The Workbench Success Story

In the last 10 hours 8,900 woodworkers have watched part 8 of making my workbench on YouTube alone. That of course does not include how many have watched the other 7 parts in the series. On woodworkingmasterclasses.com the series has been going out two weeks earlier. I am not sure how many have seen it there too but it has been highly successful. The thing about the workbench is that it is not only doable, it’s also totally practical. Add to that the low cost, and the fact that I have worked from one for decades in my day to day day in day out woodworking without ever a glitch and you understand why I recommend it. My first thoughts in showing others how to make it was to make it without a break, starting at 7am and going all the way through without a break except to eat, drink and use the bathroom until it was done. I also planned doing it on a seashore in the sand. Maybe I still will one day. But the reason I chose the series was I didn’t want anyone to be excluded. I wanted it to be totally inclusive. So I whittled down the costs on every front—secondhand wood, hand tools only, softwood etc. It really only took me three short days to make.

The Challenges

There were no real challenges as I have made so many through the years that even most measurements stayed in my  head. All the processes to were right there in my head. You may recall that I made two early on in 2016. In my garage I already had two workbenches but I never used them on making either of the two new ones. Even when I made the one in the video it was all hand work and there I had 12 workbenches I could have worked from. In both places I also had access to a full set of machines I could have used but I never used one. You see in all cases in all places it had be truthful and honest. But here’s another truth, never once on any one of the builds did I want to or consider using a machine. I wanted the work, the exercise, the experience, the exercise and the demands of self discipline. The end result, after each bench build? Harmony, peace, wellbeing, a clear and whole mind. I was a happy and contented man. I could be at peace, total peace.PaulOldWorkbench

Some times, and I do understand, it is hard to wrap your mind around the importance hand working. Some said why  didn’t I use this or that machine, this or that technique, this or that fancy hand tool or saw? At the end of my working day I have often done 15,000 paces. My Fitbit tells me that and keeps track, but walking and running is not enough for me. The exercise of work demands constant thought and then application of my body to the tasks. The stresses and strains have real value so bending, pushing, pulling, lifting, lowering are all energised by my mind and body. No exercise alone gives me this. But then too there is the self discipline I must exercise minute by minute continuously. There is no break, no neglect of duty.

WorkbenchPhoto3
Paul Sellers workbench Photo by Ryan Cowan. Rokesmith Publishing

As I made the workbench for the videos other people in the overall workspace had their work to carry on with. After several failed attempts to get on with the filming we realised that we were going to have to start before the other users of the space came in—early starts! So we came in two hours earlier than normal and each day we filmed the important stuff and then followed up with the time lapses. It worked.

As the series nears its end as far as us putting the last episode out there for all to watch, I feel the same fulfilment I felt in designing and building the various versions I have over the years. It is wonderful to see so many people building workbenches, buying up old Stanley and Record planes and following in my steps. I feel both proud and humbled.

54 comments on “The Workbench Success Story

  1. I enjoyed watching the work bench build. I’ve built a few, and always think I need another,,, but where to put them?

    I’m turning 68 in less than a week, and with the encouragement of your videos, I’m dusting off my tools. I’ve even ordered a supply of mahogany for making keepsake boxes; to be Christmas gifts for daughters and granddaughters.

    Thank you sincerely for all your patience and hard work,,,

  2. On a few estate sales I saw some truly admirable things: workbenches showing the wear of the work of their former owner. Dents, scratches, rounded edges, patched up legs – the mark of someone’s life.

    I built my bench a couple of years ago following the “back yard series”; I hope it will end up telling a similar story (in several more decades, hopefully).

  3. The workbench building has definitely taken root. I was in a large ‘boxlike orange store’ the other day (the only place to buy wood at night in my town) and saw a young lady standing next to a ‘workbench kit’. With no regard to the kit, she was asking the employee if he would advise her in finding the right wood to make a bench.

  4. The fist “work bench” I built was a small one I could put on our dining table so I could do some woodworking – there was no room for anything else. The way the living room was organised made putting the benchy on the right hand of the table the only option.

    We’ve recently moved and I have a bit more room now so I’ll be working on a bench. Perfect timing, this series!

    I was going to put the vise on the right without giving it a thougt as this is what I got used to. But I noticed Paul put it on the left.

    Anyone any thoughts on this? I am right handed (mostly).

    Mic

    • Generally you can get used to it being either side but naturally you pick uo and replace tools with your right if right hand dominant so the largest open area for placing and stowing tools should be to your right. For left handers it is the opposite.

