This was the toughest joint so far and I well and truly made a meal of it. Everything was going great until I had to free-hand saw the dovetail shoulder on that 45-degree angle. I went and cut it about 47-degree. I could see as soon as I started the cut that I was going off the line. I ploughed on thinking I might as well make it a neat cut even if it is at the wrong angle. I decided I would fix it by changing the angle of the whole joint as I'd not cut the leg bit yet. By this time I had bought a shoulder plane and that came in very handy. So now when I come to cut the apron joint for the brace, It won't be 45 degrees - I'll worry about that later! I was all happy with my bodge until a little bit of the shoulder then chipped off. That rounded off a bad day!
When Richard knocked his bottom rail in it was great that the legs bent in slightly for him. This made it easy to tightly fit the top rail as it was sort of pincered in place. That didn't happen for me. I should have checked the straightness of the legs. I found they were slightly bowed out. So even after knocking them together the top rail was not nice and tight. I had to use clamps to do the dry fit so the top rail didn't fall out and get damaged.
I read a forum post of someone doing the English workbench build and they made a mistake I was about to make before I read the post. That was cutting the notch out for the apron on the legs. If your boards aren't "bloody big" boards like Richards's, then you have to adjust the size of your top rail. You need to make sure the top rail plus the width of the bearer is smaller than the width of your boards. If it is bigger you'll have a gap. It won't be seen but you'll know it is there!
My biggest mistake on the legs was not flattening the sides of the legs before cutting the joints into them. The side where the shoulder of the rail joint sits was slightly out so the joint was extremely tight on that side. At first, I tried planing the top of the rail to ease them in. Luckily I checked the legs for squareness before planing too much off. I had to square that inside face then after cutting the joint into the legs.
I found the 2 hardest parts of the rails to be first getting the shoulder cut straight. Even 1/2mm out and it looks naff. To fix this I made a cutting guide with magnets to get them straight. Hopefully, I'll get better at just cutting them straight from the saw. I don't have a shoulder plane to help either. Secondly getting the dovetail bit flat and level. On practice attempts I found mine to be lumpy. After a few goes, I realised that I needed to make longer, lighter strokes with the chisel.
Still got a few holes for the holdfast and a planing stop to fit at some point (if I get round to it!), but otherwise finished. Great series, and a fabulous no nonsense workbench. Thanks Richard!
I’ve only gone and blooming well made it. Feeling well chuffed with how it’s turned out, I built over a period of a month, putting in odd hours where I could and boring people silly with photos of my progress. I made it 24 wide and 54 inches long as that’s the only space I had in my workshop, works a treat though. Thank you for your inspiration, I made a few mistakes but learnt so much in doing this. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with it now. All the best.
What is Christmas for if not to finish unfinished projects! This is an 8ft workbench made out of pine. On several occasions I thought I'd totally cocked up, to the extent that I thought it was beyond repair and I'd need to have a massive bonfire and start again. In the end it was all fine, and every mistake was a chance to use my brain and think of a solution. When I fitted the vice (with metal screw) I couldn't quite believe that it all looked good and worked. I was pretty proud of the end result and now looking at going onto either the spoon rack or side table project next.
A friend of mine gave me some 8x3 construction grade beams which were rescued from a skip following completion of an engineering project. Despite the shocking state of some of them and the preponderance on huge knots, it became a bit if a mission to turn them into a my first proper bench. The top and aprons stayed as 8x3 to minimise grief, though even at that I don’t think I could have planed those big knots without the thick bladed low angle plane that I was fortunate enough to have. As others have mentioned, fitting the quick release vice was a challenge (and I would probably go with Richards wooden one if I do this again) but the project had a ‘use what you have’ ethos so the old Parkinson went in. It’s no beauty but I wanted it’s roots to show and to see the learning experiences I had along the way. I hope this gives someone confidence to just get on and build with what they have, you learn so much. Thanks to Richard and Helen for the inspiration and guidance in your videos.
used rough sawn oak and ash for the trestles and carriers and rough sawn hard maple for the top and sides all trueing and dovetailing and shaping and leveling done with 3rd generation hand sheffield steel tools. Can't thank you enough Richard for so many tips and knowledge you have passed along to this woodworker. Bench is 7'-0" x 2'-6" Centre offset board in top is loose and will let it settle for the winter. Plan on drilling slots for tools and undermount shims so it can be raised up for another planing stop to work against. First coat of linseed oil on it and many more to go. I was taught once a day for a week, once a week for a month and once a month for a year....... thanks again and love the stability of this old design
I build it from stuff that i had. top and aprons are pine and legs are spruce. aprons are bit thin but it's working great. i only added legvice on far side, this side is just used with holdfasts. i'm still adding holes as i need them. i have now been using this bench for year and it's just everything i hoped and more :) i made it bit wide, as i need some extra support and it gives me option on working on both sides at the same time with ease.
