Small Workbench: Part 1

I’m in the process of making a small but functional woodworking workbench for one of the kids.  It’s built in a similar fashion to Chris Schwarz’s Roubo workbench that I built a copy of.  My workbench is made out of Southern Yellow Pine but this one will be built out of regular White Pine.  I chose the White Pine because it probably won’t be used as hard and it is already dry.  When I built my workbench from Southern Yellow Pine I let the wood sit around for a month or two to dry before starting.  This bench is going to be about 46″ wide, 18″ deep, and about 28″ tall.

To start I took a trip to the store, sorted through a lot of lumber, and bought a bunch of 2x4x8s.  I cut most in half for the top and cut some smaller pieces for the legs.  Older benches have a top made from one single slab of wood.  Those are rare and expensive these days.  So, Schwarz recommends laminating numerous pieces of wood together to reach the desired depth.  This bench will require 12 pieces to be laminated together.


I can’t recall if it was covered in his book, but I prefer to glue the top together in stages as opposed to trying to glue the whole top up all at once.  I glued up four sections of the top that were three pieces wide.  Extra glue is recommended as it is better to have excess squeeze out than dry spots.


Gluing up sections is repeated several more times.  To reach the desired thickness for the legs, I glued up two pieces of 2×4.  Below is a pic showing all the parts drying overnight.  It’s good to have a couple clamps on hand.


Once everything was dry, I glued the four work bench top pieces together into two pieces.  While these were drying I started working on the legs.  Here’s a picture of the legs after they have dried.


I used my planer to bring the legs which were 3.5″ x 3.5″ down to 3″x3″ exactly.


The legs attach to the bench top using a draw bored mortise and tenon joint.  This is the joint recommended by Schwarz and is the one I used on my workbench.  It works wonderfully, pulls tight, and results in a joint that will not loosen over time.  I’ll cover this joint in a future post.  Now I need to form the tenons on the legs.  First, I used the table saw to cut the tenon shoulders.


I then used a tenoning jig to cut the tenon faces.  You can also use a bandsaw for this purpose but I’ve found the table saw does a better job at making faces.  The jig holds the leg perpendicular to the table saw’s table allowing you to safely make the cut.  After one pass, the leg is rotated 180 degress and the second cut is made.


Here’s the result of cutting the tenons.   There’s a gap in the end of two of the legs.  I should have used more clamps.


To stiffen the bench the design uses stretchers near the bottom of the legs.  These are also held in place using a draw bored mortise and tenon joint.  This means that eight mortises will need to be cut into the four legs.  I laid out where I wanted the mortises to be and then used a Forstner bit in the drill press to remove most of the material.  Doing this greatly speeds up chopping the mortises.


I used some chisels to clean up the mortises.  Once I make the stretchers I’ll come back and touch up the mortises if needed to get a good fit.


That’s it for part 1.  I’m still working on the work bench and will post again once I make some more progress.

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