Workbench Plans – (Tips, Ideas on Portable, DIY, & Garage Workbenches)

A good workbench can be a helpful and integral part of a woodworkers shop. Workbenches are typically flat surfaces and are rectangular. Most good workbench plans have the following three features in common.


See Tip #9 on mobile or portable workbenches.

  • Provide a comfortable height for working.
  • Built heavy and sturdy enough so they do not move when in use.
  • Provide one or more methods for holding the workpiece in place so that both hands can be used on the tool(s).

Workbench plans. Includes ideas and designs for a garage workbench, dog holes, vise, portable and how to build DIY workbenches.

Below are 9 essential tips you should know before buying or building a workbench.

1. Know the advantages of various workbench plans.

A. The “straight leg base” has four legs or posts which elevate the workbench to the desired height. You can easily store large objects under the bench design. The drawback to this base is it may not be strong enough to handle the forces that develop during heavy work.

Workbench with a straight leg base
Workbench with a straight leg base.

B. The “sled-foot base” is a very popular style. With this design, the legs attach to a sled-foot. The weight of the bench typically rests on two “end paws.” A pair of stretchers usually connects the legs. The wide sled-foot makes the base very stable even on a narrow bench.

Workbench with sled foot base.
Workbench with sled foot base.

C. The “hybrid base” connects the outer legs with a lower rail (creating an “H” pattern). A center stretcher connects these outer legs. This design creates a somewhat strong base, yet is typically much easier to build than a sled-foot base. A four type of base is a “post and panel box”. A post and panel box base is enclosed for storage.

Workbench with hybrid base.
Workbench with hybrid base.

2. Realize the sled-foot base has no end-grain resting on the floor.

Consequently, the legs would be less prone to wicking up moisture and rotting.

Close-up view of a sled-foot base with “end paws.”
Close-up view of a sled-foot base with “end paws.”

3. Be able to correctly identify the parts of a workbench.

Parts of a workbench.

The bench top (A) is the flat portion of a workbench. Most good bench tops will be at least 1.5” to 3” thick to create a sturdy, robust working area. A leg vise (B) is a simple robust vice which typically attaches to one of the front legs on a workbench. Woodworkers commonly use it to joint edges. The lower rail (C) connects two pairs of legs to create an “H” pattern. The single center stretcher (D) connects the outer legs to create a stronger base. A leg (E) elevates and supports the workbench. A bench dog hole (F) is simply a hole in the top of a workbench. These holes typical appear in a straight-line perpendicular to the vise. An end vise (G) is typically mounted on the right end of a workbench.

4. Realize there is no standard spacing for dog holes.

While there is no standard, the spacing between dog holes should be in increments that are less than the maximum opening of the vice. This way, you can secure any object without the need for shims.

5. Know how a holdfast works.

The black metal clamp illustrated in the following image is referred to as a holdfast. A holdfast has a shape similar to a shepherd’s crook. Woodworkers use this for clamping wood on a workbench. The shank of the holdfast goes into a hole (bench dog hole). You press it against the workpiece to help secure it to the workbench. You may more securely set the holdfast by tapping the top with a mallet.

Workbench holdfast.
(Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

6. Know how to use a bench dog or planning stop.

A bench dog or planning stop is a small peg or piece of wood that is inserted into a dog hole. This peg helps clamp or secure the workpiece to the workbench. Most people arrange the dog holes so they are in a line perpendicular to the vise.

Bench dog or planning stop.
Bench dog or planning stop.

7. Be able to identify the parts of a vise.

Parts of a vise.

Many woodworking vises have a pop-up dog (A) on the outer jaw. This allows you to hold a piece of stock on the top of the workbench as show in the figure below. The jaw opening (B) indicates how far the jaws can open. This is the maximum capacity the vise can clamp. The throat depth (C) of a vise is the vertical distance from the top of the screw/slide to the top edge of the jaws. The jaw width (D) is the horizontal distance from one side of the jaws to the other side. With wider jaws, you can distribute the clamping pressure on a workpiece over a greater area. This wider area allows the jaws to more securely hold the workpiece without damaging the surface.

Workbench with a pop-up dog.
Workbench with a pop-up dog.

8. Realize that most vises have a 2-degree “toe in”.

Most quality vises incorporate approximately a 2-degree “toe in” design on the outer jaw. This inward tilt of the outer jaws applies the greatest pressure near the top of the jaws where it is needed most. This inward tilt of the outer jaws applies the greatest pressure near the top of the jaws where it is needed most.

Vise with a 2 degree toe-in.
Vise with a “Toe-in”.

9. Consider making your workbench portable.

A mobile or portable workbench leaves room for changes and is especially useful in a small shop. You can easily move a workbench on castors or wheels for cleaning or to clear space for something else.

A woodworking workbench with both a front and an end vise.
A woodworking workbench with both a front and an end vise. (Photo Courtesy of Sjöbergs)
Workbench with butcherblock top.
A portable workbench constructed from 1.75in (44mm) butcherblock.
Workbench with wooden top, metal base, wheels, and jack.
Portable workbench with a 13in” (33cm) jaw opening.

Workbench plans and dimensions

Below are some simple workbench plans that you can use to build one yourself (i.e., DIY workbench) for your shop or a garage.

Simple workbench plans with dimensions.
Simple workbench plans with dimensions.

Workbench designed for working/welding pieces at 45 or 90 degrees.

Before getting into woodworking, I did a lot of welding. As a welder, I frequently found myself welding pieces at 45 and 90 degree angles. To help speed up the process, I modified my welding table as shown below. I can now clamp pieces flush with the edges and quickly weld objects at either 45 or 90 degrees.

Workbench modified for working or welding pieces at 45 degrees.
Workbench modified for working or welding pieces at 45 degrees.

See the following links for more information.
Workshop Design and Layout Tips
Dust Collection Systems

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Bill and Jodie Rosener | (918) 456-4482 | Tahlequah, OK 74464
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12 thoughts on “Workbench Plans – (Tips, Ideas on Portable, DIY, & Garage Workbenches)

  • January 9, 2018 at
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    I am new to woodworking and am currently using a folding table. I have been dreaming lately of having a workbench. Thank you for such a well written article for a beginner like me. I want to wait to build it until I know what I need and want in a workbench. Your article has helped a lot.

    Thanks Again!
    Karen

    Reply
  • January 11, 2018 at
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    Thank you for the detailed information. I will use this info as basis for building my work bench. May I post pics of it here?

    Reply
    • January 12, 2018 at
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      >> May I post pics of it here?
      Yes, if you have troubles uploading your images, just e-mail them to me (billrosener@gmail.com) and I will upload them for you. Thanks, Bill

      Reply
  • February 3, 2018 at
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    Thanks for the info. Looking forward to building a couple needed work benches since space is not an issue.

    Reply
  • February 7, 2018 at
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    Hi Bill,
    Great article!!
    Clear and concise and has given me a great start to planning the workbench that I have never quite got round to building. At the moment, I have a ‘hand me down’ it’s solid enough but too low and narrow for what I really want.

    The idea of mobility is a good one. In the UK we are not blessed with the large shops that you guys have, so it will be good to have the flexibility of being able to easily move to my drive – well that is whenever ][the rain stops … 🙂

    I was wondering what I was going to do in the spring … now I think I know!!

    Cheers
    Andy

    Reply
  • February 10, 2018 at
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    Thank you for an excellent article. I have been thinking of building a new workbench for some time (my old one has outlived its usefulness) and needed just this to organise my thoughts about how to design my new one.

    Reply
  • March 26, 2018 at
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    Nice article Jodie and Bill and Amy
    I’ve made a lot of benches over the years and my most recent one is my favorite because I added something new… a ‘belly hole’. hehehe
    What it is: a simi-circle cut-out in the front of the bench about 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep. When I need to work on something I step into the cut-out and have working room in front and on both sides of me. I can’t believe how handy it is in this arrangement! It’s especially useful when working on stuff that has a lot of small parts. I use the cut-out when working with my scroll saw or my key maker or when gluing up plumbing PVC parts etc. I also made it where the simi-circle has an under-cut that allows me to pop the insert back in to make it a whole bench top again when needed.
    I can tell you that I felt kinda silly cutting that big hole in my nice new bench top but now I’m really glad that I did!
    Just thought that I would offer this since it’s really been a very useful feature for me and maybe other people would like to try it too.
    g

    Reply
    • March 27, 2018 at
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      Thatman, Thank you for the helpful hint. Reading your comments reminded me of my welding table (which I have now included above). This table allows me to quickly weld pieces at either 45 or 90 degrees. Bill

      Reply
      • March 27, 2018 at
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        Great idea. No more plain rectangle benches for me! The cut-outs are too useful to leave them out.

        Reply
    • April 5, 2018 at
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      Silliness correction.. if the semi-circle notch in my bench were 2′ wide by 2′ deep, that would be a complete circle! It’s actually about 34 inches wide by 17 inches deep. (half a circle). Makes more sense, eh? hehe

      Reply
  • September 23, 2018 at
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    This is a very great suggestion particularly to those new to blogosphere, short and accurate information. Thanks for sharing this one. A must read the article.

    Reply

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