Tag Archives: Workbench

Downsizing the workbench

My workshop is in a single car garage that actually shares it space with a large car so everything has to be against the walls and out of the way each night.

I’ve got room for a proper workbench and have had one for years but the problem is the light and power are all over on the opposite end of the space so I always end up working over there on my portable bench instead.

This means the main bench ends up as a collection place for everything I can’t be bothered to put away properly and is generally a mess. It’s also been getting progressively worse to use when I do happen to work on it thanks to the construction timber I used warping and my rough joinery skills when I first built it.

I’m trying to optimise the space I’m using for my workshop to make it easier to get the car in and out and also to make setup and pull down time when I work quicker so decided to pull the old bench apart and upgrade the folding bench instead.

Over the years this bench has had a few upgrades and downgrades as needed, most recently it’s had a piece of plywood clamped onto it to serve as a false benchtop.

I had some spare MDF from another project so decided to give it a proper top. First I glued two sheets together and cut them to size then screwed a battern underneath to fit in the gap between the vice jaws


I added a piece underneath so when the vice jaws are closed it locks in place and can’t lift


I couldn’t mount my large vice as it would be too heavy on one side but I had this little vice that just screws on sitting around from when it used to be the end vice on my bench so added it to the new top.


I turned the top over and tested it out. The whole thing rocked forward when I used it because one of the vice jaws isn’t fixed. I decided to screw the whole thing in place permanently instead so turned it over and did that.


This was the end result. It still folds up but the top added enough weight that it’s probably as sturdy as my full sized bench was. I can also use it for my z-vice too which I couldn’t do with the other bench which should come in handy for some carving work I want to do.



Workbench Update – 6th February 2012

I got to spend a bit of time on the workbench Saturday, then again today. The majority of the time on Saturday went into stock preparation though, so there’s not much to see from then except that the rough lumber is looking nicer now.

I did get another leg built today though, with the second mortice in it, so that’s one complete, and two in need of some work. I’m much happier with the stock preparation this time and the finished leg is looking really good. It’s been planed, chamfered and sanded and is ready to go. It took a lot longer to do (about 2 hours compared to 30 minutes for the first two) but the difference was worth it. I’ll go back and re-plane the others then put the second mortice in them shortly.

I’ve also been looking at my mobile pegboard rack and have decided that the tool rack at the back of the bench will hold a lot of the tools it currently does – all the chisels, the combo square, the new marking gauges, and the tenon and dovetail saw. That means that all I need to find storage for is a few saws, the hand drill and the mallets. This has me thinking that I can put just one piece of pegboard up on the old bench and then dismantle the rest of the frame to reuse the wood in the new bench. It’s all the same 70 x 35mm construction grade pine I’m using so once it’s been planed should work fine.

This ties in nicely with my plans for the stretchers, which were originally going to only be one thickness but now will be three. This puts the front stretcher flush with the benchtop and legs for clamping and will add quite a lot of rigidity because it will have shoulders going into the mortices now. I’m not sure if the side rails will get a similar treatment but I’m thinking they should.

Here’s some in progress shots of today’s work. First up is the finished leg, ready to have the second mortise cut. The first mortise (for the main stretchers) was formed during the lamination of the three pieces of pine which make up the leg.

Here’s the mortise marked out. I used a combination square to make the cross lines using the first mortise as a guide, then used my new tenon marking guide to mark the side lines. Then I used a chisel to deepen the lines so I had something to work to later.

I drilled out the middle using a 32mm spade bit, but it didn’t want to go right through so I had to clean that up with the chisel as well

Here the mortise is completed, and I’ve given the edges and sides a light sand just to clean up the few remaining chisel marks. There’s a little piece split out from the inside but as that will be inside the join and shouldn’t make any structural difference that’s OK.

Then I test fit two pieces the same size as the rails into position, and they fit well. I haven’t decided yet if I will try and put a mortise through the front rail and a tenon on the side rail so they lock each other in place, I’m pretty convinced that both can just be glued in place without too much else being done. There’s a slight amount of room at the sides of the test piece shown, so I’ll just keep a bit more on the side rails when I plane them to get a tighter fit.

Building the workbench legs

I got time yesterday to start cutting and putting the workbench legs together. These are made of two 100mm x 50mm pieces of oregon laminated together with PVA glue. One piece is the full 75cm height, while the other half is two shorter lengths glue in place to make lap joints with the cross rails.

