Workbenches That Work

I have made workbenches the way I have to put them into realms of real woodworking for everyone. I am sure some brutes can shove them around their workshops as they work but I can’t, never have. I had my doubts the day we set up two sawhorses, a Black & Decker Workmate and a couple of camcorders on the lawn at the back of my house that we would find acceptance, ut we did. There were some setbacks but we carried on; squeals from next door as the village school children in the playground at breaktime played their games and the sounds they made mingled with seagulls and helicopters overhead. Sometimes the school bell signaled the end of break or the start of another just as I was speaking and we’d wait to see what happened. Mostly we just let rip and got on with it. Hard to believe that that was 8 years ago.

I think that what happened there signaled a new beginning for me. Since then we have made hundreds of videos for our presentations, YouTube and more and of course, this birthed our efforts to expand real woodworking into the homes of hundreds of thousands worldwide.

Built completely on the concrete driveway of my home. A right way to passage or a rite of passage? Go climb that mountain!

Now that first workbench was not at all new. I built the first one for my own use at home in the UK back in 1973 and then its replacement in the USA in 1986 when I migrated there to live in Texas. The first woodworking school had the two-ended 8-foot versions but for home shops, it was mostly too big. Since then I found myself most comfortable on a 5-6 foot version or somewhere in the middle.

It’s been a year since I made my plywood workbench made from Finnish 13 ply plywood and I have been using it in the videos since I took my pine version home to my home garage at the new house. To be honest, I can work at either one perfectly happily as they both work perfectly well. The plywood one being hardwood is, of course, heavier and I have built more ‘hidden’ stowage into the area below the benchtop with a sliding well board for ease of access. Asking me which of my workbenches I prefer is like asking me which one of my grandchildren I like most. I really just wanted to say I have no regrets launching the plywood alternative because it is such a very good workbench. I have used two of them for a year to date but only one of them full time. If you built this one you would have no regrets


  1. “A right of passage? Go climb that mountain!”
    I have been procrastinating a few years and finally made one in the 2017 summer based on the 2012 video and blog posts.
    It looked like a mountain but it was no more than jumping for the first time in the swimming pool.

    It was easy to adapt the dimensions to the space and material available. It is 150 cm long, 60 cm deep (30 cm work-top + well), 96 cm high, recycled wood.

    If I had to make a new one, now it would of course look nicer, although this one is perfectly functional. It doesn’t need to be made like fine furniture but it is so much helpful to hone one’s skill when done.

    Thank you so much for everything you teach us..

    P.S. I would say: a “rite of passage”; no custom fee here.

  2. After watching your garden workbench series, reading your book “Working
    Wood 1 & 2″, studying Christopher Schwarz’ book about workbenches
    fortunately you made the garage shop version of your workbench as a video
    series. At that time I decided to take this version as the starting point for my

    Due to space restraints my workbench is only 4’2″ long, 24″ deep and 38″ tall.
    Therefore I had to address the lesser weight and the risen probability of
    longitudinal toppling.
    The weight isn’t an issue any more, because the top of my workbench is 5″ thick,
    the aprons are nearly 2″ and the legs are laminated of two 2″x4.5” boards.
    To prevent toppling I splayed the legs longitudinal at 10° outwards so that
    they meet the floor just under the end of the working surface.
    That bench serves me very well now.

    Retrospectively there are two main reasons which led this bench to success:
    Your outstanding capability to explain and develop such a project and the
    straightforward design of your bench which allows to change one or the other
    aspect easily – even for beginners like me.

    So thank you for sharing your knowledge with us and the team beside you
    which does an exceptional job to support your work.


  3. After being encouraged to take over my father’s (Joiner) tools I built a rudimentary (but still functional) fish tank stand which proved too much for the old B&D workmate. I searched for guidance found Paul Sellers and built my workbench last Spring. From there emerged planters, blanket box, 2 rebate planes, a router plane, winding sticks, leaning bookcase (for ferns), garden table & 2 benches and my desktop organiser. On my to-do list this year I already have a new greenhouse, bread stow and console table. Storage solutions for the conservatory and garage will follow.

    Lots to do and it’s all Paul’s fault – for giving me my bench.

    Thanks from a happy apprentice.

  4. A workbench is essential when it comes to hand joinery. Gotta have it. The woodworking bench is the focal point of the process. It will enhance all other tools you use.

  5. I have had a plane hanging around my little shop for a few years. Never used it. Don’t know where or when I bought but it is a Stanley with a plastic handle and “Made in England” stamped on it. Paul’s teaching resurrected the plane along with my long-neglected desire to learn to use hand tools and how to take woodworking to a new level.

    The workbench was my first hand tool project. I finished the bench about 10 days ago. I followed the plans as closely as possible except for the height. I thought matching my table saw height would be more efficient. After I got started working daily at the bench I found the 38-inch height in the design is much more more comfortable; easier on the back either standing or on a tall stool.

    Great bench! Great videos! I have completed some of the Common Projects and am lovin’ the work. Thanks Paul and thanks to all the other commenters. Your questions and comments really help expand the information and accelerate the learning.

  6. I built my first bench while the first video series was coming out, but did the smaller 2′ x 5′ design in Working Wood 1&2. What a great experience, especially learning to sharpen and tune the tools that I had and the vintage ones that I purchased for the build. I still use some power tools but hand tools get a lot of use now too.

  7. I wondered whether, with hard use, the plywood might deteriorate in time due to the thin layer construction. I wonder if a hard sheet on top might be advantageous. Perhaps like me, you have have also seen wooden benches where a small rectangle of 1/4″ rectangular mild steel is let into the top for hammering on?

    1. I have confidence in the plywood, that it will hold up as well if not better than wood as it is designed not to move as in solid wood. I think many people have fallen for the cheap plywoods through the years that do indeed deteriorate because they are so badly made. I am not sure what you expect from a workbench but realistically it is not nor should it be the kind of thing they express and see all the more of these days. It’s just a workbench and `i am enjoying this one as much as any I have ever used.

      1. Paul and everyone:
        I just confirmed my bench height to be 36″ tall to top of bench face. Using a bunch of books placed on my low desk table, I found the best height for me to hammer, use a hand saw, etc., ergonomically (LH at just about 90 degrees to the workbench height). I am definitely left-handed for tools. RH is very weak and shaky. Perhaps with time and practice, I can use my RH, as I am R eye dominant.

        I got thinking more about my plans for a benchtop made from Baltic Birch plywood. Is this going to be overkill expense wise? Will most likely finish it with 3 coats of water-borne finish with 3/4″ bench dog system. I want a face vise, and possibly a Wagon vise on the opposite end.

        Keep safe, be well and remember to work some wood to fight the boredom! Jon in Easthampton MA.

        1. The benchtop part is 3/4 of a sheet of plywood so for me around £40. In studs that’s about 10 studs and for me in the UK, that is also about £40.

  8. My wife and I are finishing, a “hybrid” plywood and maple workbench. We had bought vises and two 12 inch x 60inch x 3 1/2 inch maple tops long before we started to view Paul’s videos. The base of the workbench and the wallboard and back apron are built on Paul’s basic plywood plan. The work surface and the front apron are Maple. We are in the final stages. We are planning to build my wife a workbench to her height as well with the other maple top. Thank you Paul.

    1. Nice to hear that you and your wife are learning together! I chose to learn woodworking at 59. Now that we are under a Stay Indoors situation with COVID-19, at least I can read books, search online, and of course, learn from Paul and other woodworkers via the internet. Thought I have a super small working area, I have been planning, scheming, and acquiring some basic tools from Paul’s and other lists. Going to work with hand tools, since I don’t have the option of power tools in my small room.
      Enjoy this wonderful hobby/vocation… Jon in Easthampton, MA

  9. I choose this workbench, not only because it looked (and is) easy enough to build by a newbie, but also for inherent qualities of the design:
    – it can be knocked down for easier transport;
    – the wedges can compensate leg shrinkage (if any);
    – the wedges and aprons ensure the absence of longitudinal racking;
    – the front apron glued to the workbench-top makes a very rigid L beam which stiffens the whole assembly;
    – the workbench-top screwed to the leg-frames ensure the base stay rectangular under stress while keeping the knock down capability;
    – it can easily be scaled up or down;
    – the workbench-top is thicker than on a more conventional Nicholson workbench which gives mass and limit rebound when chopping.

    The recommended height (38″) is perfect for me and is in agreement with some studies which tend to establish that the optimum height is about 150 mm under {the elbow height + shoe heel height}. (lower: more back pain; higher: more neck/shoulder pain).

    I have added the drawer, under shelf, lateral shelf and saw holding.

    And, … it is easier to (try to) work like Paul with a similar workbench.

  10. I try to find southern yellow pine at the big box stores and my local lumberyard and I cannot find it in large sizes. Can the bench top and apron be successful if made with white pine construction wood?

    1. Gregg-

      Yes! My 6’8” bench is 100% construction grade PSF (pine, spruce, fir).


    2. Absolutely. My bench is all 2×4 or 2×3 radiata pine studs. Laminated the aprons and the legs. The knots were a pain to plane through and my cheap plane ( and my lack of skill/understanding) created a lot of tear out, but I have a bench and I am really happy with it.

    3. White pine is not a great wood for a bench. It dents easily. In the Northeast US, yellow pine is hard to come by. The big box stores are now calling construction wood “White Wood”. It used to be SPF (spruce, pine, fir) but the workers got sick of customers wanting to know whether it was spruce or pine or fir and giving them grief that they didn’t know. Most of it comes from Canada and any will make a great bench. I’ve built 3 so far.

      1. White pine will make a bench that works as well as any other, even expensive hardwood ones, it is of course a soft softwood but strength-wise it works.

      2. I made bench from white pine and it works perfectly fine and is a durable as anything else. Infact I prefer the soft pine for weight and they look nice too. I’m not sure why people think pine is junk wood. It has its purpose and is plentiful in the US and it makes the shop smell so nice when working it… I’ve made a lot of the MWWC projects put of pine and given a lot of them away. I’ve yet to have anyone decline to accept a gift made of pine…

  11. 8 years! Your backyard workbench series is one of my all-time favorites (if not #1)
    Watching you working on a pair of saw horses or planning against a tree has been a huge inspiration. This is something I always remember when some workpiece does not fit into my small workshop and bench, built as per your design, of course.
    Thanks for so much Paul. For teaching that excellence work can be achieved with not-so-fancy or 2nd hand tools, for all the tips and techniques, for showing the beauty of simple designs woodwork and the joy of building something that will last years of use.
    Take good care of your health on this hard times!


  12. While my workbench is not identical to yours. I took a lot of inspiration from the workbench video series. Perhaps a sense that I really could build my own workbench most of all. After six years of use it’s still a perfectly good workbench and there is very little I would change. I made it eight feet and I now realize I only need about five, and I wish I had a better vise.

    1. Hi there I don’t know what specific Vise you are looking for or want but I want to suggest turning and keeping your eye on Craigslist and the like. I have found some amazing buys on craigslist some awesome old hand tools like a bit & brace drills a craftsmen #4 hand plane and a pair off vintage 4 inch woodworking vises. So keeping an eye out might be a great way to locate the vise you really want. Plus I found all these tools in a mid size city west of Detroit Michigan called Grand Rapids. So if you live in a larger city or are close to one the odds off you finding what your looking for is even higher. Just a quick tip.

  13. “There were some setbacks but we carried on; squeals from next door as the village school children in the playground at breaktime played their games and the sounds they made mingled with seagulls and helicopters overhead.”

    I did not mind the school noises at all. It made it seem human and peaceful. Thanks for the videos and memories.

  14. Same here, the things mr. Sellers mentioned (birds, children, aircraft, schoolbell, etc.) didn’t bother me at all and still don’t. Apart from educative I find that video series also very charming; no nonsense, let’s get down to it. The only minor gripe I have is that the episodes are so short, ~10 minutes each, probably due to YouTube rules back then. That’s my only, and very minor, issue with the videos. The content is simply superb. Again, the occasional background noise isn’t even on my radar.

    Off-topic but had a little victory today sharpening a plane blade with an oil stone. It seems that I’ve finally got the hang of freehand sharpening with one. And it’s only because I HAD to sharpen: all my planes are dull by now and out of reach (moving house). Only the #5 Handyman was within reach (still took a bit of acrobatics to get at it) and, of course, dull. So no option but to sharpen. Lo and behold, in an improvised oilstone holder, using a bit of petroleum as lubricant, using a figure-8 movement, paying a lot of attention to a correct and constant angle, got a burr, ground it off, then to the strop…. sharp enough to shave hairs with. It cut end-grain oak with ease. The sharpening took me a few minutes in all, much much less than setting up my usual sandpaper rig and jigs. I’m sure that with a bit more practice freehand sharpening will become second nature and take only a minute or two to sharpen up now. For an encore I sharpened the marking knife (modified kitchen knife).

    It was a big hurdle for me, causing a lot of frustration, and one I feel I have taken now. Hard to describe the sense of accomplishment it caused. Anyway, I did more or less the same as mr. Sellers does with diamonds. Not sure why it didn’t ‘click’ with me in that past. More pleased with my new skill than with the actual thing I was making (which came out fine, nothing to complain about, just that I’m much more joyful about my sharpening achievement). My deep felt thanks go to mr. Sellers.

    1. I would strongly recommend that you don’t use petrol as a lubricant for your oilstone.

      1. Paul R., thanks for the comment, my mistake for not using the correct English term for it. It wasn’t petrol (gasoline, or in Dutch ‘benzine’) I used but ‘petroleum’, which is more like kerosene or lamp oil. It’s much heavier than benzine/gasoline/petrol, more akin to Diesel fuel. Less flammable and more lubricating than petrol/gasoline. It’s also commonly used to clean engine parts and for small heaters (usually called ‘kerosene heaters’ in English speaking countries, ‘petroleum kacheltjes [stoves]’ over here). Hope that clarifies what it was.

        If I should be using something entirely different I’d be interested in learning what.

        1. Don’t you just love the English language, we call kerosene paraffin in the UK!

  15. As many above wrote: the garden series was – for me – the most energetic. Maybe you could do one open air series each season? The year is still young 😉

  16. Yes Paul, you were the inspiration for me to build my first proper workbench, rather than a sheet of ply on four legs. I watched the backyard build five years ago and quite liked the noise interruptions 🙂 Of course it is now all dinged up from constant use but I love it all the same. The satisfaction from standing back and saying.. “I built this”. What could be better. Thanks for the past and for what I know you will be giving to us in the future

  17. I don’t have a bandsaw to rip down plywood, but it looks like using solid 1x stock would work just as well. If 1x stock is used, what type of solid stock would you recommend to laminate legs, top, etc from in place of laminating plywood? Or would you just recommend the non-plywood version of your bench?

    1. You don’t need a bandsaw to cut plywood…

      Put it down on the floor or ground, with “dunnage” (e.g. lengths of ‘4″ x 2″‘ lumber..) or a piece of expanded foam underneath it..

      Then use either a circular saw, jig saw or good ol’ handsaw to cut to size..

  18. My workbench started out as your second version but ended up as the first on because I wasn’t happy with my first attempt at the benchtop and ended up with two!

    I loved the series in the back garden and while the background noise would have been a distraction, I just found the whole thing a joy to watch. Loved it when the school bell went off. It just proved you could build a bench with very little, and learn so much along the way.

  19. I so vividly remember that workbench video – I was quite taken by you working away in your backyard and the sounds in the background. Been watching your shows ever since and enjoying every one of them. Thank you!

  20. Hey Paul i’m sure you have to be proud of your new videos. The production quality is really top notch video and sound, and content. The whole 9 yards. BUT, I have a soft spot for thise old bench videos because after decades of thinking hand tools were way above my skill capacity and i had to buy a good overpriced european workbench and stick with machining, This was the first videos i watched and thought,” hey I can do this..”

