When it comes to workbench design there’s a rule to suit us all.
Keep it simple, make it strong.
Give any woodworker a French bench, an English bench, a trestle and a door fitted out with original Victorian handle bench…
As long as they’re strong, they all work.
The same applies to vices.
A twin screw, leg vice or quick release; we may all develop our favourite given the choice, but they each will do the job all the same.
What you don’t want is a Bambi; a rickety, wobbly concoction.
To my mind over complicating the design is even more crippling; very rarely is the complicated one the best.
I was the simpleton at school, but simpletons build the best workbenches.
Planning To Build Your Own Workbench?
We’ve got a number of articles to help with your bench build and ensure that building a ‘proper’ workbench doesn’t have to take you all year or blow the budget.
Did you know that for hand tool woodworking, it’s preferable to only have one vice?
And building a workbench can be faster if you choose the right timber.
Read this article if you’d like help picking the best face vice for your workbench.
Or this one for a guide on how to build a simple yet sturdy workbench top.
It’s been an amazing project to do and I’ve learned a lot. I can honestly say if it wasn’t for you and Helen making these amazing videos I would probably of ended up with some YouTube screwed together thing! – Steven
Update: At the present time we’re not building any workbenches for sale, however we have many resources on this website that will help guide you with your own workbench build.
Our English Workbench Video Series takes you step by step through a traditional bench build, starting out with a discussion on choosing the ideal dimensions, demonstrations of how to cut the joinery, right through to flattening your workbench top and building the face vice from scratch.
If you’d like us to guide you through your build with detailed videos and PDF plans, then you can find full details for this Workbench Design Series here.
Chris Buckingham says
I think you are spot on with the “simple is best”, I have seen a number of simple benches down here in France, the one thing they all have in common is they are all very simple in construction, with a huge 4″ thick top, which is one thing you cannot reduce for simplicity, the bracing is always well thought out, and they stand solidly on robust legs, what more could you want?
Just a bottle opener.
you are so, so right, i was in Italy last year and feared into a local woodworkers shop space where basic work was going on, nothing special, no cabinets to talk of but just honest workaday stuff, probably just for locals, the bench was so incredible simple, a huge slab of wood on top and some equally huge legs pinned into it with some wedges through the top and braced with some long rough wood below to stop the legs wobbling, that was it……just fabulous.
Perhaps I have come to expect too much but I when receive an email from you regarding a NEW blog I shouldn’t expect to see your chirpy face and antics……..but I do ….all good fun to watch in the past??
All we receive is a few lines and not totally sure what point you are making……..life can be cruel.
Don’t worry John, good things come to those who wait 😉
Joe Laviolette says
Nicholson for life! All I want is mass, a planing stop, a place to smash hodfasts, and a crochet. Anything else is a luxury
That’s what I’m going to build a Nicholson next month. It’s going to be double ended as my shop buddy (my granddaughter) is left handed and I’m right handed. I’m thinking of dropping in the little Veritas wagon style clamp on either end. Also a crochet mount for both ends. Should be fun.
Show me a “pretty” bench and I will show you a bench that never gets used.
The prettiest bench is the one that does its job well. Its like a bike: the best looking ones tend to be well proportioned for the job they do, without a lot of extra ‘fancy’ hanging off. Just like chrome doesn’t make a bike go faster, Mahogany and pearl inlay don’t make a bench work better. Just ends up looking tacky.
Keep up the good work Mate. I’ve just about finished my simple work bench.
David Gladden says
Being an Englishman from a long line of Bench joiners I fully understand what it is you are saying but I would have to add that one yes this was the norm but at a time when every thing was done by hand and the most important thing was to make sure nothing moved when you was working on it hence the need for simple and strong, but now I find as with my workshop our work in centred around the saw table with I have as a centre Island, but still we keep the need for strong but I thing with so many power tools the simple side has gone.
But just my thoughts, thanks
John Verreault says
Bang on Mate!
…’Keep it simple, make it strong’ – You’re so right !
Richard Dick says
wonderful article I too was a simpleton in school and love your ideas thank you Richard
I like the picture of this bench, it reminds me of my own. I have been intending to build myself a bench for 20 years, but there was one built against the wall in the building where I have my workshop when I moved in. The bench is just some planks nailed together on strut braces affixed the wall. It had a metal vice on the front. I drilled some holes for a hold fast, added a bench jack to the front, and have been using it ever since.
They are the best type of benches!
Pierre Rousseau says
Love the new look !