I rough planed the wood, got the pieces cut and glued up, and I’ve started sanding them now. I’ve also run a light chamfer on the edges and plan to run a larger chamfer on the bottom of the legs as well. I may end up running the roundover bit over it all but I think I like the hand done look more.

Here you can see the one half marked up, ready for the other half to be glued in place. I used an offcut as a crossbar to make sure I got a good fit when setting these down, and again once I’d tightened the clamps as it shifted the workpiece a little.

Below you can see the end piece glued in to form the lap joint for the bottom rail. I’ll need to trim a bit off the small end block before I can finish this leg as I overcut it a bit. You can see the spacer in this picture as well.

Next weekend I hope to finish these off and get the base together. I’m going to have to screw the benchtop down from above as the bow isn’t coming out of it as quickly as I would have liked, but that should be fine. Then I can mount the front vice and drill some dog holes.

More progress on the workbench

I went out yesterday to buy pine for the workbench legs and ended up with four lengths of 100 x 50 oregon. It was almost the same price, has two sides milled already and I think it might be a little more durable than the pine. Not sure when I’ll get to start cutting it to length and putting it together yet though, so just keep an eye on the blog if you want to see it come together.

I should be able to get four laminated legs out of these, not sure if I will get more for the crosspieces yet or use the pine I have here already

The building of a workbench – Part 1

Here’s a few words of advice. Before you try to build a big solid workbench do two things – build a pair of sawhorses so you aren’t trying to assemble it by kneeling on a concrete floor (ouch!) and plan the silly thing!.

I have wanted to build a bench for a few months, because my little one has too much sideways give to plane on, and because I was always putting tools down on the floor because I’d run out of bench space while in the middle of something.

I’ve decided on a 1400mm long x 500mm deep x 800mm high bench with a frame of construction pine and a top of 50mm thick merbau I picked up cheaply from the local timber yards scrap pile. It’s got a decent bow in it but currently has two heavy toolboxes on it to correct that flaw.

It’s a shallow bench but I’m concerned about making it deeper as I’m going to have to replace my old car in the near future and want something bigger, and so want this bench to still fit. It’s a good width, about half the width of my garage, and that height is right for me.

I started building it yesterday with planes to make it deeper with a tool well in the middle so got the legs ready, got the top box built, then realised that I didn’t like my construction methods and that I didn’t want something quite so space consuming. So it’s all been pulled apart, the top glued up into one panel and now it’s sitting on top of my portable bench so I can consider exactly what I want to do.

I’m thinking laminated pieces of construction pine (90mm wide so 90mm x 90mm posts) with notches left out to form lap joints. I’m not sure yet whether I want a fixed bench or locking casters, I’m actually thinking the later even though it’s going to have a little more movement because the back wall of the garage slopes quite quickly forward and I’m going to have a hard time leveling it there anyway, so why not make it mobile so I can wheel it to the flat under the window and enjoy the view of the garden instead?.

Back to my words of advice to finish. I’m only in my early thirties and working on the slab floor to build this killed me, I was so sore overnight it wasn’t funny. I’ve been putting off building sawhorses for some reason but I think they are a necessity for this project so I’ll have a go at some next time I’m in the workshop.

The second is obvious from my above words and echoes that old saying – “If you fail to plan then you plan to fail”

Until next time


Workbench upgrade

I asked Santa (aka my gf) for a craftright folding workbench for Christmas. My dad’s used one for years for smaller jobs, and I wanted somewhere to work. These are fantasic little benches for handyman work but they need a little extra for serious woodwork. With that in mind I made a few modifications to mine

The original is shown below. First step was to put on slightly thicker and wider hardwood benchtops, which had the added advantage of raising the height about 2cm which suited me better. Dad’s old vice was mounted in and given wide jaws with some scrap blackbutt that I had laying around. The inside vice jaws got a facing of meranti so they had a more consistant clamping surface.

The handles broke off when I dropped it so I need to shape dowels to fit them, and I’d like to finish the edges with blackbutt if I can find enough around the workshop. It’s gone from about 10kg to near 30 with these changes so is a lot more stable, and still folds up fine.

Next steps are to add a hardwood block on one side so that the inside vice can be used for edge planing, and to swap the thin steel crossbars for something heavy, more blackbutt if I can because I know it’s likely to last for years. After that I’ll put back the two other end dogholes and make up some new benchdogs, and it should be great.