78 Replies

I had not seen this before, William. It looks Super Sturdy. Very nice.

-- Might As Well Dance : http://barbsid.blogspot.com/

William——looks like a beast; I don’t think you can have too heavy of a bench. I am waiting to see how you finish it.

-- The glass is always full....

I like it William. Beastly.

Very nice William.
I need something more along that line than my cheesy work table.


-- If your not the lead dog, the view never changes.

William, I have some questions about your bench. I see a lot of split top benches and wonder what is the reason for that? Also, with your vice, do you anticipate any cambering problems if you clamp something that doesn’t go all the way down to the guides?

-- Where are the band-aids?---Pro Libertate!

Thank you all.
I have been considering building a proper bench for a long time. I finally just bit the bullet and went for it. It started with no plans besides the ideas in my head that I have gleemed from looking at other’s benches.

The reason for the split bench is mainly for clamping reasons. If you build a wide bench (this one is thirty two inches wide total) and try to clamp anything small with bar clamps to the top, it presents a problem. With the split in the middle though, you can run clamps down through it and clamp in the middle if you need.
I also have an alternate reason though. I am the world’s worst about knocking things off my bench, or allowing things like chisels to roll off. I plan on making tool tills that fit down into the middle void to hold tools for a variety of project. For example, I’ll have one for bench chisels, one for carving chisels, one for router bits, etc.
As for the cambering issues, I’ve had that issue in the past and have a solution that has worked for me for some time. I’m sure you noticed the block that is screwed to the outer jaw with the dog holes in the top of it? I use an eighth inch thick strip of wood to intentionally camber it out at the top when I screwed it to the jaw. The thickness came from experimentation with this particular vice. Others may be different. That eight inch camber on the top makes the vice clamp evenly if you really clamp down hard on it. Meanwhile, it forces the top of the jaw to make contact first if you only wish to gently clamp something in the top part of the jaws.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

William…handsome bench. How is cottonwood to work with?

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

I like cottonwood.
It is considered a hard wood, but it isn’t actually much harder than pine in my opinion.
There are two things to watch for from my experience when working with cottonwood though.
1. Make sure your tools are sharp. If they are not, you’ll get grainy tearout that will feather it up so bad that it’s hard to sand it completely flat without sanding half the wood away.
2. It is said that cottonwood takes a certain smell from the soil surrounding the roots. Most of the time, I think the smell while cutting it smells similar to beeswax. Other times though it smells like a cow backed up to it and done it’s business. After working it and applying finish, there is no noticeable smell at all.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

That is sweet William. That puppy looks stout.
Having a really heavy bench is so nice. It just stays there.

And that looks like a nice pile-o-lumber over on the right. I’m jealous.


-- I'm no rocket surgeon

Thank you William. Now I understand. That’s the reason I joined here. The forum is much smaller. Had I asked it on “another” site, you may not have had (or taken) the time to explain it as well.

Wonder if you found a cottonwood near a BBQ joint…oh my

-- Where are the band-aids?---Pro Libertate!

Very nice. It looks very stout, but elegant at the same time. All of the sudden it feels like I might need to upgrade my bench. I got the stout part down, but I was learning too many lessons at the time to make it asthetically pleasing. You’ve got both down.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

yes sir, stout is the word for this one, im happy for you william, i know when i made mine a while back it sure felt good to have it, and i enjoyed the build all the up, will look forward to when its finished…

-- "the grizz" [''''']

Thanks Grizz.
Still got a ways to go.
Besides stain and finish, I still have another vice to mount.
I’ve also got twelve drawers, six per side, to make, unless I change that.
I have thought about on one side making, instead of the six, shallow long drawers to hold my hand planes.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

I love it William! Really nice work.

Sturdy well built bench that should last you for years,nice work Willaim.

-- woodworking classes, custom furniture maker

Thanks Dave and Jim.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Super bench, William. Sure would hate to get my toe under that beast

-- I'm the one with the beard

Thank you Gary.
And no worries. The point is for it to be heavy enough that you won’t need to worry about it being off the floor for you to get your toes under.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Very nice! I like the aspect of this that it is shorter in length. The bench I built is an 8ft’r, and if I had it to do over I would have limited it to 5ft or so. Very stout! Keep us posted on your progress.

-- HorizontalMike

Thanks Mike.
I thought for a long time about this build. Every part of it is a combination of things I seen here or seen there. Several benches I seen I loved the wide split bench design. Most I seen like that though were close to eight feet long or longer. I did not like it that long.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

William, this is one solid high end workbench. Really nice build. What kind of woodwork do you do most? Hand or powered? I have some lumber that should be good to go now(a year in my shop now) nothing fancy but my work has drifted towards doing some handwork and the torsion box top is just not adequate any more. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/437552920017756340/ is my inspiration and a pin I found right before I went to buy my wood.

-- If it doesn't spark it doesn't concern me!! Pat

I’m going to throw a couple of questions out for ya’ll’s opinions.
I’ve been spinning the wheels in my mind about the finish. I know I am staining it dark. I decided on that before I even started.
First question. When I build the drawers, should I stain them dark or leave them light for a contrasting look to them? Maybe light with dark handles for contrast in contrast?
The next question is the finish. I want some kind of finish. I originally was going to use poly. Several friends have talked me out of that though. I have been leaning towards BLO because, from what I’m told, it’s a more traditional finish for a bench. After seeing a friend’s post this morning though (Dave’s), my mind has been on shellac. It’s been a while since I used it, but I love the look of shellac and find it easy to work with. So what is ya’ll’s opinion on a shellac finish?

