Building Your First Workbench – Mistakes To Avoid Part 2 of 2

Wood working table. Saw, clamps and wood shavings on a work deskA few days ago we wrote an article discussing the first 5 mistakes to eliminate before building your first workbench. When you are tackling this project, it is always good to make sure that you look at what others have done in the past and use their experience in order to not make their same mistakes. The previous post had the first 5 in it, here are the next set of issues to be eliminated:

6. Don’t build the work bench/table to deep

Many a workbench has been built a full sheet of plywood or other sheet good in width – at 48 inches. If it is this deep, it may be less useful than if you went at least a little narrower. As a rule of thumb, the top of the bench needs to be less deep for things like case work. Reaching from each side to get to the middle, especially of a tall project is easier if you don’t go with such a wide top.

7. Using the incorrect materials in building the bench or table.

Laminating the top is not necessary unless you are making the top out of 2×4’s turned on edge. If you already have a large sheet for the top or a slab of wood of some sort, there is no sense to rip it down and rejoin it together. It will look nice at first – but within just a little use, your workbench will become just that – a place to beat on, scratch up, and wrestle with your work (at times.)

8. Worrying how you will prevent the wood from expanding and contracting and keeping the surface flat.

Wood is going to move, so obsessing about this will waste energy and time in designing and building the table. The bench will start out flat and that is what matters. Over time, when the wood moves, you can fix the problem.

In general your bench will be exactly flat along the front twelve inches of length on the top. Give it a few years, the wood will completely dry (unless it was old materials when you started) and the expansion and contraction won’t be much at all.

9. Making your bench the best on the planet.

It’s true, woodworkers usually love to tinker with what they have. Once we get an idea, sometimes it is hard to get it out of our head until it has been accomplished. This is normal. But keep this question in mind. Do you want a great work table or are you trying to be better than the woodworkers for the last 1000 years? Why not just build the bench and add on as you go? Maybe that could be your first project? If not you will end up spending all your time on the bench and not on your projects – for which the bench is for!

10. Making it too elegant.

Some want their work table to be a site. That’s fine if you are making a piece of furniture, but you need to focus on the tools of the bench and function over the beauty. Make the woodworking vices better, put energy into how stable and stout it is. Make the time that goes into it count on the function. If you have a little tear out on the bench even when you first build it – are you going to rip the top off and start all over again? What about if there is a knot or check in the top? Remember, there will be more where that came from! Just give it a few projects and you will start to realize it is useless to worry about a scartch on the table.

I am not saying just throw the thing together with no concern about being proud of your accomplishment. But focus on the important areas of the work bench. Everything else is secondary.

Updated: February 16, 2017 — 11:56 pm
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