ego, etc.
Only you know what those needs are.
Indeed. Define Your needs, the boundary conditions of Your workshop and then decide.
If You're unsure - like me - do a cheap and simple approach. Not too large, not too heavy, but heavy enough to be able to hand plane hard woods. That's why i decided to try a Nicholson type bench first.

And remember: it is made of wood, and it is relatively easy to change parts. It is, for example, always possible to add a hard wood top on the existing top if that is worn.

(my modifications might be a Moxxon type vise on one end and closed doors in the lower section of the bench to keep tools clean)

Re: Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Tue Jan 01, 2019 9:48 pm
by Steve Sawyer
The basic design is a matter of personal taste. I went with a twin-screw chop on the front, and a "Record" style end-vise and have been happy with both choices. My prior bench was a traditional European bench (one designed by Tage Frid and for which plans can be found in an old Fine Woodworking magazine). Because I liked the "arm" on the front vise on that one, I mounted the twin screws on my front vise off-center, leaving an "arm" of about 8" at one end which comes in very handy.

The other design element to consider, especially if you do stuff other than lutherie, occasionally needing to clamp large pieces of stock, is to make the front apron and the face of the two front legs co-planer. Bore 3/4" holes in the apron and the face of the legs to accommodate holdfasts. For that matter, be sure to bore 3/4" holes in the top for holdfasts also. I find them to be every bit as useful as the vises and conventional clamps. The ones from Grammercy Tools are particularly nice and not too expensive. Making the face of the legs co-planar with the front apron gives you a very stable large flat surface on which to clamp panels, doors or big live-edge slabs.

I agree with the comment above re access to all sides of the bench. However, we don't all have a shop big enough to accommodate a workbench out in the middle of the room. I mounted 3" polyurethane double-locking casters on the bottom of the legs of my bench, and to my surprise, that bench does NOT move, except under the most extreme circumstances, like hogging off huge amounts of stock with a hand plane, and I very seldom ever do that. It is thus very easy, when I need to do so, to unlock the casters, roll the bench into a more advantageous location, then put it back against the wall when the operation is finished. I'll admit, being solid maple my bench weighs a TON, plus I have PVC floor tiles, both of which helps keep the casters from scooting when subjected to high lateral loading.

Something to think about if you do this and you have a shop on a basement floor or some other surface that isn't uniformly level, is a way to level the top on the legs when moved to a different location. Even if it isn't movable, think about how you will level the top. I don't know about you, but I hate a workbench that everything rolls off of. If interested, I can post pictures of how I accomplished this to allow the top to be leveled using a hex key.

Re: Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:34 pm
by Bob Hammond
I think you'll end up building more than one. And they'll probably mutate as needs dictate. Many of the features of a traditional cabinetmaker's bench may or may not be useful, but you won't go too far wrong. Lately I've been admiring Paul Sellers very practical advice about workbenches and handtool work - his building of a Nicholson-type bench is worth a look-see.

Some years ago, I built a seven footer along the lines of John White's 'Newfangled Workbench' ( ... -revisited), and then ended up sawing it in two - a 4 footer and a 3 footer. The 4 footer ended up fixed against the basement stairway (it doesn't move much), and the 3 footer was fitted against a steel column that supports the house (it doesn't move at all). The 4 footer is at elbow-height for fine work, and the 3 footer was cut down lower for handplaning and chisel work (I do other things besides guitars.)

Other than the vise & clamping features, the most important and usually unappreciated feature is illumination of the bench, both overall, and directional to use shadows to highlight details and small defects.

Re: Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:40 pm
by Jim McConkey
I had to build a new workbench a year or two back. Taking a hint from MIMF member Arnt Rian, I got a wood table top (birch, I think) from Ikea which is roughly 3'x5' ( 1 x 1.5 m). The base is four 4"x4" uprights. I used 2x4s to frame around the top and another set about a foot off the floor, with outside dimensions equaling the top, all secured with multiple long screws to the uprights. Both sets of 2x4s have crosspieces for extra support. The top is secured to the upper set with inside angle brackets. The lower set supports an OSB shelf, on which I put a couple sets of cheap Ikea drawers to keep things like clamps, etc. I mounted a long woodworking vise on one end. The workbench sits on a laminate floor, so I put thick felt-like floor protectors on the leg bottoms. The whole thing is rock solid and does not budge or shake at all. I have mounted a power strip on one of the legs, and just got an LED shop lamp to hang above it.

It fits the room perfectly, was very simple to make, and has worked out great. Sorry, the one thing I never did was take pictures of it, and now it is buried, of course.

Re: Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Sat Jan 19, 2019 9:58 pm
by Steve Sawyer
A good old solid-core door is almost "traditional" as a starting point for making a workbench. Sometimes it's all you need. If not, it will help you design a bench that is perfect for you.

This was my second bench. The one thing I added to this was a 3/4" thick plywood shelf within the four stretchers and some steel drawers (a mechanic's toolbox top from Grizzly and a set of some kind of office drawers perfect for chisels). The design of this one was dictated from my first build and has been all I've needed for the last 12 years. Oh, I also added a LOT more dog holes!!

Re: Woodworking Workbench

Posted: Sat Jan 19, 2019 11:19 pm
by Mark Fogleman