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Please keep in mind that if you like your workbench, I’m not encouraging you to chop it into firewood and give it a Viking funeral. The Tail Vise: The L-shaped tail vise on the right side of the bench above is good for clamping panels for planing or sanding (I use a planing stop for individual boards). The Benchtop Itself: Some European-style benches have a wide apron that bands a thin interior core.
Chris is a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking Magazine and the publisher at Lost Art Press. The sliding leg vise is something I’ve been meaning to add to the ROubo for two years now. It’s fortuitous for me that you are delving into the subject just as I am building a monster of a bench. The top is just under 3 inches thick with a 3 inch thick front apron, a rear apron with tool slots and breadboard ends. As to twin-screws as tail vises, I’ve basically come down to the quick-release solution as the end vise for me. You are right that we all have to find the bench that works for our work (and our wallet!), I just think that we sometimes make it hard on ourselves and try to reinvent the wheel. You make a good point about using only one set of dogs and putting stress on a single screw of the twin-screw, but wouldn’t that be a case to disengage the chain and use only the one screw with the dog on it?
As I was working on my bench last weekend, the quick-release nut wore out on the vise I was using in the meantime. Using it like a tail vise isn’t good for the mechanism when clamping using one set of dogs (which is typical). As to tail-vise hardware, sagging is a problem that is still faced by the best bench makers of today. Certainly you could pick apart most all workbench designs, and there will never be a perfect bench to complete all tasks.
I noted in the recent PWW that your 10 points had some interesting comments in regards to benches, and specific in rule number 4 you rat out a dual twin screw vise as not being a tested design (hi Chris Billman!;-). I like the twin-screw a lot, and in fact, it got me thinking that the way we work, the way we clamp to our bench, or the way we secure our work so we can work it effeciently…it varies. Christopher Schwarz has helped many of us solve some pretty frustrating problems over the years.
Planemaker Gary Blum introduced a new workbench design for sale here at the International Woodworking Fair. The most clever aspect of the bench is how Blum incorporated Jorgensen pipe clamps into the design to work as the face vise and the end vise.
In the face-vise position, Blum built a twin-screw vise by placing two pipe clamps in bronze bushings on 18″ centers. Blum put a similar clamping system on the end of the bench, but he also incorporated a dog system into the end vise so you can clamp panels to your benchtop between dogs. Make the angled cuts on the ends of the side blanks using a sliding miter saw, table saw or circular saw. Use a sabre saw to cut the arm brackets, and remove any saw marks with a pass from a block plane. Cut the arm stretcher slightly oversize, and use the table saw to rip the angle on its front edge. Before installing the seat slats, you must install the plugs in the back slats because they will be inaccessible after the seat slats are installed.
Use a small brush to spread a bit of polyurethane glue in each screwhole, and install the plugs. Cut the seat slats to size, bore and counterbore pilot holes in them, and round over their top edges as you did with the other chair components.
Sand the chair with 120-grit sandpaper to remove rough spots and machine marks from the face of the lumber. Woodworker James Oliver has built a massive workbench with French lines (tree trunk legs), English-style workholding (a twin-screw face vise) and some modern practicality (a quick-release vise in the end-vise position). When I first posted photos of Oliver’s bench in January, readers wanted to see more photos , not only of the bench, but of the shop. I’m curious what that black thing that hangs out under the left end of the bench in the upper photo and is tucked under in the lower photo? Even though any photo of a workbench will stop me in my tracks—THAT is a jaw-dropping workbench. It never even occurred to me to use anything but a couple of shop scraps and 3 square drive screws to make mine from the description in your book.
On Easter weekend I was in Rochester, New York, to speak to the Rochester Woodworking Society on Friday night and then give a one-day class on handwork on Saturday. During the question-and-answer session after the lecture, one woman asked for advice about making her workbench mobile. The floor locks are designed to be used with separate casters (though there are some casters that have floor locks built into them check these out).
If it works, it could be a reasonable and bulletproof solution to a problem I’ve been trying to solve for a long time.
Well I am designing mine and I think I have a simple solution not expensive and as sturdy as you would like.
Now drill a hole through the base of your bench leg offset just enough to allow the wheels to be functional and of course level. As well if you plan on making workbenches for other tools consider incorperating this functionalty in all the legs so as to make just one set of 4. And, naturally, it works wonders when it comes time to move my 8′ bench around the shop, or lift it up so I can level it out with shims.
Good news is that there are multiple varieties of these things, (although MC is admittedly more expensive that others may be) including a version that would attach to the side of the workbench legs.
I hope no one thinks I’m suggesting that these be used for raising a bench off the floor. My Ridgid table saw has a built-in foot pedal, step on it once and it is raised up onto 4 casters, step on it again and it is lowered back to the floor. I would think that three might be the optimal number because a three point mount is so stable.
Floor locks are not intended to raise the workbench, they have tremendous holding power to keep what ever you use them on in place. OK, yeah, I keep posting, but like Chris, this is something I have thought about for a long time. I have these on my workbenches and don’t have problems with the bench walking around.
By the way, I also think that there are locking casters out there that actually would do the job. I have some very heavy-duty casters that originally were mounted on a large telecommunications mainframe computer in the 1970s.
To move the mainframe, a tool would be applied to the square section and the rod screwed down until the wheels hit the floor and then lifted the mainframe off the floor. I have had these casters for years with the intent of putting them on my main woodworking bench. My 40 year old Craftsman contractor saw stand has 2 casters like this (threaded rod to raise and lower) and two wheels that lower in a C-shaped slot that puts them on the ground at the bottom of the slot and raises them at the top of the slot. The bench plane has three jobs in the woodshop: to straighten the wood, to smooth it and to remove it.


Add into the mix all the new bevel-up bench planes that are available in the catalogs now, and it’s bewildering enough to make you want to cuddle up close to your belt sander.
Believe it or not, there is a way to make sense of all the different sizes and configurations of bench planes out there and to select the few that you need in your shop.
In this article, I’m going to walk through the entire line of forms of the metallic-bodied bench planes and describe what each tool is good for. You can actually get your hand comfortably around the tote and work the controls with great ease. This is a terrific guide for anyone wanting to get an idea of what they need and why (or why not), especially for anyone starting out. I also learned that my #6 isn’t as mysterious as I thought it was (and now, to find a scraper insert for it!). Given that this was posted over four years ago, I’m really surprised that no comments have been posted yet. Alert reader Bengt Nilsson of Stockholm, Sweden, sent in this great photo of a joiner’s bench that was recovered from the Vasa , a Swedish battleship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. If you’d like to explore this photo even more, download the high-resolution version below (be sure to check out the planes and other tools in the display case above the bench). The second deck on such a ship would’ve had ribs supporting the hull planking that intruded on the interior space. Without sneaking into the display and pulling that bench away from the wall we cannot know for certain.
It’s the bench that Ulmia made famous and the bench that built a million cabinets in the 20th century. But the vise’s guide bars get in the way when you are dovetailing, and the jaws rack when you clamp using only one corner of the vise (a common operation because the guide bars encourage this). But if you are considering building it for your shop, making a few small changes to the form might make your life easier. The Lervad Bench (an old Leichtung product) has a shoulder vise that clamps on the outside and the inside of the dogleg. This is clearly where a traditional tail vise would shine, it allows all of the force to be placed on a narrow area, such as a single set of bench dogs. Luckily I got it from Lee Valley and they’re sending me a new and hopefully improved nut. In my discussions with bench makers, they don’t consider modern hardware to be better than old.
OTOH, one could easily argue that most all tasks could be completed on the European style bench as well, and that you could produce some of the finest woodwork on par with any craftsman. Well, not very wild in the sense that it was done on old Fisher Norris leg vises used for blacksmithing…but take a twin-screw and mount it sideways and create a non-racking type leg vise.
Below the torsion box top is a set of red-oak legs and stretchers joined with bolts, which allow the bench to be knocked down. It is a solid bench, and the torsion box will ensure that the top remains rigid and flat (unless you leave your bench out in the rain).
The sides of this chair also function as the rear legs and are the real foundation of the chair. The most efficient tool for this is a combination drill and countersink bit chucked in a drill press, but the holes can be made accurately with a portable drill, or a drill and drill stand.
Apply glue to the brackets, clamp them to the front legs and drilll pilot holes for the screws.
Trace the radius profile on either end of the stretcher, and then use the sabre saw to cut the shape. Plane a bevel on the back bottom edge of the first seat slat to create a drainage space where the slat meets the chair back. Oliver, who works part-time for Coastal Carvings in Coombs, British Columbia, obliged with these two other views of his bench and shop.
Since I use a combination of machine and hand tools, I made these as stationary stands to stack timber on when using a buzzer (planner?), bench saw (table saw), etc. Using casters that lock isn’t a good solution – the bench is easily moved even if the wheels are locked.
Putting a mobile base on a bench makes it a tripping hazard, and your feet keep ramming into the base of the mobile base. The problem is that they are overly complex or expensive – sometimes more expensive than the bench itself. During my Friday-night lecture I gave a history lesson on workbenches (with nudity!) and tool chests (thankfully, no nudity). These are used in industry to hold heavy stuff in place, anything from large computers to machinery to work tables.
Now attach threaded rod through both holes and you can use the post as a lever to raise and lower each leg and then put a peg hole through both legs again to secure the top of the post to the leg of the workbench. That single clamp is enough to keep a very heavy load from moving once it is clamped to the floor but releases with ease.
Because people can work wood in so many weird ways, I’ll admit that what follows is equal doses of traditional workshop practice, personal preferences (formed by years of planing) and stubborn opinion that comes from growing up on a mountain.
The traditional (but by no means only) job of the fore plane is to remove material quickly. The primary job of jointer planes is to straighten the wood, a task it excels at by virtue of its long sole (the longer the sole, the straighter the resulting work). 1 in place of a block plane – woodworkers with arthritis report that it’s easier to cradle in their hands than a block plane. The shorter the sole, the more that the tool is able to get into localized areas on a board and remove tear-out.
I had read a multitude of articles before I got started with handplanes and if I had had seen this one first, all the others would have made a lot more sense. This feature is common on English benches and some French and Canadian benches I’ve seen. What if hull boards to be used on this bench were already surfaced 2S and all the ship’s carpenter had to do was cut to length and work the edges? When I examined the original photo (a large 3mb file) I couldn’t find any evidence of a mortise on the rear leg. The following is intended only to make you think about what a workbench should do with ease. Other European benches have a nice solid and thick top (as shown above) that is great for clamping. I noticed a few years ago at my favorite lumberyard that 2x14x16′ SYP looked mighty pretty, we’re talking nearly knot free! But in the real world it seems the tail vise is a complicated vise to implement, and the majority of folks that have done it don’t use them nearly as much as they had thought. I saw a comment in some of your text that getting a quick release vise setup is often a decent solution, and what I did to help assist me in building the bench that I have invisioned in my mind. Mount it mid-height of the top and floor, or use one of the chain driven twin screw type vises that LN sells which is narrower. The base design is a couple hundred years old, but Blum has added Baltic Birch plywood, bronze bushings and pipe clamps to make it a thoroughly modern bench.
You might be wondering if pipe clamps have enough throw to be useful as a woodworking vise. Cut to the waste side of the line and then work down to the line using a block plane and sandpaper.


Driving screws into endgrain is generally not considered to be the best method of fastening. Apply glue to the joint surfaces, and use clamps to temporarily hold the legs to the chair side assembly while you drive the screws to fasten the legs.
The window directly behind the bench is also home to a rack with striking and boring tools. Almost every year, I come up with some scheme to lay a wooden floor in both shops, but something (usually my love of eating meat once in a while) gets in the way.
This works OK; but if you hit a bump the wheels will flip back (I have a solution to this that I’ll publish later in the week).
The way he described a floor lock sounds like a dream: Press a foot pedal to lock the bench on rubber pads.
Palletizing wood storage, unfinished projects, scrap plywood, and so on, designing workstations to be moved that way, (even cabinet saws) can really work well. They are an industrial company but they will sell to anyone or at least they did then and they had a very low minimum order. I tried to find two more of the screw down type, but they aren’t in the Sears parts list anymore.
In fact, it’s quite possible to do all the typical bench plane chores with just one tool (more on that later).
