My Workbench

My bench was a labor of love, consisting of about 200 hours of careful work. I started with plans from The Workbench Page (now defunct, but the original blueprints are here), which I modified to allow for the drawers in the base. As my shop is quite small, I need all the storage space I can spare. I laid thin ship-lapped boards on top of the case to keep the dust out.
Shaker-style bench, front view My Shaker-style bench, front view
There's a 3 1/2" space between the bench top and the top of the drawer case, so I still have room for clamping under the top. No room, however, for hold-downs.

The top is 3 1/8" thick hard maple, glued up from 8/4 boards. Before gluing the dog strip on, I dadoed the dog holes at a 2° angle and used a router jig to widen the top inch of them. (I had to use tailed apprentices - at the time my hand-tools, and skills, were somewhat limited.)

The base is wormy soft maple, which is about the cheapest hardwood available in Colorado, and has beautiful figure. The trestles are glued up from 8/4 boards to 3 1/2" square. The trestle construction is all through-mortised, with two wedges of bubinga in each tennon. I put 3/4" pads on the base of the trestles, and installed heavy-duty screw-leveling pads, to accommodate an uneven concrete slab. The bench dogs are made from bubinga, with pieces of band saw blade sprung into shallow groves to hold them in the dog holes.

The vise hardware came from Woodcraft Supply - the cheap, generic kind in the large size. The face vice does rack when a board is clamped in one end of it, but I've made various spacers with dowels through them to hang in the other side when clamping. The face vice also doubles for holding a metal-working vice mounted on a double-thickness 3/4" plywood tee fixture. The tail vice - now that piece was fun. I studied and studied the blueprints trying to understand how to construct it - I made my own drawings from every angle. In the end, it came out very well, and I made the top piece out of birdseye maple. The vice handles are 1 1/8" hardwood dowels with off-the shelf turned balls, drilled for the dowels and ebonized.

detail of the open drawers Detail of the open drawers

I used the band saw with an angled fixture to cut the tails on the thick vice pieces and cleaned up with chisels. I spent a lot of time on the dovetails in the tail vice, end-caps, and drawers - a lot of iterative shave-and-fit.

The board jack slides on splines, and is easily removable. The board jack design is copied from the Shaker bench plans in The Workbench Book by Scott Landis. I pored over that book before starting construction.

The drawers are white oak with mahogany fronts, and 1/4" birch ply bottoms, all hand dovetailed. The drawer knobs are aged brass from Lee Valley. The web frames are also of white oak, ebonized. They are held into the base by dadoes in the middle styles of the sides, and supported by three rails between the bottom stretchers.

back of the workbench Back of the bench

The back and sides of the bench are frame and panel construction; the panels were resawn from wormy soft maple, and thicknessed and smoothed with hand planes. I built the bench long before I made my panel-raising plane, so I used an angled table saw jig to raise the panels. Gluing up the base and the top were rather unnerving experiences.

The bench is finished with equal parts melted beeswax and boiled linseed oil, thinned with turpentine, and a little ochre japan coloring to give it a somewhat aged appearance.

shop-build bronze scrub plane St James Bay scrub plane

At the same time I was building the bench, I built a bronze scrub plane from a St James Bay rough casting, with tote and knob made of padauk. The casting was fairly easy to finish with some rough grinding and lots of filing - a good plane kit to start with as the mouth is nice and wide. Bob (who is incredibly helpful) at St James Bay had shipped the iron without hardening it, so I had to learn how to do it myself The tote and knob are modeled after a Stanley #40 - I still don't have a lathe, so I turned the knob on my drill press. I've never used a #40 scrub, but this one hogs just fine. I use it all the time for initial flattening of rough lumber.

Update 22 March 2003: After three and a half years of use:
The first thing I'd reconsider is the tool tray. It takes a great deal of discipline; fills up with tools and shavings. I clean it out, put everything away, and chaos begins to take over again (something about entropy...). Maybe if and when I make a wall-hung tool cabinet, it'll be easier to keep tidy... Sometimes I wish for a second row of dog holes when I'm working on wide pieces. I've got a couple of those pop-up cast stops that mortise into the bench top, but haven't broken down and made the holes for them yet...The drawer guides suck - first attempt at designing them. Some of the drawers get stuck if you don't push them in perfectly straight. Other than that, I love it!

at the Sign of the Three Planes