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Making and Using Tools - Shop Benches and Other Appliances


Build a $5.87 Sawbench by Chris Schwarz - from The Workbench Design Book

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I think Chris sensed my impatience – my copy of The Workbench Design Book is still in transit, somewhere between Alaska, Maine and New Mexico… So, when he offered to post one of the chapters here, it gave me a chance to take a glimpse at the content, photography, and design of his new creation.  And when I say creation, I mean it!

It really is a creation of an artist and craftsman – the writing, the illustrations, and the design of the book are superb.

The chapter presented here is about making a sawbench – a surprising approach to a shop utility that I never thought of.  For me a sawbench was always a bit more sophisticated sawhorse.  This chapter changed my understanding and view on this tool. Read on and see for yourself…

At the end of this chapter I included an electronic version in PDF and excellent design drawing (3D) done in SketchUp, both ready for download.  WK


With two traditional sawbenches you can perform
a wide variety of useful tasks in the shop.


“(T)hey either find ‘nothing stirring,’ and literally starve awhile, or make such astonishing sums at piece work, as to set their heads a madding with the fumes of the stomach; they become broilsome, drink unaccountably, fight any body or thing, pawn their tools by scores, and, when Tuesday comes round, find themselves under the necessity of kicking the master for an advance.

“Who would be a Sawyer? Or, being one, would not work out his own reformation in time?”

— Nathaniel Whittock
from “The Complete Book of Trades” (1842)

Though I work with both machinery and hand tools, I consider a pair of traditional old-school sawbenches to be indispensable workshop equipment.

If you make your sawbenches with sound joints and size them so they fit your body, you will use them every time you are in your shop until the
day you lay down your tools. Building a sawbench is also an excellent introduction to the fundamentals of traditional handwork in general, and sawing in particular.

But before we dive into construction, you should record one important piece of information below so you don’t make a mistake when you build your pair of benches. Measure from the floor to right below your kneecap and write that measurement.

By way of example, I’m almost 6' 4" tall and that measurement on me is 195⁄8". The cutlist at the end of this chapter calls for legs that are 22" in length, which will cover just about anyone who doesn’t play in the NBA.


Make your benches to the cutlist, then trim off the bottom of the legs to fit your floor-to-kneecap measurement.


Our sawbench will be built using a single inexpensive white pine 2x6 from a home center. Look for the straightest and clearest board you can. Note that longer lengths will be clearer, so it might be worth a couple extra dollars to buy a 12' 2x6 instead of an 8' or 10' board.

Purchase the driest 2x6 you can find. If the surface of the board feels cool to your touch (even slightly), it’s too wet. If it feels heavier than the other boards you are examining, it’s either filled with water, sap or both. Best to set it aside.

All of the stock should be cut to the cutlist dimensions and four-squared before beginning to cut the joints.

Learn how. Discover why. Build better.
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Ice Saw


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