I Made My Workbench Drawer—Again!

We recently filmed the making of the workbench drawer as a follow up to the workbench build for YouTube (not out yet). It doesn’t take too long to make a drawer but filming makes the wholly simple process much more complicated and it takes longer because of a variety of things. The thing is that I lived without this drawer for a few weeks in the new garage workshop and the negative result of not having the drawer made me ever more aware of just how handicapped I am when it is not there.

Three issues spring to mind with regards to the drawer being there resulting only from questioners suggesting problems rather than because the problems are really so real at all. perhaps they are more perceived as possible hangups whereas in reality no issues actually exist. So I thought about it and remembered that I occasionally get a letter where someone wrote to ask how I clamp long boards to the edge of the bench top when planing the edges of boards in the vise. The question seemed to suggest that this was a normal procedure but in my woodworking world it’s not real at all. I never use this method at all. Such questions come along with my preference for having the vise protrude past the face of the edge of the bench. Add to that that the knob protruding out from the drawer and it can indeed seem that there are problems, but again, the truth is, I never do clamp long boards to the front edge of the workbench that way and I have never felt it of any benefit. There might be an occasion when the drawer handle is in the way, and by that I mean perhaps once in three years. In that case I take the drawer out. The last issue comes from those who have categorically stated they would never have an apron drawer because inevitably you will have something clamped in the vise that prevents access to the drawer. I want to encourage them so I don’t say, ‘Get a life.’ but why forfeit the massive benefits of so convenient a place to stow all the misfit tools associated with our craft? It is definitely another of those first world problems though. Either think ahead and take out what you need or remove the item from the vise.

I say all of this to encourage everyone to build this drawer. Follow the steps and you will have a drawer that will only enhance your woodworking. It takes a massive amount of tools as you will see.

36 thoughts on “I Made My Workbench Drawer—Again!”

  1. Ian Jefferson

    Hi Paul,

    One of the kind of revelations watching you work is around work holding. I might say you advocate an “anything goes” approach. Watching you I realized eventually that so long as one end of a long or awkward piece I’m working on is stable then the other bits need surprisingly little support. The exception to this is small flimsy pieces such as inlay bits and there a simple jig works for planing.

    After watching you plane in the first workbench series on YouTube using a tree in your back yard (garden eh?) as one secure point I found myself using a column of my shop for the same and a workmate on the other end!

    My assembly bench which is serving as a work bench for now I have a vice mounted much as you do although on the RHS. I like the vice offset from the face as it allows me to get the saw and other tools access to the far side of the workpiece. For longer pieces I found myself clamping a bit of scrap to the lower edge of the bench and just resting the piece on that. I recently had some practice through mortises that I couldn’t bear to throw out so with a knob and a threaded rod through the mortise into a T-nut inside the workbench edge (or skirt which I do not really have yet) I just left one of those on bench edge and now I don’t require the clamp.

    I suppose I have wanted a dog now and again but so far I have taken care of that by just clamping a bit of scrap to the top of the bench.

    Like the way we choose to put our plane down we don’t have to be constrained by anyone. We can find ways that work for our personal style and personal economy. In ancient parlance “there is more than one way to skin a cat”. Watching other skilled folks helps open up the possibilities in the mind.

    Looking forward to the drawer.

  2. Hi Paul

    In your accompanying blog you mention habits that you acquire early stay with you for the rest of your life -“can’t teach an old dog new tricks” etc – and this clearly shows in your defence of the drawer/knob.
    I made my first work bench some 30 years ago it has ample storage with a tool trough a shelf just under and a standalone set of 3 drawers none of which compromise the ability to clamp to the front edge.

    I have also bought an additional bench which is the same.

    Your “defence” fails on all grounds.

    Aesthetically round turned knobs are generally not a good look on rectangular drawers.

    You champion hand tools but use a type of pull that can only be produced by machine (lathe).

    The functionality of your bench is undoubtedly compromised whether you choose to accept in or not.

    On the woodworking side, I am genuinely interested to see your technique for planing the thin edges of long thin product that doesn’t support it’s own weight on your sort of bench. Say something 4 foot long 4 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. It only takes a matter of seconds to put in the vice with a G clamp to the face of the bench for support if necessary.

    Enjoyed the article on using a router for mortise and tenon joints. Having made a base for my router plan to have a go at that sometime soon

    1. Geoff, it looks like you need to take a deep breath, sir. Aside from your rude tone, your critiques of Paul are quite unfair.

      Nowhere is Paul slamming your method of work (which clearly serves you well). Your lack of appreciation for round drawer pulls is hardly universal – have you had a look at shaker furniture? You’re also blatantly straw-manning Paul on the use of a powered lathe.

