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Paul has come up with an alternative workbench design that matches his original for utility, stability and durability, but which can be made using a bandsaw, plywood and an ingenious approach to joinery. This is an excellent place to start for machinists looking to begin using hand tools, and for those wanting to expedite construction without compromising on the key characteristics of a good, solid bench.
I like this design quite a lot. The stability of the top must be outstanding given that it’s effectively a glue-up of a zillion thin crossed-grain layers.
I do love my holdfasts, though – have you ever tried them in a surface like this, where the holes are drilled into plywood from the edges? I’m guessing it would be okay but would hate to build one only to find the holdfasts don’t grip because of the large proportion of glue in the wood the holes are drilled through (or any other reason I’m not thinking of.) I have a workbench made of plywood, but the top is made of a few layers of plywood just laid together flat, and so the holdfasts work fine because the plywood plies form ridges perpendicular to the holdfast’s shaft, giving good friction. Thoughts?
You could always top this plywood bench with a sheet or two running horizontally, that would solve your dog issue. If this makes the top too thick just make the vertical pieces narrower.
Hope that helps
Personally I think this would ruin the absolute solid rigidity of the edge grain orientation when chopping and such.
My thought: Laminate a few pieces of scrap plywood together. Drill a hole for a holdfast. Try it out and you should have your answer.
I have a bench top made from what in the US is called laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and my bench dogs seem to work fine. I don’t have a bench with a solid wood top to compare against though.
There would be no problem drilling directly into the benchtop for dog holes. In fifty plus years I never used them so not intending to start now. Never found them necessary at all.
You called it right. If you are a north American you love holdfasts! I just like hitting thing with a mallet. Plus the holdfast is beautiful and handmade while the clamps are an industrial item and butt ugly though extremely practical. They often have unsightly and disposable cheap molded plastic. I have to buy a clamp from a 3rd world abusing corporation while the village blacksmith can hammer out a holdfast. I like the speed and feel of setup. I like the Romans used them. There is a pioneer bromance to a holdfast a clamp can never replicate. It is the difference between sawing a tree and axing down a tree. To each their own, no better or worse. I know Paul has forgotten more than I know not just about wood but life too. And I will keep my clamps too.
How do you secure work to your tabletop?
What about using thick hardwood strips of boards the length of the bench that could be drilled for holdfasts?
I’m not a qualified woodworker, more of a hammer-banger. But I don’t see why the plywood would not grip the holdfasts. It isn’t plywood layers that hold the holdfast but the immense pressure when the holdfast is even slightly on an angle – as it would be if you bang the corner/curve.
Take a few small scraps of playwood and drill a hole to hold the holdfast. If it doesn’t grip, try drilling a pilot hole all the way through, the standard hole part way down, and a wider hole from the bottom, so the bottom X% of the “top” doesn’t touch the holdfast. I bet it will help. Or for the experiment, you could simply saw off, 1/2″ bits from the bottom, until it grips.
Report back your results so we all know 🙂
Years ago I saw a project in which dog holes were bored out, and then lined with bushing made from ordinary 3/4″ i.d. copper tubing. Supposedly it performed well and was attractive in appearance.
I have no idea whether this would actually work.
I know I’m late to the party but I saw a method for the holdfasts where a centre punch was used to texture the shaft of the holdfast making it grip better in the dog holes.
Just wondering why the bench in ply when we had one recent in timber whixh gives skills to learn the ply design is a shortcut to traditonal skills
1) Why not? 2) May be cheaper.3) May be more approachable for novices to hand-tool work, as explicitly mentioned in the description. 4) Paul has said he’s interested in exploring the adaptability of fine handwork to manufactured lumber and vice versa; this is a good first proof of concept. 5) As noted in another comment, that hyperlaminated top should be amazingly stable. 6) …
Really, any of these would be reason enough. Not all projects will appeal to everyone in the audience; nobody will fault you if you skip this one. Personally, I’m interested in seeing what new insights Paul can give us about this humble material.
(And I’m wondering whether he’s going to go with higher quality hardwood ply, construction grade, or a mixture to optimize for each component of the bench…)
From the appearance of the ply in the short video clip, it looks like Baltic birch plywood. The advantage over the usual softwood and hardwood plywoods available at builders merchants and DIY stores is that all the layers of veneer are of equal thickness, rather than a face veneer of approx. 0.6mm thickness and core veneers of 2mm to 3mm. If you’re in the UK, a slightly cheaper alternative to birch plywood might be what Jewsons sell as “Wisa Twin”, which seems to be a softwood core with birch face veneers, but in the same even thickness multiply form as the birch plywood. I recall that when I last looked, the Wisa Twin was about 2/3 the price of birch ply.
In the US we have something called “Purebond Birch” plywood in the DIY stores, which is poplar with Birch veneer. I have this as the wellboard on my bench. Not as bad as some plywood types but there still are a fair number voids in the edges.
Well it is an option for people that may not feel confident in being able to create the joinery, which seems daunting when starting out. If that is holding them back then this is a good option. For example, when I was trying to decide on a bench build a few months back, I narrowed it down to a few, one being Mike Siemsen’s “Naked Workbench” where most of the “joinery” is created by laminating 4/4 material in different lengths to leave gaps for the other part, very similar to this plywoood design, but with solid wood. I was strongly swaying towards that Siemsen bench because I wasn’t intimidated by the joinery. Ultimately I am glad I didn’t because I learned a TON of skill by doing the traditional joinery. But I can see where this makes it more accessible.
It can’t be a cost factor. Bandsaws are £1300+
I would have thought few people are daunted by joinery for a workbench, while owning & operating a bandsaw.
I think the reasoning was well explained in my blog on it here: https://paulsellers.com/2019/01/my-plywood-workbench/
Yes it did Paul – thanks for that
Can I use a table saw for this project ? Would that make it any more difficult?
Absolutely, use what you got.
One reason is how much easier it is to wind up with a flat benchtop.
I made my interpretation of Paul’s 2×4 bench but I had to leave it behind when I sold my house, just wasn’t able to move it. I went back to get rid of some stuff the new owner didn’t want, and he ridiculed the bench for being heavy, and the number of 2×4 it contained.
I need a new bench for my new house, so I’ll try the plywood version.
Thanks guys, great project.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Paul and team for this project. Although I realize its a niche market you’re appealing to, as a member of that particular niche I am overjoyed that you are tackling this head on. I do have a minor question, based on the one segment of this intro video you’ve posted so far with the screen full of (rather horrifying) shavings of plywood ends; how often can I expect to be sharpening my edge tools? Every hour? Every day? Every 5 or 10 minutes? Just wondering.
Perhaps now there’s a use for that Record 735 Fibreboard Plane, which nobody seems to want to own?
I am guessing you are talking about for planing plywood. I think I sharpened two planes three time each for this workbench. That is over about two days of making with no special irons or such.
Having built a “modern” wooden boat out of mostly marine ply AFTER having watched Paul’s videos for years, I’m confident most people including myself will find this series really useful. There are plenty of times when things need to be built in ply (especially cabinetry), and although it is less fun to work with than solid wood it does have it’s uses and benefits. Thanks so much Paul for coming up with this – I may have to build another of your benches now!
Just what the Doctor ordered, Know I can downsize to fit within my little 8 x 6 shed. looking forward to the videos coming.
Will you have the drawings in metric also? I can convert of course but if you are going to do it I can wait, thanks
If you download the accompanying drawing, on sheet three most of the imperial measurements have accurate metric equivalents already noted, both on the drawings of the sheet material, and in the cutting list.
OK, thanks for pointing it out, I didn’t look close enough first time around.
I think that we always do so this will be no different.
Great stuff Paul. I’m yet to build my workbench, and had contemplated making leg sand trestle sections out of laminated timber sections in a similar way; but using say 4×2 laminated 3 deep to make the mortise and tenon in a similar style.
Reading the above comments why not mix and match if you are worried about blunting tools? Make the legs, aprons and tool well out of ply, but stick to a laminated timber bench top section instead of ply?
Love the idea of making the aprons out of ply!!
It’s funny how perceived ideas of laboursome things like sharpening become a daunting issue when in reality it is NOT a problem at all. The thing is, because fifty percent of the wood you are shaving is technically end grain, you just need to stay on top of what you should be staying on top of anyway and that is sharpening. Think about it. It takes two minutes to sharpen a plane to a pristine surgical sharpness and you need to do it three to six times per bench. It’s not an issue.
I have watched other videos but have yet to tackle a project. I hope this is my first. I see the use of the bandsaw, can this be made with a tablesaw instead?
Yes, it can. You will lose more material with each saw cut so you will need to account for that.
I would also add to buy a good quality blade with enough teeth for clean cuts in plywood. If you don’t want to spend a bunch, the Freud Diablo blades at the big box stores work well, and they usually have the 80 or 90 tooth in stock.
The local iron mongers in California and Nevada will cut a 4×8 foot sheet of plywood. I have finally learned to only let them cut with the grain. Cross grain cuts have nasty tear-out extending as far as 2,54 cm into the material.
Absolutely it can. Just more waste that’s all.
I’m wondering what the reasoning is for making the top by laminating the plywood in a vertical orientation. I made my bench top by laminating the plywood horizontally ( 3 inches thick) with a removable 1/8 inch layer that can be replaced if it gets too damaged.
I’m guessing so it can be planned to dead flat, but I’m sure Paul will tell us. Personally, I like the visual effect…
the orientation on end gives the bench much greater resistance to flex and makes it tremendously more rigid; there is almost zero bounce with mallet blows. Besides, I wanted the appearance of the on edge look too.
I can’t see any reason why not, if you have one available. Paul has said in other posts that he thinks the bandsaw is the one “machine” he thinks is well suited to the hand-work woodshop, and it’s the one he happens to have on hand… but if you have another way to get the same result, I doubt he’d object. The best tool for a task is the one that accomplishes the job to the needed quality, that you can (or want to learn to) operate well, and that you have a on hand.
(that was re “can I use a table saw”, apologies it it’s misplaced.)
For me, this sort of power tool domainted approach is exactly the thing I came to WWM to avoid. I can see how this would appeal to some people, but for me this is taking WWM in a direction I really don’t want to see it go.
I understand how this would feel like a change in direction but my dad has explained his logic in a blog post entitled ‘I Designed a Plywood Bridge’ (https://paulsellers.com/2019/01/i-designed-a-plywood-bridge/) the last two paragraphs give an explanation of why he decided to create this project.
Very basically, we are hoping that it will help those who have a bandsaw (a significant number of woodworkers) and want to get into hand tools.
One of the biggest barriers for people wishing to get into woodworking is that they don’t have a workbench. This is our third bench build and each one has helped a new group of people get into woodworking. This one is intended to help a very precise segment of our audience.
That said, we think a fair few who don’t wish to build it will still enjoy watching the build.
Don’t worry though, this isn’t the beginning of any marked change of direction towards bandsaw-built, plywood projects.
Great reply, thanks for the info.
A rather narrow niche audience. Tablesaw, bandsaw, thicknesser, planer, lathe, dust extractor, hand tools, but no workbench. $50 short of real pine. All in a small garage workshop. Confused.
I think this would appeal to anyone who was power tool focused, but wanted a hand tool workbench. Power tool benches tend to be much lower and designed to do different things than this kind of bench.
As an example, I started to transition from power tools to hand tools last year. I replaced the bench my miter saw was on for the most recent bench build from Paul; I had to because it was not sturdy enough for hand tool work (lots of racking) and it was 30″ tall – great for a tall miter saw, but awful to do hand work on. (My back got sore very fast.) I did it using mostly hand tools – but had to buy a plane, router plane, hand saws, chisels, etc. in order to follow his methods.
With this build, someone who has the usual assortment of power tools – or just table saw or band saw – can make essentially the same bench, without having the up-front investment in hand tools and learning to use them. It will eliminate a big barrier to entry for anyone wanting to move toward hand tools more quickly, and then build their tool kit gradually from there.
This project will allow even beginners to feel confident about making what could be considered the most important tool for hand woodworkers—the workbench—and will solve the problem of: “how do I make a workbench without already having a workbench?”
Another great aspect is that it could be built even by those who haven’t got a bandsaw; I can see this being built with a portable circular saw used with a simple edge guide, which is also made using the circular saw. It might even be an easier method than the bandsaw because feeding whole sheets of plywood thru the bandsaw is tricky, especially if you’re working alone.
Just to add some balance here. A full sheet of plywood feed into a bandsaw would be tricky even with help. I had the lumber company cut panels to practical sizes for me as I was cutting alone and it worked just fine with out-feed rollers. Just don’t want anyone put off.
The average diy bandsaw would not cope for long with 18 mm birch ply can’t believe Paul you asking people to bandsaw ply when clearly that’s what a table saw was designed for failing that a circular saw and straight edge you have to remember here are people with small machines not floor standing cast iron startrite
Online teacher: This project may not be geared toward every one of you
People on the internet: Hey! This project isn’t geared toward me; what gives?
What does “what gives” mean?
It means, What is going on? Why you doing that?
Oh ok I see! Well I can see the purpose of this type of build,
and understand why people will find it potentially useful. Just wanted to give my feedback on this type of thing as WWM content though.
This link on my blog might help you to understand a little more:
A little help in the drawings, please. Maybe it will be covered in the videos, but are the cut dimensions on the plywood rough or exact. How much adjustment is expected after the milling? Also, what about the kerf. Are the dimensions the cut lines, or the final dimensions of the panels? Maybe these are all the same questions, but they don’t seem to be addressed in the drawing notes.
As always, thanks for creating a space for this work and shared discussion.
Please remember this is just a ‘letting you know’ intro and not the how-to. As with all of our work we leave nothing to the imagination and the videos will disclose everything in a very short time.
I hope Paul that you would pick a plywood thickness that we can find in metric. Where I live, they are 12mm, 15mm, 18mm, 21mm.
18mm ply is almost 3/4″. Shouldn’t be hard to make the conversion. Might have to add an additional strip or two to get your desired width for the top.
Well, yes. No plywood is made in imperial. That said, plywood is not standard 18mm at all and I found some 18mm plywood to be anywhere between 18 and 19.5mm even in the same sheet and I bought the best grade I could get. I bought my three sheets for my prototype and the difference between sixteen pieces glued and screwed and clamped in one bench and sixteen pieces in the other was an overall difference of 12mm!!!!!
Besides cosmetic, would it matter if it is furniture grade plywood or construction grade plywood?
Yes. Aside from cosmetics construction grade plywood often has voids and gaps in the body of the plywood meaning that the bench would be less solid. Also, the surfaces are less smooth meaning that you wouldn’t get as clean or strong of a connection between pieces when glueing up.
Loved the teaser.
Looking forward to the build.. My only concern is around the availability of decent plywood locally. Majority of what is available is “poor” and buying the equivalent to Baltic Birch is gonna be hellishly expensive here…
As a representation of an alternative method for building a woodworking bench, I get it. Plywood is stable, it’s widely available, and can be made into anything. Mortises and tenons can be built into the lamination build-up, rather than being cut into a timber. It’s also possible to customize this design for one’s own space, or build the top with horizontal laminations rather than vertical. So “what gives” is a different way of thinking about a problem and its resolution. I’ve often thought about building a bench with a plywood top rather than laminated 2 by 4s.
You could also look at using a fire door blank – basically a domestic door sized piece of plywood that is 44mm (1 2/4 inch) thick.
There are lots of alternatives but I wanted something that did not compromise the feeling of satisfaction and also had an intrinsic beauty which I personally think that this one definitely has.
I agree, Paul. It is a very attractive piece. Also, based on some of the comments, you must have the patience of a saint!
That’s an interesting idea. And i really enjoyed your new music!
Meh…cool but…seems a bit cheeky to me. I mean, I can’t imagine Paul doesn’t have better things to do or an excess of time on his hands given how much time he dedicates to his craft and this site, Instagram, books, etc… so this was certainly deliberately planned. And I guess if it’s a free series than what Joseph says is genuine because it will reach a new potential segment of woodworkers (The bandsaw toting hand-tool wannabes…or perhaps the plywood junkies who like to create but want to take the less-traveled hand-tool path…) Who knows.
I am curious though–large (4’x8’x1″) sheets of plywood are neither cheap, nor easy to transport. How many of them are required for this version of the workbench build? Does the vise hold as securely when bolted into plywood vs. solid wood blocking? What is the cost comparison? And does this build really provide hand-tool skill-building since these people want to get into hand-tools? Or is this a band-saw skill-building exercise (given the recent focus on the bandsaw)? No mortise chopping, no hand-router or poor-man’s tools used? Planing plywood is much different from planing solid wood.
At my local Home Depot, 4’x8’x.75″ plywood is around $30/sheet. I think my original bench build may have used ~30 2x4x8’s which at Home Depot are $2.90/. So if it uses more than 3 sheets of plywood it may be an economically inferior decision as well (at least for me). 🙂
Aesthetically I think plywood looks cheap and candidly I don’t really care for my bandsaw. It is the “Useful Idiot” of my shop used for cutting awkwardly shaped things or bowl blanks. But I will admit that Paul’s handiwork is impressive as always. Sorry to be a sour traditionalist.
I built a compact bench out of one sheet of baltic birch plywood and a butcher block countertop using handtools. Went together fast since all materials are thicknessed. Hid the edges so it looks good.
I think handtools have a place with modern engineered materials but there’s a paucity of instruction on this combination. Kudos to Paul for tackling it.
This project takes three sheets of 3/4″ baltic birch at about $100 a sheet so $300.
I built my bench for 2″x12″x18′ and broke them down into usable pieces. I think I spent about $200 and quite a bit of labor. I do have a table saw but without a bench it was still a challenge to plane everything up.
I might have gone the plywood route for my first bench. I could probably do this in two weekends.
Quite a few points expressed here. I am always surprised that people have such strong points of view. To one person plywood is cheap, which it is not, and to another, me, it has its own intrinsic beauty. personally this bench meets all the criteria anyone might b=need for a workbench. It was easy to transport as with most suppliers they have the service to cut down sheets to handy sizes. I had mine cut down to smaller panels with zero wastage. i did put them on my trailer but they would go in a hatchback car quite easily.
The bandsaw is a remarkable machine when set up and used properly and it takes the smallest footprint in the shop. very practical for us small guys. It made me chuckle to think that anyone would use the term “useful idiot”. Such a remarkable machine.
I in no way offered this bench as an economic alternative but as a practical solution for machine woodworkers to take steps towards a bench they would need if they were indeed interested in developing hand woodworking skills but felt intimidated by the thought of making something so grand by hand to start out. I have always wanted to be as inclusive as possible and not an exclusive traditionalist.
I must say your opening paragraph seemed a tad off putting; “The bandsaw toting hand-tool wannabes…or perhaps the plywood junkies who like to create but want to take the less-traveled hand-tool path”. I hope we can all be more open minded to people wanting to join us on the adventure.
Paul, I think you have succeeded marvelously at showing us the beauty and usefulness of easily available materials. Not all of us who wish to create have access to hardwoods for all of our projects in the thicknesses needed. Not all of us have the time to do everything by hand for such a large project, but still would like to build it. Some of us “grew up” in woodworking using machines of various types and are looking to learn how to use hand tools most efficiently in our work, sort of the “blended woodworker” described by some who use the most appropriate tool for the job, be it a hand tool or a power tool.
For what it is worth, the concept has gathered interest in some peculiar places, I first saw it on a CNC group on Facebook. At least one Maker Space is interested in it as well.
It matters less HOW you enjoy your woodworking, it matters more THAT you enjoy what woodworking you choose to do.
Thank you for your efforts, they have provided information, challenges and entertainment to this sawdust and chip maker.
You can’t please everyone all of the time – you offer some amazing stuff which I really appreciate.
I have built a hybrid bench that until now I felt a tad guilty about after watching your earlier bench builds. It uses large chunks of hardwood timber for the top laid flat and edge joined (aged about 25 years in the weather), round treated pine poles for legs, an apron also of hardwood and (horror of horrors) plywood on the back and sides to prevent racking. I added quite a few holes for hold fasts because I needed to also use the bench for very non-woodworking things. The bench is as rough as, but solid, steady and flat.
When I eventually build another bench I will be torn between the ‘real’ wood and plywood – who knows it may be a hybrid between the two.
apologies of any of my comments were perceived as off-putting–even to my bandsaw. I tend to lean towards sarcasm and dry wit.
No matter how wonderful of a job you do, some people will always find fault. Sadly, the Internet makes it worse.
Please remember, most of us think what you do is awesome!
I’m an amateur/professional hybrid woodworker by necessity (I’d be woodworking even if I wasn’t making money at it). I do as much hand tool woodworking as my body will allow and then I compensate for a genetic disorder with machines. I own a table saw, band saw, planer, miter saw and more and am not even a little ashamed of that fact as I also own and daily use hand planes, chisels, hand saws and more hand tools.
What I am ashamed of is that so many “hand tool woodworkers” think that it’s acceptable to belittle hard working people that just so happen to use machines in their woodworking. If it’s not your shop, you don’t have a right to an opinion on how someone else gets the job done, plain and simple. I know that will bother a great many people as everyone is entitled to their opinions yet at the same time, it’s my shop, kindly keep the negativity to yourself and make the world a happier place with a more unified woodworking community. It’s not hurting you for someone else to use a machine…
I come to Paul’s lessons to learn different techniques to advance my hand tool usage as this is my profession, not to read horrid remarks from people that are old enough to know better.
On that note, thank you very kindly Mr. Sellers for all of the wonderful and amazing videos, blog posts and such. They have expanded my professional pride and working options immensely. My son is four years old and he’s just started using a rasp and I’m slowly talking his mother into a spokeshave but he loves being in my shop and learning every little thing he can. I can’t teach him to use machines for many, many years but with hand tools, he’s perfectly safe to learn over the next decade and it’s so much fun to pass on the knowledge and passion to him.
Such a bench could be used to get started before one has the skills and tools to properly chop a mortice and so on. All one needs is a way to cut plywood, and such tools are abundant on the planet at this time.
I think this would have been faster, cheaper, and sturdier than the bench I made on such an occasion, which required hardware, which was relatively expensive and, since I am lacking metalworking tools or skills, turned out to be somewhat complicated.
Because plywood is flat, there are many hours of planing one could reallocate to a furniture item for a friend or family member, instead of working the bench itself. Later, in the fullness of time, one can leverage new skills, gained by having a functional work surface, and focus properly on this important tool.
Personally I think the use of plywood in this build is really great as it has become a reliable and attractive material for our use. (Baltic birch not mega store stuff.) Baltic birch has almost zero voids and is a very stable material.
Being open to the use of other proven materials will only benefit us in the long run. Most material has its appropriate place for use and I think that this is definitely a good application for the material. Stable, water resistant and attractive in the right application.
More genius from Paul. Tx from all of us, even people like me without a workshop YET !!!!
The world is full of great plywood bench designs. What really makes this bench interesting is Paul has adapted his long time (and successful) design to modern materials and methods that will give a person a great workbench, quicker, and let them get on with the making of projects with hand tools.
I think it’s a great compromise.
Thinking about the “dog” issue, just wondering if solid wood inserts could be included in the lay-up of the plywood laminate top (rather like the mortise points for jointing) to be drilled later to accept dogs?
The problem occurs when you combine solid shrinkable and expandable wood with a material that does not.
I’m intrigued… I was actually thinking seriously about building the Samurai Workbench (but using Paul’s methods 🙂 ), and still might down the road, but I don’t have a workbench now, so building any workbench would be somewhat difficult. I have started Paul’s sawhorses which will help me towards any future projects, but I may consider making this bench as a stepping stone towards a more permanent bench. Thanks to Paul and Joseph (and all the others) for your high-quality content, and the focus on teaching. Everything is top-notch, and I appreciate what you’re doing to meet people where they are in their woodworking journey.
I guess the price of Titebond will be spiking for the next few months : ) The price of hand routers is just starting to come back to normal(Thank you Mr. Sellers).
I think the plywood legs are interesting. They could be built in an evening with perfect tenons and great strength. Perhaps a good way to get my full laminated maple benchtop and vices off the sawhorses it has resided on for the past two years.
