Build A Woodworking Workbench

Like most everyone else who makes projects out of wood, I’ve been wanting a solid top, heavy duty workbench for years. In my last shop I simply didn’t have the room and in my current shop I put it off several times as other projects would come up and I couldn’t find a long enough span to dedicate to the build. Over the Christmas and New Years holidays I took some time off from building and settled on a simple but solid design.

Anyone can build this workbench. It doesn’t matter if you use nothing but hand tools or if you have access to power tools to make the job go by faster. And the materials are readily available. I designed the entire workbench to be built from 2×10 pine boards. I’m using southern yellow pine for this but any species can be used really. The wood for this workbench cost me about $110. I incorporated three different vises in the design as well as a four drawer cabinet but won’t cover them here. I ended up making just the workbench itself a 20 minute video so adding the vises and cabinet would have made it quite a bit longer. I’ll cover those in a later video. But for now, lets get into the workbench.

For those who are interested, I have a 25 page, detailed set of plans in both metric and imperial units at the bottom of this article.

The first thing to be built for the workbench is the top. The top surface is the only surface I want to make sure stays knot and defect free….or as close to that as possible. To make sure that happened I sorted my boards based upon their edges. As the boards are glued up to form the top the edges are what will be exposed. I made sure that there was at least a half inch or so of clear material before seeing any knots. This way I could plane down the top later and not have a knot showing through.

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I designed the plan so that nearly every board would be ripped in half. This means a lot of rip cuts not only for the top but for the rest of the pieces as well.

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Pine is a relatively flexible material when in clamps. So I was OK with just skip planing all of my pieces initially to get the glue faces nice and smooth. Perfectly flat wasn’t necessary so I skipped the jointer.

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The top assembly will eventually be close to 24” wide which actually wider than my planer and jointer combined so I opted to make the top assembly out of three smaller sections. Clamping these and letting them sit ended up taking up the most time.

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After all three of the top sections were dry I used my jointer to flatten the surface that would eventually be the top. I know not everyone has a powered jointer but the same thing can be accomplished with a hand plane and a little sweat.

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I also jointed both short faces to 90 degrees referencing off of the already flattened wide face. Typically you wouldn’t joint both of the short faces as you really can’t keep them parallel that way. However, these short faces were already pretty darn flat and parallel so if I did take them out of parallel it wasn’t by much and certainly not enough to make a difference on this project.

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The planer was used to get the three sections to the same thickness. I made sure to only plane the bottom side of each one of these sections so if any planer snipe was to be evident it would only show on the bottom surface and not the top. I was actually quite pleased with how little snipe ended up being on the bottom of these sections.

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Normally you would cut the workbench top to length after it is glued up. I decided to cut the top sections to length before the final top glue-up using my miter saw station and a stop block. This way the sections would all be an identical length and all I needed to do was make sure they were properly lined up during assembly.

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Next up is gluing the top sections into one solid top. If you have a biscuit joiner now is the time to use it. Using biscuits will keep the sections aligned during glue up and prevent an uneven top surface. I don’t have a biscuit joiner so I used floating tenons in the same way biscuits would be used. Then the top was glued and clamped up and left to sit overnight.

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With the top done I started in on the legs. It’s the same milling process starting with skip planing. My lumber wasn’t perfect by any means and I did include a lot of knots in the build but I made sure to orient the boards so that the best faces would be seen on the outside.

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While gluing the legs I remembered that I had a small paint roller that would probably make the glue up faster. I wish I would have used this for the top sections.

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After letting the legs cure in the clamps it was time to mill the legs as normal. Starting with the jointer to get two sides flat and square to one another. Followed by the planer to square up the other two sides.

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Again, the miter saw is used to cut the legs to their final length.

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The legs will attach to the top with a through mortise and tenon joint. The tenon on the end of each leg is nothing more than a half lap joint though. I wanted to make my final cuts with the table saw and a dado blade but thought it would be easier on the table saw as well as the dust collection system to remove the bulk of the cut on the bandsaw first.

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Then the final passes could be made with the table saw to get the cuts nice and perfect.

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Laying out the mortises is pretty straight forward so long as you start from the same corner on both the top and bottom surface. No measuring is needed for marking out the mortises. The leg can be used to get all of the dimensions needed.

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Removing the bulk of the mortise can be done with a bunch of different tools. I chose my plunge router as it’s pretty quick and it has dust collection. Much cleaner than using a drill and a forstner bit. If I were doing this outside on a pair of sawhorses I probably would have chosen the drill and forstner bit though as it would probably be quicker.

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After removing most of the material from both sides I was left with a very rough through mortise. I removed the material free hand just making sure to not get close to the lines. I did get pretty close on a couple spots though.

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The long faces of the mortise can be cut nice and smooth with my plunge router and my universal edge guide.

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I after dialing in the second long face cut on the plunge router the leg tenons are a nice snug fit.

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The end grain sides of the mortise needed to be cut by hand though. With a sharp chisel it’s pretty easy to do.

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At this point all of the legs were fitting great. I finessed the short faces of the leg tenons to fit perfectly into the mortises. Before going too far though I went ahead and drilled the hole for the leg vise.

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Another glue-up. This time the stretchers. Same milling process as before. Skip planed only before the glue up.

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And again, the stretchers are cut to a rough length at the miter saw station.

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Before cutting the half lap joints that will tie everything together I made sure to properly mark the start line of each half lap joint as well as the removal side of the start line. I’d hate to screw up the legs this far in.

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The half laps are started on the stretchers first.

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I made sure to cut the half laps a little short and sneak up on a proper fit in between the legs.

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This took a couple times of sneaking up on the cut. I surely didn’t want to go over and accidentally remove too much material.

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Cutting the half laps on the legs is pretty much the same process but a little greater care is needed so you don’t accidentally cut the wrong joint on the wrong face of the leg.

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Once the proper width was dialed in for a snug fitting half lap the rest of the leg joints could be cut.

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I don’t have long enough clamps to properly hold the half lap joints closed on the long direction of the workbench so I chose to predrill and use screws as clamps to hold the joints closed as the glue dries. In the video I said I would come back at a later date and replace the screws with oak dowels but I think that is entirely not necessary.

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With the base dry fit with screws and the legs just sitting in the top I flipped the workbench over into it’s permanent location. Well….permanent for now anyway.

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I left the base assembled and was able to pry the top up and off of the leg tenons by lifting one side and hitting the tenons down with a hammer and repeating that back and forth on both sides. With the top sitting on top of the leg tenons I coated the inside of each mortise with a very generous amount of glue.

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Then slid the top down over the leg tenons again until each leg was started into the mortises. Then it’s a matter of lifting up and slamming down each side using gravity and the weight of the top to seat the tenons all the way so that the shoulders are tight against the bottom of the workbench top.

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I cut some wedges on the bandsaw to wedge the side of the tenons in place. Glue and one wedge on either side of each tenon really locks everything down.

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Next up was the stretchers. This part was the easy part of the glue-up. Just unscrew one board at a time, apply glue, and screw it back in place.

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After the glue dried on all the joints a flush trim saw can be used to clean up all of the long half laps as well as the through tenons and wedges on the top.

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Finally, I planed the top surface smooth as necessary and made sure the tenons were flush with the top of the workbench.

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I absolutely love the end result. This workbench is solid. The top is over 4” thick, it doesn’t wiggle, and I can’t see any evidence of racking. I’m looking forward to really putting some abuse on this bench. I didn’t apply any finish as I want this to age and wear naturally. For those who are interested, I have a 25 page, detailed set of plans in both metric and imperial units at the bottom of this article.

