Novice building a workbench - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 02-06-2018, 06:54 PM Thread Starter
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Question Novice building a workbench

I am a slightly capable DIYer (mostly minor home repair type projects. Recently on advice from a friend I bought a set of Simpson Strong Rigid Tie RTC2Z connecters. These are designed for someone like me to put together a sturdy workbench that should come out square, at a cost slightly above that of buying hardware not in a set. The back legs will be higher and I plan to put cork in that area to pin different notes and projects. The main and the bottom shelf will both be 3/4 inch plywood, either birch or maple top. What wood should I use for the legs/supports to give this a nice look? I have priced clear fir at 2.20 per foot but I have never worked with this type of wood. Cypress possibly for the legs? Also, what sort of stain for the worktop? I am looking forward to this as the cuts are easy (aside from notching out the top and bottom shelf) and I hope to put together a sturdy, nice looking workbench that will last a long time. Absolutely any advice is appreciated!
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post #2 of 11 Old 02-07-2018, 12:18 AM
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Workbench is a great project for novice projects.

Dont't worry about "it looking good" because a workbench needs to be functional, not good looking. A good looking workbench is useless because you need to "work" on it and that means hammering, cutting, finishing, assembling with glue and securing projects and jigs onto it. I'm not saying it needs to be ugly. "Functional means it needs to meet your needs as a workbench...

"Functional" means a workbench needs to be able to secure projects on a flat surface. A good workbench will be flat and offer versatility in its' holding or clamping capabilities. European benches can offer you all these features for a couple of thousand $ + and look GREAT. My bench is very versatile and inexpensive. It can do everything + for just over $250... if you're interested, I can link you too it

Its' never hot or cold in New Hampshire... its' always seasonal.
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post #3 of 11 Old 02-07-2018, 09:39 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Bernie! If you are able to share any plans/design tips that will certainly be appreciated! Also, Am I way off base in thinking Fir or Cypress would make good legs/supports? Cypress in particular is a cost effective option here in the south. Can you stain these woods like I could Oak?
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post #4 of 11 Old 02-07-2018, 09:53 AM
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Cypress would be fine, but it's oily which may interfere with staining. I used 4x4 Douglas Fir for the legs of my bench but they've never had a finish applied.

Dave in CT, USA
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post #5 of 11 Old 02-07-2018, 11:42 PM
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You can build your bench on top of whatever support frame you desire. The top is what matters the most. I used a salvaged construction site solid core door for my top which I covered too add T-tracks. My top layer is a 1/4" hardboard from Home Depot which cost me less then $10. I've been abusing it for 3 years and when I'm done with it in a few years, I'll spend another $10 too replace it.

Make your choice - do you want a $3000 + bench (cheaper ones are available) that perform well or do you want a not so good looking bench for under $300 that is more versatile then the good looking one?
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Its' never hot or cold in New Hampshire... its' always seasonal.
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post #6 of 11 Old 02-07-2018, 11:49 PM
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Before choosing your bench, you need too consider a few options... Is your bench going too be free standing or against a wall? What do you plan on doing with your bench (only woodworking or include metal work etc.?) How tall are you? A workbench should be a bit below your elbows while your arms are hanging. A typical workbench ought too be no more then 30" in width because the average person can reach that far back...

Its' never hot or cold in New Hampshire... its' always seasonal.
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post #7 of 11 Old 02-07-2018, 11:54 PM
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A workbench or worktable can get a lot of abuse. If you build a strong frame and cover the top with a sheet material (plywood, MDF or tempered Masonite) using screws, when the top starts really looking bad, you just unscrew it and turn it over for a new clean side.

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #8 of 11 Old 02-08-2018, 12:42 AM
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Novice building a workbench

If you are building a workbench for assembling and finishing and general beating on, you will want to build a sturdy workbench. Any of the above suggestions will work just fine.

If you are planing on using hand tools you will want entirely different type of workbenches which can be divided between joiners benches and cabinetmakers benches with different types of holding requirements.

To work with hand tools you should invest some effort into reading some books on making traditional workbenches so you can learn the pluses and minuses of the various designs. By the time you finish reading a book or two you will have a good idea of what you want and why, based on your needs. Donít build a bench just because somebody else built a bench and it works for them. Build a bench that works for you.

In woodworking there is always more then one way to accomplish something.
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post #9 of 11 Old 02-08-2018, 05:52 AM
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My current workbench is an old piece of laminated chipboard kitchen worktop clamped to two saw horses.

Measure twice, Cut once, Then force it to fit with a big hammer.
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post #10 of 11 Old 02-08-2018, 06:03 AM
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For my daily use workbench I have a 10" one built to my garage wall. It is 5ea 2" by 6" pine boards laid on their side. Covered with 1/8" Masonite. Masonite changed as needed.

For those times when something is needed for assembly I have an old door that is placed atop two saw horses. When not needed it is stored out of the way.


PS I do not think of cypress as construction lumber for projects of this type.
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post #11 of 11 Old 02-08-2018, 08:31 AM
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work benches ....

There are as many different types of benches as there are woodworkers. There is a good reason for that in that each person has a different method of working, a different sense function, a different sense of cleanliness, and different tools. What's the difference between a workbench and an assembly table, in a word, a vise. Here again vises come in all types and sizes from shop built to twin screw versions costing several hundred dollars.

The problem is when you start out, you don't know enough about what methods you will use and how to secure the work safely. Having a bench that won't move around is very important regardless of the type. You can't drill or plane on a moving workpiece. The bench must have enough of it's own mass and weight to resist sideways forces OR it should be attached to the floor or the wall. Free standing benches are usually very stout and have enough of their own weight or shelves or drawers to place additional tools adding more weight.

What makes a strong, sturdy bench? It's all about how you join the legs to the top and bracing. If the only resistance to sideways forces is in the leg joints, you will need very large and thick pieces and you should use half laps, mortise and tenon or other self reinforcing joints. The example I always use is a simple cardboard box with all the flaps folding inward. It will collapse in a heartbeat. Then if you fold out the bottom flaps and tape them, it becomes much more rigid. Then if you fold out the top flaps and tape them you will have quite a strong and rigid unit. Why is that? Because the bottom and top have become braces. A workbench really couldn't have all the side enclosed, it would be a waste of space. So only the sides and back are enclosed.

The two basic ways to build a bench are:
1. Build a cabinet out of plywood and put a thick top on it for attaching the vise.
2. Build a frame out of 2 x 4 or 6's or other heavy members, and put a thick top on it. A hybrid version would have the sides and back enclosed with plywood to further reinforce it.

The top can be a solid core door, which I use also for my assembly tables, or a glue up made from 2" thick construction lumber or hardwood. Construction lumber will only be 1 1/2" thick after planing and sanding. Another type of top uses a torsion box construction. This makes for a flat and very rigid top, BUT not thick enough to mount a vise. This can be remedied in various ways.

I would look on line and buy or borrow books on the various bences before I jump in a build one.

If you enter 'workbench' in our search bar, here's what you get... several hundred threads:

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

Last edited by woodnthings; 02-08-2018 at 11:14 AM. Reason: grammer
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