      • Hello Paul…….my chance to get in quick, I am John 2V,
        2V because I have 2 superb 10″ vices bought on eBay for 99p………I asked you at the time if you would use 2, your reply was ” no one of them would get in the way”
        Well me being me did mount both and right hand one is hardly ever used!!
        SO following your bench build I am giving serious thought to building a new bench to your design and make use of the right end vice by mounting it on the extreme end.
        Thank you for all you have taught me…….best wishes John
        PS I am ‘down sizing my plane collection and very pleased to pass them on via eBay

    • It’s your workbench – put it wherever you want. Like Paul, I’m right-handed and I find it most useful on the left but that’s where they were mounted when I did woodwork at school (sometime in the Jurassic era – 1960s) so that’s what I’m used to. Mind you, I’m also used to using a bench hook from my schooldays – probably a device more used to prevent incompetent schoolboys from damaging workbenches or trying to saw through a vise.

    • I’m 70 and bending/crouching are a bit more difficult than it once was. For that reason I mounted my vise on the far left of the front of the bench. That way I can stand up straight while sawing all the way through the board 1” from the gripping vise and the saw clears the bench. No vibration/chatter. Also, near the end of the cut I can hold the off-piece with my left hand (I’m right-handed). This layout leaves 4’ of clear space on right hand side of the bench. I have a horizontal bench dog on the front skirt on the right hand side that is parallel to the ways of the vise. That lets me handle long, heavy boards into the vise.

      • Hi Joe I have holes drilled at 4″ centres vertically on the mid leg of my bench with a 3/4″ dowel inserted at a height to suite a heavy board……I also use a sticking board when using wooden moulding planes ……best John

  5. Hello Paul, I recently completed my workbench following your series, mainly the garden build. I learnt so much in the process. Such a great feeling to realise you can square up stock. This was probably one of the things which put me off using handtools. But following your guidance made the real difference. Next target is to get to grips, pun intended, with the saw. Thank you so much for all you share. You deserve all the positive feedback you receive.

  6. Paul, how old are you now 65, by now may be 66. And still going strong, not as strong as you did when you were a young wipper-snapper of 33, you are twice as old but still going strong.
    In one of the company monthly papers they said that the average person dies about 18 months after they retire. This was in the eighties. I’ll be 72 in April, retired December 2009 and still going strong, not as strong as I use to but my mind is still sharp, not as sharp, and body not as strong but
    This is a time to find the things you like to do a do them. Stay active.
    A retired electronic technician, I love electronics. Worked in the industrial electronics field my working life. I also like woodworking and getting back into model RC planes. Now they have gone from nitro powered to electric and foam instead of balsa. Heck I can build and have in the air a foamy in less than eight hours and the air frame is made from one sheet of $1 Dollar Tree foam board. When it crashes build another.
    I was think about a week ago that the RC plane building, woodworking and many other things are part of my creativeness expression. Just like writing, poetry, singing, painting pictures, it is our creative expression. Makes ya feel good, accomplishment, worthwhile, things like that, I could go on and on but you get the picture.
    Don’t just retire go home sit down and die. Find things you like to do and do it. Sure you can’t do all the things quite as fast like you use to when you were 33 but . . .
    Thanks Paul and the other people that contribute to these comments.

  7. The workbench is high on my list of things to build in the future. Honest bit of solid, back-breaking shop furniture.

    In the mean time, I’d like the opportunity to thank *you*. Television can’t begin to compete with watching a Paul Sellers video. I’ve heard there are some Olympic Games going on; n+1 police and murder mysteries; silly kids proudly displaying behaviour that should really be hid from view, let alone be broadcast; talking heads, expounding their views without end; groups of men running behind a ball; dating shows, either in the wild on a lonely island, or in the nude, or for the disabled, in a single’s cafe, or for the elderly, or children, or for farmers. And never mind the endless number of cooking contests. Enough already!

    So on most evenings the choice for me is either an interesting book and a good recording of Canto Ostinato playing quietly in the background, or watching a video. Often a video of mr. Sellers skilfully chopping away with a chisel, along with a nice cup of tea. Not much a man needs to have a pleasant evening and re-charge his battery, whilst learning a thing or two.

    For tonight, I have scheduled one of your videos on ‘axe work’, as I’m in the middle of restoring and sharpening an old axe myself.

    (and after that perhaps an episode of Wallace and Gromit.)