Hi Richard, Just putting the finishing touches on the workbench, which was my first actual woodworking project with the exception of the plane build. Everything went fairly smoothly. It’s 8’ long and 36” tall, made from Eastern Hemlock. I opted for a 3” thick top that finished a bit strong of 2.75”. Thanks for a great design and instruction. Looking forward to putting some miles on it now. Cheers, Rob
Warm Greetings Helen & Richard - from Seattle, Washington (on the left coast), USA. Most simply stated, I could not have done it without you both! Helen, you are, among other skills, a talented videographer. There's little, if anything at all, you could have improved in capturing Richard's excellent and animated and oftentimes humorous instructions in the English Workbench video series. Richard, you're a unique man! A gifted woodworker with a remarkable ability to patiently explain and convey in easily understandable language and entertaining demonstration the various skills and tasks required to build a workbench. Amazing instruction! I've done all types of deconstruction and construction on various houses we've owned over the years, but I was not a woodworker, nor did I ever have a workshop. I searched the internet for weeks during the latter part of last year looking for instructions on how to build a sturdy, well designed workbench, built primarily with hand tools. I found you, The English Woodworker! My first steps in early 2019 was converting a corner of our garage into my "workshop" and purchasing appropriate hand tools. By early March I had viewed enough chapters of The English Workbench - multiple times - to feel comfortable purchasing the raw materials for the bench. I selected European Beech for my workbench without really knowing what I was getting into. It's beautiful wood, hard as a rock and heavy! When I got it home, I realized I had purchased a real challenge. I was unable to saw it with a hand saw, especially a Japanese pull saw, was unable to drive a nail in it without bending it and unable to drill a hole with an auger and bit. I began to wonder what I'd gotten myself into. I'm not a large man but I'm a determined soul. Although I'd wanted to build the bench with hand tools, I realized that I had to use some power tools (saw, drill), at least a little, or I wasn't going to have a workbench. I started dimensioning the lumber in March and had completed the trestles by the end of April. Unexpected challenges were ahead! On May 2, I fell from an 8' ladder while pruning a tree in our yard, something an almost seventy-five-year-old man shouldn't be doing! Long story short: I shattered my left heel bone (fortunately not my "head" bone), the injury required surgery (which the surgeon described as being somewhat like trying to put a cracked egg shell back together); it took ten screws and a plate to put my heel back together, hardware I'll have from now on; I was unable to put any weight on the left foot for over three months, so I couldn't walk except with a walker; I had to go up and down stairs on my butt; work on the bench stopped. During the last week of June I was able to get down to the workshop and slowly resume work on the bench. Since I was unable to stand, I had to sit. That was a challenge! Not sitting, but working on the bench sitting down! I did most of the work and finished my workbench sitting down! Is it perfect? Oh, hell no! Am I proud of it? Oh, hell yes! Does it work? Yes indeed! A few details: as mentioned earlier, the wood is European Beech (actually "German Beech" was stamped on the edge of the lumber); the bench is 83' x 29 1/2" x 28" H with a 1 1/4" gap running the length of the top for clamps and another gap, 1/2, " for tools while working on a project, the top also has a 1 3/4" overhang on the back; I decided against applying a finish because I didn't want the worksurface to be slick/slippery and because I really like the beauty of the natural wood. I must drill holes for holdfasts and bench dogs, then I'll be finished, I think. So why did I spend the time, energy, money and effort to build a workbench? I'm going to do something else I've never done - yet. I'm planning on building ukuleles! I'm hoping the first one might be complete by the end of this year! The joys of retirement! Thank you so very much for your assistance Richard and Helen! I wish you much continued success. Best regards, Ron Williams Seattle, Washington email@example.com
Here is my English Workbench, it got started and stopped, put in to storage and then, eventually finished. I didn't bother with the dovetail half laps and went with standard half laps as I always planned on painting the lower frame black. I haven't applied any finish to the top as I wanted to see how it moves before another flattening in six months or so time, the timber used to build this bench moved like buggery so I expect I will have some work to do. The Vice went together reasonably well with the main reason for using this face vice was because it I could straddle the leg as the bench is quite small (1400-1500mm) and also having reasonable capacity (300mm) between the guide bar and screw. Unfortunately the vice jaw bowed soon after installation, luckily I hadn't lined the jaw and just this weekend I opted to reflatten the inside face of the jaw with a combo of hand plane and chisel, lined the jaw and apron with a rubberised cork and beveled the leading edge. I'm dead chuffed with this bench.
