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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Again, the miter saw is used to cut the legs to their final length.
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.
Then the final passes could be made with the table saw to get the cuts nice and perfect.
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.
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.
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.
The long faces of the mortise can be cut nice and smooth with my plunge router and my universal edge guide.
I after dialing in the second long face cut on the plunge router the leg tenons are a nice snug fit.
The end grain sides of the mortise needed to be cut by hand though. With a sharp chisel it’s pretty easy to do.
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.
Another glue-up. This time the stretchers. Same milling process as before. Skip planed only before the glue up.
And again, the stretchers are cut to a rough length at the miter saw station.
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.
The half laps are started on the stretchers first.
I made sure to cut the half laps a little short and sneak up on a proper fit in between the legs.
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.
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.
Once the proper width was dialed in for a snug fitting half lap the rest of the leg joints could be cut.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, I planed the top surface smooth as necessary and made sure the tenons were flush with the top of the workbench.
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.
Woodworking Workbench Plans
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
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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