The Oak ‘Artisan’ – Getting Started

by | Mar 13, 2012 | 9 comments

My ears picked up, I heard the distinctive click of the kettle coming off the boil.

I knew it was close, I could picture the boiling water flowing onto the tea bag, the sweet sent hitting the air.
Any minute now….

And right on queue there she was tea in hand. She put it in the usual spot, on the pillar drill. Trying not to look too eager I just responded “cheers”, making no eye contact trying to look engrossed in my work. As I heard the office door close I knew we were alone, just me and a massive mug of Yorkshire tea.

My eyes fixated on the brown mug I slowly walked towards it, time slowed down, every thing was a blur. One step at a time I closed the gap between me and that magical mug. I wrapped my hands around it, it was just the right shade of brown, I knew it was going to be a good one. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to hear the lovely sound of a great big bloody truck’s reversing bleepers closing in on the workshop’s main door. “Fanbloodytastic” I muttered. I knew that this wasn’t just some package, I could tell by the sound of the truck that it was a bloody timber delivery. So slamming my tea back down on the drill table most of it going up my arm, I went out to help off load. Returning about half an hour later to a lute warm stagment stew of a tea…

On a Plus note though I was left with about a tonnes worth of 4” thick oak slabs for the next bench and I thought it would be a good build to kick start this blog. It was designed to a certain price so I would be employing a mixture of old and modern methods. Its going to be a French design (like most these days) and it will have a non laminated top. Its has also got to be supplied in a flat pack form but once assembled the customer is to knock the final pegs into place to make it permanent. Before any of the fun could start I had to roughly dimension all this wood, and just to add to the entertainment it was all double waney edge. I deal with a lot of waney edge timber so have developed a pretty fuss free way to work it, but even so it doesn’t detract the fact that most of these slabs weigh more than me. Luckily for me my miserable old man arrived. I could see his face from about 200 foot away, he knew what was coming. (He probably only came to nick some fire wood)

We started by laying all the wood out, so we could see every slab. My priority was to get the three least twisted ones for the top, this way I could yield the max thickness. To remove the waney edge I screwed a baton down the length of the oak so that it just overhung one side and tried to get it as parallel to the grain as possible. I made sure that the baton was longer than the oak and that it was firmly fixed. The purpose of the baton was to act as a straight edge to run along the fence on the rip saw and  remove the first waney edge. Once the first edge was straight I could run the freshly sawn edge against the fence to remove the other. If the oak had been thinner then I may have considered using a circular saw or hand saw, but as most of this stock was 4” plus it wouldn’t have been the most effective way. Once I’d straighten up all of the pieces I faced and edged them and banged them through the thicknesser. By this point I was pretty sure that it must have been time for another brew.
I left all of the timber in the workshop to sit ready for truing up with a hand plane as and when I needed each piece.

Read The Next Part In This Workbench Build

Planning To Build Your Own Workbench?

Try these other articles to help with your build:


Related Posts

About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. douglas

    very excited to see an oak bench coming together, and a departure from the laminated tops too. I’ll be following this one closely, partly because I have now located the stash of oak I will need if I ever attempt an oak bench… unlikely of course.
    Excellent blog, well done and keep ’em coming.

    • Richard

      Hi Douglas,
      That unlikly bench is just around the corner.. Im sure! Three benches in one year isnt it? sounds like your on a slippery slope.

  2. Ken

    Great to see the oak bench taking shape, I don’t think people relies how much work goes into these.

    I hope to be the owner of one of your benches this year, I make furniture using hand tools only, but I have never made a bench. i think yours are the best I have ever seen, and I want one, LOL.

    Nice to see your blog up and running, and very nice it looks to good job buddy.

    • Richard

      Thanks for the encouraging words. I’ve lost count on how many I’ve built but still seem to underestimate how much work goes into them, they are always very rewarding though.

      • Ken

        Hi Richard,
        Yes, they must be buddy. I hope to order mine at the back of the year, I’m looking at the Empire, or the Artisan, leaning more towards the Artisan, though they are all great benches.

        Very Best


  3. Alexis Lancour

    Great post. I was checking constantly this weblog and I’m inspired! Very helpful information specifically the final phase 🙂 I handle such info much. I was seeking this certain information for a very long time. Thanks and good luck.

  4. Mike

    This timber delivery looks ever so exciting. I am based in Essex and having a real hard time finding any decent timber like this, any chance you wouldn’t mind sharing your sources?

    • Richard

      Hi Mike, for our oak we tend to bounce from sawmill to sawmill to find exactly what we are looking for but we are blessed in Lincolnshire with a few nice small mills. Somerscales is one that we will use often.
      Delivery cost always has to be taken in to account with a small order like this which is why local can be a good place to start. Often our orders are quite a bit bigger.

  5. John Milne

    There are small sawmills in North Essex. You just have to mooch around… They don’t put themselves in the yellow pages. If you’re having no luck Thorogoods in Ardliegh sell sawn oak.theyre very nice to deal with.

    I saw several of Richard’s benches (but not Richard) at the Cressing show yesterday. What terrific work. One thing that was obvious in the flesh is the heft of the little John. For some reasons the photographs don’t convey this. But it’s a lovely little bench.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Updates:

Related Posts:

Simple Work Holding For Ploughing Grooves [Without a Tail Vice]

Sometimes the biggest challenge of a project can just be getting the wood to stay put while we try to work on it. I suppose it's why it's so easy for us to get lost in the hunt for a perfect workbench design. And drawn in towards all kinds of vice bling and fancy work...

Gluing Up A Workbench Leg [VIDEO] Right then, I finally got round to starting some of these question and answers. This is a bit of an odd ball, but it's something that’s asked a lot. I also see this issue happening a lot… sadly. The problem is delamination. An issue where...

Slightly Over The Top… Top

I was having a good old rummage through the timber store the other day and found an old off cut from a workbench top. It's from one that I made when I was building them for a living. I used to keep these off cuts and put them to the test. Sun exposure, damp, all that...

Learn how to build your own workbench: