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Workbench Dilema


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Established Member
1 Feb 2006
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Nr. Tonbridge, Kent
I have pretty much completed the base and the central top section for a workbench build that has been a very very long drawn out project. A couple of photos below:




The original plan was to go with a traditional tail vice and probably a twin screw front vice. For a while I'd been looking at a wagon vice option as a possibility but not committed in that direction.

I then made the mistake (although most enjoyable one) of going over to see Douglas's beautiful workbench build :


and that has thrown up a lot of new questions. I've now decided to go ahead with a Wagon vice, probably still with a twin screw in front. One detail Douglas was very keen on was having the bench top front face flush with the legs, allowing clamping to the front of the bench. While I can just about see this being possible on mine I'm not sure its necessarily the way to go. The bench may end up being too high/not as structurally sound as I'd like etc .

I'd be interested if anyone has any thoughts on whether to try and adapt my base to accommodate this or not. Any personal bench designs welcome too.

Many thanks


Established Member
10 Mar 2007
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West Muddylands

I'd say it all depends on what sort of work you are most likely to do. Clearly you are a hand-tool worker, but even then you might concentrate on small work, or otherwise.
If you want to hand-cut dovetails for wide carcass members, then you'll be best off with a twin-screw vice with good width between the screws; and so on... You probably read it all before, so I won't go on.

Had I started to build a bench like yours, (which is coming along very nicely btw) then I would be loathe to alter anything, if it involved cutting away work already done. You can always make the top differently. You don't have to go the full Roubo path to have a benchtop that is flush with the front of the legs.. That was one important feature I wanted, but since I decided to make my top as a type of 'torsion-box', I had to rethink the way I would join it to the underframe. So instead of tenoning through the top, (Which I wouldn't want to do in any case,) I am going to use big coach-screws from beneath, in oversize holes. Where it's going to go in my shop, it will be against a wall and it bears against a buttress in the wall, which means it doesn't move at all when I use it.
So the short answer is, stick with what you were going to do, unless you honestly think a MacGuire wagon vice is what you want. I want one, but then since I haven't yet assembled my top, I can get one next year and make the top to suit.

I hope this 'rambling' answer helps.

John :ho2


Established Member
31 Jul 2005
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North Somerset
I built my own bench a couple of years ago and based much of the design on Robert Lang's 21st Century Workbench (I forget whether it's Popular Woodworking or Fine WW...):


The front edge of the top is flush with the front face of the frame. This does help when you want to plane the edge of a wide or long boards, as you many positions from which you can clamp the workpiece to hold it rock steady. I don't have a need to do this often but, it's been useful with sheets of ply and MDF, mostly. Only trouble is now that the drawer handles get in the way a bit - but then, I can also open one drawer partially and use that to carry the weight of the far end! ;-)

I said the top's edge was 'flush' with the frame but, that's only at certain times of the year. Due to seasonal shrinkage and expansion, it's something proud or shy of the front face by 2mm or 3mm.

I did have a couple of cheap vices fitted as tail vices but, I found they sagged too much when they were extended so, I removed them and sold them on to someone else. I am thinking of fitting a wagon vice at some point as a length of timber would be fully supported by the bench top. Then again, maybe a 'proper' tail vice screw wouldn't have the problems I experienced?

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