Entry Level Workbench

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About: I like to design and build random things.

Building a workbench seems to be a rite of passage for most serious woodworkers. The Entry Level Workbench shown here is a collaboration between myself and Kevin at Kev's Woodworks. I've detailed the design while Kevin and his son built the workbench as a father/son project.

Although this is called an Entry Level Workbench, it's built in such a way that it really never has to be replaced. It has a maple split top (Roubo) which is what many advanced woodworkers are using. It uses inexpensive vises but is designed to accept the more expensive hardware should you chose to upgrade.

The only "downsides" to this bench would be the difficulty with adding a Benchcrafted tail vise (would need a longer top) and it uses round dogs instead of square dogs. Both of which are options many choose to do differently so, it comes down to a personal choice. You could probably also call out the fact that it's only 6 feet long as well. Frankly, if we would have made it longer, it would have accepted the Benchcrafted tail vise nicely; but keeping it shorter allowed us to order 12' lumber for the top and not have any scrap.

All details including dimensions, parts list, tool list, and a full cost breakdown are included if you would like to build your own bench. If something isn't clear in the steps, the following video summarizes the entire build. As always, comment and either Kevin or I will get back to you. Emailing your questions directly to MyBenchTime@gmail.com will get you a direct response from Kev as well. We're both more than happy to answer your questions!

Supplies:

Step 1: Tools

The following tools were used to build the workbench. Optional tools and techniques are discussed at the appropriate step.

  • Table Saw
  • Dado stack
  • Jointer
  • Planer
  • Band Saw (optional)
  • Festool Domino (optional)
  • Drill Press
  • Miter Saw
  • Router
  • Squares
  • Chisels
  • Nail gun/compressor
  • Clamps
  • Drill/driver
  • Sander
  • Socket Set or Wrenches

Step 2: Drawings

Although you will be building to this drawing, it’s important that you take actual measurements from your build so that any error created isn’t compounded throughout the remainder of the build (Relative Dimensioning). All dimensions are in inches unless noted.

Step 3: STEP File

A STEP file is included for those that would like to look at the details of the workbench.

Step 4: Drawing - Legs

The legs are 3.5" square by 30" long. A tenon is cut in the top side to insert into the corresponding mortise in the workbench top. Mortise and tenon joints could be used for the rail connections as well. However, this workbench uses a Domino Joining System for these joints. The mortise locations are shown to allow the 2.5" square rails to be 6.5" from the floor and flush with the table top.

Step 5: Legs - Step 1

The legs are shown as 3.5" square. This step doesn't apply if you have this size available. For this build, two boards were laminated together to meet the size. From there, they were milled down with a planer and joiner to achieve the correct dimensions. Each leg was then cut to 31.5" long.

Step 6: Legs - Step 2

The connection between the legs and the bench top is accomplished through a mortise and tenon joint. The tenons on the legs were accomplished on the table saw using a dado stack but could be accomplished in other ways. A single blade and cleaning up with a chisel, router table, or even hand tools could be used to create these tenons. Cut to the dimensions shown in the drawing.

Step 7: Legs - Step 3

Cut the mortise into the legs per the drawing. These were cut with the Festool Domino but, this could easily be accomplished with a router if you don’t have the Festool Domino. This could also be accomplished at the drill press and then cleaned up with chisels as well. Just remember to leave your rails extra long to account for making tenons on them if you’re not using the Festool Domino.

Step 8: Drawing - Rails

The rails are 2.5” square with a mortise cut into each end. Cut to the lengths shown. As mentioned in the last step, if you’re doing a traditional mortise and tenon joint here, you’ll need to cut tenons on each end the same way that the tenons on the legs were created. Therefore, length adjustment will be necessary. You will need 4 of each rail.

Step 9: Rails

The rails are milled to their final size, 2.5” square. Mortises were then cut into the ends to match the appropriate locations on the legs per the drawing. If you’re doing a traditional mortise and tenon joint here, you’ll need to cut tenons on each end the same way that the tenons on the legs were created.