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Woodworking Workbench Plans

Woodworking Workbench (METRIC & IMPERIAL) PLAN

$19.99

SKU: Woodworking Workbench (Metric and Imperial) PLAN Category:

Description

These plans are in both imperial and metric units. This woodworking workbench is built from readily available 2x10x12′ boards and a little bit of plywood for the cabinet. Included is three different vise options for you to choose from or add all three like me. The workbench is roughly 6′ long, 2′ wide, and features a 4″+ thick top, a strong, half lap constructed base, through mortise and tenons to connect the workbench base to the top, and a four drawer cabinet integrated into the base. The lumber for the workbench itself cost me about $110. The following is included in the plan:

  • 25 detailed pages
  • shopping list
  • access to download the SketchUp file used to create the plan
  • a lumber layout diagram
  • a plywood layout diagram
  • reference diagrams for specific part and assembly dimensions
  • step by step 3D assembly diagrams with written instructions

workbench-collage

The entire plan is included in one PDF document. Most everyone will have a PDF reader installed on their computer already but if you do not you can use the free program Adobe Reader to view the plans. You can download Adobe Reader HERE. The checkout process for this plan uses PayPal. You can use major credit or debit cards through PayPal. You do not need a PayPal account. To purchase the plan follow the link below. After you purchase the plan you will receive an email receipt from me containing a link to download your plan. Make sure to check your inbox and spam filter for the receipt. If you do not receive the email within 10-15 minutes or encounter any problems please contact me.


 

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43 COMMENTS

  1. What a great wayto spend an unexpected day off! Well, looking at the plans anyway. It’s way too cold (-20° air temp and -40° windchill) to build, which is why there’s no church/work today. Great job! Can’t wait to look through the plans this morning and get things priced!

  2. Could you use 4X4’s for the top and legs? Or do glued up pieces provide a more stable surface/piece that is resistant to warpage?

    • The stability part is more determined by the actual piece of wood. I’m not sure it would be any more or less stable but you could definitely use 4×4’s. I don’t have access to non treated 4x4s locally.

        • There’s just no need for the chemical treatment in this application so purchasing boards that have been treated is a wasted expense. Also, every treated board I’ve used has been too soft for something like this.

  3. Excellent job! Can’t wait to make one of these as soon as temp gets above freakin Antarctica. Anxious for the rest of this build. Are you making the vises?

  4. Great project, Jaay. Interesting auxiliary fence for the miter gauge. Did you make it especially for the workbench build?

  5. For the uneven floor, I found self stick heavy duty felt pads on the bottom of each leg do the trick (Also make it a bit easier to move, Not sure how easy they’d be to put on a bench as heavy as that one looks to be though. Love the show, Keep on keeping on.

  6. Fantastic! I have been looking at purchasing a heavy bench, but as you know they are very expensive. As you have stated, this is something I think I can tackle. Thank you Jay for another great video! Looking forward to seeing how you finish off this project!

  7. Excellent work bench put together with excellent skills. Great that your plans have metric measures and not just those English/American ones. You need to get your twin to do some work.

  8. Cool! Was wondering why you maybe didn’t put in some square dog holes during construction? Or are you planning on drilling? Or maybe not at all?

  9. love it Jay I want to build a nice bench also but think I will build so I can break it down to move it if I need to and a well in mid area but really like your bench its very nice and solid for sure thanks

  10. Put on the linseed oil. You will regret it if you don’t. Although “age and wear naturally” sounds warm & fuzzy, think about all of those projects other people left unfinished (Pun intended!). They wound up eventually looking unnecessarily ratty and the owner was always left explaining what had happened.

    Great project! I know that you want to put this baby to bed, but think about how great the wood always feels and smells when linseed oil is applied. For this reason alone, I always sand the original finish off the wooden handles of my tools and shovels to apply linseed oil. The touch and feel is unmatched in the hands of a craftsman. Besides touch-up and finish repair is only one rag wipe away.

  11. True, excellent videos, straight to the points and skills without all the drama that you see now days on t.v. shows. Planning on building a new work bench myself, just havent got around to it yet, but this has inspired me to get started. Thanks

  12. Jay, GREAT JOB!!! It’s great to see someone making a practical workbench out of common, readily available material. Youtube is filled with way too many bench designs made with exotic woods and out of my price range hardware. I like your vise designs, and this will be my new springtime project. Keep up the great work.