  8. Paul,
    Thanks for your workbench series and the honest work method you used.
    Since I have seen episode 9, I wondered what was the finish you used. My hearing is not that good so I missed what you said.
    Thank you,
    Rob

    • Paul said (in the episode 9) he used some outdoor furniture oil, but he also said you can use danish oil or something else, it doesn’t really
      matter as long as it keeps your bench clean.

        • I used Danish oil on mine and it has been great. Cups of tea dont leave stains and spilled water beads and can be wiped off without soaking in. Its probably due a quick planing to refresh the surface after a years work and a fresh coat of danish will be going on after.

  9. I made one a few years ago when Paul made the original video series. I love it. Works great, was easy to build, and I use it all the time.

  10. I am still using my older bench from your book working wood 1 & 2, it is such an amazing tool, thankyou for the knowledge and inspiration!

  11. Paul,
    I was think about you comments that you wanted it to be inclusive. I read that how easy or accessible this build is to a “newbie.” It is too late now, but what might have been interesting is to see a “newbie” build the bench and get into trouble (as we all do) and then have you help them get back on track. After all, since this craft is typically one of us alone in the garage, the problem come when we don’t know and have no one to ask!

    • I think that we are addressing that by answering the questions on issues people have encountered thus far. That being so, those down the road will have the benefit. When Hannah made her bench, a newbie, she just sailed through it and needed only minimal help from me as I tried not to interfere with her thought processes except to question here as to why she did this or that.

  12. I very much appreciate how inclusive you make your projects. I had never really used hand tools before I decided to start my bench back in November, but you said I could do it, and I did–and loved every second of it. When I first saw the tools required for the bench, I was a little worried about the cost since we’re on a strict budget, but it was doable. For all of the tools, lumber, and hardware required for this project, I spent just over $400 with the clamps being the biggest expense. Now, I not only have the tools required to build most of the other projects on your site, but I also have a bench on which to create them, and the confidence and knowledge to do it. I’ve already made my daughter a small workbench/desk of her own, and I’m excited for many other projects to come. Thanks again for all you do!

    • Thank you Erin, that’s really neat to hear and very encouraging for others who might feel a little uncertain. I like that your daughter will be with you too as you grow. This is my greatest dream that we can indeed reach families to spend the important years together making their heirlooms as an inheritance in a three-dimensional sphere of creativity.

  13. Hi Paul,

    Even though I built my workbench about a year and a half ago following the video you made in your garden, I have still been following the latest build. The new one, which is a different style to the old one that has the tool well in the middle, is just as efficient and better still, cheaper as there is less wood used. A fantastic bench though.
    What is great about it, is that it really does show how this can be done by anyone, even those on a very moderate budget, with limited tools and a small work space (just as I have 9’6″ x 7’8″) and having the will to do it.

    Being a lefty I put my record vice on the right and as I have been lucky enough to find another old vice going for a song on Gumtree, am deciding whether to put it on the end of my bench or on the left at the front opposite my existing one. Any advice as to which you think would be more useful would be appreciated.

    I’ve watched every video you’ve made, and quite a few many times over obviously to learn, but also just to watch a master at work. Thanks again for your inspiration.

  14. Hello Paul,

    Wonderful series and thank you. I have a lot of my dad’s old tools, Woden planes, chisels, gouges and I now know what the wooden saw vice is for.
    I was wondering what to do with them all. I think I know now…

  15. I have been watching you teach for several years now; what pleasure. I have learned so much from you. I do not really have any place for a workshop yet, but that is coming soon. I am 71 at am so looking to again use my hands to create some of the wonders I have watched you make. Thank you again

  16. Paul, thank you so much for your video’s. Accidentally finding them online was a Godsend. I have learned so much. Actually relearning.. I went through a carpenter apprenticeship in the early ’70s and then after 8 yrs I left the trade, which I’ve regretted many times, but now I’m retired and setting up a shop in my garage. First thing is the workbench. That is the most economical part.. Some of these power tools are expensive… Just bought a bandsaw for $900, but I have also bought several handsaws, which I will sharpen per your instruction. Handsaw work was very enjoyable back in the day. I have also purchased the chisel set you showed in the video on sharpening. and I sharpened them per your instruction. Also the planes, bought an old #5 and am restoring that just like you instructed. Once again thank you.

  17. Another great series! Seeing an email notification that another Paul Sellers video is out really makes my day!

    BTW – was their any re-cap or final dimension list of this latest workbench build?