How thick is each sheet of plywood sorry for the novice questions guys I’ve looked at the plans and can only see length and width
3/4 inch or 18mm to 19mm. Based on component 5 (a rail) ending up 2 1/4 inch thick from a 3 piece lamination.
Bandsaw. It will be planers / Thicknesers mortise machines next hoo and the table saw that would cut the flat void free birch ply much more accurate these would give the novice a better chance
I guess I leave myself open to your criticism but we have no intention of adding such machines. People have consistently expressed concerns about spending much time ripping through three inch stock for hours to pursue their woodworking and the simple and conclusive answer is the bandsaw. I make no excuses. We always care about woodworking and woodworkers and give the best advice and teaching we can.
Storm in a tea cup Paul – the timber you use comes partly machined at the very least – no-one questions the fact that it was cut down with a chainsaw and milled, air dried, kiln dried, dressed and sized before. Not to mentioned transported by machines. Heck, even the videos you provide are delivered by machines. I’m happy to see a bandsaw and plywood – I just may not choose to use these.
Well put Flemming. In reading the comments in Paul’s Blog and various videos, I’ve noticed that there are always a few people that are the person in George Carlin’s joke about “Why are people, who drive faster than me, “maniacs” while people, who drive slower than me, are “idiots”? They just can’t seem to accept that there are other ways of doing things that are outside the little narrow box that they’ve put themselves in.
Right on, Paul! I used to have a shop full of machines…7 ½ hp table saw, 8″ jointer, bandsaw, thickness planer, chopsaw, drill press, etc…caught the handtool bug and sold the lot, including the bandsaw…that’s the only tool I wish I would have retained, exactly for the reasons you’ve stated. Keep up the great work!
My father is an Architect, I grew up in and around his office and construction sites. One of the memories that sticks with me to this day is the sight missing fingers due to the bandsaw. I’m not saying not to use the saw just be mindful during its use. that being said, I understand the waist issues due to blade thickness. My question is related to saw and fence setup. I have seen numerous hours video related to table saw setup, but precious little related to the bandsaw. I’m assuming, at least for you Paul, that this is because you utilize the hand/bench plane to size the material appropriately. correct?
Have you not seen Paul’s video on setting up a bandsaw?https://woodworkingmasterclasses.com/videos/the-bandsaw/setting-up-a-bandsaw/
I have a bachelor’s degree in painting and printmaking. The curriculum required that we take two “3D” classes, one of which had to be Sculpture 101. This gave us access to the sculpture department’s shop. As they introduced us to all the machines, the commented that the bandsaw, used correctly, was the safest machine in the shop. The head of the department even reported that they once had a blind student who could not use all the other machines, but, with supervision, used the bandsaw without issue. Just thought folks would be interested.
I teach woodworking at a high school. Last year I had a partially blind student who made efficient use of the bandsaw, safely (of course they are cutting 19mm pine with industrial bandsaws) and I was never worried about him.
– The blade pushes the work into the table
– The blade takes up a very small amount of space
– This space is predictable; the blade does not oscillate, spin, vibrate, wobble, etc. It just cuts downward. That’s it.
– With a proper table and blade, very thick material (even logs) can be cut down. Patience will help, but you basically have a small sawmill if you want.
The band saw is the first power tool my students use, in order to cut out the blank for a soup spoon.
I like the concept. Baltic birch would cost way more than construction lumber though, at least where I live.
I am planning a workbench with a similar concept, milling construction 2″x12″‘s to 1-1/4″x3-1/2″. By milling all the lumber to exactly the same width I can do what Paul just described in this intro video – creating mortices by leaving spaces in the glue-up of laminations. I believe this will be the best approach for me so that I can build a bench inexpensively and within a decent time frame. Sure, who wouldn’t want to hand tool a solid hardwood workbench? Time an money make that prohibitive for me though.
Iv’e done the same on numerous projects. I’m not lazy, it’s just worked best at the time. Good luck on your bench build.
That is similar to the Naked Workbench by Mike Siemsen. I thought about that one due to being easier and faster. But ultimately decided I needed to learn and practice on a piece that had room for error since its just a workbench. But that’s definitely an option.
New intro music! And just when the old stuff was getting a little long in the tooth. That production team of Paul’s is clutch.
Love the idea of projects tailored specifically to bring machinists into the world of hand tools. Welcome to the dark side, powertoolers.
Also certainly a side benefit: learning to work in cheaper material.
Great post Matt! I think that Wood Machinists are an untapped resource for easing into the world of Hand Woodworking.
I’ve been pretty much a wood machinist all my life………just getting into hand tools these last few months. I’m just finishing up a European style workbench built out of European Beech. I used my machines for a lot of the prep work, but have been using my newly acquired hand tools to take the finish work up to the next level. Also been working along on the Hanging Shelf, completely with hand tools after milling my pine to the correct size. Way fun!
Paul, This is the third bench, I think, you’ve introduced along the same great design you’ve freely given out to the world. I think it’s a great idea. I look forward to the series. What works for one may not for another. This is another option. If the idea is to get it out there, get a bench, and get at it, this will work for a lot of folks. Thanks so much.
Well you must be doing something right Paul, just look at the volume of comments..ha.! The bench looks unreal.
I am looking forward to hearing Paul discuss his techniques for working with plywood. While plywood isn’t often thought of as a primary word by hand tool workers, I agree with Paul that it does have its uses. And it doesn’t necessarily require the use of a shop full of a machines to work with either. Like most of Paul’s videos, my assumption is that the techniques learned here can be applied to multiple different projects. If you don’t have a bandsaw, crosscutting smaller pieces with a store bought induction hardened hand saw is not that difficult. Long rips are less fun, but you may be able to find a local supplier that will cut it for you if you call around and ask. The big box folks are fine for cutting an unwieldy 4′ x 8′ sheet down to more manageable dimensions to take home and use on your bandsaw or cut by hand, but just note that the accuracy will vary due to the nature of the saw they use and the skill of the operator. And not all of them will be willing to cut into small pieces. And be safe; I would not recommend lifting a full sheet of 4×8 3/4″ ply onto any sort of powered saw (band or table) without some help or proper material support.
– When I bought a piece of plywood to make the under shelf for my Paul Sellers type of workbench (made with recycled lumber), I asked the supplier ( DIY store [email protected]µµ@) to cut it to the desired dimension. It was very disappointing to note that it was not cut square. Hopefully I had asked something a little bigger and I could plane it to the needed dimensions.
– I look forward to learn new tricks even if I will no do another workbench in the foreseeable future.
What does it weigh compared to the 2x construction?
I think it is about half as heavy again.
Paul, I just want to say “Thank you” for all the things you have taught me over the years, since those first classes at HH.
I think you have hit upon a brilliant answer to the challenge of how to have a first-rate (affordable)workbench upon which to learn hand tool skills. This plywood workbench could well be the perfect transition piece from power tools.
Perhaps just as importantly, you help me think about wood as a precious resource.
I priced a 4 x 8 x 3/4 sheet of ApplePly (top of the line maple plywood) today from my local supplier. $137 per sheet. I’ve used a lot of 9 ply solid core shop grade birch plywood in the past. I’ll price that first of the week. All that said ……..I have 2 sheets of the shop grade birch and 1 sheet of cabinet grade oak plywood, left over from projects, that I don’t have a use for. I’m thinking I’ll convert it to an extra workbench. An extra workbench for the price of a vise…………….not bad!
I have created a Sketchup model of this, I just need to work out how to upload it here…
If you start a thread in the forums, there is an option to post your file.
The search function is the weakest element of the site. On the other hand, they seem to allow Google to index their pages, so if you go to Google and add site:woodworkingmasterclasses.com after your search terms, you can find often find stuff (whether you subscribe to WWMC or not).
oops. That was supposed to go to a different discussion. I’ll repost it there, but can’t delete comments.
Hi Paul and Crew
Don’t know why so many people are having a problem with this workbench. Like Paul I like the looks of the edge grain of the plywood. Even if you don’t want to build it or like to us a Band saw I think ever video Paul makes is a great learning experience. I have watched many of Paul’s videos over the years but only built a few of his projects but always learn something from each one and have incorporated many of his ideas in other ways. I have also had a table top band saw for a long time and I use it at times. But I still consider myself a hand tool woodworker.
We must also remember Paul is trying to reach out to many other people to bring to hand tool woodworking.
Keep up the good work team.
When I build a version of Paul’s workbench I plan to use solid wood–it is easier for me to get and transport than plywood. In fact, getting quality baltic-birch style ply in 4×8 sheets (or 5×5 sheets for that matter) is actually quite difficult where I live, requiring an hour one way trip to specialty lumber stores that have very restricted hours with almost none on the weekends. Even the best ply sold near me doesn’t come close to the quality Paul is using here. That said, I’m looking forward to watching this build, because I use ply for utilitarian and CNC projects, such as templates and instrument body molds. Besides, I need to visit those specialty stores from time to time to buy rough hardwood, since I’ve found that the S4S stuff in the big box stores usually ends up around 1/2 to 3/8″ thick after I flatten it. My wife is asking for a glass making workbench and ply just might be the right material for that.
I have built houses for over 26 years on the east coast of the U.S. Building in plywood is something very familiar to me. I have been following Paul for several years.
It started in my early 30s with acquiring my first Stanley Bailey #7 from my grandfather. My uncle had painted it completely black and hung it in the shed as a decoration. I had to strip it and restore it. I fell in love once I sharpened it up like Paul’s instructed many years ago. I have built his 2×4 workbench and as a house builder I was most impressed at how strong it actually is.
For most of my life I have worked on a plywood bench that moves and bounces and squeaks. I know by the design of this ply bench that it will be amazingly sturdy! Plywood is excellent in racking pressures and he has used that strength masterfully in how this is put together. I would build it if I didn’t have the bench.
I am so happy with my 2×4 bench and the age and marks in it now that I don’t want to give it up! I now love the fine aspects of wood working thanks to Paul! I have also taken the knowledge and passed it to my boys and their friends! I brought the bench outside and we all make projects together! Thank you very much Paul you are a Wood Working International Treasure!
Paul – definitely a place for this bench and this type of construction.
One potential pitfall when gluing the top – you, Paul, are very good at lining things up to be square. At the end of the glue-up you noted that the piece had no twist and looked good, but I know even with 50+ years of woodworking under my belt I would feel uncomfortable trying to eye-ball the flatness. Here is a method I might try.
Level the two sawhorses, line up the pieces so the you are facing the back of top, face down, then adjust 3 or 4 bar clamps to hold the pieces together.
Take off the clamps and move the farthest first piece (the front) to the back, then put glue on the face of the second piece, place it against the front, clamp it, then screw it. Take off the clamps, put glue on the third piece, place it against the second, clamp it and screw it. Continue til you are done.
This way you are using the flatness of the sawhorses to line it all up and keep the twist out, and I think it would take no longer. And you never have to re-adjust the clamps. Using a framing square against one end you might even get it pretty close to square needing very little trimming.
Just trying to make it easier
Love what you do – Ed
Thanks Paul, another great design that gives the builder some more options. By the comments posted, you’ve kicked the hornets nest. The “purists” feel betrayed whereas the reality is that this new bench still needs a considerable amount of hand tuning and precision layout. Much of the Baltic birch plywood in the local big box stores are not true Baltic birch with equal lamination layers but the thin outer veneer with soft and wider layers between. My local lumber store can get the good stuff so now I have a decision to make on which bench to build. Again, thank you and your team for the effort and gift of these plans.
1. Paul and crew THANK YOU for what you do.
2. 60x60x3/4 Baltic Birch is $34.00 a sheet here from the local lumber yard. They order it for me often.
3. I can’t believe all the negativity.
I agree Larry. There seems to be some folks who really seem to feel threatened by this workbench build. I don’t understand why….maybe it’s because I’m coming from a machine woodworking background and it makes perfect sense to me as a way to get a nice workbench and then get on with the process of learning hand tool woodworking without having to tackle a large involved project like a workbench.
Signed, Jim (bandsaw, table saw, jointer, planer, drill press, HAND TOOL wannabe)
I’m curious about the staying power of a vise bolted to plywood
Absolutely no problem here. Just as immoveable as with solid wood.
Well this looks to be another interesting and informative build to watch.
After reading what folks have said and Paul’s responses I Must say I don’t really understand why some are so concerned about this type of project utilizing a particular (and well justified) piece of power equipment.
I would imagine that a lot of the people that subscribe are like me in that they may have purchased stationary power tools over the years but have come to this site to get in touch with the hand tool aspect of woodworking. I don’t have a large band saw, my wife would just give me that look if I brought the subject up so I will make do with my 30 year old Delta contractor saw that has seen me through many a building project at the house. Yes I will remember the kerf issue.
I do appreciate this project. It is showing me how I can merge skill sets I have with the new ones I am seeking to acquire. I will say I am still leaning toward the solid wood version since there are more new skills for me to learn with that one, but isn’t that the point of why we are all here after all?
My question is, based on their merits of each bench, rather than materials/cost/building technique will there be an application or use that one bench (plywood vs solid wood) is better for than the other?
Thank you Paul for another great build.
Paul says you’ll definitely learn more making the workbench from solid wood using the traditional methods we teach.
And that is the way I will probably go. Each project that I do I want to be able to grow my skill sets and while the plywood bench is beautiful bench to look at and I imagine to work at, I think my time will be best spent learning to chop mortises and squaring up boards.
Which I am looking forward to this Spring Break.
Thank you for the response.
HI Paul et al from WW Masterclasses,
First off thanks for another great video. I often watch your videos even if the subject matter per say does not naturally attract me. I’ve found that I always learn something that applies to what I am attracted to and just as often change my mind. I would encourage other folks to keep an open mind. Like many I have a lot of machines but the addition of hand tool work is a very welcome addition because hand work is always enjoyable whereas machine work is more rarely so.
A question! Paul or Josephe, I noticed the switch to yellow vs white glue as well as a different glue up technique, namely roller vs the zig zag method. Would you please comment on this approach?
I’ve never heard Paul state anything in terms of always or never. I like the emphasis of hand work but machines can take the grunt work and drudgery out of the day sometimes.
I am very cautious about the introduction if machines. I hate to think that the amateur might be steered in the negative rather than the positive and end up a “machine monkey” rather than a highly skilled crafting artisan. A machine-only woodworker will always work only within the limits of the rotary cut on a single axis. Hand tools never do that. 95% of people automatically choose the easy path and if everyone you meet uses only machines then that is likely all you will be exposed to. ~Go to any woodworking shows and you see grown men lined up to try out the new impact driver by driving fifty 4″ screws into oak like macho men in an arena. Zero skill, all brute. It is also a reality that came via American woodworking shows owned by big machine makers that the progressive way forward was in a big garage with ten machines just lying around to make everything easy. This kind of skillless woodworking went unchallenged for three decades. In the rest of the world with much greater area constraints and perhaps even much less money and no access to machines it is an entirely different story. Our work has stemmed the tide towards that end and skill will be conserved through the amateur woodworker with his and her much higher levels of skill than the majority of so called professionals. The bandsaw is a very versatile machine that is very minimally invasive. Mostly it is a brilliant resaw machine with the smallest of all footprints. I believe that we have done a tremendous work to turn woodworking around because we do not derive income from sponsorship, advertising or anything but our honest labours in the field of education.
I used the roller because of the wide expanses over multiple layers. It gives a good evenness throughout and guarantees ever spot is covered with glue. I liked the grab of the yellow glue this time. Slippage was minimised and yet the glue stayed open long enough for the glue to do its job. White glues here in the UK tend to be more runny.
on the slippage during glue up issue. recently saw a woodworker clean off a patch on his glueup and apply CA glue and activator in that spot. when he pressed the parts together it prevented slippage while he clamped it. said he got 3 or 4-second working time for the CA to hold and things didn’t move while he clamped it. I haven’t had a reason to try this myself yet, seemed to work for him.
When and if I build this workbench I’ll accurately assemble the top, dry, with screws. Then take it apart and reassemble with glue. The alignment will be maintained that way. A little more work, but I won’t have to deal with slippage.
We have an answer/trade trick for slippage in episode 2 that’ll knock the sox of all others.
when is the next episode coming?
Episode 2 will be released tomorrow.
Excellent project Mr Sellers, can’t wait to watch and learn new and different ideas.
thanks for yet more great content. I am going to build this bench but with a few alterations. I am more of a Roubo man so will be making the top full width and only gluing; to give me freedom for dogs. Love the idea for construction though. My bandsaw only has a 10″ throat but I am sure I can make most of the cuts on it.
I have built a Paul Sellers solid wood workbench about a year ago and I used cheap construction lumber for it. The lumber wasn’t super dry to start with, the moisture content in North American houses varies dramatically over the seasons, and I have used it quite a bit. Therefore the top has by now a good amount of twist, it’s not straight anymore and there is a big gap at the well board. I will have to plane it flat again in spring.
–> Hand vs. Power tools discussions apart: I think this design using plywood will be much more stable than building a traditional bench using cheap soft woods. Thanks for giving us these options and ideas!
I’m almost finished a workbench using Paul’s previous videos. It had to be a bit shorter to fit my shed, so I hope to build a side table for prep and assembly and all those “where can I put this for a moment” times. I like the idea of a plywood bench adapting this new design perhaps with the legs closer to the corners, a simple flat top instead of the well board and with a modified front apron for three drawers. Anyway, as a retired teacher I know how much skill there is in these videos; I just like watching them.
You know what I do not understand . Why can you not just use a table saw for the whole thing . why do you need a badsaw ? I mean ,even a skilsaw could build this thing couldn’t it ? It’s not exactly very skillful is it? Nice looking sturdy bench thoufgh if you are not into planing boards .
This has been discussed numerous times in the “Comments”.
How many sheets of 4×8 plywood is required?
If you download the plans they will show you, not only the number of sheets of plywood required, but a suggested cutting diagram for each sheet.
The technical drawing/cut list document provided above lists all the required materials.
Having looked at the technical drawings for this build, I have two questions..
1. It says to use 19mm / 3/4” plywood but I can’t find either. Everyone seems to have 18mm. I know 1mm doesn’t seem much but I would imagine it will make a difference to the overall measurements?
2. What type of ply was used?
1. The part which would need another width is the well board, you might have to make it 17 X 1mm wider.
Cut it after you have installed the top+front-apron and the back apron on the leg-frames to know exactly how wide it must be.
You might want to put 2mm shims under the well board on the bearers or to cut the two “stop” which keep the well board in place 2mm wider.
Be cautious as Paul says the thickness of plywood may vary even in a single sheet.
2. see introduction and above comments.
In reality, my experience is 18mm plywood can be 19mm in reality and vice versa. As you say, 1mm will make very little difference. You can make all the adjustments you need if you do buy undersized.
I have used Finish Birch Plywood and it’s 13 plies.
We should submit your name for a VC medal for launching this project both in WM and YouTube. What controversy! No one is going to forget your name any time soon. Bravo! When it is all finished I would like to know which bench works better? Assuming both your benches are of similar dimension, which one is is a) stiffer, b) harder, c) heavier, d) less sensitive to environment, and e) overall better to do hand work on?
I passed on your question to Paul and he says he does work at both of them and they both work equally well! 🙂
I think that this is a great build . i think though that you have moved away from your core of hand tool woodworkers with this design . I do not possess a bandsaw . i fail to see where you think I can buy one for 300 pounds either.
I paid $50 for my 14” model that’s almost100 years old. Some new main ball bearings ($28) ,some tic, and it runs as well as any of the new ones
What if one doesn’t have a bandsaw?
You could make the non plywood version
You can still rip saw it by hand, no problem for a skilled worker, but a good place to learn if you’re not.
I want to make a smaller version of this wonderful looking bench and I have 2 questions :
– would a 39″ to 47″ long bench (100 to 120cm) still be rock solid ?
– isn’t there a discrepancy between imperial and metrics on the cutting list for the bench top pieces : 60mm for 23/8” (73mm ?) ?
Thank you !
Yes it would still be solid.
No, the measurements are correct.
Thank you for your reply.
OK, I’m not familiar with imperial measurements so I’ll try to find out what went wrong in my conversion.
If you can remember, what was the grade on the plywood that you used? There are so many grades of plywood and quality.
I used a WPBP plywood which means weatherproof and boil proof and all the plys are birch ply rather than just a facing ply of birch and then lesser grade layers inside. This is available internationally.
I noticed Paul used a miter square with his bandsaw for making the cross grain cuts during the leg build. Does he have a video on making the miter square? I’d like to see what he put into his miter square.
I don’t have one, I made my own because I never got one with the bandsaw when it came and I’m yet to find one that fits it. I will think about making one maybe.
Can you tell me what type of ply you used for this project.
Paul used Finish Birch Plywood and it’s 13 plies.
Hi, my workbench top has swollen in the wet weather should I plane it flat again or wait for the spring?
I would wait until it dries down.
Paul just want to Thankyou ,I built the plywood workbench on my own in 6 days and am very proud of it. It’s a beauty, very solid . I put a 9″ vise in without any difficulty ,and have to say it works great. I have to admit I rewatched the episodes over and over to make sure everything was going together properly. Your instruction is amazing ,and the love and excitement you have for woodworking is contagious. Now that I have a proper bench, I am ready to get started with other projects . I built the trestle saw horses first and they were the perfect surface to do the cutting with a circular saw and a Kreg accu-cut.I did use my new bandsaw for some cuts but just found it too hard to control straight cuts against the fence, I need more practice. I’m looking forward to making a mallet and the frame saw in the next few days. Thankyou again for these great woodworking classes that inspire so many of us. Linda from a small town in Saskatchewan,Canada.
Hi, I don’t have a bandsaw, but I still want to build this bench, because I love the look of it and I can always use a bit more exercise.
I’m also planning to make it slightly taller, to suit my (Dutch average) height, based on comments elsewhere on this and Paul’s other sites.
However, before I start adapting the plans, I had one question: I can see that you can disassemble this bench, by taking out the bolts, screws and wedges. Without the wellboard, I see how one could get the wedges on that side back in. However I don’t see how one can knock the wedges underneath the worksurface back in, once they’re out. What am I missing?
I can’t find a description of how this would work either.
Anyway: a big thank you to you, Paul and the rest of your team for bringing so much knowledge to do many people in such an accessible way. I’m really looking forward to building this bench.
The wedges work by gravity, I haven’t had to do anything to mine since the day the bench was put together.
Thanks, that makes it a lot clearer and prevents me from making some silly beginners mistakes. Next step: ordering the plywood.
One can force down the wedges with a screwdriver or anything used as a prybar.
One word of caution when bolting the aprons.
The bolt must not counteract the lateral push of the wedges. So I recommend to make the hole for the bolts IN THE LEGS slightly larger then the bolt diameter. (The holes in the apron have to be tight fitting for the working of square part of he head bolt).
This small slack is more important on the solid wood workbench as the legs might shrink.
Good afternoon Paul,
I’ve just moved in Great-Britain for two years. I had plan to use those years to finally build that plywood workbench and continue to improve my woodworking skills. Unfortunately, It appears I won’t have enough indoor room to store it. I have a place outside, covered and therefore protected from the rain. Do you think that in those conditions the workbench would still have decent longevity ? Maybe I should use specific outdoor plywood ?
I think this is a nice workbench. But I’m wandering, I like to do manual woodworking. Like chopping mortises, planing etc.
Will a plywood workbench be sturdy enough not to move a bit when doing manual woodworking?
A workbench of beech seems to be a lot more heavy/stable etc.
What would you advise also with the current woodpricing?
Thanks for sharing your great work!
The plywood workbench is what Paul uses now and definitely with stands plenty of manual woodworking!
In regard to wood pricing it’s a hard one to answer and I am not sure how beneficial it is to know how much plywood costs in Oxfordshire, UK. The plans detail how much material is needed and a quick Google Search will answer the question for what you can get hold of in your local area.
1. The plywood workbench is not supposed to cost less than the solid wood workbench. It is (marginally) easier to build for people not yet ready to make tenons/mortises and housings.
2. My P.S. workbench (1.5 m X 0.6 m well included) is made of recycled wood (pine?) and is perfectly functional and stable.
3. About mass, I once read on a blog that if you workbench moves, it means your plane iron is not sharp enough 😉