Step 10: Base - Side Assembly

Attach two 17” rails to the legs with the using the joinery method that you chose. We’re using the Festool Dominos. The dimensions should match the drawings when complete. If they do not, it’s important to remember this difference and apply it where needed during the remainder of the build. This will alter the dimensions for building the storage case.

Step 11: Base - Side Assembly

The dominos used for this build are 14mm x 28mm x 100mm long. Apply glue to both the mortise and the tenon, assemble, and clamp square. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the glue to dry in the clamps.

Step 12: Full Base Assembly

Attach four 59" rails to the Base - Side Assemblies with the joinery of choice. We're are using Festool Dominos. If using traditional mortise and tenon joinery, you will need extra long rails as discussed in the previous steps. Once completed, the dimensions should match the presented drawing.

Step 13: Full Base Assembly

Connect the side legs assemblies together with the 59" rails. This is a good time to paint or stain the completed assembly.

Step 14: Drawing - Workbench Top

The bench top is the workhorse of the bench. There are many differing opinions on the appropriate material for bench tops. We chose soft maple as it’s hard enough to work on but, soft enough to not damage most hardwood parts being built on the bench. All of the accessories designed into the bench top are all there to assist with material holding.

Step 15: Drawing - Maple Boards

The desired depth for this top is 24". Since this top incorporates the split-top roubo style, each laminated section turned out to be 11" deep. Based on the available wood, this required six boards, each 1.833" thick.

Step 16: Top - Boards

The maple for the top was milled to final size using the joiner, planer, and table saw. It’s important that the material is milled flat and square before the glue up.

Step 17: Top - Dog Holes

The dog holes were added to one of the boards on the table top. Refer to the drawing in Step 13 for size and locations.

Step 18: Drawing - Top Section

The two sections should be 72" long x 11" deep x 4" thick.

Step 19: Top - Laminate

As shown in the previous step, six boards were laminated together for each half of the bench top. Once dried, each section was run through the planer to flatten the surfaces and achieve the final thickness. Don’t be concerned if you fall below 4” thick, it’s more important that each half is flat and the same thickness.

Step 20: Drawing/Pictures - Split-Top Section

The planing stop is designed to protrude 1/4" above the main bench surface when needed. Note that that the drawing views are shown with it in the down position. We've included actual pictures showing the configurations.

The total thickness of the planer stop is 2". Refer to the drawing for sizes needed to build the stop. You will need two of the long boards and five spacers.

Step 21: Split-Top Roubo Section

Glue the boards together per the drawing. We used pin nails but you could also just clamp until the glue dries.

Step 22: Top - Assembly

To cut the mortises in the top, turn the benchtop over, put the spacer in the middle, and temporarily clamp the assembly together. Turn the base over and set on the benchtop ensuring that it’s centered. Mark the locations of the 4 leg tenons on the top.

A “One Time Use” jig was then created and clamped at each mortise location and a router with a pattern bit was used in several passes to create the mortise.

At this point, you have mortises with rounded corners and tenons on the legs that are square. You have 2 options. You can either square the mortises using a chisel or, you can round the tenons on the legs to fit the mortises. We rounded the tenons for our build.

Step 23: Drawing - Top (Exploded View)

For completeness, this step just the assembled and exploded view of the top.

Step 24: T Track

Install the T-Track using a router and ¾” router bit set at the thickness of the T-Track for final depth. Dual edge guides on the router ensure that the groove is cut perfectly straight. However, a single edge guide can be used on this step.

Step 25: Ready for Storage Cabinet

At this point, everything should fit as expected. Verify the distance between the rails before starting on the storage cabinet. If the dimensions are off, adjust the cabinet dimensions accordingly.

Step 26: Drawing - Storage Cabinet

Build to the drawing. Remember to adjust the measurements based off of your bench (Relative Dimensioning).

Step 27: Drawing - Storage Cabinet

The box is pretty straightforward. The material used is ¾” Baltic Birch plywood.

Step 28: Storage Cabinet - Step 1

Cut the plywood to the sizes shown in the previous step.