      You could have started your post after “On the woodworking side, ” and not come across as Oscar the Grouch .

    2. Item 1) My work is not at all compromised, ever. Item 2) The machine, the lathe in this very specific case, is not producing the round work, the woodturner is. The lathe is only holding the wood and rotating it. This is the one difference between the lathe and all other machines where the wood is always fed into a rotting cutter. So I think you would agree that it’s manipulation of the tool by the turner that determines both shape and outcome. Item 3) You present round knobs to rectangular drawers as a basic tenet of good design, which of course it is not in any way and never has been by virtue of the fact that throughout all the centuries since turned work began drawers and doors have sported turned or round knobs on them. Probably a thousand-fold of any other shape. Item 4) I can give you half a dozen ways to secure the material size you have given not the leat of which os to simply lay it on my benchtop overhanging the well and clamping the wood either end. That way `i lay may plane on its side in the well and use the well to run the plane along it.

      1. Rodrigo Fuenzalida

        Thanks for the last advice. I’ve already bought the wood for the bench and this weekend I’ll start the laminations. I’ll pay attention to the squaredness between the well and the edge of the top so i can do that and even use that part as a temporary shooting board.

          1. If people giving their different takes on things are trolls as you suggested, would you call yourself a sheep (from a herd)?

            A lathe can be powered by a human leg or electricity, depending on the design. I don’t see the use machines (cordless drills, bandsaw, etc.) an issue in Paul’s work. Older folks in their 70s or even 80s would be able to do more woodworking with the help of machines.

      2. Michael Murphy

        Agreed Paul, those who work with the limits of OCD in design and process will always have a negative critique of those whose work method is ordered in a way that is like, to them, a splinter in a finger joint. You find solutions and methods that work and work well. I look forward to your postings as I’ve learned different ways of producing excellence. Thank you for sharing and teaching those methods and techniques.

  3. Thanks for sharing it again Paul – you really have a way of answering my questions before I could even ask them!

    An on a lighthearted note: With your global following having surpassed what anyone would deem substantial, we can only guess how many man-hours will now be spent trying to identify all the tools in your drawer.

  4. Norman Pirollo

    If the issue here is the protruding knob, why not design the drawer front to have a hidden pull…maybe a center-mounted slot instead? Or two slots on either side of the drawer front to have the drawer slide in smoothly rather than a single, protruding pull. Somehow to make it appear the drawer is not in fact there, a continuous apron surface.


    1. I was thinking so long as there wasn’t a stop preventing the drawer from going in too far, you could just shove the drawer in deeper than the knob and you’d still have a flat front… Can’t say the same for the presumed pegs holding those backsaws, but surely there are smarter woodworkers with such solutions.
      Thanks Paul for all the knowledge you share! I am learning so much from you on my journey becoming a woodworker.

      1. That’s what I do Brian for over 60 years. When the handle or drawer are in the way I just push it in, under the bench top more.
        Some time I have to do this to keep the bench dog out of the drawer too.

    2. Michael Ballinger

      I think Paul’s point is that it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist for him. It’s funny how people get so caught up in the minut, if one has an issue with a drawer pull, put a different one on and get on with working. If it worries me I’d just put a hole in the drawer front so I could pull it out.

      Actually I don’t have a drawer in my bench because I haven’t built Paul’s bench yet. I opted for kitchen cabinets 350mm deep with 4 soft close shallow drawers, 800mm wide. They sit right behind me and are fantastic.

  5. OK – Since no one has asked yet, I’ll do it –
    ‘Cherry Blossom’ shoe polish? ..What ?
    Is that a stain substitute? To fill in dings?
    I’ve never even thought of using shoe polish in woodworking,
    so I am very curious as to why that is in the drawer.
    ..I will laugh if you say it’s to polish your shoes!

    1. All kinds of things, but mostly cleaning shoes. I have used it to tint wood turnings mostly.

      1. With that one picture and simple comment, the price of brown shoe polish is going to go up. 🙂

  6. Thanks Paul! This is perfect timing as I have recently completed my first work bench based on your you tube series. It took me four months vs your weekend in the garden but I couldn’t be happier with the result. I’m just starting out in woodworking and have learned so much from your videos and books. Looking forward to adding the drawer and saw hangers. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  7. Bob Younghusband

    It seems that you touched a raw nerve or two. Good on ya, in my opinion. We all come here to learn from someone who is a Master at his craft. If people don’t agree with what you have to say, they can take it or leave it. We can all have our ideas and processes. But to come off in the way some have, well, it’s not called for.
    Thank you for all you have taught SO MANY people. You are one in a million!!!

    1. That implies there are millions of people like Paul … I’d say it’s more like he’s one in a billion 🙂

  8. Paul, this is another great project that will be very applicable to many of us I am sure. It will be personally for sure.

    While it is always interesting to hear other opinions in a rational and civilized way that involves intelligent discourse, you are probably used to the critiques of the other “woodworking masters” that visit your site so I will only say again what Hemingway said,” They are just holes in the air”. Certainly to myself anyway.

    Thanks again for your ideas.

  9. Thanks Paul. You make many excellent points.

    I’ve found in life, there are often a lot of theoretical problems/issues that folks bring up that are in fact not a real issue. Experience trumps theory.

    I had a different hobby that I had been doing for about 30 years before I discovered discussion boards on the internet. Based on a lot of what I saw written there, all kinds of things should have been issues over my 30 years doing the hobby that just weren’t.

    The lesson I learned when I started woodworking 3 years ago was to NOT visit forums and discussion boards. Rather, I look to you a few select others who have been doing it for a lifetime for insight. Then, I go into my garage and happily woodwork. I like re-watching and re-reading what you have written because I have often found you talking about solutions to other problems that hadn’t sunk in the first time watching or reading.

  10. It concerns me to see the jumble of tools in the drawer. These saws and files all with sharp edges needing protection from bouncing around with other hard steel tools. It seems unlike Paul to treat sharp tool in such a way?

    1. Sorry if I give that impression, Michael. It is not at all a problem and never has been. It’s not as you infer a ‘jumble’, as if tools get carelessly tossed and recklessly thrown in there together, and there is no ‘bouncing around’ either, just simple and careful placement every time. It works perfectly well so please don’t worry on my or anyone else’s account. Care is always my primary concern when it comes to my tools. The drawer will be closed quietly, the tools placed carefully. Please reconsider, would I not have learned after 50 years using this system, which I must say has worked perfectly well throughout, and rejig things?

  11. Stijn Bossuyt

    You say you don’t clamp long boards to the front of the workbench. Just out of curiosity, how do you clamp them then if you had to plane an edge?

    1. It depends on too many things to give an answer. Thickness of the material, width of the material, wood type. In 53 years I cannot require not clamping to the bench top being an issue when edge planing.

      1. Stijn Bossuyt

        Ok, thanks. Not really the answer I was looking for, but I think you mean to say whatever solution works? I’ve had success clamping one end in the vice, and supporting the other end on a block of wood that was clamped to the bench.

        1. I find with the exceptionally long board or odd shaped piece, you do what ever it takes, clamping it to saw horses or even on he floor.
          It all depends on your working conditions and environment. Nothing is incorrect it’s the end result that counts.
          There is no tool that suites every man the same, bench included. The bench is only a tool, a large tool. There are many styles of benches, many types.

          1. Jim, I am a stickler for appropriate words and it’s very common to adopt terms and normalise them when they are often inappropriate. For instance you will never hear me call machines like tablesaws and bandsaws ‘tools‘ because they are indeed machines. It was an American dynamic to change people’s perception of machines to create a user-friendly term in the same way one uses the term ‘it’s just a tool‘ when we are engaged in something like computer work where the users say the computer is just a tool. In other words it seems less an invasive entity to make it more, well, just matter of fact, which then translates into acceptability. A workbench is not truly a tool in any real sense, shape or form–that’s my view any way and so I don’t use the term that way. In my world I see a workbench more as a piece of equipment as is the vise, it’s used to hold and support work and tools. A tool for me has always been the extension of a worker’s hand and I never heard the term used until somewhere around the mid 80s. A tool to me then is always governed and powered by hand and is totally controlled in every element of it by that hand holding it. Also, you say nothing is incorrect when many things are indeed incorrect, but we often use incorrect things in place of correct ones as we also use incorrect methods over correct ones. In my experience we tend to adapt ourselves to accept alternatives and our bodies adjust accordingly. The longer we use something the more we adjust and the more comfortable we feel about it. Having said all of that, anyone who wants to just use the terms like tools for machines is fine. The problem is when everyone does it just without thought, which I think is now mostly.

  12. Rick Campbell

    Hi Paul, I like the idea of having a draw in the workbench. It is a good way of having certain tools close at hand and is not in the way.

  13. Tom Dagostino

    Dear Paul,
    I recently completed my workbench and I installed a 10 1/2 inch vise. The problem I am having is that the quick release lever does not allow me to move it in and out.

    Any suggestions?

    Tom D

    1. Sometimes the drop down mechanism does not drop because it is hindered in some way. Perhaps start looking there. Open the vise part way and as you press the release lever see if it does in fact drop. This mechanism disengages the the winding ability from the cogs.

  14. My bench could use such a drawer. The only thing holding me back is knowing how you mount the drawer guides / slides / support in your bench. Hope that’s covered in the video.

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