Rough & Ready Benchtop

I’m tall and my rinkydink bench is short. So, I made a benchtop bench.

The original design was copped from ideas I saw online, including the Benchcrafted Moxon vise benchtop. The holdfast idea was straight from Caleb James.

My goals were to keep it simple and cheap, get it solid and square, and up and working. Excuse my lack of artistic ability – the original sketch reflects the simplicity I was gunning for.  A block of wood.

Benchtop bench sketch

Down the road I want something a bit more, er, better. This was as much an experiment as anything else. I think/learn best by doing, as such, this was a way to get an idea of how to go about a benchtop bench before going whole hog for hardware and fancy hardwoods.


And the result:



It couldn’t be more simple. The bench is yellow pine 2x4s. The top is 12″ wide, 20″ long. The legs and face are attached with butt joints. It stands just under 6″ tall. It’s solid. I can stand on it and it won’t move. After glue up, I squared the face/fixed chop to the benchtop.

I was originally going to glue a piece of hardwood to the face to add thickness but the holdfasts hold fast in just the 2″ of pine. Wanted to see how that worked out. I can always add to this.

The moving vise is a piece of andiroba I had lying around. Why? Honestly, I just wanted to see how it worked. I have a piece of 2″x6″ cumaru if I need to step up thickness and strength. If it sounds like I am getting fancy with exotic hardwoods, these are common and cheap here. Exotic is all a matter of where you live.

The vise riding on holdfasts works. It racks like a bastard, but that’s pretty easy to solve. A single holdfast will keep a narrow board in place to mark and saw by itself. Wider boards work very well. Short boards cause vertical racking, but it’s simple enough to swing the holdfasts up or down to center it behind the work.

Holdfasts are a mixed bag as hardware for a vice. They are cheap and easy – drill a 3/4 hole and you’re done. They lack the sheer force that a screw vice has, but they work fine for holding boards for sawing dovetails.

Because of their length (about 7 inches) from the neck to foot, the force is centred in the middle of the vise face, which is 16″ from the centre of each hole. I have a feeling that they would work better if they were further apart. When racking, they fight each other. A mallet blow on one loosens the other. Again, easy to fix with a piece of wood that is the same thickness of what I’m working on to offset the racking.

I’ve not yet drilled in holes for bench dogs, but they will go in once I have a sense of where I want them.

It is far from perfect, but with minimal fuss and for under $10 it does what I want. Sawing dovetails at 40″ is much, much easier for me than at 34″.

I also find myself using it for other things because of the raised height. Using a smoothing plane to clean up the benchtop made me realise how much appropriate height plays in good body mechanics.  It’s easier to keep good form and thus get good results when I don’t have to stretch my arms out or squat to reach the table. This has given me some good ideas for the full sized bench that I’m going to build when I can.









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