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Jeff Greef Woodworking
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Traditional Workbench

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Resources for building a Traditional Workbench

Chisels |  Clamps |  Dado Sets |  Dowel Jigs and Dowels |  Drill Bits |  Drill Presses |  Glues |  Hand Drills |  Jointers |  Miter Gauges |  Radial Arm Saws |  Routers |  Router Bits |  Table Saws |  Vises

Cut out list, Traditional Workbench

All stock 3/4" thick (or 13/16", as it comes from the yard).

16- 4 x 27-1/2 posts
4- 4 x 33-1/2 posts
16- 3 x 32 rails
4- 3 x 18 rails
8- 3 x 3-1/4 rails
4- 3-3/4 x 10 rail feet
4- 3 x 60 lower stretchers
2- 3 x 50 lower stretchers
2- 1-1/2 x 44 upper stretchers
4- 1-1/2 x 19-1/2 side shelf rails
48- 1-1/2 x 84 top laminations

Traditional bench designs like this were meant to provide a work surface that was as stable as a rock. When woodworking was done entirely by hand a heavy, rigid bench was essential to the craft because joiners had to have a way of holding work still while they applied tools to it. While this is less necessary for a woodworker who plans to use machine techniques primarily, it's still very desirable. There's nothing more irritating than a wobbly bench, no matter what you're doing! As well, the traditional tail vise design on this bench is a very convenient means of clamping down work for hand planing as well as routing and belt sanding, by using bench dogs.

Purchasing thick timbers for a project like this can be very expensive since such timbers are often several times more costly per board foot than 1x lumber. Glue laminating 1x lumber together to make the timbers and the top is therefore much cheaper, and serves other advantages. First, you can incorporate most of the mortise and tenon joints into the laminations themselves, saving yourself much labor and producing excellent joinery too. Secondly, laminated components are more stable than their solid counterparts since forces of wood movement in the boards tend to cancel each other in laminations.

This is the best place to use up your most knotted, ugly, and twisted stock. Even if a piece has a knot or defect large enough that it would break if you stressed it at all, it will be fine inside a lamination so long as adjoining areas on adjacent boards are good. There are knots the size of your fist inside my laminations. You can't see them because they are located between layers, and the whole laminated timber is plenty strong because of its large size. As well, twisted pieces straighten out when clamped up as all the parts are pulled together. But, I suppose, you should avoid the very worst of your twisted stock.

In order to create accurate joinery within the laminations, and to ensure that the edges of the laminations will line up fairly close, it's important to prepare the stock carefully. Look ahead and you'll see how the layers are held in alignment with each other with dowels placed within alignment holes. These holes must be located accurately on all pieces so that they will line up well, and you can't locate the holes well unless your stock is consistent. Therefore ripping to width and cutting to length must be done accurately. Hereís another reason to avoid the most twisted of your stock. Choose pieces that you can put a straight edge onto and rip to width consistently.

Get out the parts as shown on the cutting list. Use knots and defects as mentioned before, but try to locate them away from joinery areas, and also try to have enough clear pieces to use on the outer laminations so that they will look nice. Use a straight edge jig on the table saw to straighten one edge on all your pieces, if you donít have a jointer. This is very important and if you haven't built such a jig, and don't have a jointer, now is the time to build it.

For jointers, click here.
For table saws, click here.

Once you have a straight edge on all parts, rip them to width on your table saw, and cut them off square at the radial arm or with a table saw cutoff box.

For radial arm saws, click here.

There are four pieces that get cut off at 10o, rather than square. These are the center end laminations for the stretcher wedge mortises, which must be angled to accept the wedges that hold the stretchers to the posts. Make these angled cuts with your miter gauge at the table saw.


Sure Lock Miter Gauge
With fence and flip stop.


Right Angle Miter Gauge


Delta Miter Jig
Rigid, precise tool.

Photo 1- Cut mortises in the center post laminations for the smaller shelf support rails. Set up on the table saw with a miter gauge, and use the rip fence to establish the distance of the cuts from the end.

For miter gauges, click here.

Cut notches in the middle layers of the post laminations for the small shelf rails that run between the posts. Use your miter gauge at the table saw as shown in photo 1 to cut kerfs within the area of the notch, and use the rip fence as a guide to locate the outer two cuts. Make these 3/4" deep, and clean out the waste with a chisel.


Delta 12" Drill Press

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Photo 2- Align the laminations to each other with dowels in carefully located holes. Set up on the drill press to accurately place the holes.

For drill presses, click here.

Set up at the drill press to bore alignment holes in the laminations, as shown in photo 2. You could use a dowel jig to bore these holes (but only certain dowel jigs will work across these larger widths), or make your own dowel jig with a block of wood that has a guide hole in it for the drill bit. A drill press is the easiest way to locate the holes accurately. Bore enough holes in each group so that each piece will have two holes in it, guaranteeing that it will be aligned during the glue up. You might think that you can align the parts during glue up without dowels by tapping them back and forth as you tighten the clamps. You can also build a ladder to the moon if you have enough lumber. Send me some green cheese.

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