Step 29: Storage Cabinet - Step 2

Glue and clamp the pieces together per the drawing. Pin nails can be used in place of clamps. Ensure that the box is square.

Step 30: Storage Cabinet - Step 3

The back was pin nailed into place.

Step 31: Drawings - Drawers

There are three drawers in the storage cabinet labeled small, medium and large. The images shown in this step are for the small drawer. The medium and larger drawers are built in the same manner.

Step 32: Drawings - Medium and Larger Drawers

For completeness, the dimensions for the medium and large drawers are shown in this step.

Step 33: Drawer Build

Assemble the drawers per the exploded view. Note that the bottom isn't glued in since it is replaceable. Also, ensure that the width of each drawer box is exactly 1" less than the opening.

Step 34: Drawer Build - Video

If it wasn't clear from the last step, this video provides a quick overview of a drawer build.

Step 35: Drawer Slides

Full extension 100# glides were used for the drawers. Install per the drawing ensuring that you have even and consistent gaps between each drawer.

Step 36: Drawer - Final

Install the drawer fronts per the drawing. Using 1/16” thick shims on the bottom and each side of the drawer front, you will ensure that you have an even consistent gap all around the drawer front. Use the pull holes to temporarily attach the drawer front until you can remove the drawer and install screws from the inside of the drawer. Then, remove the screws from the pull holes and install the drawer pull.

Step 37: Drawing - Door

Solid wood boards were laminated together to create a panel large enough to be used for the doors. Using the measurements from your bench, cut the panel 1/8” smaller than the opening to ensure a 1/16” gap all the way around the door. The 1/16” shims used on the drawer fronts work well for locating the doors.

Step 38: Door Build

Butt-style hinges were used to attach the doors to the case. Use a router to cut a mortise in both door locations as well as the case locations to ensure that the hinges sit flush and don’t interfere with the functionality of the door.

Step 39: Door Magnets

Small blocks at the top of each opening were added to act as stops. Rare earth magnets were installed inside the blocks and doors to help keep the doors shut. See video for a better explanation on locating these magnets.

Step 40: Casters

Casters were added to allow the bench to be moved around the shop. These are produced by Rockler. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation.

Step 41: Front Vise

The vises used on our bench were both from Lee Valley. The front rail is the inner jaw and an additional outer jaw was added per the manufacturer’s instructions. The outer jaw was cut flush with the bench top.

Step 42: Inset Vise

The inset vise allows for an adjustable dog right where it’s needed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the installation of the vises that you choose to use.

Step 43: Final Touches

The top was sanded progressing through grits 80, 120, and 180. Once the sanding was complete, we applied a coat of water-based polyurethane to the top for protection. Any finish will work and shop furniture is a great place to either use up some leftover finish or try a new finishing technique.

Step 44: Parts List / Cost

The total cost for the bench was $1438.00. As you can see from the cost breakdown, most of the cost is the lumber. Your bench cost will be altered based on your local lumber prices. You could certainly use less expensive lumber to build your bench. The only downside to that decision is that you may not get the amount of life out of that top that you do by going with the maple.

Step 45: Finished Pictures

The bench is now located in an unheated space in Eastern Washington where there are great seasonal temperature and humidity swings. So far, it’s gone through most of one summer and nearly all winter and held up well. We’ll do a follow-up video on the bench after it goes through another summer to see if we had any real wood movement in the top. If we do see any major movement, we’ll also create a video for re-flattening the top.

Step 46: Final Thoughts / Improvements

The entire build took us 4 very long days and I would highly suggest spending more time building this bench! We're super happy with how the bench turned out and also super happy to have the ability to put some nice upgrades on this bench as a college student's budget allows.

This bench is designed to grow with a woodworker as their skills and needs change. You could easily add the Benchcrafted hardware, a Veritas twin screw vise, or even a Nicholson style apron and Crochet on the backside to get even more functionality out of the bench without starting from scratch.

With proper care, this bench should last a woodworker forever and really stand up to just about any task thrown at it! We hope you enjoyed the build. Thanks for viewing!