    Take care,

    Rod

  18. Hi Paul,

    Thank you so much for your gift to all of us. My grandad was a cabinetmaker, and you’ve ignited a desire in me to follow where he left off, at least as an amateur at any rate. I am thoroughly enjoying building this bench and had a few learn8ngs along the way.

    One question, which I apologise for if it’s already been asked an answered, but what would your alternate method be for cutting the rebates in the wellboard? I have an old plough plane for the grooves, but no rebate plane, and no budget to source one at the moment as I spent it on the wood and a vise. Could a tenon saw, time and careful work do the job? Or possibly a solution with the record 71?

    Grateful in advance for your advice.

    • Hi Ryan I made my own rebate plane following Paul’s advice, I added an adjustable depth and width of cut …..all from scrap beech

  19. Hi Paul,
    I built this bench watching your videos on YouTube. I made it 7’10. It took me about 4 weeks , with time permitting , I took every spare 15 minutes I had. There were some sections that I didn’t take my time with, worried that it’d be to long before I could return to it. A mistake i will learn from.
    I did do everything by hand as per your guided process, used inexpensive chisels which turned out to very good, and a handful of purchased 2nd hand tools.
    The bench is now standing proudly in my garage and what a joy it was and is and how much it’s sped my work up not to mention accuracy, sharp tools have helped with that too of course.. it’s not perfect though I had to start somewhere and wow, the enjoyment I now get is immense.
    Unfortunately one of my laminated tops twisted as I had not glued it up to the apron in time and being late winter, early spring it twisted quite a bit. I will redo. Also I’d like to say that dimensions here in Oz are a little smaller so the top wasn’t quite as thick as it could be.
    Thanks Paul.
    Nathan

  20. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Paul, for this awesome project. I spent last weekend laminating and surface planing my bench top. My arms felt like they were about ready to fall off when I was done, but looking at that bench top (and the pile of shavings beneath it) felt so good. I can’t wait to get back out there and work on the rest of it.

    Thank you for being such an inspiration, and making these projects so accessible.

  21. During vise installation you used a standard hand saw, a lot of work drilling, chiseling. Maybe it was easier to use a keyhole saw or frame saw. I observed you never use this types of saws, however I see a lot of them here in continental Europe.

    Another question, usually floor is not even, how you level legs to remove play in this case? What you put under the legs? On the photo you have concrete floor, quite dangerous for tools, I suppose wooden floor or something else could be better.

    • It’s not that I don’t or wouldn’t use other saw types, just that I like to keep the list small yet at the same time show methods that enable people in less fortunate conditions.
      Uneven floors, wood or concrete are common. Rarely is any floor twist free. I slide a slim wedge under a leg to correct the problem. I like the solidity of concrete but find it can be hard on the legs as well as a dropped or rolling tool. I use the square interlocking puzzle-type mats used for exercise and kids areas work really well and have used them for years.

      • I understand you try to use less tools. However it will be interesting to see how you use such type of saws (tools) from time to time, to learn about this tools and alternative methods. Keyhole saw is small and accessible, usually 1+ euro at flea market, looks very handy in many scenarios. You could make small posts/videos about different tools, you have a lot of them and I think will like to talk about them, don’t hide this treasures.

  22. I love to hear about this success. I started my workbench in earnest just before the most recent workbench video series using the garden video series as my guide. I find myself replaying both series of videos while I’m planing and pondering in my garage.

    Thank you, Paul, for your simple tips along the way. You approach the project as something anyone can tackle and built my confidence. I now love using hand tools, building and constructing with this long-proven art form.

    My beast of a workbench is sure to serve me for many years. Now, I better get back to it. This vise isn’t going to install itself.

  23. Hi Paul. Do you find you tend to clamp things on one side of the vise, typically the right side? If so, do you find that causes racking in the vise? I have the 9” eclipse and no issues yet but was wondering if you intentionally switch sides occasionally to balance it out?

    I tried to read all your previous blogs about vises and didn’t see anything about racking, but of course I may have missed it, so please forgive me if you have answered this before.

    • You didn’t miss it, I never covered it because it has never been an issue with any made vise I have owned in my 53 years to date except for the very cheapo repros that came from India and China in their early productions when England abdicated its tool manufacturing industry. Of course that’s changed and many excellent vises are made on every continent. As far as I know England does not make a QR vise anymore. The Eclipse is made by Spear and Jackson and Spear and Jackson has most of their products made in Asia. I know with lesser vises, wooden ones often, it is an issue. I do however tend to use both sides of the vise as a matter of course in my daily work but I can’t say I use the two sides equally.

