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"Off the shelf" vs DIY workbenches

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MayKitt

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I started a thread back in February

Workbench design

asking about workbench design. I got lots of helpful suggestions but I'm still dithering! I want to check out ready-made benches just to compare cost and design against a DIY bench. I've done some research and come up with a few, including Sjoberg Nordic Plus 1450, Axminster 1700 and 1500 and the Sealey AP1520. They vary in price and quality quite a bit.

Just starting to tot-up the cost of a DIY bench (including vices) and it soon gets into the price range of these, especially with a hardwood top. Has anyone found other ready-mades? I've watched the Paul Sellers YouTube videos and there is a fair amount of work to get a DIY bench constructed. Any thoughts on the sturdiness and design of the off the shelf ones I've found or maybe others you know about? Any thoughts about DIY vs ready-made?

Any comments would be appreciated.
 

Bod

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Your vice, doesn't need to be new, just servicable.
Top doesn't need to be hardwood, just flat. The ability to resurface, in time is a good idea.
DIY, means the top can be at the right height for you, not you having to bend to someone else's idea.
DIY means your bench fits where you want it to be, not where it fits.

Bod.
 

D_W

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I started with the 6 foot long version of that sjoberg's bench. For light planing and sanding, it's fine. I ended up boxing the legs of mine in with plywood as the leg assembly is really flimsy. The top is thin, but I didn't have too much of an issue with that, and I filled the cabinet with bricks to give it some ballast.

Ultimately, its death was the flimsy vises.

I replaced that bench with one made of ash (available in large amounts here due to the emerald borer) and with 30 hours of time and about $200 more, have a bench that I hope not to replace.

As far as making benches, I'd say if you intend to use the bench, prissy isn't necessary. There are a lot of shop shots with spotless benches. It's nice to have a bench that you feel OK to beat. That means you can put it together also without being prissy. I didn't joint the boards on my bench, I just skimmed them through a portable planer and then used copious amounts of glue and clamped them. No issues so far (probably more than half a decade now) and I have beaten this second bench with no deference to it. The layout is for things I like to make, and the top is 4 1/8th thick, and the legs just under 6x6. The dog holes are counterbored and the front vise is strong enough to hold boards to resaw them. Weight with vises is about 4 times that of the 6 foot long sjobergs bench but without beating on the sjobergs bench, I wouldn't have known what I wanted and the $1500-$4000 benches here in the states would be less good for what I do than this inexpensive beater that I've built.



That doesn't really answer your initial question - buy or build. I'd say at this point it doesn't matter because whatever you do, you'll probably break or become dissatisfied with your first bench, and from it, you'll learn what you want in your second one.
 

Bm101

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Just build one. You are maybe worrying too much?
I got into woodworking after years of interest on the outskirts so to speak. Bad back and lying on the floor at an Architect brother in law with loads of amazing books and I read Chris Schwarz book and it tipped me over the edge. People knock him but I will be forever in his debt.
But also... it took me a long time to build my bench. I love the old 'Roubo' design. It's heavy and solid, works well for hand tools, clamping and holdfasts. That suits the way I work. I can bodge a solution to most work situations on that design.
However you can probably bodge a solution to most problems on most designs.
I love my big old bench but I'm no longer precious about it like I used to be. As I have got a little better it has become just another tool though I do try not to abuse it. If you want to just get working screw/bolt a load of wood together for mass with a fire door and a sacrificial sheet of mdf on top. What does it matter if it gets you working rather than thinking?
At one point I thought I'd be nearly all handtools. As I've progressed I have found that like many others I use a blend of tools especially during preperation of any stock!
I also enjoy other pursuits that I've discovered on the way like messing about occasionally with metal work and so on.
Chances are if you get a flat surface that has mass (or lodged against a wall) and you can clamp stuff too it will work as a bench.
You got all the replies needed in your first thread. ;)
And just now when Bod replied far more succinctly than I could as I was typing a wall of text.
Just crack on mate.
You will thank yourself for it later. Spend the money you saved on tools. Or wood. Or if you are completely mad some fine wine and underwear that feels silky smooth. Speaking of which. I'm off to rip my Mrs's knickers off.

They're riding right up my a**e. :sneaky:
Cheers
Chris

Edit: This is my bench. Just for interest. Neverending Bench Build Surprises Hobby Woodworker By Ending
 
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MayKitt

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Thanks for the reply and ideas. By 'resurface' could I do this by ensuring the worktop is demountable/replaceable or were you thinking of planing it to remove gouges etc?

Yes, there are some second-hand vices on the likes of Gumtree, I see!
 

bjm

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...but I'm still dithering! ....
So stop it! :)

I would buy the cheapest bench I could find and just start using it. It's just a tool, not a museum piece. Only you can know what you are going to need in terms of size, vice type, other work holding etc, etc. to move forward. If you don't start making though you will never know what your requirements are going to be. A bench for making boxes will be vastly different to a bench for making case furniture???
 

Blackswanwood

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I agree with the previous posts ... although do have a different taste in underwear to Bm101 😂

I bought one of the last benches that Richard Maguire made. It would be wrong to say I regret it ... at the time I didn’t have the time to make my own and had a win on the horses ... but I wish I had made my own. Despite being a brilliant bench maker and it being his livelihood Richard actually was the first to say make your own.
 

Linus

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I too looked at the Paul Sellers bench and found it so easy for a complete newbie that I built one. Simple but solid, and fully adaptable if needed. All made from CLS and cost next to nowt. Vice was £20 off fleabay.
First ever foray into woodwork and I still use it today.
 

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Whether you buid or buy you will ultimately be unhappy with your first bench for one reason or another, so just build one that's easy and cheap. When you're more experienced you'll know what to and what not to do with your second one. It's worth the time and/or the money then. Blow a bit of money on a decent vice, though, you can move it onto your next bench.
 

acxlll

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Make your own, it's much more satisfying, not to mention you can make it much more sturdy than most commercial offerings.
I made my first roubo style bench, with 6in thick top in apartment's spare bedroom, from wet lumber, with only two handplanes and a saw. It worked well for many years.
No need for fancy hardwood, cheap softwoods are fine to use.
 

Bm101

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Thanks for the reply and ideas. By 'resurface' could I do this by ensuring the worktop is demountable/replaceable or were you thinking of planing it to remove gouges etc?

Yes, there are some second-hand vices on the likes of Gumtree, I see!
Stop worrying. Start building. I have a vise you can have if it comes to it. Might even be able to pass it on to in laws that pass muster down in Somerset and (very occassionally) Honniton.
You are at the point where you are trying to substitute real actual experience for advice. I've been there. This is not an insult and I'm a rank amateur to boot. So keep your chin up.
You can't move on from where you are mentally until you start actually doing woodwork. Not just thinking about it, buying tools, decorating your shed, being on here talking about the idea of doing woodwork on a keyboard etc etc.
Just pick up some tools and crack on.
The voice of (a tiny bit of ) experience.
Or carry on reading books and websites and watching youtube vids.
Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm just trying to save you time that I wasted chasing dead ends. :) My best intentions.
regards
Chris
 

sometimewoodworker

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I started a thread back in February

Workbench design

asking about workbench design. I got lots of helpful suggestions but I'm still dithering! I want to check out ready-made benches just to compare cost and design against a DIY bench. I've done some research and come up with a few, including Sjoberg Nordic Plus 1450, Axminster 1700 and 1500 and the Sealey AP1520. They vary in price and quality quite a bit.
You haven’t really discussed exactly what you want to do with your bench.

you will get a wide verity of answers because the people answering are talking from their own woodwork style.

There are a lot of people talking about vices, I don’t have a built-in vice on my bench that I’ve been using for 15 years, but I almost never do much hand tool work.

you really need to define what you want to do. That will narrow the choices.

Edit to add pictures 9C059252-A99F-43F1-8BB6-237D4ACA0503.jpeg
Extra bench 6FE6008D-7332-46A0-9A0E-94EC1945B56F.jpeg
 
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Keith 66

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Plenty of ex school benches about, dealers tend to have the emir ones around the £300 quid mark.
Last lot i had we sold for £45 each just to move them, couldnt buy the wood for that!
 

jackal

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Personally I prefer a DIY bench that is solid and can accept a standard sheet. My criteria would be
  • Replaceable top or sacrificial surface
  • Perfect flat and level in all directions
  • Bench dogs
  • Record hold downs x2
  • Large Record vice, mines ancient
  • 8x4ft min
  • Same height as surrounding benches
  • Bolted down
  • Loads of draws filled with heavy stuff
  • Power outlets and airline or at least a overhead boom
  • A clamping lip all round
  • Somewhere for a shopvac
Not bothered about what timber it is made from but must be thick. My top is 3" Douglas with a sheet of mdf, legs are 4" square. Rest is a mixture of whatever I had laying about.

Be careful with off the shelf benches as many are woeful. A good bench will cost way over a grand. Plus building your own is fun and rewarding 😇
 

jackal

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Stop worrying. Start building. I have a vise you can have if it comes to it. Might even be able to pass it on to in laws that pass muster down in Somerset and (very occassionally) Honniton.
You are at the point where you are trying to substitute real actual experience for advice. I've been there. This is not an insult and I'm a rank amateur to boot. So keep your chin up.
You can't move on from where you are mentally until you start actually doing woodwork. Not just thinking about it, buying tools, decorating your shed, being on here talking about the idea of doing woodwork on a keyboard etc etc.
Just pick up some tools and crack on.
The voice of (a tiny bit of ) experience.
Or carry on reading books and websites and watching youtube vids.
Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm just trying to save you time that I wasted chasing dead ends. :) My best intentions.
regards
Chris
I think we've all been there 🤔
 

Suffolkboy

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Not sure if it's helpful but I had a loooong gap in my woodworking and used building my bench as a sort of practice for the type of techniques that I have used in the past but hadn't done in say six or eight years. Dovetails, mortice and tennons, edge jointing, breadboard ends etc etc.

I finished up with a really nice bench with all the bits I need that fits the space in my workshop perfectly and is just the right height but I also got to practice using the tools again. You might not need to do that but don't overlook the opportunity.
 

Andy Kev.

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If you're not too sure about how to go about building one, you might want to watch/buy Richard Maguire's series on making a traditional English workbench on the English Woodworker website.
 

Knotty Norm

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I built my own to a set of plans from a woodworking mag. I see many, many YouTube designs that combine the modern with the traditional to great effect. I guess it depends on the style of woodworking you are into as to the design. However, for our volunteers at our allotments we recently refurbed a workshop and ended up buying 2 Axminster benches for a number of reasons, not least they were on sale. I was amazed at how sturdy they were/are and the value they represented as each had two vices included. I liked the style and size too. We have plans to 'improve' them over time, but they work really well and look great rightist of the box. They can be built and functioning inside an hour as well - not a minor consideration. Good luck which ever way you go.
 

SteL

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If you're not too sure about how to go about building one, you might want to watch/buy Richard Maguire's series on making a traditional English workbench on the English Woodworker website.
I was just about to make the exact same comment. I've been using that video series and posting a WIP on this forum.

They have a video series for two styles of workbench. I bought both videos, watched them both and decided on the English style for no reason other than aesthetics. I would highly recommend them.
 

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