I'm a lucky guy. My family has allowed me to dedicate half our basement into a dedicated shop space, complete with a custom woodworking bench and a growing collection of tools. It's bright, clean (at least right now), and I'm slowly turning it into a functional workspace that will allow me to be as productive as possible.
But it took me a long time to get here. For nearly fifteen years, I worked out of dining rooms and back porches and portions of the garage, lugging my tools around in plastic totes and home center toolboxes, setting up shop on the washing machine, folding tables, and 1/2" plywood scraps screwed to 2x4s.
And, in the early days, it was that lack of a proper workbench that prevented me from thinking I could could use hand tools. Without a vise and hold downs, how could I safely secure my work for handplaning, chiseling, or sawing?The answer: a batten, which will take you 5 minutes to make and turns any flat surface into a work bench. Let's make one!
My first "workbench" was a simple table-style surface. 2x4 legs, 1/2" plywood top, held together with black drywall screws. I built it in my first apartment when I was twenty-two, with my first (and only) power tools: a circular saw and a drill.
In the back left corner, I mounted a shiny, new, bright blue Irwin swiveling bench vise. It was awesome to have it there when I needed it - holding metal stock and angle iron for cutting, helping me bend rod and pipe, even keeping dowels and small wood parts in place while working on them. Unfortunately, these activities constituted a very small amount of the projects I was doing, and mostly, the vise just got in the way during the other 97% percent of tasks.
So, for the past few years, that vise has just been in a storage crate, and I get it out and try to hold it in place when I need it. Which, in case you can't guess, does not work. Ever. So, I wanted to come up with a solution that would allow me to install a machinist's style swiveling benchtop vise, without having to permanently install it, or drill holes in my benchtop and have to thread and tighten nuts and bolts every time I use it.
Move over pegboard. When you've assembled a proper collection of hand tools, the best way to keep them safe, organized, and available within reach is a custom tool wall. Each item gets a designed holder that keeps like pieces together and accessible, allowing you to maximize your storage space.
Plus, let's admit it: they also look super cool.
A woodworking bench is more than just a table to lay your tools and project parts on. Used well, your bench is an all-in-one, three-dimensional clamping solution that will allow you to hold your work on any of its edges or faces. The traditional way to increase the work-holding capability is to place "dog holes" in your bench top, and allowing them to work in tandem with a face or end vise to secure parts of any size.
I'm a huge fan of having a few rows of dog holes in my workbench top. And, more than anything else, I use them to secure a holdfast - an ancient and genius piece of design that secures your work to the work surface with a simple tap from a hammer or mallet. When your ready to release it, just hit the back and it's free. Seriously - it's ten times fast than clamping, and you can fasten your work anywhere across the bench top. Brilliant.
To speed up the process even more, I wanted to come up with a permanent way to protect the wood from the force of the steel being banged into it. You can use a hardwood scrap between the holdfast and the workpiece, but I figured there's reason to spend twenty minutes once and protect my work forever. No digging around for scraps required.
This post is sponsored by the DIYZ® app.
A good sturdy workbench is one of the simplest, most useful projects any woodworker can embark upon. In fact, it's probably the first project every woodworker should embark up. And yet it tends to go by the wayside. You see people building remarkably complicated pieces on rickety, unimpressive workbenches.
There's a saying about the cobbler's shoes that goes here but I can't figure out if it works or not. Anyway, the point is, having a rock-solid work surface on which to build other things is really important. And you can make a great workbench without spending too much money or much time
A mortise and tenon is an extremely sturdy and strong way to join wooden furniture. A recess is created in one member (mortise) that allows a protruding tongue from the other (tenon) to fit tightly inside. There's no better way to assemble table bases, chairs, benches, and even frames.
Except, mortises can take a serious amount of work to cut. Unless you have a dedicated mortising machine, you're in for lots of time with a chisel and mallet, especially on large mortises like the one shown above.
I chat with lots of ManMakers who would love to get started with bigger, more in-depth projects, but lack a dedicated place to work on them and the storage space for all the tools they'd like to acquire. So, here's a perfect project for them: a small-footprint workbench that's sturdy enough to do real work, and includes lots of built-in storage and plenty of accessories.
I don't think I've mentioned this on ManMade, but earlier this year, my wife and I bought our first (and hopefully last) home. It was a big deal, both emotionally and financially, and looking in one of the wildest and fastest changing real estate climates in the country, we got pretty lucky that our first offer was accepted. It's a solid home that we can afford, and it sits in a close-in neighborhood that's super liveable and great for walking, commuting by bike, and public transit. I totally love it.
And...of course, when you own your own home, you get to mess with it. No more landlords to tell you what to do, no more wasting time and money investing in customizing a place that you'll only be in for a little while. And of course, as a DIY blogger, I had my sights set on the two most important spaces in the house: the garage and the basement.
ManMade reader Alan recently bought his first home, going from a one-bedroom apartment in a busy urban neighborhood to a three-bedroom house just south of downtown Portland, gaining lots of space and a new sense of quiet.
On the top of his list for the new spot? The same as many a ManMade reader: a new place to work on his own household, creative, and DIY projects. First step - a new workbench in his new garage to provide a solid surface to bang around, and keep his tools organized.
Hopefully, the new calendar has you motivated to take on some new projects. And we all know the key to working quickly, efficiently, and creatively is: organization. Keeping things where they need to be allows your work surface to stay clean and makes your tools easy to find. Plus, when well organized, you'll find you can actually fit a lot more gear and materials into a small space.
This summer was a busy one for my family; we had a new baby (our second, a boy), and moved into a new house that we gutted and remodeled. At the same time. Needless to say, it was a bit crazy, and one side-effect of that was that all my tools got completely disorganized. Plus the new basement had no good storage for tools, save an ancient, ramshackle work bench that was barely standing upright. Enough of that, I thought, and made a plan to fix it. Read on to watch my video and see how easy it is to improve your own workbench situation.
No matter what you make, you've gotta have a place to do it. And while you're dining room table might work for light projects, I say any serious maker, crafter, or artist needs a proper workbench.