Working without a bench?

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    David Rostenne

    Hi Folks,

    I’m new to woodworking in general.. and sticking to hand tools for now! Mostly due to living in an apartment and not having the space to store and use power tools safely. So.. do any of you have your shop space in your living room? Do you work without a bench? I’m looking for ideas on how to manage without one!

    I’m pretty sure my next project is a sawbench, and I know i’ll end up using that as a sort-of-a bench to work on whatever project comes up next.





    Dan Peterson

    Hi Dave,  I am in the same spot.   two bedroom condo with wife and two kids in Highschool.  I think Paul Sellers is the way to go but looks like I need to buy some planes and clamps of which I don;t have the money for right now.  i will find a way.  Good luck.  Perhaps we can be of encouragement to each other.


    Perhaps the best way of building up a tool kit is by investing in a few basics at first and then expand upon them as and when certain tools become necessary/justified.  Chisels don’t need to be bought all at once (Simply invest in sizes needed) and the same can be said of planes, etc..  A good #4 and/or #5 hand plane will serve you well, but you don’t need to pay big bucks to get started on the right track.  Paul has some excellent information on Youtube regarding fettling ebay bought hand planes, as well as other projects and approaches to getting started. 🙂


    For those with limited space/facilities, I’d recommend possibly reading up on Japanese planing beams, as well as how to make a saw horse (English style) /trestles.



    I work in my kitchen (WIFE permission needed :-). I live in Poland, where our appartments aren’t big. Here you can see my shop  🙂 Instead of the real bench I use our kitchen table (WIFE permission needed :-))

    David Rostenne

    OK Piotr, i’m totally impressed! Did you really build that super nice looking storage bench in that tiny kitchen?

    You are right, wife permission is needed (or as I saw it somewhere else: SWMBO, She Who Must Be Obeyed <grin).

    David Rostenne

    Gary, do you have any suggestions on sites / books to read up on Japanese planing beams? I’m pretty sure I can find instructions for making an english saw horse 😉




    I join the league of the workbench less… 🙂

    My current work surface is a flimsy old kitchentable with 19mm MDF top and spidery metal legs. It jumps around and I spend alot of effort restraining the table not to move as I try to plane or perform other tasks.

    I am however fortunate to have a dedicated (but very small) space to work in. So I can plan for a permanent woodworking workbench.

    To those of you that have to be able to knock-down and store your work surface I would recommend two really sturdy sawhorses and a thick slab placed on top. You can have the top in 30cm (12″) wide pieces to make them more managable to move around and store. You can laminate your top from construction grade pine, or glue two or more readymade countertops (real wood or laminated MDF) to your desired thickness.

    I think I’m going to build to sawhorses as a place to build the top for my own workbench and then be able to use the top when constructing the undercarriage. Much like Paul does in his Youtube workbench build.

    For anyone thinking about workbenches I can highly recommend reading Christopher Schwarz’s two books on the subject.

    Located in Jönköping, Sweden.

    Rob Sexton

    I’m in the same boat- currently a one bedroom apt with wife, a 1.5 year old and a newborn (one month old today).  Fortunately I can use my parents’ garage for the time being for work, though winter is coming and they’re ready to reclaim the space for what it was intended for- keeping cars out of the elements.  I’ll be moving about six hours away from home near the end of the year and am hoping we will find a house to rent with at least a basement where I can set up a space to work.  Otherwise i’m not sure how I’ll get along since we’ll be living in the upper peninsula of Michigan…  I’m brand new to woodworking and am really enjoying what I’m able to practice and so very grateful to Paul and the online community of woodworkers who are passing on this craft for almost always no charge.


    Hi everyone, My name’s Björn and I am addicted to woodworking videos… ahm, wrong opening 😉

    It is relieving to see that there are quite a few of you making do without a workbench or proper shop, too. I live in an apartment block, two bedroom unit, 4th floor, no lift, with my store-away “shop” set up in the room that my wife and I also use as office space, as a guest room, and to hang clothes to dry. And of course it is imperative that I cannot use power tools often, since there plenty of neighbors close by.

    I have been working with one of these folding mini workbenches (similar to the workmate, but mine is from wolfcraft) for over a year, and I am quite tired of it by now. So my next (bigger) project will be a compact workbench, but I’m still a bit undecided what exactly it will look like. It cannot be heavy or too long for obvious reasons. Currently I favor the style of the “basic bench” described in Landis’ “The workbench book” (google Ian Kirby workbench for pictures), especially the simplistic bench dog I quite like. Bit it is still a bit to massive for my needs. My version might be a plywood torsion box with a simple vise and the simplistic bench dog, mounted agains a wall.



    Get a Black and Decker WorkMate bench at a garage sale .  They have a built in vice & round dog holes for other goodies.  They fold up easily.   Stanley has a spin off with the same goodies. There is also a version by Workforce.  They are on display at Lowes and Home Depot

    Joseph Sellers

    I agree. A WorkMate is a great start. They are available here in the UK although I think under different brand names.


    I found this article and free plan that might be useful for those in need of a flexible workbench solution:

    A workbench anybody can build

    Located in Jönköping, Sweden.

    Thom Edwards

    Shannon Rogers, aka The Renaissance Woodworker, recently posted a video about working without a “proper” bench. It may give you some things to think about.

    Rob Young

    Lots of options and plans out there for “simple” benches.  Mr. Sellers has a nifty series underway on YouTube for a simple bench design.

    My three thoughts are:

    1) Anything is better than nothing.  Workmates aren’t terrible, especially if you also invest in some sandbags to weigh down the base.

    2) You will build (or buy) more than one bench as you progress.   Size, features, project requirements, any number of reasons to update or add-on.

    3) Sturdy trumps clever.  Make (or buy) it heavy so you aren’t spending time and energy chasing it around the room and you will get much more work done with less effort.

    Fancy vices are nice but I seem to do more work with battens, wedges, dogs and holdfasts (gravity & friction are your friends) even with nice end and face vices.  A good friend of  mine made a small portable bench from a linden log he harvested and it uses all wedges and dogs for the workholding.   Works very well and knocks down as it is all mortise and tusk-pinned through tenons.


    the joinery bench Shannon Rogers made is perhaps also something to think about.

    This bench is not to big and the planing beam can be removed from the bench.

    Lopik - Netherlands

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