A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Workbench for the ages complete!

Original bench built in 1991.
This project started out as an assembly table, and as with many things, took on a life of its own. I needed a larger surface to build things on. My existing bench has a tool well along the back which limited the top surface to about 17" wide. It was tough to clamp up a chair without one of the legs dropping off the edge. This bench has served me well for almost 25 years, and is not going far, just down the aisle.

Lots of Planning

Of course I built a model!
The old bench is 32" high, which is the right height for many things, such as planing, however, as I increase the amount of handwork I do (and find it harder to bend over), a little higher is called for. I increased the height to 34" on the new bench and increased the size of the top to the maximum I could accommodate in the shop. This top is approx. 28" x 79" which provides lots of real estate. I have been using the top of the bench for the past couple of months while I built the cabinet and appreciate the space and height as I hoped I would.

Back Edge Ideal for clamping
I did not worry too much about the style of the bench, German, Scandinavian, French, I designed it to meet my needs first. It was always going to have a trestle base, nothing beats the simplicity and strength of this age-old design. Knowing I would be building a tool cabinet below reinforced this decision. As it was my intent to use this bench in a 360 degree environment for assembly, finishing and prep, I thought about making the back useful as well. My decision was to not put a skirt on the
back, but instead to leave the edge of the top exposed. I do quite a bit of lamination and this provides a nice long flat surface to register for these projects. It also makes clamping items to the bench much easier. I am constantly walking around using all sides of this bench, as I had hoped would be the case.

Leaving my mark
I expect this will be the last bench I ever build, so premium materials and hardware would be used throughout. The top is curly maple and the trim is Bubinga, all sourced from my local wood store that has been a pleasure to work with. I had them do some of the milling on the heavy materials, as well as stock prep to save me some time.

Veritas QR Face Vise

Face Vise gets a grip

I did not compromise on the vises, I have the Veritas Quick Release Face vise from Lee Valley on my existing bench and love how it functions. This is the third (and last) face vise for that bench and the best by far.

End Vise hold large pieces

Veritas Twin Screw Awesomeness
I wanted to be able to clamp large pieces, such as a table top, so an end vise was the choice and the  Veritas Twin Screw Vise was determined to be up to the job. Of course I went through much consternation regarding the dog holes; how many, spacing, round vs square. Eventually I went with 3 rows on 6" centers for 36" - I can always add more if necessary. Drilling plumb holes in the middle of a surface is a challenge, fortunately just before I got to this stage, Lee Valley (I love those guys) released their new dog hole alignment bushing which made the job idiot-proof :-).

Enough musing about this, it is just a bench after all and here's a few beauty shots before it gets covered in project detritus: (as always click on the photo for the high-res version)

Front View
Cabinet Detail with Smithy-style pulls

Back View

Detail of Bench and Cabinet

Gratuitous Tool Porn Shot

I recently received a new backsaw from Two Lawyers in Germany after years of waiting - but worth it...

Ebony Handle with brass back.

Back to the shop!!


  1. Great work on the bench Richard. I like the ebony stringing (or inlay?) in the legs... and the inlay on the front skirt is pretty sweet too. How many benches have you built now?

    1. Thanks Konrad, this is only the second real bench I have built. My original 25 years ago and this.I have made a few worktables and wall benches over the years also.

  2. Hello Richard - This is one of the most beautiful, and even more important, functional benches I've ever seen! What a great job you did in planning and putting together this masterpiece. Are the plans for sale anywhere? I've been looking for the right bench for my shop, and I think whatever I end up building needs to be both functional and a work of art. Your bench certainly meets that criteria. Please let me know if you will sell the plans. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the kind words on my bench. This design is really an amalgam of many benches and no I do not have plans for it. There are lots of pictures on the blog of construction, if I can help with some questions, please contact me.