We’ve been making a range of bespoke work benches for woodworkers since 2017. It all started when Anthony of Lie Nielsen Australia approached us to make their “official” LN bench. One thing led to another, and soon we were making benches using HNT Gordon, Lie Nielsen, Benchcrafted and Lake Erie mechanisms.
Initially, I was shocked by the white-noise, misinformation, fashion and robust marketing around woodworking workbench mechanisms and designs. Most workbenches are aimed at woodworking enthusiasts with a penchant for hand tools. The whole workbench controversy had passed me by. At first, I didn’t know a Benchcrafted from a Lake Erie.
I soon learned that there is no universal workbench design or suite of hardware that will suit every woodworker. Your workbench reflects what you make and how you make it.
Here are some things to consider when planning your bench.
The perfect workbench colour is off-white, or bone white. A blond background helps you to see form. Dark colours (such as jarrah, walnut or red gum) are not ideal for workbenches.
Hardness and Grain
You want the timber in a workbench top to have a closed grain and to be hard. Open grain timber will fill with unwanted “stuff” (glue, finish, dust, even metal filings etc) and the open grain is also a distraction for the eye. Your workbench is an important tool and you don’t want to compromise it’s performance. A closed-grain timber gives you a slick, smooth surface to work on. Open grain timbers, such as Australian ash/oak tend to have long fibres that are prone to getting a tearout “run”. It is hard to beat either European beech or North American rock maple.
In a perfect world, a workbench top would be dimensionally stable. It is clearly undesirable to have a bench top that moves with changes in humidity. Blond Leto bamboo sheeting is an excellent material for workbench tops; it’s a suitable colour, it’s dimensionally stable and it’s very, very hard.
Despite the arguments for sheet material, there are still some compelling reasons for solid timber. These arguments mostly revolve around the fitting of hardware. For example, the LN style tail vice is a pretty handy piece of kit, but it only really works in solid timber.
Thanks for keeping me posted from order to delivery. Great customer service.
The “Roubo” Bench and “Moxon” vice have been delivered safe and sound.
Beautiful timber, very clean, real quality. The ”Benchcrafted” vices are smooth and nicely fitted. Great job on the “Moxon” vice which has already been put to work, perfection.
The real reason this workbench is an “aspirational” cabinetmaker’s workbench is beyond the high quality design, materials and hardware. It is the masterful execution of construction.
Alex, the quality of your joinery and attention to finish is aspirational. This bench is an inspiration to do truly fine work and an absolute joy to use. John Makepeace would be happy to have your bench in his workshop (I know I am). Honestly, your level of skill is humbling. Thankyou!
Richard, Kyenton, June 2022″
If you favour Japanese/Chinese/HNT Gordon style planes, you will want a slightly higher bench than if you favour European/steel hand planes (such as Veritas, Stanley or Lie Nielsen). If you work with power tools (such as routers and Domino machines) more than traditional hand tools, you will want a slightly higher bench. Bench height is arguably the most subjective aspect of workbench design.
The configuration of your workbench will be dictated by your choice of hardware except for one important point; the “front” elements of your workbench should be flush. By this I mean that the front legs, the lower stretcher and the leading edge of the bench should all be on the one plane. This feature means that you have the largest possible surface area to support something against. I struggle to think of a circumstance/technique where this is not a desirable feature.
Choosing your hardware is the most critical phase of designing your workbench. First you must understand how you work. What features are requirements and what features are desirable for you? We will talk you through all the pros and cons of every element of your workbench. We don’t really care what you choose, if it’s the right piece of kit for your way of working.
Some people just want a particular bench. I totally get that. Almost noone “needs” a Roubo workbench, but many of us want one. Is it a more versatile, effective bench than, say, the Lie Neilsen? No, not really. The vast majority of woodworkers will not actually use the subtle differences between these two benches, any more than most drivers could really make use of the difference between a Ferrari and a Porche. My advice is to get the bench your heart yearns for.