  13. Great workbench! Heavy enough to build a tank!! Enjoyed watching the video… you are an awesome video editor. Thanks again.
    Magicbob

  14. Great build Jay! Couple of questions. Why glue the legs into the bench? It seems like the weight of the top would be plenty to keep it from coming off and glue keeps you from replacing the top if it ever gets damage. My other question is what is the point of adding oak dowels once everything is glued up? Doesn’t seem like it would help hold anything together since the glue is a stronger bond, is it just ascetics?

    • Hey Benji. Gluing the legs into the top is something that has been done for hundreds of years with similar French style workbenches. The top will last decades as it is. Pinning half lap joints with dowels is something that is commonly done to add strength to the joint in the direction in which racking would occur. As I said in the article though, I said I would add dowels in the video but I probably won’t as they are just unnecessary in this particular application as the screws are completing the same task.

      • Yeah with 4″ of top you could re-joint the as many times as you want in a lifetime. I know we both have the similar mindset of changing things quite often and I was just thinking it limits you in being able to remove the top in case you ever want to try a different style top (split, tool tray in the middle, etc.) but I guess the legs are the easiest part so building the whole bench again wouldn’t be much more work than changing the top out. Guess I should have read the article and not just watched your video, sorry for the dumb questions… What references did you use for design idea for the workbench? I’m going to design a bench based mainly off Chris Schwarz’s ideas in his workbench books and Marc Spagnuolo’s design which I’m sure you came across but I was wondering if there was anyone else that influenced you.

  15. Excellent work Jay. I continue to be amazed by what you can create out of SYP boards!!! I have a similar bench I built years ago (the base is similar). The top is actually a hollow core door that I framed with poplar and topped with some hardboard. It’s not nearly as durable as what you built and I can’t add vises, so I’m thinking I will replace my top with something like this and then I can add vises.

  16. Hey, Jay! you are really clever! And it is really fun to watch your videos! because they are fun and clear! One question, how strong plywood you used to make your Mitre cupboard? Thanks! -Timo

  17. A few years ago I built a workbench similar to this. It was really my first project and I’ve learned a lot from it.

    One thing I did, was I put some 1/2″ thick UHMW (cut little 5×5 blocks out of a sheet I ordered online) onto the bottom of the legs which makes it easier to push the workbench across the concrete if I want to rearrange things. It doesn’t push real easy, but easier and it also helps protect the legs from sitting directly on the concrete and soaking up moisture.

  18. Your videos are always educational, fun, and inspirational. Keep up the great work; you are respected and appreciated.
    About how long did it take you to make the workbench, minus cabinet and waiting for glue to dry?
    Jay, your video editing skills are excellent and it’s great to see your sense of humor come out.
    Thanks.

  19. There are so, so many workbench videos on the web that run the gamut from cheesy to ultra fine. What you have done here is build the perfect balance of all the best qualities minus the nonsense.

    You’ve come a long way in a short time. Your videos and projects are awesome.

    Great job!

  20. Thanks Jay, I always enjoy your videos they are an inspiration to me to get out in my own garage workshop and do something! Like the bench it turned out great. Can’t wait till your next video!!

  21. Jay. Well done! Your video techniques are outstanding. One question: Sometimes you seem to be running an shorter accessory piece of wood your planer next to the work piece. why do you do that?

    thanks

    • Ben, I am no expert in woodworking but I do believe I may have an answer to your question. If I am thinking correctly, Jay is throwing a smaller piece of scrap wood after the “good” piece of wood is in the planer but before completely exiting the planer to prevent snipe. This will help to prevent marring the actual piece of wood to be used in the project.

  22. Jay, I was wondering if you had to let the wood you used set and acclimate to your shop for a few weeks/months? If not, have you had any problems with movement/warping. If not, how did you ensure your workbench did not warp too much?

  23. As a 24 year old that is just setting up shop and only has a circular saw and miter saw to his name, this stuff inspires me to want to build so bad.

Comments are closed.