It was a revelation to make this entire wood bench using hand tools. The skills I learned building this bench will be with forever. I loved I could make bench left handed.
My first piece of furniture! Hopefully not the last. Built over about 5-6 weeks with just a jack plane, block plane, ryoba saw, marking guage, knife, square, ruler, mallet, hammer, punch and one chisel. Thanks for the lessons!
Well all I can say is I had a go! Made from fence posts, floor joists and 4 x 2s, more knots than timber. What a learning experience. Loved it! I will make a smaller one but next time I will use some decent timber and hopefully my joinery will be much better. It is a solid, stable beast though!
My first woodworking project since school (a long time ago!). It took about 3 weeks of long evenings and some weekend work. I thought it was going wrong at several stages but it all came together in the end, and all the working surfaces are flat and square. My early joints were a bit hit and miss but i absolutely nailed the vice mortice - spot on square, so got it right when it counted, with just enough experience to take on that joint! The traditional wood screw vice (Lake Erie Toolworks) is a delight! I made a couple of design tweaks - as a leftie I had to decide whether to move the vice position but in the end i went for traditional left mounted, so my (right handed) sons can use it too, and it just doesn’t look ‘right’ the other way around. However i did add a second planing brace on the right trestle, so aggressive planing can be done in both directions - i also like the symmetry this gives visually. To increase the L/R flexibility, instead of Richard’s planing spike design i bought a pair of Simon James blacksmith-forged toothed dogs, which are ¾” hole mounted. They still suit the traditional feel of the bench but can be moved from one end to the other to accommodate left and right handers. The only other change i made was to add a lower central brace, which means the two upper ones work with it as a triangle – i was concerned there was a risk of my apron cupping outwards over time, due to the orientation i ended up mounting it in and noting the half-glued apron joints, so that central brace triangle should help stabilise it. I've learned a huge amount in a few weeks and wish to give great credit to Richard for his hugely insightful and highly accessible tuition style which was really transformative. I've learned a huge amount very quickly and I’m delighted with the results. Ready to take on my next project – the spoon rack. Looking forward to doing my first ever dovetails!
Knee high saw horses based on: https://www.theenglishwoodworker.com/the-saw-donkey/ . Made from reclaimed fence posts. Sacrificial top can be changed if too damaged. This was my first try at M&T joints and pegged M&Ts. It makes a good platform to built my English Workbench while I don't have a bench. Stout and sturdy - start here if a bench build is too overwhelming as a first project. I'm glad I did.
Finished my workbench in March 2020 and it's had a lot of use since, not all woodworking! here's an old shot when I first finished it. Also, while I'm not sure it was Richards original intended use for the design, I've just been building a mud kitchen for my goddaughter and decided the best base for it was...... and English style work bench! It's not quite finished but for a bunch of old pallets it's certainly has a lot of strength. I'll try to remember to post a picture of the completed beastie.
My completed english style workbench build. I used mahogany wood except for the reclaimed Ipil wood for the legs. Finished it with 2 coats of linseed oil/varnish/thinner and waxed it with beezwax/BLO. My favorite part is the big face vise with 3” diameter wooden screw, i think i did something right as it operates very smoothly without racking 🙂
That took a hell of a lot longer than I imagined. I enjoyed it, though and I've ended up with a beast of a bench I'm very happy with. Thanks for the videos!
Here is my English Workbench, I am very pleased with it and slightly amazed that I made it, I started with a very low skill level. The timber I used was mostly reclaimed from my Dad's barn, so not a square corner or flat surface anywhere, the week I optimistically allowed to build it just about sore the wood flattened and squared, 6 weeks later I had a workbench, all built by hand except for ripping the length of 9x4 in half for the legs. There is very little perfect about it so good job perfection isn't a thing and you would need something larger than a gnat to measure the inaccuracies. However thanks largely to my engineer husband and his vernier calipers the joints are good in all the right places so it stands solidly on all 4 feet and the surface and aprons are flat and square. I missed out the planing brace as it looked like a skill to far and my bench is only 5ft long, to fit in the shed, so less leverage to cause racking. I'll add holes for holding things when I know where I need them, it has been much admired by friends and relatives, one suggesting it looked strong enough to park his car on, it is a pleasure to use. I thoroughly enjoyed making it and could not have done it without you're instructive clear and entertaining videos, good job they're digital, I'd have worn holes in tapes at all the difficult bits. Thank you very much Richard and Helen
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.