Changes II —Workbenches and Garage Walls

If you’re like me you will realise that often changes you might resist or even reject at first turn out for the better in the long run, in ways you may never have thought even possible. We so want a predictable plan, perhaps even a path that’s risk-free, even if the outcome can end up more mediocre and humdrum rather than truly expressive of what we really wanted. In 2016 you may recall me buying wood from Oxford Wood Recycling to make yet another workbench from. You might also recall I bought enough wood to make at least two benches for under £100. I always enjoy making no matter the project but for some reason, it was putting myself in your possible and even probable zone and thoughts of equipping you excited me the most. My two outcomes were two practical workbenches and from making these two I wrote my newest curriculum on a bench build to incorporate any and all improvements I might want in my own working workbench. Well, I did write the how-to for a 38″ tall by 27″ deep and 66″ long workbench and the reason for the sizing was it is basically what I work at wherever I go be that at home, in the workshop and then in the filmset where I work too. My workbenches have been much larger in the past but that was for when I worked on much larger framed projects. I have found that I am comfortable making any type and size of furniture piece on this bench.

 

In making Workbench 1 above I built two trestles to work from to give me a stable platform. Using standard construction stock sizes at 1 1/2″ by 2 1/2″ (three 8′ lengths will make a pair of trestles) and scraps of 1/2″ plywood to create gussets made the whole project quick and simple. The length is 30″ long and height 24″. They are basic and are screwed together through the plywood along with PVA glue. I will use them for the next few years as temporary tables as assembly tables probably.

 

The reason for the workbench is its core essentiality to good woodworking like furniture making, joinery and then general woodworking too. It quickly becomes the key anchor providing a central third hand to holds and support all of the work and the tools and equipment we depend on. Without it, the work will always be awkward much of the time so most people starting out recognise that, for hand tool enthusiasts, the workbench is most essential. The use of temporary stations is exactly that, temporarily useful but not practical long-term supports.

Drawings in a PDF

My vintage version looks a hundred years old when it’s ten minutes old.

I have drawn up the drawings for this current workbench and generated a cutting list straight off because I worked to it and could refine it as I made any adjustments and refinements. The end result is now to be tested by those who are making one as a result through woodworkingmasterclasses.com and I anticipate that thousands will be made to this pattern over the coming years. The PDF is not available just yet but will be available soon (now available here).

The studio garage set

Building the garage was simply a question of framing up three stud walls and skinning the frames on the inside faces with 4′ by 8′ faux brick fibre panelling. I wanted to give it a context but filming outdoors or in my home garage would not have worked because of the quality of filming we want to give. We wanted the quality to match the work I do and there was too much noise and light variance for a good quality instructional video.  We did, however, want it to be as close to realistic as possible of course and when we built this final version in our more permanent setting the walls basically delineated the workspace and gave the impression of being in a garage that we wanted.  In our new space shortly we will indeed be building in brick. So you will understand how the studio set has become necessary to encourage others as best we can.

33 comments on “Changes II —Workbenches and Garage Walls

  1. Hello Paul,
    Can’t wait for workbench series. It will be my first workbench I ever had and first big project I am going to make. Thank You for Your teaching.

  2. Good day Mr. Sellers,

    I’m amongst free members of Woodworking Masterclasses participated in the workspace survey who operate in a small room as I don’t have any other options. Space constraints don’t discourage me at all. On the contrary it motivates me to utilize available space to the full extent.
    I’m in a procces of building my first workbench and was thinking about it’s size and imagine how happy I was when news appeared about you making the workbench spaces such mine. I’m very excited and can’t wait to start working along your videos!

    Best regards,

    Gleb.

  3. Long time ago, I worked out of a HUGE Pole Barn Shop…..changes happened along the way ( open heart tends to do that..) and I wind up using a part of a basement as the Infamous Dungeon Shop….I have to share the space with storage, a Laundry Room, and the water heater/ furnace….Kind of changes what all I could use.

  4. I can barely contain my excitement for the new bench plans & series. I’ve been studying the “old” version for some time as I prepare my shop area. Now that it’s ready, and I have room for the bench, I’m ready for the coming updated version!