I've built several general purpose benches over the years, many of which for general site use. This is my first attempt at a joiners bench built purely using and for hand tool use. At 6' by 2' it's not big by any means but perfect for the size of projects I intend. Inspired by Richard's French bench series it was built around a laminated redwood slab found at a local timber merchant. It was 72" by 18" and just under 3" thick. The end trestles are ex 4" redwood with drawbore mortices. As we are soon moving the stretchers are stub mortices with coach bolts for easy knock down. The tool well is redwood and ply. The vice and deadman are ash, the runner chestnut and the pin guide iroko, may seem like odd choices but the materials were easily at hand. I'm intending a lower shelf but may include drawers. The bench took a little over three days spread over a week and cost £150 including hardware. I'm looking forward to many projects using this.
My newly completed bench in my newly completed workshop. I couldn't be happier with the results, and Richards instruction and style helped a ton. A few years ago I wanted to get away from power tools, so I sold off what I could do without and started buying old stuff off eBay and restoring it. Finally got to the point that I had a room in the basement I could use for a workshop. After getting that all squared away, it was time for the workbench build. My first hand tool only project. Being able to build this bench without already having a bench was likely it's biggest selling point for me....no big laminations and such. But it also has a traditional beauty that I don't think can be denied. Since I couldn't get 8/4 pine here....we'll, I could, but the price rivaled beech and pacific coast maple. So I went to the home center and bought green doug fir construction lumber. Mostly 4x8, but also 4x6 for the legs, and some 2x boards for the trestles and bearers. The top three boards finished out about 3 1/8" thick, and I took the front apron down to around 2 1/2". While I'd have loved to go the wooden vise screw route, I was a bit worried about clamping narrow boards against the top, pulling on the apron. So I went with a twin screw, chain drive vise that attaches to the underside of the top. Works great, but was unfortunately more expensive than all the rest of the bench materials combined. The process of building it was great too. I learned a lot, and with so many trips to the sharpening stones, finally know what truly sharp is. Thanks for those videos as well! I've rambled on long enough. I simply can't thank Helen and Richard enough for putting out such great content in a way that's instructional, informative, and entertaining. Cheers to you both!
Finally finished my workbench I've been working on for about 4 months or so now. Hard to find time with a family and other stuff going on, home repairs etc. But I wanted to start working with hand tools, and what frustrated me the most about hand tools in the past was not having a way to hold them steady. I knew I needed a workbench to do some serious woodworking, so I started looking for a bench build. Most designs had a glued up top, which I didn't want to tackle since you kind of need a bench for the glue up, and a lot of clamps, which I don't have. So I narrowed it down to a couple benches, ultimately deciding on the English Workbench because : 1. it ticked all the boxes I needed, 2. it didn't need a glued up top, 3. the sample video quality and Richard's style blew away the competition, 4. Looks like they taught the basic skills needed, 5. I like the traditional look. So glad I chose this. I had barely any hand tool experience as far as joinery ( I had previously built things with table saw and pocket holes etc) I was able to build it with a pretty minimal set of tools as you can see. And I learned a TON of really good skills and joinery. A lot of little tips and tricks I never would have thought of. I did make some mistakes, but alder is cheap enough where a mistake wasn't very costly. But the best way to learn is by making those mistakes to see what works and what doesn't. I mainly followed the plans except I added the removable split top spacer to hold tools, allow for a saw/plane stop, and allow for clamping, as you can see in some of the pics. I used red alder, as that is about the cheapest wood available where I live, and much more stable than the construction grade wood at the big box stores. I slapped on several coats of BLO and turps, until it stopped absorbing anymore basically, probably 5 or 6 coats. Nice grippy surface. Used a $39 USD vise screw from Amazon, works good. Will add the Veritas pop up saw stop later. Since I shortened mine to 5' , I was having some space issues on the left with the vise parts already, didn't want to add another block of wood to that section. So far its working great, using it for working on a Ukelele kit with my daughter, and really enjoying all the clamping options. After that I'll probably crack on with the hall or side table build to build up my hand tool skills. Thanks!
My first real project, built over the course of a year. Kids (2.5 and 1 years now) , new job... not much time. No, it's not perfect and since I did change some initial design choices later on some things are a mess. Still, it's a bench, it is flat(ish), and it is mine and I built it! From construction grade spruce or fir, some pine, 180cm long, tool well (removable skinny board). I need to tweak the vise and screw guide bars - again, but I'm actually quite happy (and proud).
Hi Richard & Helen, This was my first workbench build and to be honest I was a little uncertain about how it was going to turnout. I watched the videos and studied the plans quite a bit before I started. Almost to the point of stalling, however, once I got going everything went pretty smoothly. Sure I made a few mistakes along the way but I’m happy with the result and feel like it was all a great learning experience. Thanks again! Neil North Carolina
Building this bench was hard work but worth every minute. After spending months of watching videos about building work benches I finally came across this and together with the way Richard teaches you how to Build it just so straight forward and with a bit humour which makes all the difference an the great camera work off Helen a thought well I reckon I can do that and well a good few nights after work and weekends I did ! And I even managed to get the top and aprons timbers free offthe last job I'd done for a customer 8x2 joists they worked a treat , I also wood 100% recommend the vice screw that Richard mentioned from dictum tools its pricey, £230 but amazing ! And hopefully I'll never need another. I built the bench 7ft long 26inch wide and 34inch high And it feels great I'm about 6ft tall and have 3 broken vertebrae in the middle of my back that had to be fused together in surgery and a bit of titanium scaffolding placed either side to straighten me back up and also have a battery with wires to my back implanted under my skin to stimulate the damaged nerves in my back to ease the pain , so the height was a big decision for me and so far so good 👍 I'm not sure how it's going to be if I have to cut lots of dovetails or pieces were you have to be bent over for long periods so I might have to adapt , but apart from that its probably the first and only bench I'll ever need it's a cracker solid as rock thanks Richard and Helen Ste
I ordered these wonderful screws from Richard a couple of year ago and have finally put them to use. I couldn’t be happier - these screws have immense power behind them, look gorgeous and run smooth as warm butter on toast. The English work bench series was instrumental in getting off my a**e and building it. Although I hope one day to see Richard undertake a series on the far too fashionable French bench (sorry mate). These were originally for my eventual Roubo bench but I needed a vice! So enter the Moxon-Felebien. It’s big - 9” high but I’m 5’ 8” and my bench is 29” largely for hand prepping. Also I find with my buggered back that ripping vertically or horizontally (and I’m using Japanese saws mainly) is easier on my back and ergonomically suited to eastern saws. With the huge capacity I’ll be able to use it for resawing with the frame saw I’m gonna build and ripping with my Maebiki Oga once I’ve sharpened it. Funny thing is with this vice and my giant slab sat on trestles I’m beginning to think I don’t even need a fancy bench - I just want one:-)) Thanks again to Richard and Helen for all their passion, inspiration, charisma and guidance.
My take on Richard's workbench is 2.4m long and 0.8m wide. I'm quite tall, so it's 94cm high and I have found that I like that height. The timber is a West Australian eucalypt called Karri, a whopping great tree that can grow 85m high, straight up with a spreading crown. It's used mainly for construction, but I think the timber is quite nice for furniture. The vises are from an Australian maker called HNT Gordon, and are fantastic. I can't speak highly enough of these face and tail vises. Thanks for looking, Zac.
I learned more than I could ever have imagined making this bench. Gave myself whopping awful tennis elbow using a dodgy hammer with a slightly loose head, and made every mistake in the book - sometimes while I was thinking about them even! But it’s done and I’m so happy with it... and so is the wife :)
My english bench is entirely made of 1 1/2" construction lumber. The aprons are two boards thick and the legs three boards thick. I did a bit different from Richard's plan. The aprons are seated at the bottom of the trestle's notch. To avoid problems with seasonal movement, the bearers are a tad higher than the trestles top, so the top dosen't touch the trestles. I just fitted a leg vise with a cheap metal screw from LeeValley. It's my second vise using this type of screw, it works great. I will do a second flattening soon, than a coat of tung oil, and voilà ! It's a bit on the rough side, I focused on fonction rather than look. A fun build and a solid bench for years to come. Thanks Richard and Helen for what you do, you guys rock ! Daniel Qc, Canada