  24. Hi Paul!

    I’m in the progress of building a workbench following your latest videos and I want to have beads (I’m not sure if it’s the correct name) along the legs as you have on all your old benches (your own and the benches you have in your school) since I really like how it looks. I was wondering what did you use to make them? Was it a moulding/beading plane? if so what size did you use? I’m thinking about 1/2″ wide bead but I don’t have a plane for that. I tried your “poor man’s beading tool” but 1/2″ seems a bit too wide for it and it’s difficult to get a nice round “corner”. I can buy an old wooden beading plane on eBay if I need, but I’d love to hear what you used and any other suggestions. Thanks a lot for everything!

    • Hi Alexander……I have several of Paul’s type of screw in a block edge beading tool…….you could try a large head screw. Unfortunately today’s screws are not suitable….try and get hold of an ‘old’ screw they have larger heads and can be filed sharp by placing in vice OR perhaps screwed into a block before filing ( to hold securely). When using as a scribe have slot vertical. If you can understand this:- very slightly file off front leading corner of slot and you will have shavings flying off
      But far better to buy on eBay a vintage moulder. Sharpen as in Paul’s tutorial and watch utube how to use it……it will give you a very smooth finish…….with regards to your bench legs …..don’t go too big ….about 10mm wide max. About four strokes and you will be delighted

    • Strange I did post, what I thought was a constructive reply/help to Alexanders comments re beading tool…….but it has been deleted???
      Can I say again that I have several screw type beading tools and suggested that Alexander use an old type slotted screw largest possible…keeping slot vertical…perhaps a No 12 screw, it’s top should be filed to give a sharp edge then corner of work rounded with a plane.
      I have several wooden edge beading moulding planes and they
      work so easily leaving a really smooth finish. I wouldn’t go any larger than a number 6, although Alex talks of a 1/2″ =No 8

      • Hi John!

        Thanks for your answers I really appreciate it! I’ll most likely go for a beading plane from eBay, but still would appreciate if Paul answers what thought he has on this (and obviously I’m also interested in what he used to make those beads).

        • Just seen a couple on eBay at the mo Alex
          They are well used but should be perfect for you if you follow Paul’s tuition on sharpening moulding planes
          £5 with no bids and 12 hours to go

          • thanks John! I’m watching a couple of them as well, will probably buy on or two. Have a nice day!

  25. This has been a new fantastic work, Paul, like always. Although I had watched the “old” workbench series, I have enjoyed this new one. I’ve finished mine a few weeks ago, and ‘though it is not exactly like those you make (I’ve put a leg vise and a eclipse vise on the end, after adapting it to use it like a tail vise), I’ve used some of the building fundamentals I’ve learned from you. And you’re right: beginning to work in a workbench made by oneself has a lot of exciting.

    I would like you to know how my vision and my skills in woodworking are changing since I know your work. Thank you very much again.

  26. I cannot thank Paul enough for the solid knowledge I have gained from his efforts and the how much I use what I have learned every time I work in my shop. I also was pleased to see that this most recent work bench was almost exactly the same size I built for myself last summer 66″ x 29″… with only one work surface. The only difference was that I used 3/4″ material edge glued for the bottom of my tool trough. I absolutely love the 9″ Eclipse vise and I also acquired a few of the really good aluminum bar clamps for general use per Paul’s methods. Only recently I added the diamond stones recessed in a board to sharpen and love it… just love it.
    I have long restored hand planes and I incorporated the steps I learned from Paul that were additions to what I already did… Building Paul’s bench was a great learning process and it will last me there rest of my life. Thanks again Paul for everything.

  27. Alex did you buy the two beading moulders on eBay?……went for £5!! Bargain.
    I was going to bid but have several already …..just must stop buying

  28. Mr. Sellers thank you for your time and effort in producing these wonderful videos. I have already begun work on my own version of your workbench, incorporating most of your methods. As my day job is in IT (computers and telephones all day) it is so therapeutic for me to go into my unplugged shop where the only sounds are those made by my hands on saws, mallets, and chisels. Since I have begun this work I sleep better and awake looking forward to my reward at the end of the day of making that magical substance we call SAWDUST.
    Truly your,
    Christopher in Texas.

You must enter certain information to comment on this page. We take the handling of personal information seriously and appreciate your trust in us. Our Privacy Policy sets out important information about us and how we use and protect your personal data and it also explains your legal rights in respect of it. Please click here to read it before you comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *