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Bomb-proof woodworking bench: world-class workbench in a weekend.



Clamp one end in the face vise; hold the other end with a pipe clamp under the bench top.


The 2-1/4-in.-thick solid maple top will never flinch.


An easy-to-build bench jack supports large work.


A dead-flat op keeps your glue-ups flat and true.


The centuries-old bench dog design secure work for machining.

If you're looking for a "real" woodworking bench but don't want to spend a year and a thousand bucks building one, here's a great design for you. It'll grow with you as your skills improve; it's flat and solid enough to help you do your best work; and it's sturdy enough that you can proudly pass it on to your grandchildren. One weekend and the simplest of tools are all you need to build it.


Time-tested features

This bench includes the signature features of a traditional woodworking bench: a thick, flat top designed to take a pounding; a tail vise and a face vise, mounted one at each end, for securing stock; and an overhanging top that allows you to clamp stock to the edges.

I eliminated the traditional tool tray because it's more of a housekeeping hassle than an effective place to keep tools. Leaving it off gives you a larger work surface. And since most of us are short on workshop space, I added a cabinet base for storage. The sliding doors are a cinch to make and mount, and they keep the contents free of sawdust.

The base is made from inexpensive 2x4s and plywood. The torsion box legs provide incredibly strong support and a place to mount trays and hooks to hold bench brushes, electrical cords and tools.

What it costs

You can spend as little as $250 if you mount only one vise (you can add the second later) and you make the top yourself (see "3 Top Options" at left). If you go all out like I did with two vises and a massive solid maple top, your cost will be closer to $800. The 2-1/4-in.-thick maple top I used comes prefinished from Grizzly Industrial. It cost $385 plus shipping. All you have to do is drill the dog holes, mount the vises and you're done. Grizzly also sells 1-3/4-in.-thick tops for $250, but if you go this route, you'll need to put spacer blocks under the vises so they fit properly. You can buy unplaned maple for about half the cost of these tops, but you'll face many hours of surfacing, gluing and finishing--and getting the top dead-flat is tough, even for an expert.


To build a bench

Building this bench couldn't be easier. The base is made with 2x4s, fir plywood and a little maple trim. Start with the torsion box legs. Torsion boxes are strong yet don't add a ton of weight, and they're super easy to make (Photo1).


Cut the plywood shelves and back and the shelf cleats (K, L, H, R). Screw the base together to check the fit. Disassemble the bench and paint the pieces. It's a lot easier to paint all the plywood pieces before final assembly. After the paint's dry, attach the shelves to the legs. Cut the 2x4 supports (D). Add the feet to the bottom supports and attach them to the legs with screws. Turn the base upright and attach the back (Photo2). Add the top supports and the maple trim (M, N, P, Q). The trim piece Q is glued and nailed to the exposed edge of the back. Then secure the door tracks in the cabinet opening to complete the base (Photo 3). Cut the doors to fit.

Now turn your attention to the top. No matter what top you use (see "3 Top Options," p. 66), the following steps are the same. Set the top on a pair of sawhorses and lay out the bench dog holes. Use a guide to drill the holes so they're square to the top (Photo 4). We spaced the holes on 4-in. centers, 4-3/4 in, from the edges. Skip one hole in the front left corner, where it would interfere with the vise.
Workbench Parts List

