Everyone knows a workbench should be rugged and massive, “the bigger the better.” But some years ago I set out to build a firm yet semi portable stand for teaching and demonstrating. The little workbench that eventually evolved is now an indispensable part of my workshop. At first glance it looks like a traditional sculpture stand, and one might hastily conclude that it is too small, too frail and too tippy to be of general use to the woodworker-it simply doesn’t look like a workbench. However, it does offer some noteworthy advantages.
First, it is tall. Most benches are 36 in. high or lower, but many-if not most-hand operations are more comfortable at a higher level. For me (I’m 6 ft.), a 42-in. bench makes all those little jobs like letting in an scotches on plate, carving out a fan, or cutting a dovetail, much easier.
For woodcarving, a top surface of 12 in. by 12 in. is ideal: small enough to work all around, yet large enough to handle a sizable sculpture. For general woodworking the dimensions can be increased to about 16 in. by 18 in. (as shown). Getting much larger subtracts more than it adds.
Making the top in two halves minimizes warping. High-density hardwoods such as oak, birch, maple and Beech about 1 in. thick is suitable. A one-piece top of I-in. hardwood plywood might also do nicely. Cross support cleats should also be hardwood and the top should be fastened with heavy wood screws, lag crews or carriage bolts. Be sure fasteners are well counter bored below the surface. On my first model set the screws flush with the surface and frequently hit those with carving chisels until I finally set them deeper.