Second, show some of the pitfalls I encountered
not having a fully equipped shop (or even a partially equipped
one!) at my disposal.
These articles aren’t intended as the “best”
advice for building a workbench, in fact, I’m guessing that more
than a few people will read this and wonder why I ended up
causing myself extra work.
For me, it’s all about learning.
Of course, we should all be willing to take the suggestions we
get, and learn from them where possible. Additionally,
however, we should never be afraid to start something. In
the end, I know I’ll make a lot of mistakes, but hopefully, I’ll
come away from this project having learned something.
Certainly more than if I’d never attempted it. I suggest
you, the reader, approach this project in the same way.
My friend whose woodworking skills are far beyond mine gave me
this advice at the start of my project: “It’s your first bench,
so don’t worry about it too much. In about 2 years time you’ll
probably look at it, and want to make another one.”
With that said, let me start by offering a short background on
how I found out about this design, and why it appealed to me.
It just so happens that I subscribe to Popular Woodworking. I
began to read more of editor Chris Schwarz’s writing, and
eventually figured out, he was a bit of a bench builder himself. He wrote a great workbench background article in the June issue
of Popular Woodworking called “Woodworking Essentials-Rules for
Workbenches”, which basically explains what a good workbench
consists of. Reading
his blog entries
I found out there was a tool swap scheduled at John Sindelar’s
shop in Michigan.
My friend and I took the trip up to check out
the show, and to hopefully add to my meager tool collection. The
show turned out differently than I planned due to the fact that
by the time we arrived many of the dealers had packed up and
However, it was still a great trip because not only did I
get to see John’s fantastic collection of tools, I was able to
see Chris’s Holtzapffel style bench up close and personal. It
really looked like a bench a woodworker would use. Sturdy and
large, were the two things that came to my mind. I left that day
thinking this was the bench I’d like to build.
Fortunately, by reading further on Chris’s blog, I found out he
was including the bench and plans in the next issue of
Woodworking Magazine (Issue #8). I won’t attempt to reproduce
the plans or layout of this bench in this article.
done a far better job of that anyway. I’d recommend to anyone
thinking about building a bench to buy a copy of
Magazine issue #8 for themselves (As well as the June 2007 issue
of Popular Woodworking) and read firsthand about it.
Incidentally, Chris is also publishing a book dedicated to
various benches and bench design. I’ll be standing in line when
the book becomes available and I suspect anyone serious enough
to undertake this type of project will want it also.
After comparing the Holtzapffel’s design to the myriad of others
I found, I reasoned the design wasn’t terribly complicated, and
in some cases, even less so. Still, it wasn’t going to be easy. The framing and top are quite large both in joinery and scale. It’s not like building an end table, or some other piece of
normal household furniture. The tenons are big, and the framing
pieces are unwieldy. The top itself was another challenge all
I was hoping to use hand tools primarily, and leave
the power tools tucked away. Unfortunately, this was a bit of
wishful thinking on my part. Not only were my skills a little
lacking for that task, so were my available hand tools.
I’ll start the next installment with the actual bench building
process itself. Until then, grab a copy or two of Woodworking
Magazine and read up.
Cutting for the Top
building the top from 2x8 Southern Yellow Pine I had picked
up from the local big box lumber store. It was one of
the types of wood Chris Schwarz recommended for bench
building. Luckily, it’s relatively cheap here in
central Ohio. An 8 foot board was about $7.00.
I certainly could have spend a lot more on Maple or some
other hardwood, but I tried to keep the advice from my
friend in mind that I might be building a new table in a few
short years after I use it for awhile. No sense in
spending a large amount of money on my first shot at this.