My Workbench—The A to B Series

NOTE:Just so you know, this is an older workbench series. Paul has a newer Workbench series. If you are interested in the updated version of Paul’s workbench please click the button down below. This page links to a cutting list, tools list, FAQS and much more.


Built completely on the concrete driveway of my home. A right of passage? Go climb that mountain!



I’m never too sure when it comes to talking about my work where making is replaced by teaching—every time I make I end up thinking about whether what I take for granted in my everyday work has additional value to those relying on keyboard dexterity synchronised with head knowledge. My world of designing, making and teaching usually leads to a sort of seamless crossover these days. Whereas I saw my ways of working wood as more ordinary working, I also thought that everyone working with wood did it the same way, but then I saw that that wasn’t really the case. People had mostly strayed away from it. Whereas I grew up cutting the head off a nail to become a perfectly-sized drill bit, the circle of men and women around me were mainly using air-nailers. My method wasn’t common or at all necessary in today’s woodworking any more. Or was it? It was when I saw that air-nailers had become common that I reintroduced the nail-cum-drill-bit  to our post-modern world. My using it to make a picture frame series meant that people saw a different power woodworking. My now older-world woodworking began to change the face of woodworking over a number of decades and in the most positive of powerful ways. People felt safer, more in control yet without losing practical control values. It was non-invasive and so very all inclusive too. Add in the fact that it was also highly affordable for just about anyone, we found ourselves pushing new boundaries and forging ahead to combine the best of the past with the present and new. Because of this I pushed into it and the numbers have just kept growing.

Yup! A little awkward but definitely doable!

Filming my first workbench making in my back garden/yard for YouTube was a very exciting and enjoyable start to videos for me. It was even more than exciting, it was the first step to a new journey and a wider outreach. It was there we continued filming when the school next door rang its outside bell for the end of playtime. The seagulls squawked and screeched overhead as they plummeted from the sky at the sight of food scraps in the same playground. Our viewers loved it. And whereas of course that workbench was scaleable too, it also took on a mass that was somewhat intimidating to most because of its size.

In the last 18 months I’ve made three workbenches but two of them I made entirely outside my home garage, so that I could totally feel what you would go through with limited resources and constrained accommodation. A concrete driveway, rainy days, cold, high winds and so on extended the time it took, but I wanted the authentic photography without my staging anything. I also wanted an example or two to show what the outcome was. So, anyway, I say all of that because setting up trestles in my driveway seems so very far away from the fully equipped workshops and machine shops I have known all the way through my 50 years plus of woodworking. It’s at this point that I might say even if you have got the machine shop and high grade equipment, there is something about, well,  shall we say ‘roughing it a bit’ that makes the experience truly experiential, adventuresome, if you will. You see that’s what I want for you. Behind my garage doors stood my bandsaw, tablesaw, planer and jointer and chop-saw. Oh, and my mortise machine too. I didn’t use them to mill my components on as I made either of the benches nor the current series workbench. Why? Isn’t that a bit ridiculous? Aren’t you taking it a bit too far, Paul? Well, when I first arrived stateside in 1987 I asked my landlord if I could make a workbench on the den floor of the house we were renting. Sure you can!  Go ahead! My two eldest boys  were right there with me, little though they were. They helped me spin and twist the lumber around as I chopped mortises and cut tenons on the den floor. Had I had machines they could not have been on the job there with me. A cotton drop sheet kept the shavings and sawdust from entering the carpet fibres and after a few days my new, made-in-the-USA workbench was ready for action.

The workbench becomes the magnet for others to share experiences around. This was when I a seminar in Oxford and signed my new book Essential Woodworking Hand Tools for everyone.

In my view, there was something about the machine-free environment that made the work the adventure it became and I have repeated it with many projects and other people through the years.John Winter, my former apprentice made his workbench on another concrete driveway in North Wales, with his dad helping him too.

Remember the project above? Here we made the plane to make the cove mould and used the project as the vehicle to teach plane making and then cove making too. Imagine this whole project being made without machines. I’m not talking about the dimensioned sizing of the wood but ploughing grooves and rabbeting the rebates. Making moulds, raised panels, cutting dovetails and a dozen mortiser and tenons and much more too. It was an adventure that trained everyone in the fullest art of carcass building, door and drawer making and so on. It was purely a vehicle I used as a cabinet making course for developing hand skills that then became experiential knowledge.

Anyway, I just watched episode two of the new series for building my workbench. The series is aired first on our site and then YouTube two weeks later, so seeing it take off on YouTube on Friday helped me to see the impact it would have for woodworkers everywhere. Naturally I recommend anyone who wants to build their very first workbench to make this one. Without a workbench, hand tool woodworking becomes almost impossible. Once you build this one, it’s for a lifetime of use.


  1. Thanks for what you do! You inspire me. I plan to build a bench over Christmas using your methods. I am going to stick to the “seagull bench” specifications however.

    Hoping for a Christmas video this year! Toys or something!?

      1. The first workbench video Paul made was filmed outside and in the background audio you could clearly hear seagulls squaking (amongst other fun sounds). Paul mentioned the background sounds in the post so I referred to it that way in my comment. That workbench was a larger one than the one he is currently filming.