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    33 Discussions

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    Dui ni shuo de dui

    3 months ago

    Beautiful workbench, very well made. Sure it might seem expensive but that's the price of quality wood. I made mine using pine, it was way cheaper than yours (less than a third of the price) but it won't last a third as long as yours, that's for sure! A possibility for people on a budget could be to temporarily make the bench top out of plywood or any other el cheapo material, and then upgrade later to this beautiful maple laminate whenever they have the money or the opportunity to do so.

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    timdekker1825

    3 months ago

    Great instructable and nice workbench! I need to make something similar :D

    1 reply
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    KenI18

    3 months ago

    Could the top be made from poplar then laminated with either 1" maple or 1/2" maple plywood and still expect to get similar longevity from the bench?

    7 replies
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    KevsWoodworksKenI18

    Reply 3 months ago

    That's an interesting thought.. The short answer is no. However, if you were to use 1/4" hard board over a poplar top and make it replaceable that would probably hold up over time by simply replacing the inexpensive hardboard.

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    KenI18KevsWoodworks

    Reply 3 months ago

    What should I expect from laminating 1" maple on top of a poplar substrate?

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    KevsWoodworksKenI18

    Reply 3 months ago

    By "laminate" I assume you mean to glue it down. With grain directions going in opposite directions, you're not allowing for wood movement and it will move. At some point, something has to give.

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    KenI18KevsWoodworks

    Reply 3 months ago

    If I understand correctly, using two different types of wood glued together, one will expand differently than the other so the will eventually separate? If this is wrong, why does gluing maple boards together not separate in the build as shown?

    So, to make it work the 1" maple top layer could be attached using hardware that allows for expansion and possibly work?

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    KevsWoodworksKenI18

    Reply 3 months ago

    Ultimately, if you keep the grain of the poplar and the maple in the same direction, it should hold up fine. If you put the poplar on edge and then put the maple flat on top of that, the grain will be 90 degrees off of each other and the 2 will expand in a different direction causing the issue. As for using hardware to attach the maple, that would depend on how much wood movement you actually got. The poplar will be trying to expand up/down and the maple will be trying to expand side to side. You could see the hardware fail, you could see the tray in the middle get too tight, or, you might get lucky and see no issues at all. I tend to allow for wood movement when I build to try and avoid any long term issues.

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    cuulbluKevsWoodworks

    Reply 3 months ago

    Thanks for the info and patience with someone who is obviously learning about wood working.

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    SteveDay72

    3 months ago

    Great bench, but I think $1500 is way out of ballpark for 99% of people (myself included). It's not really logical to call that amount "Entry Level". $500 would be a stretch for most beginners.

    Very nice work though and the Kreg blue makes it pop!

    1 reply
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    KevsWoodworksSteveDay72

    Reply 3 months ago

    I can certainly understand your point of view. However, a serious woodworking bench could see that number just in the hardware. This bench puts you in place to add that hardware when you're ready without having to rebuild the bench and getting great use out of it in the mean time.

    Also, you certainly don't have to run out and buy all the material at once. It's a project that lends itself well to working on a section at a time as funds and materials allow.

    Thanks so much for looking!

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    Starkey0417

    3 months ago

    Dude. If this is your "entry level" workbench, we need to see your "super mega fancy workbench" when you make it. This thing is awesome. Good job!

    2 replies
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    mtairymdStarkey0417

    Reply 3 months ago

    I gave Kevin grief about the same thing. This is actually my dream bench :).

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    KevsWoodworksStarkey0417

    Reply 3 months ago

    Thanks! I actually have a Roubo with the BC hardware so, understand well the features that a good bench should have for woodworking. This bench was intended to put those basics in place so that it can grow with the wood worker. Thank you so much for the kind words!

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    DDW_OR

    3 months ago

    I like the layout of your workshop.

    suggestion: on the ceiling above the overhead door, use it to store your fishing rods.
    add two 1x3's spaced 3' apart.
    first 1x3, drill holes every 2 inches.
    then weave rope through the holes leaving a 2 inch loop hanging down
    second 1x3, place eye hooks every 2 inches