It’s not as rare as its smaller and cuter sibling, nor is it all that much more useful. It is an excellent balance of sole length and cutter width to be useful for typical furniture parts. Always keep in mind though, No matter what plane you have, learning to set up the blades and sharpen them is the most crucial part of it all. I got a 38 degree blade extra for hard woods and the finished wood from shavings of this plane are smooth as glass.
One possible explanation for its appearance here might be that it helped the bench nest against the hull. While the original stretcher might have been lapped onto the rear of the legs (similar to the side stretchers) that would be a bit unusual considering the front stretcher is clearly tenoned into the legs. The nice thing about this style of base is that it can be disassembled (by removing wedges or bolts) to be transported. Also (and this is supposed to be a nice feature) many of the commercial versions of this bench form offer a handy drawer below the top. You would probably find some faults with it, as I will most likely for the way I work over time, but at some point we all need to make a decision on what type of workbench we think will work for the work we each do for ourselves. I think that two twin-screw vises is a fine setup for some woodworkers, but it is overkill for most cabinetmaking operations.
It probably operates more easily than your wooden twin-screw on the Holtzapffel bench also. LN also sells what appears to be a quality tail vise in two different sizes…maybe some folks cheesed on the hardware, or should have designed with better hardware? Though plywood is obviously more difficult to cut than cardboard, the advantage of using it is that it is easy to make fine adjustments to the shape using sandpaper and a block plane. Use a featherboard firmly clamped to the saw table to ensure that the workpiece moves firmly along the fence, and also to ensure that it doesn't kick back.
Proceed across the chair back driving four screws through the front of each slat into each stretcher.
I made provision to add an adjustable roller to each trestle to enable them to be used in tailing-off the machines. And after some more research that Rouleau helped me with, I really want to purchase some of these floor locks to mess with. I probably would put the floor locks and casters on the bottom of my legs – and that will require some real estate and some design work. If your workshop is in a garage, and you have a nice, level-ish concrete floor, it’s just so easy to move things around. The fore plane is typically the first bench plane to touch the wood to get it to rough size. And adjusting the depth of cut is no fun either because of the cramped area behind the frog. 4 or larger plane will actually prevent the tool from removing more than a shaving (maybe two) in a small area. 4 with a 50° frog, which helps reduce tearing (a 55° frog also is available for reducing tearing in curly woods). The downside is that the trestle-style legs are inset at the front and therefore can’t act as a clamping surface for long boards, panels or door assemblies.
Just make sure the groove for the sliding section is as far back in the benchtop as possible. And that’s interesting as the movement corresponded to the advent of manual training. Cost is certainly a consideration, but I think we all need to make our own decision on what cost we can live with for a workbench. And one could say that by design a leg vise SHOULD rack, but I was trying to think of a way to elliminate the bottom pin. If you need to clamp really thick work, the pipe clamps can be slid out and locked in position to hold thick stock. Note that since the screws on the bottom of the stretcher will not be visible, nor directly exposed to moisture, they do not need plugs. I am thrilled with the functionality of mine (they are not a patch on the beauty of Russ Merz’s), I would to consider even loaning these out *-))).
Much more so than mobile bases or casters… and you only need to buy the one pallet jack, instead of several sets of casters or trip-hazard mobile bases. I worked maintenance at a GE lighting factory for many years and the colson casters and floor locks were always made much heavier than other brands.
Add to that fact that the cutter is so narrow and you can see why you’d be working way too hard to plane a typical carcase side. And I’ve heard from maybe one woodworker in all my years that they had abnormally small hands that were suited for a No.
This is not the tool I’ll use for really tricky domestic woods or exotics – I use a bevel-up plane for that (see below). You can build a so-called bench slave (a portable stand with adjustable pegs) to help perform this function, but many other simple benches don’t require this extra equipment. 3 for two things: smoothing small-scale parts (such as narrow rails, stiles, muntins and mullions) and for removing tear-out in very localized areas in a larger panel.
Don’t go out and buy the most expensive one and think its going to make you a woodworker. They allow you to use less raw material when making your benchtop, but they offer less support when you are working on flat panels.
Some woodworkers like to saw on the end of the bench, and the tail vise gets in the way of this.



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