    Thank you for doing all this, Paul – it’s clear you care to pass on this craft and want us to feel the same joy you’ve done over the years. I’m very much looking forward to many more years of woodworking, most especially with your mentorship!

  5. Paul,
    Like the others, you are meeting my point of need. In June 2016, I sold my family ranch in North Texas. My workshop downsized from an generously proportioned shop at the ranch to a single car garage. I couldn’t be happier. As you write about your experiences and thoughts, it is as if I’m writing your words. What freedom to give away to Habitat for Humanities all of my unnecessary tools, especially power tools? Now for a new workbench to fit my smaller work space and guess what? You start on this project. Are you a mind reader? Many thanks.

  6. I purchased one of the cheap workbenches available through various discount stores for under $150. I have been fairly pleased with it in that it is solid support, and has decent enough drawers and a wood vise on the side. However, the very presence of drawers renders the whole workbench fairly useless; a side vice is fine, but not useful for planing or just about anything else. There is no way to effectively mount a front-facing vise.

    Whoever designed this mass-produced “workbench” most likely has never actually worked with it! It does make a good finishing table, though!

    I’ll be looking forward to your series. Thanks for all you do.

  7. I am in a very cramped hybrid 12 by 10 foot garage shop with too many tools. My biggest problem is what to do with the cut offs. Those small pieces of wood that remain after a project is built. Also there is the problem of where to store that interesting found lumber that you have collected from travels, or perhaps from logs you have sawed into boards and have air or kiln dried. They accumulate and eat up space. You could argue to not collect more than you need for any one project. But some lumber is hard to resist. You could say to burn up the small bits. But what if constant burning is not permitted. I will be interested to see how you handle this problem.

  8. Hi Paul,

    Although I have yet to build a work bench I did construct two trestles using your pattern. and created a semi-knockdown assembly table which is sturdy. I used your sliding wedge idea and a long stringer or rail instead of a skirt and the stringer was not as generous depth as your skirt.

    The top is a hybrid of repurposed MDF, 2×4, and trimmed with hemlock I recovered (already fallen) from my little forest so basically all scrap. The trestles were western red cedar and 2X4 fir I believe but perhaps there was some NA red pine in there somewhere. (we are near Ottawa Canada)

    Most of this wood was full of knots and not great material to work with. Nevertheless I used your hand techniques and, sawed, routed, planed and scraped this junk (even the MDF) with some satisfaction. Although it is never going to be a fine piece of furniture it was great practice for me on hand cutting my first ever mortise and tenon, really sharpening my tools and just generally practicing.

    I mention this because even with squirrelly grain full of knots and figure the hand techniques yield good results without the need for a gas mask. The results are OK but when you do get the occasional bit of clear wood it makes the shiny planed finish or the almost translucent planed end grain all that more amazing.

    I’m confident now to start tackling one of your full benches out of material that is not in the firewood pile. I’m sure there are others out there scared to start like I was. A project like this one on scrap wood was a way to for me learn and develop a bit of muscle memory and re-enforce some of the different subtle approaches you teach to difficult situations without much risk.

    Looking forward to the next workbench series and perhaps a new “real” bench in my shop in the spring.

  9. Hi Paul,
    Nice pictures.
    The one showing the rolling tripod is intriging. The “rails” that it rolls on appear to be made from two lengths of plastic waste pipe fixed to a wooden frame. Is that the case?
    If so, brilliant. I’m sure a factory made version would cost a fortune and only do exactly the same job.

    • That’s all it is but the 2 x 4 rails as undercarriage are not necessary if the concrete is level. In our case there was a 3″ fall and our equipment is finely balanced so even a slight fall sends the rig downhill if we are not holding onto it. In our former studio workshops the floors were level the water pipes were stand alone with no fixing so easy to relocate too.
      Oh! You are right re buying the makers version, that was expensive.

  10. Sort of a big project. Maybe show how to build a shed using timber framing. If not the whole project, the framing of it.

      • That would be so cool! My dad and I are going to need to build a shed sometime in the next year or so and using real joinery, instead of just screws, would be just… *happy sigh* heh. I can’t wait to build my first workbench, too! I have acquired a number of tools, and sharpened my first saw, but I still don’t have a real workbench! *sheepish expression*

        Pardon the awkward topic shift, but I wanted to add: Mr. Sellers, your videos and blog posts have been a real boon to me during the years I’ve been dealing with this illness I have. I can’t thank you enough, sir. 🙂

        PS: I love the new set! It’s different, not seeing all those gorgeous, wonderful tools behind you, but I actually like it better, I think. It reminds me of *my* improvised “shop” and lets me pretend that I’m working in the same space as you, which is just…amazing, especially considering how much I wish I could do that for real, heh. I’m sure I’m not alone in that, too! God bless. 😀

        • Hello Luca, I am sure we are doing the best thing. Whereas I love the tools around me, I personally felt they distracted me in several ways and I feel much more contented now that I have made my choices. Surely that has some value. I knew people would have mixed feelings but this way I feel we can all grow together and keep our aspirations totally realistic. I hope that whatever you are battling, your craftwork will help you through. I don’t know what I would have done back in 1985 when they told me I had a terminal illness and now there is no trace of it 30 years on.

  11. The timing could not be better for me. I’m gathering my hand tools per Working Wood 1 &2 and Essential Woodworking Hand Tools and just about ready to build my bench. I’m hoping there will be details on building a side drawer and end drawers/shelves. Thanks Paul!

  12. I much prefer the old backdrop on your videos with all the old wooden planes and hand tools. That looks like the shop of a master cabinetmaker and is the level of skill to which I aspire. I work in a small basement shop that houses a combination of hand tools and power tools that I inherited from my father who was a European-trained cabinetmaker. The fake brick wall just doesn’t do anything for me.

    • Well, Lou, we are not saying fake for the future, just that we wanted to trial how it felt and to be perfectly honest It actually felt good to me because I had a bit more room to work in and indeed I was already only using the tools you see me using. My tools will always be part of me but if I create the illusion that these tools are what make me effective then it’s not really what I think to be the most helpful. I want people, every man, woman and child out there doing it with 30 or so hand tools, a workbench and some support equipment. There are tons of video presenters out there offering a very different story. This feels more real to me and the panels are not really any different to peg board or sheetrock covering up studs. My new garage will indeed be brick. At least so far that’s what we plane. I think everyone generally and then future generations will love what we do as we fit it out to camera and include them in the decision reasoning.

      • I am looking forward to you showing more variety with camera angles and such. There have been a few times while watching your videos, that I have wished for a closer view or maybe even a first-person view of the techniques being used. Looking forward to great video to be even better.

      • Paul…

        I simply cannot understand why you’re not displaying your remarkable took collection. I doubt there is a single person out of your tens of thousands of loyal fans who believes that it is your tools that make you effective. It is your skills, your devotion to our craft, and your fifty years of experience that make you effective, not your tools.

        I sincerely hope you change your mind about this.

        – David

        • I think I tried to explain it well enough, David. I’m satisfied that we made the right decision, especially as we have the bigger picture for the next four or five years and beyond. Truth is that 90% of what you saw there I really enjoyed but no longer use for the work we do.They’ll be archived, used for research and then be available for future use if I do need them. They are mainly personal and will remain as my collection and then who knows.
          Countering the machine age of the past three decades was quite the task for this lone wolf when no one else was advocating the use of hand tools but we did it. Presenting a mass of antiques seemed to me to go into the other ditch. Today we are presenting the simpler message. A decent workbench for £100, a good vise, £200 worth of hand tools and you are on your way. Providing woodworking masterclasses the way we have has proven the real value in what we have brought back to the world of woodworking, and even the woodworking magazines, the ones that did good and some of the greatest damage in many ways, though they may well all be gone in the next near future, our work there now reaches people all around the world who could never hope to have the array I have. Being all things to all people is a difficult choice. This way we can do it.

