Cliff’s Bench Project


Well, after several months of part time effort I’ve completed my first workbench, and can join the ranks of computer heads turned amateur woodworkers. Here it is in all it’s glory, just prior to putting on a Danish Oil natural colour finish.



First off, let me thank Bob and David Key for their Good, Fast and Cheap Bench web pages. I chose your design over many others I researched, since it seemed like a good compromise between being simple enough for a newbie to build, and functional and sturdy enough to last many years.  I’m very happy with the results!


I freely used information from several others on their experiences building their own variations of Bob and Dave Key’s Good, Fast and Cheap Bench. Thanks to Jeff Youngstrom for writing up how to build a bench dog. Thanks also to Bill Claspy and his bench building pages. I lifted several good ideas on how to set up my end vice from Bill, and plan to build a bench slave like his as soon as I find I need one. Thanks to Frank O'Donnell and his Le Bench web site. I mined Frank’s pages for several good bits of information. Paul Womack has done an excellent job of collecting lots of workbench related links together. I recommend you check his Workbench Links site out.



My design:


I built my bench to fit my limited size work shed: The bench is 24” wide by 60” long, not including the end vice. I wanted it to come apart for easy moving, since I plan on keeping it for a good long time and taking it with me when I move. I needed the top, legs and stretchers to all come apart easily.


To make the long stretchers be joined to the legs but removable, I used 1” deep blind mortise and tenon joints with bolts through the middle, and chopped out holes for the nuts & washers.


I got the idea from seeing the Lee Valley “bench bolts” in their catalogue, which are bolts sold for this purpose with nice brass cylinder shaped nuts to fit snug in drilled holes. They were  $30 Cdn for 4 however, so I compromised with my own chopped out square holes and regular bolts and nuts. Total cost for these bolts and nuts, approximately $10.


To the left is a close up photo of the nut end of the bolts, inside the holes I chiselled out of the stretchers. This method worked out very well – the snug mortise and tenon, combined with the bolt to hold it together, just doesn’t budge.


Other than the stretcher to leg joints, the rest of the bench is pure Good, Fast, and Cheap Bench.






I used construction grade Spruce Pine from Home Depot (or the Borg as it has affectionately been called J) and Douglas fir for the vice jaws. I can’t believe how much hardwoods retail at! Even just to buy enough Maple for the end vice jaws (on sale no less) would have cost close to $50! I decided fir would have to be good enough.


Overall, the wood cost was $110 Cdn. $35 of that was in the Fir vice jaws and the Maple and Oak dogs.






The end vice is a Lee Valley “large front vice” with my own wooden jaws. The inner jaw doubles as an end skirt, and the outer jaw has a grand total of 3 dogs! I chose three rows of dog holes and three dogs in the end vice jaw mainly because I couldn’t decide the best placement without building and trying it! I had read about vice racking if the dog is not in line with the screw, but had seen a number of photos where that was not the case. So, I decided to put one in line with the screw and one on either side close to in-line with the vice guide bars. It turns out that all the dogs work great, so I figure no harm in having a couple of extra options. The picture to the right is a close up of the end vice, with all the dogs in the raised position.


Total cost of this vice, including handle and tax, but not the jaws = $120 Cdn.








The front vice, seen to the left here, is an inexpensive Record knockoff made by Mastercraft, the Canadian Tire brand. It’s regular price was a little under 50% of the Record equivalent at about $80 Cdn, but I got this one on sale new for $30. Seems to be quite well constructed – more than enough for lots of years of use on this bench.



Bench Dogs:




The bench dog design I used from Jeff Youngstrom worked out very well. I used Maple for the dog and Red Oak for the spring strip. The dogs are ¾” by 1” by about 5”. The portion above the spring is ¾”.


That’s my Stanley Bailey No 5 plane I bought on e-bay for approx $40 Cdn including shipping. E-bay really is the best way to purchase these great old planes.


Speaking of hand planes…I’d had a horrible experience when I was younger using a Record hand plane, so when I read about the old Bailey planes and how sharpening was the secret to using them, I decided to buy a few different sizes, clean and sharpen them up, and try again. WOW, I’m glad I did. Now I really believe the adage that sharpening is one of the two secrets to hand tool woodworking (a good bench is the other :). Since I learned the “scary sharp” system of sharpening plane blades and chisels I’ve not looked back.





The bench is sturdy as a rock, just the right size & height, the bench dogs and dog holes work awesome, the vices are exceptional, and I love the tool tray!!

All this for approx $290 Cdn, including vices, glue, everything :)


If you are interested, here’s some photo’s to help visualize the bench in its environment: our property, house, and work shed (plus I've added images of some woodworking and woodturning projects).