Home > Woodworking > Two-Day Workbench – Part 1

Two-Day Workbench – Part 1

Building a workbench has long been a rite of passage for aspiring woodworkers. I won’t belabor that point, nor will I debate the pros and cons of the various bench designs and traditions. After 4 years I decided it was a good time to upgrade my work surface. After a fair amount of “research” I began to narrowing down the choices and gathering up my preferences for work-holding.

  1. The bench should not be overly expensive (lavish woods)
  2. It should be within my skill set to build
  3. I wanted a decent set of plans
  4. I wanted a Veritas Twin-Screw vise on it
  5. I choose in favor of a quick release face vise over a traditional leg vise (used in the same manner however)

After looking over so many choices I found a plan I had already purchased, the “$175 Workbench by Christopher Schwarz” published in Popular Woodworking, Feb 2001. As laid out, this bench can be constructed using 8-1″ x 8″ by 12′ Southern Yellow Pine boards. I went so  far as to purchase the SYP and all the bolt hardware. At this point however, I decided to change my direction and I purchased the video, “Build a Sturdy Workbench in Two Days with Christopher Schwarz”. I did like being able to build along with Chris (built a tool chest in the way) but I also really liked the beefy legs in this alternative design. What I didn’t like as much was the Ikea “butcher block style” top. Given that I had already purchased the SYP 1″x8″s I resolved to make a laminated SYP top à la the $175 bench and use the beefy Douglas Fir base à la the Two-Day bench. I had previously coveted vises from the Lee Valley website and it took very little self-convincing to pull the trigger on my wish list.

The Model

Current plan/model of this bench build.

Basic Dimensions

Base –  48″ long x 27 ½” wide (Doug Fir)
Top – 70″ long x 27 ½” wide (SYP).  Laminate 22 strips of 1 ¼” wide x 3 ¼” thick x 70″ long.
Legs – 6 ½” x 3 ¼”
Stretchers 3 ¼” x 3 ¼”

Constructing the Base

I began constructing the base by milling 6-4″ x 4″ Douglas Fir boards to 3 ¼” on each face. I rough cut to 1″ over final length then glued up the legs.

4"x4" Douglas Fir Laminating two pieces for the leg.

Two pieces are laminated together for each of the 4 legs. After the lamination, I ran them through the jointer and planer to square them up and then each were cut to final length.

Completed workbench legs are ready

With the components cut and legs prepared it was time to cut the joinery. This plan calls for lag bolts and half lap joints. I used my dado stack on the table saw to cut the half-laps.

Cabinetmaker's triangles to keep pieces identified. Joinery finished on the legs.

I was careful to keep my plans handy (actually a SketchUp model and video) and referred to them often because “if there is a way to screw up, I will find it!” All the stretchers face inward but still mark your pieces!

Work progressed relatively smoothly but decisions had to be made about final dimensions of my bench. The upper constraint lengthwise is about 70″. The vises I purchased are both quite large so I’m racking my brain to make sure they are actually going to fit. I decided to make my base 48″ long leaving a 22″ total overhang of the top. The face vise is a minimum of 11″ wide so it just might fit with the base centered but I reasoned I can always shift it an inch or so as required. I have yet to completely figure out installation of the twin-screw only to say that it can’t span more than 27 ½” which I decided would be my final bench width. The screws will also need, presumably to fit between the bench legs which reduces the clamping capacity from its maximum potential. Oh well, everything in life has limitations…..

Decided on 48" length for the base.

With dimensions decided, I went ahead and cut the 4 short and 2 long stretchers and added the male laps on the ends.

Dry fit of the workbench base.

Confirming the base pieces all fit, I proceeded to glue-up and lag bolt both ends.

Base end pieces assembled.

Before drilling and bolting the long stretchers, I bored some 3/4″ holes in each leg face to accept work-holding appliances.

Dog holes drilled in each leg face.

Thoughts on the Two-Day Build

Considering that I’m more than two days in to this build and I’ve just completed the base, I’d estimate this build to be closer to a Two-Week build for me to complete. I have added considerable complexity it is true. In the two-day video Chris laminated two ready-made tops and I’ll be gluing up my from milled strips. I’ll also be adding two vises and hopefully, a sliding deadman.

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