Designing and Building a "REAL" Cabinet Maker's Bench

As I got into making solid wood furniture and began doing some handcut joinery, like so many woodworkers before me, I came to realize the importance of a real woodworking bench . It is possible to work with a simple bench with one face vise, a few round dogholes ,a dowel "dog" and a hold down. Did I mention that it also requires a clamp or two, which, while holding something on the bench, are ALWAYS getting in the way? After making do with what I had I reached the point where taking my woodworking to the next step absolutely required a REAL workbench.

Das Bench

There are so many styles of benches, each developed primarily for a specific type of work. The types of vises and where they're placed, how wide and how long the top is, where and what kinds of dogholes are used, tool tray location and type - all have an ideal answer - based on what you want the bench to do. For me, this bench was for making solid wood furniture and an occassional box or two.

This bench evolved during it's creation. In the process of making various components and assemblies the value of a real workbench became more and more obvious. And along the way this bench became more and more familiar, changing from "a project" to a new friend who no doubt will become a great old friend over time. I know every inch of this bench - my eyes have examined every piece of it many times, my finger tips have gone all over every part as each was cut from boards I selected, surfaces were sanded or planed or scraped and as the finishes were applied. I know the sweet smell of maple as it's ripped, the feel of quarter sawn oak as it's scraped, cherry as it's planed, beech (or is it birch) as it's routed. I know this bench as it is now and will come to know it more as it is used - and cared for. I know this workbench because I made it (ok so the wood helped a lot along the way - most of the time). And the parts I didn't make I had the sense to select, after much research, and install properly.

With all that in mind, here's where I went with my workbench, how I got there and why. Yours, when you make your own, will be different, uniquely your own. I hope you learn a great deal as you make yours - and enjoy "the doing" as much as I enjoyed making my Real Workbench - now affectionately referred to as Das Bench - in part because of it's massiveness and because of it's German / Austrian design inspiration (OK - the Veritas Twin Screw End Vise is Canadianm but ...).

1. The starting point

2. The initial scaled drawing

3. Building the base unit (with a screw up)

4. Basics of base unit done and ideas for the drawers

5. Refining the drawers idea (with another OOPS)

6. Starting on the drawers

7. Details for the "Through Drawers" internals

8. Making the internal drawer guides

9. And then the guides that go on the drawers

10. The drawers - width, height AND length critical

11. Half blind dovetails make things trickier

12. Drawers, dovetails, and yet another OOPS!

13. Getting the guides into the drawer sides (with a trick)

14. Base unit done - now the edge treatments and detailing

15. Recap & base unit all together

16. The Glue Up Challenge (and yet another oops)

17. Mortise and Tenon Tip

18. Fixing the F**K UP, getting the base unit on the shop floor & slick leg levelers

19. After months of cogitating and procrastinating "The Bench Top"

20. The Core and the Apron

21. BIG Dovtails

22. The Veritas Twin Screw Vise

23. Glueing up the top's core (Got Clamps?)

24. Top onto the Base - iteration "n"

25. Splines! These things make assembly order critical

26. All Together Now (again)

27. Square Dogholes in the Apron

28. Square Doghole in the Vise Jaw

29. A Diversion - Dogs, Pegs & Screws

30. Top On the Base, Twin Screw Installed & Round Dogholes

31. DONE! (April 28, 2004)

32. Accoutrements (5/1/04)


- Ken Vaughn's Bench - lots of great refinements
- Stan Faullin's Bench -
- Larry McVoy's Bench -
- Scott's Bench -
- Bob Keys' Ultimate Bench -
- Tim Cileski's Workbenchdesign ( a must visit compendium of bench designs and ideas!)
- Other Shop/Garage Bench Ideas & Plans (Thanks to Natalie Stevens for this link)

More to come? Of course, this tool's going to evolve with use.

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