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Fantastic looking bench William. This just reminds me to get off my butt and get started on mine. I have a good stash of maple that I think is enough. Motivation, motivation, motivation…….

-- Involve your kids and grandkids. They'll love you for it!

That’s a real keeper…..looking forward to seeing the final product…..

-- Jeff

Belg, I do mostly powered tool work. I am learning more and more the pleasure of hand tools though.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Thank you Gary and JL7.

Gary, maple would look nice. For mine I used cottonwood because it is something I had on hand, and I have plenty of it that was free.
When it’s all done, I will have exactly $0 in wood on this bench.

Jeff, still got a ways to go to get there. I drilled the dog holes yesterday. I will try to post another photo today. Those holes just about whipped my butt.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Since you mentioned that the cottonwood is softer, I would suggest using a wipe-on varnish to at least harden up the surface a bit. IMO, the last thing I would want on a softer wood bench top would be just an oil finish if you want to minimize tear out and fuzzing of the Cottonwood. Just an suggestion…

-- HorizontalMike

Thanks Mike. That is definitely something to think about. Cottonwood is easy to tear out.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Nice! It looks incredibly sturdy. What are you going to finish it with?

-- Rob, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

That thing is awesome! When the “big bomb” is dropped….hide under that bench!

When you did the dog holes, I’m assuming you used an upcut bit in a plunge router? What brand of bit can I buy that I won’t have to mortgage the house, yet cuts a nice hole?

-- Mike

Thank you all.

I know I’m staining it dark walnut.
After that, I’ve been swaying back and forth between shellac or BLO. Well I just came from town and, since the store was out of shellac, I’m using BLO.

My router would not extend enough to bore through five inches of wood, and I wanted the holes to go all the way through so saw dust would not get packed into them. So I started the holes by drilling as deep as I could with a forstner bit. Then I bored on through with an auger bit, like the ones electricians use.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Mike beat me to it. William, if those dog holes are nice and vertical I’m going to go sit in the corner and cry silently to myself. I just built a “get me by” bench (which I’ll not embarrass myself by showing) and the dog holes are, well, not vertical. Hell, let’s face it, they’re not even close :(

-- Where are the band-aids?---Pro Libertate!

They are vertical Monty.
My two sons helped slide the slab up on roller stands and I drilled the forstner bit holes using the drill press. Then I used a tool (can’t remember the name of it) that holds the drill at any angle to a work surface (90 in this case) to ensure that the auger bit stayed straight.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

I called myself planning that part out good Monty. There was only one single problem that I did not account for. There was some pretty bad tear out where each hole exited the bottom. I don’t see this as too big an issue though. Few people are ever going to look under the bench to see that.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

You could probably rest an engine on it while you teach your boys how to do the work….

-- I'm the one with the beard

I hope so Gary.
My plan was to build something that I could place a house on if I so desired.
I think I can call that part mission accomplished.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Well, I don’t feel so bad now. I don’t have a drill press and did everything free hand. The dogs still work, so I guess all is well for a “get me by” bench.

-- Where are the band-aids?---Pro Libertate!

Very classy bench. It looks like you will be able to work comfortably on your bench. I’m amazed how quickly it came together.

-- -- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

Monty, there is always time to build a better one.
I’ve been thinking for a couple of years about this bench. Currently, my work bench, if you can call it that, is a kitchen table that I found sitting on a curb for garbage. I reinforced a broken leg on it and started using it. As the top got damaged, I screws a piece of plywood on top. As that plywood………well it has three layers of plywood right now.
I wound up building make shift shelves under it, but is is still just a kitchen table with plywood on top of it.
That has been my “get me by” bench for about four years now.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Thanks light.
It wasn’t much to it. It hasn’t been that quickly coming together for me. I still have a ways to go before I consider it done.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Looks great brother. That will definitely last you a long time. Keep posting pics

-- Ferdinand and Son Construction

Thanks Greg.
I’ll update it tomorrow. I finished stain today but forgot to snap a photo before leaving the shop.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Looking forward to tomorrow. :)

I just updated it in the original post Bentley.

I started this as a forum post. I’m thinking now I maybe should have done it as a blog. I didn’t think ahead though. I was just throwing my current work on the new site without really expecting much response.
So I hope my updating the original post every few days is ok with you guys.
In the future I’ll post current works in the blog section.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

William, when we all come to the boil, we may have to make the trip across the river to christen that new bench

-- I'm the one with the beard

Stout looking bench William, and some well thought out features too.

-- The early bird gets the worm but its the second mouse that gets the cheese.

William, I’m wondering don’t you think the dark color will kill some of your light reflection lighting?

-- If it doesn't spark it doesn't concern me!! Pat

Thank you fellas.

Gary, I was hoping for you to make a poor of stopping by my place anyway. I always like showing my work and my shop.

Thanks shipwright. Actually, I failed to think it out good enough. My thought are up against a brick wall when it comes to the drawers. I know what I want in them and know that if I do not lay them out right that I’ll be very unhappy with them in the future.

Belg, actually it might for some people. I find I like a dark work surface though; the darker the better. I am color blind. I see mainly base colors like whites, blacks and grays. To understand better, my view of the world is similar to watching a black and white TV. So a dark work surface provides me with greater contrast for most woods I work with.

-- Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Bill?, that makes perfect sense. Its all about what works best for YOU. Thanks for the reply. Pat

-- If it doesn't spark it doesn't concern me!! Pat