You want to get started with woodworking, but you’re missing the heart of your workshop: a proper woodworking bench.
It’s where you store supplies, where your current tools rest in between uses, and where you’ll make some of your greatest woodworking achievements.
We wanted to show you how to build the ultimate woodworking bench that will stand the test of time. There will be a price estimate towards the end of this guide. Let’s get started.
Selecting the Right Wood
Before you put a screw or nail through anything, you have to start with the right materials.
We’re going to be making an L-shaped workbench here, and we want something extremely sturdy to get started.
You can choose the wood if you’d like, but you should go with something dense to withstand all of the torment that this will surely be under throughout the years.
It’s recommended to start with either oak, maple, or hickory wood. It’s a bit pricier, but you only need it for the tabletop.
We’re going to use pine or southern pine (cheap and readily available) for the frame and legs.
Normally we wouldn’t use softwood in the construction of something like this, but we’re going to double-up the legs and save some money in the process.
Determining the Right Woodworking Bench Dimensions
A woodworking bench should be about 36” in-depth, and at least 96” wide.
Keep in mind that we’ll be making an L-shaped bench, so our dimensions are going to differ from that just a little bit.
The excellent thing about making your own woodworking bench is that you can determine the height. For most benches, the rest somewhere in between 28” to 38” tall.
You want the bench to measure along your lower abdomen, so if you have another set of hands to help you, measure from the top of your head to about your belt.
Everything beneath that will be your woodworking bench height. If you’re a shorter guy, you can absolutely go less than 28” if need be.
Ideally, for our woodworking bench, we’re going to have the longest piece by 36” deep and 96” wide, and the smaller section of the L-shape is going to be 36” deep, and 60” wide.
We will be building this workbench with a 34” height in mind, so adjust as necessary. The only self-adjustments you will have to make for this are the length of the leg boards.
What Materials to Use for a Woodworking Bench
Here’s the full list of supplies that you’re going to need.
The materials listed may be slightly more than you need, but that’s because we based the cost off of buying bigger boards, and having a little buffer if mistakes are made.
- (4) 12” W x 96” L x 1” H oak boards
- (20) 2” W x 96” L x 1” H pine boards
- (8) 4” W x 96” L x 2” H pine boards
- (22) ⅜”, 3 1’2” L hex bolts
- (22) ⅜” hex nuts
- (1 Quart) wood glue for specific wood type
- (36) 3” wood screws
- (1) Anti-slip 80 grit tape (recommended, but optional)
We’re deviating in the regular shape, but we’re still keeping things fairly basic.
This bench doesn’t include a shelf on the bottom and will have a basic support system with six legs that are thick and sturdy. Next, we need to assemble the right tools for the job.
What Tools to Use for a Woodworking Bench
All of these tools are necessary if you want a level, stable, quality woodworking bench that will last for years to come.
- Electric Sander: Used for finishing.
- Manual Wood Planer: Used to the smooth bench before applying the top portion.
- 80 Grit Sandpaper: Better surface for the glue to stick to this way.
- Circular or Miter Saw: Will require a stand to keep things straight as well.
- Socket Wrench: Applying and fastening bolts.
- Wrench Set: Applying and fastening bolts.
- Clamp Set: We’ll have to glue the mainboards together and let them dry with pressure.
- Glue Basin: To use with a roller.
- Glue Roller: To use with basin.
- Glue Scraper: Tidying up after glue dries.
- Electric Drill: You will need various bits with this to create holes for the hex bolts.
We won’t be adding a vice to this workbench, though it is something you can add later.
Building your own vice takes a lot of metalworking knowledge, so purchasing one in the future and installing it would be the quickest option with the lowest chance of failure.
How Thick Should a Workbench Top Be?
It should be no less than 1” thick. We built ours with a 2” thick board of oak on top of wooden boards to account for cost, while still making it sturdy.
If costs are tight right now, use an inexpensive wood like pine or plywood to make a 1” thick bench, and you can always sand it down and apply another 1” layer of wood at a later date.
Account for the fact that this will raise the platform a little bit, and will take some time to set and for the glue to dry, so it will be out of commission for a short while.
Step-by-Step Bench Building Guide
These steps are designed so that you can refer back to them at any point in the project if you feel like you might have missed something.
As always, it’s important to pay attention to exact dimensions to avoid replacing wood from a misaligned cut. We’re going to do this in three separate parts.
Part One: Cutting Our Materials
We can’t very well begin if we don’t get everything the way that it’s supposed to be. The benchtop is going to be a total of 34” tall, so we will need to start by cutting our pine boards.
You’re going to need two 32” pine 2×4’s for each leg, and we’re making a total of six legs.
Cut them to size and check to make sure the ends are level, you should have 12 separate 32” boards when you’re done.
Time to drill a few holes. Put two 32” pine boards together so there is no overlap. Drill a hole for the ⅜” hex bolts approximately 8” from the top, one 8” beneath that, and one more beneath that.
You’ll have a total of three holes in each board. Keeping them aligned (possibly with clamps) will ensure the same sized hole through board boards. Set the 12 boards aside.
Three of your oak boards, if purchased at the size we mentioned, are completely fine. You can leave them to the side for later since they will be one of the last steps.
You should have one more board, which you need to cut into three separate 24” pieces. These will make up the bottom portion of the L-shape to our bench.
Repeat this for the 12” pine boards as well, since they’ll be the foundation to our workbench.
We need to cut the wood for the frame that will sit directly underneath the 2” top. You’ll need the following boards:
- 32” boards; used for the end section of the long and short table ends
- 92” board; used for the very back of the frame
- 56” boards; used along the front of the wider board, back of the smaller board
- 20” board; accounts for the gap between boards on smaller L segment
That’s all we need to do to prepare the wood for assembly. There’s a lot more work in part two, so get ready.
Part Two: Assembling the Bench
Let’s start with the legs. The holes are pre-drilled, so all you need to do is press the bolts through the three holes on each workbench leg, and fasten the bolt on the other side.
We can skip wood gluing this section because we’re using three thick bolts on each leg.
The remaining length of the bolts should be on the inside of your workbench, with the bolt heads facing outward.
Stand the legs up as if they were supporting the bench. Do they feel completely level?
You can check with a leveler, or simply brush your hands across the top. If it’s not quite even, you have two options.
You can either take the manual wood planer over the top to shave off a little bit, or you can bust out the electric sander and hit the top real quick. Make sure it’s level before continuing.
Take your anti-slip grip tape and cut the appropriate strips that you need. Since we can’t clamp the whole 32” of the leg, apply the tape and flip it upright as if it were supporting the benchtop.
Use the heels of your hand to press down on the legs for a little while (15-30 seconds) until you’re certain that the tape has stuck. Go around the edge with a razor to trim off any overhang.
Set the legs aside. You’ve already done most of the bench. Next, you’re going to take your 12” W pine boards and put three of them together.
You should have a space of 96” in total. Flip the boards upright, and use your glue roller on the 1” sections. Press them together to hold the glue in place to the best of your ability, and let it dry.
Repeat step 7, but with the 24” pine boards for the bottom of our L-shape design.
Go along the edges and ensure everything adds up evenly. Light sanding may be required to conform to the edges.
We aren’t going to put the oak on top just yet. Push the first layer board we just assembled to the side. It’s time to build the frame.
It’s time to build the frame. The picture that you’re facing the broad end of the workbench, on the inside corner of the L-shape.
We’re going to build from this perspective. Along the back, place your 92” board. On the left (long end), you’ll put a 32” board.
Apply wood glue and use two wood screws to assemble those together. Next, we’re going to place a 56” board to the 32”.
Wood glue and screw those together. You should now have an unfinished rectangular shape.
Next, take your 20” board, and continue along with the rectangular shape. You should now have the corner of the L-shape as we start building the smaller end.
On that piece, attach a 32” board, and in the remaining section between the short end and the 92” back, you’ll have a spot for the other 56” board.
Glue and screw everything into place, and allow it to rest as it dries. We don’t need clamps here because the screws are going to hold everything in place.
Now we’re going to attack the legs. Doing this now is the best idea since you’re doing this solo, and will need as much leverage over the bench as possible.
That L-shaped box you’ve created is excellent, and it’s time to attach the legs. Place them in each respective corner.
For the corner in the nook of the L, you can choose which side to apply the last leg. It will not affect the final build.
Have the legs down so that, if you used the optional tape for the bottom, that those ends are facing up.
Ensure that the remaining ends of the bolts are aimed inward.
Once you see all of these in place, wood glue the two ends that touch the corners, stick them in place and use two wood screws to secure each in place.
Once all six boards are in place and screwed, you’re nearing the end of the project
Flip the table so that it’s upright. Screws and glue hold the legs in place, so everything should retain its shape wonderfully.
Once it’s upright, apply glue with a roller to the top of the entire frame. You have to lay the pine boards down on top immediately after. It’s okay if a bit of glue escapes through the sides.
That’s your 1” thick, 96” longboards and the other 24” one. Put them in their respective spots, and use one wood screw in each corner.
These will go into the center of the legs we attached earlier. The trick here is to really screw the heads into the legs so that they are flush with the level of wood.
We don’t want them to be a problem when we lay the oak down.
You may apply one or two more screws into the sections between the legs, better connecting the boards if you wish.
Once dry, ensure all screw heads are flush. If not, screw them tighter using an electric drill with at least 5 amps of power or more.
Run your wood planer over the top of the bench to clear everything up. You may use your sander if you prefer.
Using your remaining glue, roll the entire benchtop, and apply the oak boards.
Once they’re all in place and even (use a few bits of wood to knock them into place if need be), you’re going to clamp them in place.
Walk around the exterior of the table to ensure everything is aligned, and nothing is overlapping. You have a little bit of time before the glue starts to settle.
With a surface this big and minimal oxidation to the center section, it’s recommended to leave this in place for twenty-four to forty-eight hours to dry.
Part Three: Finishing and Checking
We don’t want to sand the top of the oak wood if we can help it. It should be perfect just the way it is.
Go around the edges of the table, and if need be, buff out the edges with a sandpaper block or your electric sander. Just try to be gentle so we’re not creating odd-looking ends.
Remove the clamps, and enjoy your new workbench.
Cost Breakdown of Your Workbench
As a disclaimer, prices will change regionally and where certain wood supplies are not available.
We did our best to avoid rare woods or those that only grow in specific regions to keep the costs as low as possible.
- Oak Benchtop: $204.00; for the common oak boards on top
- Pine Boards: $78.00; usually come in 8-9ft longboards
- 3 ½” Hex Bolts: $18.00; cheaper if bought in bulk
- 3 ½” Nuts: $12.00; cheaper if bought in bulk
- Wood Glue: $9.00 (quart); go with glue specific to your wood type
- Total Cost: $321.00
A quick search on Amazon will yield some $100-$200 woodworking benches, though you’ll see the measurements are around 24” in-depth, and maybe about 50” wide.
They’re also made with thinner bolts, legs, and have a lesser resistance rating. We’re making a whopping 4,320 square inches of workable surface space with this bench.
You would have to spend $480 on four separate Olympia woodworking benches to reach the same amount of space, and you’d get far less use out of it.
Your custom bench is 67% the cost of buying separate benches, and will arguably save you more time.
Your Woodworking Shop Starts Now
You can’t really call yourself a woodworker without a woodworking bench.
They’re simple enough to make, require a few hours of time, and you can augment them as the years go on.
Build them strong and sturdy so they can withstand decades of woodworking, scrapes, and bangs, and you’ll always have exactly what you need to create something fantastic out of wood.