          • For years I’ve watched you create tools for the “poor man,” and to do so in such a way as to make them accessible to anyone, regardless of income, who had a desire to learn. Your little beading tool comes to mind, a small circle of pine with a filed screw. Simple, yet elegant and effective. Your “poor man’s router” is another example. Yet, alwahs behind you was a array of tools spanning perhaps 150 years or more of woodworking tradition and experience, showing vividly how you are carrying on a timeless craft to the next generation.

            It is true that thousands of your viewers may never have the opportunity to accumulate such a tool collection. Even so, you have spent years teaching them what to do instead. You’ve never once given the impression that your tool collection separates you from the beginner, or poor man without the means to buy tools. In fact, the opposite is true. I simply cannot understand why hiding away that beautiful tool collection can further your goals any more than the work you’ve been doing for decades to help the poor man create beautiful things with his hands.

            With great respect and admiration….

            – David

          • I too confess finding it a little daunting to, well, take away my props as it were. Often I would have six planes on the workbench so that if one failed me with a chip or went dull too early I could make the switch and keep the continuity. But then I thought it better to just sharpen up mid stream because people needed to see that reality as part of my working. It is all too easy to create a kind of image where all can appear perfect when things can also go wrong. I aim more and more for reality and never to just act out a part.
            I don’t ignore the thoughts everyone brings up here though, but then I also want to see what unfolds in the immediate future. The well-worn slipper feeling is very real and I understand that, but my gut feeling is that things will ultimately reveal something better.

          • Paul…

            I think you’re ignoring how important your tool collection is in fostering the atmosphere of hand-tool woodworking. You must be aware of how important you’ve been to the hand-tool movement over the last 10-15 years. You have more viewers than anyone, period. And each time you appear you stand in front of a cornucopia overflowing with tools that enable a man or woman to create functional and beautiful objects that will last perhaps 200 years or more, and you teach them how to do it with their own hands.

            Even though you don’t use them every day, those tools represent something very important in this banal world of cheap consumer goods and trivial pursuits. They represent craftsmanship, tradition, and ingenuity. They represent pride in one’s work, and the pride in caring for one’s tools. And you’re the main chap not only keeping the craft alive, but growing it by leaps and bounds.

            Thanks for listening….

            – David

  13. Recently built my bench using glued lengths of 2×3 fir on edge for a 22″ x 60″ top and supported by 3″ x 3″ oak legs found on a dunage pile at the local industrial plant. Put it together with 2 x 10 stretchers dowelled into the legs and secured Ikea style with 3/8″ ready rod and hardware.(all thread).
    Perfect size for my small 14 x 18 shop. I really appreciate your blogs and videos Paul.
    Thank you

  14. Paul

    I personally loved the old backdrop with all the wood moulding planes, router planes and about every other tool a hand tool woodworker could dream of. To me it was very inspiring to see all those old tools that have already lasted lifetimes and will still be around when we are gone.

    With that said, those same beautiful tools can be very intimidating. For most people that are not already at least a hobbyist those tools represented a barrier that many people on a tight budget could not hope to breech.

    I applaud you Paul for taking the “Poor Man’s” woodworking message to heart and show people they don’t need a small fortune to work wood. Just the desire, some careful buying a piece or two at a time and anyone can work wood and make beautiful things.

    Robert

  15. Hello Paul,
    The old workshop backdrop gave the impression you’d been there for most of your fifty years. Wooden braces and moulding planes from decades past, no longer needed but treasured and retired to the shelves after a lifetime of work. We learned where all your tools were. Aspired to owning the ones we didn’t have, and to attain the level of ability where we’d need them. I appreciate that shelf upon shelf of moulding planes was perhaps unrealistic (like wheelbarrows & cartwheels outside country pubs) but these are the surroundings we associate with master craftsmen.
    Hopefully your new studio will be less daunting for beginners, but for me, it lacks that familiar ‘lived-in’ appearance. I guess I’m still resistant to change.

  16. I’m all in with whatever changes you make! Watching your videos is literally “my medicine” when I’m stressed out. No TV for me, just Paul and a few tools.

    Great timing, my bench tops are glued up as of this week but now thinking I’ll pause for a few days to get the details on the new style as I was just referring to the older youtube series on the workbench.

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