    1. I built this bench in my basement and I called it the yard bench, but I like the seagull bench a lot better. I moved it to the garage shop and I can see all the things that are wrong. It is the best bench I have made and am working on it till I build the next one.
      Thanks Paul

  2. I built this bench based on your youtube videos and the Artisan Series book. For a newbie, it wasn’t easy. Lot’s of sweating, lots of sharpening, a fair amount of cussing. But in the end, I love it. It’s perfect.

  3. Thanks Paul. Between you and one other person, I went into handtools just as I got started. I had fully planned to buy all the electrically powered tools. When I saw what you did it clicked.

    As for working on your driveway when you could do it more comfordably, it makes sense to me in as much as from time to time, many of us like to go camping.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Do people not know that trick with cutting the head of a nail off? I’m 15 and I’ve known that for as long as I can remember, taught to me by my Dad of course.

    1. I would say perhaps 5% of Western civilisation possibly but I have no way of knowing that and I think that that’s generous.

    2. Hi Eli,
      I’m 50, and I learned it a few months ago from a friend who restores antique furniture. He is 38, and has probably known it since his apprentice days – he apprenticed under someone who was very much like Paul (and would be roughly 15 years older if he were still alive). My son and daughter (11 and 13 respectively) have no idea why it may be useful, though I’m trying to teach them.

  5. Paul, i followed your original youtube bench build and am very proud to now have it completed in my garage. All i need now is some decent light! Thank you for your inspiration and guidance.

    Watching your latest series on bench building, it is evident how important a solid platform is to work from and the importance of holding your work; this can only be achieved with a good bench. At times we can see even you have difficulties working without a solid platform.

    Until i had build my bench, i was constantly frustrated with trying to build using a workmate and trestles. I have now really learnt the importance of stability and is something i take seriously before each task.

    Thanks again


  6. I watch your videos and I marvel at how I feel afterwards. I am relaxed and energized at the same time. And I am learning all the time. I have my first Stanley #4 and am shopping for a 7 or 8. I am slowly improving my chisels and am not quite so afraid of sharpening. And a bench is in the works. Your calm and straightforward approach is really responsible for this and I thank you for every enjoyable moment!

  7. Hi Paul
    Following the vids – (new and old): Picked Duglas-Fir as the material for the legs.. got nice KD “vertical grain” – only to face something I had never encountered before: sever tear outs.
    The vertical grain- means that two sides will have “flats” (have a pic but can not upload it ) – of the ring patterns. And it looks like the direction of the grain is going in all direction over every section, as the tree had some curves in it.

    Sharpened the plains again… used jigs by Veritas to make it perfect.. 1000/3000/8000 grit + the leather and compound… Jack 5.5 / Stanley SW 4 – closed mouth / Low angle – block plane … tear outs… again and again. even where the grains are “vertical” side: the rings will get me “wisp” of a cut ,, between the rings – I get sometime tear-outs .

    Took some pieces of red wood / Poplar that I have lying around, to make sure I am not hallucinating – wisp clean. I can get the shaving so thin that light shine through..

    What am I doing wrong ?

    1. Tearout when the grain is going crazy is expected, since no matter how you try with a plane, you’re going to be lifting fibres. Don’t beat yourself up about it!

      Consider using a sharp scraper instead, since it deals with erratic/wild grain really well.

  8. Hi Paul
    Thank you for all the information you provide your videos are great. Out of curiosity which bench do you prefer your latest design or the seagull bench? I know there is not too much in it but was wonering the reasons behind the redesign.


  9. Built the work bench and about to fit the Axminster quick release vice. I can’t see any comments on the video or blog. So here goes hoping that I cut the apron opening with no errors. Don’t want to spoil the apron.

    1. We do cover this in the current woodworkingmasterclasses series on building a workbench which will be up as an episode shortly.

    2. We do cover this in the current woodworkingmasterclasses series on building a workbench which will be up as an episode shortly.

  10. Dear Paul,
    something I`ve been waiting for long: you mounted the front vise. In the introduction to video no 4 you mentioned that you would mount two tail vises. I`m looking foreward to a video that shows the way the tail vise is mounted to the bench.

    Kind regards from

    Claus from Würzburg

  11. I recently discovered the new circa 2018 bench build – I had to watch the whole thing all over again even though I had already watched the original bench build video from your back garden next to the school. I still chuckle when I think you planed wood against that tree and wheeled the original bench off on a wheelbarrow! I shared in the excitement of the chisel falling off the bench this time and was so happy that splinter didn’t hurt and you didn’t cry, so much for powering through so the video could carry on. Those of us in the States that grew up watching Roy Underhill know that no one project is complete without a little blood can relate. Thanks for all you do and many happy years of teaching us pride in how and what we do!

  12. Thank you so much for the inspiration your video’s and blogs have provided. Have finally sourced the materials to start work on the bench over the xmas break. Ironically the ceiling battens here in NZ are all finger jointed for length, so i’ll have a top laminated across both axis. Looking forward to finally starting……

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