Part  Qty  Dimension                  Material    Description

A     1    2-1/4" X 30" X 72"         Maple       Top
B     4    1-1/2" X 1-1/2" X 23-1/2"  2x2         Torsion box rails
C     8    1-1/2" X 1-1/2" X 26"      2x2         Torsion box stiles
D     4    1-1/2" X 3-1/2" X 28"      2x4         Top/bottom support
E     2    3/4" X 3" X 29"            Maple/pine  Front trim
F     4    3/4" X 4" X 4"             Maple/pine  Feet
G     4    1/2" X 23-1/2" X 29"       Plywood     Torsion box sides
H     1    1/2" X 29" X 48"           Plywood     Back
1     2    1/4" X 22" X 25-1/2"       Plywood     Doors
K     2    3/4" X 20-1/4" X 43"       Plywood     Top/bottom shelf
L     1    3/4" X 19-1/4" X 43"       Plywood     Middle shelf
M     1    3/4" X 2-1/4" X 43"        Maple/pine  Bottom shelf trim
N     1    3/4" X 1" X 43"            Maple/pine  Middle shelf trim
P     1    3/4" X 3/4" X 43"          Maple/pine  Top shelf trim
Q     2    1/4" X 3/4" X 29"          Maple/pine  Side trim
R     6    3/4" X 1-1/2" X 19"        1x2         Shelf cleats

Materials List

2-1/4" x 30" x 72" maple top, $385

5 bd. ft. of maple, $20

Sheet of 3/4" plywood, $38

1-1/2 sheets of 1/2" plywood, $45

1/2 sheet of 1/4" plywood, $12

Three 8' 2x4s, $8

Two 9" bench vises, $160 plus shipping

Two packs of desktop fasteners, $8


Grizzly Industrial,, (800) 523-4777. 2-1/4" x 30" x 72" maple top, part No. T21250, $385 plus shipping.

Shop Fox Quick-Release Vise, 9" Jaw, part No. G9851, $80 plus shipping.

Rockier Hardware,, (800) 279-4441.

Desktop fasteners, part No. 21650, $4 per pack of 8.

Flip the top over and mount the vises (Photo 5). Line up the metal dog on the vise with the dog holes in the top. To protect wood that will be held in the vise, make wooden faces and attach them to the vise jaws. Use a soft wood such as basswood or pine.

Mount figure-eight or other tabletop fasteners to the top supports. They may need to rest in a shallow hole in the support. These will allow the top to expand and contract without cracking. Get someone to help you set the top onto the base, then secure with screws through the fasteners. That's it. Your bench is ready for your first furniture project!





RELATED ARTICLE: 3 top options


We used a ready-made, prefinished maple slab from Grizzly Industrial. The 2-1/4-in.-thick top cost $385 plus shipping. It's very flat and stable. You could also use a 1-3/4-in.-thick Grizzly top ($750).

You can make a top from three sheets of 3/4-in. plywood. Cut them oversize, then glue and screw two of them together and then add the third. Use plenty of screws; they can be removed after the glue is dry. This top probably won't be perfectly flat. Cost: $100.

Use a solid-core exterior door. You can find them wherever recycled building materials are available or buy one at a home center. If you add 1/2-in. plywood as a wear surface, you'll have a 2-1/4-in thick top. It should be very flat and stable. Cost: $20 to $50.


Bench jack

The purpose of a bench jack is to support long, wide stock such as a door. To make a jack, screw together a couple of pieces of 3-in. x 36-in, pine or plywood to form a "T." Drill 3/4-in. holes in the face of the jack. Clamp the bench jack in the tail vise, and insert a dowel at the desired height (see photo, p. 65)


Bench dogs

Bench dogs work with the vise to hold stock on the bench surface. (see photo, p. 65), They're easy to make. Drill a 1-in. deep hole in 1-1/2-in. x 1-1/2-in. blocks of hardwood, then epoxy 3/4-in. dowel stock into the holes. To accommodate different stock thicknesses, cut the block to 1/4-in., 3/4-in.,1-in. and 1-1/2-in. heights.


* To check out our entire collection of workbenches and upgrades, search for "workbench."

* Get your workshop organized! Search for "shop storage,"

by Dave Munkittrick

Meet Dave Munkittrick

Davegave up his career as a commercial pilot to become woodworker. He's been building furniture and cabinets for 20 year's out of a converted pig barn on his fram Wiscoisin.
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Author:Munkittrick, Dave
Publication:The Family Handyman
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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