  21. That first workbench series in the garden remain one of my very favorite of all your videos, and I love so many of them. Thank you for that. It was a series about so much more than just workbenches, it showed the magic of what can be done with relatively few tools. Again, thank you.

  22. I used to love the ring bell in the background!

    My workbench follows the garage series and project. Sometimes I can’t believe I built it! It works so well and is so versatile!! I would love if someone asked me to build another. For now mine could be the only Paul Sellers’ bench in Albania.

  23. This coming September, my old dumpster-dived Pine workbench will turn 7 years old. Pine was from an old waterbed frame, and a few other odd boards….

    Over the years, it has evolved, as has what I do in the shop….still going strong, and ready for the next 7 years of working wood.

  24. Thanks for my bench, Paul! Made it maybe three years ago. About 6’ long. Rock solid! It’s amazing. Learned some great skills making it too.

    But most of all, thanks for sharing your sharpening system. That made the most difference of all!

  25. Hey Paul. I made my bench following your vids. I then bought your book and dvd my woodworking has come on leaps and bounds ever since I found your you tube channel about two years ago… Thank you so much sir.

  26. I never built a bench, but what I learned from that video was the best lesson ever. “A poor woodworker blames his tools”.

    The cut isn’t straight because the clamp or vice or bench or whatever is wobbly. You showed that doesn’t matter.

    If it doesn’t come out right, practice more. All you need as a hold down, if you’re capable, is a tree. And if you’re not capable, practice more.

    I often think of my grandfather’s single oil stone, so dished you could keep soup in it, but he could get the sharpest tool from it. No five different Waterstones perfectly flat, just practice.

    And that’s what this video showed me. Professor Paul is a pro, and you have practiced a lot. And if you have, you can do anything, even if the inadequate saw horse falls over in the middle of a stroke.

    I have a bench, it was once my grandfather’s. I put a new thin softwood top on it. And it wobbles because I put castors on it. I would probably prefer it rock solid, but I practice on it. A lot. And you know, more often than not, I cut straight, usually I plane right. It is usually covered in the accumulated junk of seven half finished products, but you know what, when I stand in front of 150 years of people practicing woodwork, it feels good.

    Thank you Paul for reminding me of this

  27. Hello Paul,
    First, thanks for all you do. I thought I’d tell you of my bench building experience. I built a bench of 2x lumber without the well for a “car guy” he wanted a sturdy bench to work on car parts. His bench has successfully hel a chevy V8 engine! They are indeed sturdy benches.

  28. I really love those original workbench videos you made. The noises of school children and seagulls in the background is one of my favourite parts. I can honestly say that those videos completely changed my idea of what I thought woodworking was and could be. I didn’t have to spend thousands of dollars on machines I thought I needed because that’s what I saw people using on the internet. I could do it by hand, and actually find much, much more enjoyment and fulfillment by doing it this way. This approach has also bled into other areas of my life as well, like trying to learn how to draw, reading about trees, and learning to carve.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one that was affected in this way.

    You have changed many people’s lives for the better, Mr. Sellers.

  29. I liked the sound of the outdoors and school, I think it was fitting for the task. I realise that the workshop is the best place for the skills being demonstrated now but working outdoors was uplifting too.
    If u do ever watch tv… because of social distancing and different circumstances u might see the hosts broadcasting from homes or in the open air across a park bench — I think the jump back to reality is a breath of fresh air.
    I congratulate everyone with the ability to watch a video and then go and replicate it.

  30. My grandfather refused intubation and passed away this weekend at 89 years old. He was a mechanic and worked with his hands. Irish to the core, when i first saw Paul i thought they could be cousins. His hands were so calloused when we gave him and Gram a parakeet years ago that little bird would chew around and around his hand trying to find a soft spot to nip! He was a big hand tooler and made his trade through skill and the sweat of his brow. He was not a grease monkey but sharp witted. When I was six or seven I had a broken table top Pac-Man video game. I played it so long the joystick stopped working. By God, he took that thing apart to the circuit boards and got it running. He would have understood the kindred of the trades and liked Paul’s plywood workbench a lot. Slainte mhaith, Grampy!

    Jeff D

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