Workbench Upgrades

It’s been a few months since I completed my workbench and a few people have noticed some minor changes I’ve made. So in this article/video I’ll walk you through the changes. None of these are major changes at all but combined they do contribute to a more convenient workflow. You also might notice that I turned the workbench around. That was purely due to the fact that I make videos and the lighting is better if I keep the camera on the shop side of the bench and I stay on the other side. If you’re interested in plans to build this exact workbench they are available at the end of this article.

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Previously, I made a hand tool tote to take my tools with me when traveling. Since then I’ve kept my tools in this tote and left it on top of the workbench as a convenient way to keep all of my frequently used tools right at hand while using the workbench. That’s nice but losing workbench surface area isn’t. So a quick solution to gain back workbench top space while still keeping the hand tools close by is to put them on a shelf in my twin pipe clamp vise. It’s not a permanent solution. Just one half turn of one of the clamps holds everything in place. In less than 30 seconds I can remove the tool tote and have the vise jaw back in place. The end goal for my hand tools is to make a hand tool wall behind the workbench but because this particular vise is the least used vise on my workbench this alternate use of the vise works out very well.

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Another thing I’ve done is I’ve added 16 bench dogs along the leg vise side of the workbench. Each of the dog holes are angled slightly towards the tail vise and the dog hole in the tail vise is angled slightly toward the workbench. Each of the dog holes has a 6” dog installed. The dogs are pieces of 3/4” oak dowel stock with a back bevel on the business end. If you’re not familiar with a using dogs in conjunction with a tail vise the setup allows you to securely hold your material to the workbench top so that you can use hand planes or whatever else on the top of your workbench without holdfasts or clamps being in the way. I forgot to mention it in the video but I do have one holdfast hole roughly between my left hand and the hand plane at the far end in this picture.

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The modifications I’m most excited about are on the leg vise. This entire leg vise is a complete DIY leg vise kit from Dema Gamaunov. But when I installed it I didn’t do the traditional through-leg parallel guide as I really didn’t want to adjust the pin and also didn’t want to cut a mortise in the leg of my workbench. Instead I chose to use a simple wedge along the floor to keep the vise jaw parallel with the workbench leg. The wedge concept works very well. I got the idea from workbench guru Christopher Schwarz and you can see his video here. It’s quick and easy to adjust with your feet and allows you to keep both hands free to twist the screw and hold your material in place. However, the through-leg parallel guide also helps prevent the jaw from tilting down as it is backed out and away from the workbench. Because I am using the wedge instead I was noticing the jaw tilting down slightly. To prevent this I added a very simple floating spacer block to keep the screw parallel with the bottom of the workbench as the jaw is released. This is not secured and just sits in place between the screw and workbench top. This spacer block really allows the vise to be opened and closed very quickly and easily with just one finger.

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Another simple addition to the leg vise was a scrap bar I added to the bottom right side. Previously, when I released the vise by turning the handle counter-clockwise the jaw would rotate slightly counter-clockwise. Likewise, as I tightened the vise by turning the handle clockwise the jaw would rotate slightly clockwise. This isn’t a problem (as also shown in Christopher Schwarz’s video linked above) as the vise is still functional. But it is a slight inconvenience.

To easily eliminate the vise rotation without interfering with the ease at which the vise operates I added a rotational stop block to the lower right side of the leg vise. First, I closed the vise all the way so that the top of the vise was positioned correctly against the workbench. Then I traced the inside corner formed by the leg and lower stretcher of the workbench onto the inside face of the leg vise. With these two lines marked I removed the material on the jaw to form a notch. Then a scrap piece of wood, roughly 1/2” x 1-1/2” x 16”, was screwed to the side of the leg vise. Now, as the vise is advanced forward the clockwise rotation of the jaw is limited by the scrap piece of wood contacting the side of the workbench leg. To prevent rotation in the opposite direction I also glued a small block to the bottom side of the workbench stretcher giving about 1/8” wiggle room. About a week later I noticed a little binding at times so I removed the scrap piece, planed a slight downward taper front to back on top, rounded the top, and removed some material to give access for the wedge in case the wedge happened to be sitting on top of a few shavings. This easy modification completely eliminates any rotation of the jaw without affecting the ease at which the vise is advanced or retracted.

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While on the surface this may sound like a lot of work but it’s really not. It’s still much less work than the traditional through-leg parallel guide and I much prefer the use of the wedge on the ground anyway. The vast majority of the items clamped in the vise for my workflow are close to the same thickness so the wedge isn’t adjusted much. But between the wedge, the rotational stop block, and the floating spacer block for the screw using this vise is effortless and changing between different thickness material is very quick and easy.

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Since the completion of my workbench this area in my shop has been the most used by far. For anyone who is interested in woodworking I highly recommend a solid wood workbench of some sort. There are several designs out there to choose from and regardless of how elaborate the design you choose or how exotic the wood species you choose the most important thing is to build it with proper joinery techniques so it will not only perform as intended but also last a lifetime. I also recommend that you try to design your own workbench as it’s a great learning process. However, for those who are interested in the convenience of a plan to follow I do have plans available for this workbench with three vise options as well as a four drawer cabinet. Those plans are available below.

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Woodworking Workbench Plans

overview-1

$19.99

Quantity

SKU: Woodworking Workbench (Metric and Imperial) PLAN.

Product 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.

Reviews

  1. Bob Farris

    :

    Comprehensive plans well written and drawn. I adjusted the scale of the plans to make my workbench the size I wanted it and changed how the legs were wedged to the top. Other than those minor changes (due to my preference) everything worked as drawn and written.

    • Jay Bates

      :

      Thank you very much for your feedback, Bob.

  2. Rotimi

    (verified owner):

    Our Timbers are different here, but I think I have the ideal; Gmelina. Heard of it before? Was popular at one time for making match sticks. Excited about making the Top right away.
    RMM

  3. Jeff

    :

    Looking forward to starting this build soon. So many other projects I have require a bench, so the bench must happen first. One question- did you join the top pieces together with just glue, or did you loose tenon each one? I see you used the dominos between sections, but could not tell if you used them between each. Thanks!

    • Jay Bates

      :

      I used regular glue joints to create the three top sections. Then milled those sections square and used floating tenons to align the sections during glue up so that they would remain aligned during assembly.

  4. Ketan

    (verified owner):

    Superb workbench, cabinet and vices plan. My first experience with a sketch-up plan and am very impressed by the ease of use with colour coding for all parts. The use of 3D type images, rather than side view, top view etc. makes things a lot easier to understand as well as images showing the clamps and sawhorses etc which gives the parts context. Small details make a big difference such as still showing the constituent parts of a laminated part – i.e. when showing the laminated leg and orientation of the leg joinery, you can still see the orientation of the laminations vis the joints to be cut. Throughout there is just the right level of ‘chat/explanation’ – not too much, not too little. The overall design is solid and easily understood and of course there are the great youtube videos to go along with this – between them I don’t foresee any issues with building this bench and adapting it here and there for my particular needs. The multiple vice options, including shop-built (cheap) vices, are very useful. Before buying this plan I built the mitre station (so far the lower part only) just from having watched the videos and it has turned out very well but having seen the quality of this plan, I wish I had just gotten that plan also.

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8 Comments

  1. Gregg Vandenberg

    Great job Jay.
    After watching this video I was thinking how far you have come and how well you teach.
    As always I have learned and been entertained.

  2. Graham Howe

    Some excellent improvements there Jay and perfect timing for me as I’m building my workbench right now. It’s not exactly the same design as yours but close, one change will be the position of the vises as I am left handed.

  3. Brian Beales

    I added a wedge which I screwed to the inside face of the vice leg, the additional wedge is equal in angle to the wedge you use at floor level this is to stop the twisting movement that can occur and helps with any strain that may happen to the screw mechanism, this also this keeps the vice leg parallel with the bench itself.

    Keep up the good work, great vids.

    Best regards Brian from New Zealand

    1. Jay Bates

      Hey Brian. I did something similar. Instead of adding material I cut the appropriate size notch out of the bottom of the vise that corresponds to the angle of the wedge.

  4. Joe Lewis

    Hello Jay

    Jus want to let you know how much I enjoy you site . I’m going to build the workbench you showed and was wondering where I can get the leg vice you have ?

  5. Rotimi

    Just got my Plans. Look forward to building. Vice Parts are going to be a problem. Air Freight expensive, Sea Freight slow. Have you an idea of Alternatives; Non-Scheduled Aircrafts or Faster small Boats ?
    Your Site is Always a wonderful place to visit.
    RMM

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