Skip to content

Workbench: Episode 3

Workbench Episode 3 keyframe

This is an episode in a free series. Want to watch it? It is free to do so, you just need to log into the site and you can enjoy this video and many other videos we think you will love.

The legs are ready for laying out and then the mortises can be cut using the chisel. There are quite a few to do, so work systematically to ensure accuracy.

If you wish to learn how to set a mortise gauge, we have this video for you: Setting a Mortise Gauge.

Click here to view Frequently Asked Questions

Posted in , ,


  1. Brian Miller on 1 December 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Excellent. Felt a pulse of excitement when you got thru that first mortise. Great tip on the knot at the end. I’ve never seen that done before. Only here will you find techniques and tips so valuable. Woodworking Master Classes is the best. Thanks.

  2. Paweł Kaczmarek on 1 December 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Great 😉 I am always waiting for each episod 🙂 Thank You Mr Seller for all knowledge and experience 😉

  3. Tim Beaton on 1 December 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Wow. So nice to see this done without expensive machine tools. I can see that a press drill would have made the job quicker, but i have to admire the chisel only mortice cutting technique. As i need a serious bench, myself, i will definitely follow this series for my own build. I MAY make a modification, only in that i don’t think i will require a well board. Probably just a flat top will be all i need.

    Thanks for making all this content… and free to boot!

    • Steve Mclean on 1 December 2017 at 9:26 pm

      I would highly recommend the tool well, nothing worse than good chisels rolling off the bench when your working on something!

    • ballinger on 2 December 2017 at 11:21 am

      Yeah go ahead and build away, don’t know if you have used a bench with a tool well before but they save your tools from falling off the bench onto the floor. I’ll never go back to a flat top.

  4. Marie Bouchard on 1 December 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Merci pour toutes vos explications! Tous ces petits détails que vous prenez la peine d’expliquer sans cesse. Thank you again!

  5. Terry Dixon on 1 December 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I built a bench using your original series of videos. I still like to watch you working but it’s a pity about the echoey sound of your new ‘garage workshop’ unlike your older vids..

    I’ve enjoyed working on my bench for some time now and can confirm that it is a great bench to work at for hand tool woodworking, which I love as you do. I’ve felt that love for almost 60 years since my first pencil box which I made in my school woodworking class. I’m glad that you noted that it takes about half an hour per mortise as that was almost how long it took me to complete mine when working on the bench, which I thought was rather slow. It was a great sense of achievement when I finally worked on my first piece of timber on the bench holding it in the refurbished 9″ QR Woden vice I had around. Keep up the good work.

  6. Bill Hall on 1 December 2017 at 2:17 pm

    I built mine using the first set of videos as well but am still watching as I know other little tips n tricks will come up along the way, such as dealing with the knot squarely in the way. Very nice solution!

    The other thing is I notice your using 2×6’s for this bench. I used 2×4’s for my cross rails based on the first video series. Did I screw up? Mine seems sturdy enough but the use of 2×6’s seems better both in strength and appearance.

    Love your videos and expertise that you pass along!

    • Philip Adams on 4 December 2017 at 4:36 pm

      Hello Bill. The wider the shoulders, the more rigid it is, but 2×4’s are plenty rigid enough.

  7. George Moore on 1 December 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks, Paul. I have been following and enjoying your work since I met you at a woodworking show in Fort Worth Texas a few years ago. I hope to some day build this bench when I get the time. Keep up the good work on keeping hand tool woodworking alive and well.

  8. James Savage on 1 December 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Dear Paul and team, thank you so much for this. I hope to be in a position in about five months time to make my/this workbench and set up a permanent work area (albeit a small one). I’m think of putting my bench on castors that can be raised so I can move it easily to one side when not in use (I suppose that makes it a semi permanent work space). I’m loving the videos and it’s great that they are not too heavily edited, the part where Paul says ‘Am I biting the dust?’ had me grinning from ear to ear. Like you say, ‘Real Woodworking.’

    The tips at the end about working with knots and loose ferrules, invaluable! Thank you!

    • Dick Millspaugh on 1 December 2017 at 10:36 pm

      I am new to woodworking and building my first workbench. I purchased casters that will allow me to raise the bench also. Found two clues on line in that regard: 1. Not to use the screws that come with the set, but rather use 1/4 inch wood screws and drill the holes in caster mounts to fit. It seems that some people find the screws that come with casters are not sturdy enough. 2. Rather than having to lift the bench while using their foot to push each cater down individually, someone suggested attaching a metal bar across the end casters. Then one step allows you to raise both casters on one end at one time. I am going to give this a try.

  9. Andrew Rolt on 1 December 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Once those are cut, are you leaving them like that? What I mean is, you’re not “cleaning up” the interior sides of those mortises? I feel like there’s about 1 minute missing in the video to show the finishing touches on them, but maybe that’s it? ie: they’re not dovetails and don’t need to be smooth on the inside walls. thanks!

    • jakegevorgian on 2 December 2017 at 12:45 am

      Usually mortises don’t get cleaned up at this stage–if need be, it’ll be at the stage of joining tenons.

      Just a quick cleanup with the sides of the chisel is enough–the rule is that the chisel has to travel somewhat freely and at the meantime stays in the mortise and not fall down from the mortise with the gravity pull. I think Paul showed some of these techniques in the paid membership videos at woodworking masterclasses classes (I highly recommend subscribing to.)


    • JDLG on 30 December 2017 at 5:55 am

      Yeah I pretty much have the same question. My mortises look like they’ve been cut with an axe. Any more “cleaning up” means I’m adding width to my tenons to compensate.

  10. Bill Milhoan on 1 December 2017 at 4:42 pm

    I came across 2 ten foot lam beams made from 2x6s. I had them cut in half and thought I could use a couple five foot sections to make a bench top. Any reason not to? Also, is there anything I can should be thinking of as I install my old Richards Wilcox vise? Thanks!

    • Philip Adams on 4 December 2017 at 11:53 am

      Hello Bill,
      Paul’s benchtop is 2 3/8″, so whether your 2x6s are suitable depends on their thickness. It might well work for the apron. Paul’s stock for this was 1 5/8″.
      I think the fitting of the vise will be very similar to the vise Paul is using. There amount you need to pack it out may vary, but that is straight forward.

  11. Don Madick on 1 December 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Paul, greetings from central Wisconsin USA! I am retired after forty years as a Journeyman Carpenter and I have been watching your videos for some time now. I have to say, I have found something new and interesting with each and every one. I am working on my second bench using your methods and enjoying it immensely. My very best wishes to you and yours for this holiday season and beyond!

  12. Erin on 1 December 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Just to clarify, if I’m using 2×6 inch lumber for my rails, then instead of the 6 inch measurement, I’ll measure 5 1/2 instead.

  13. deanbecker on 1 December 2017 at 7:26 pm

    bill M
    I used glulamas for a quick bench and they are fine . your 2×6 will probably need notching to get your vise attached .i used a 2×4 and my vise went on without a hitch

  14. pauline2165 on 1 December 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Great Job Paul, nice work around that knotted area.

  15. Ed Baedke on 1 December 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Hi Paul, nice work cutting out the mortise. Would you normally use a bevel edge chisel to cut out mortises this deep or was this done to show that minimal amount of tools can be used? I don’t own any mortise chisels but I suspect they would make for quicker work chipping out all the those ‘nuggets’.

    • Erin on 2 December 2017 at 3:35 am

      I came across a video he did one time comparing a mortise chisel and a bevel chisel. For the method he uses, the bevel chisels were faster, and they ended up with a cleaner mortise.

    • ballinger on 2 December 2017 at 12:37 pm

      He pretty much always uses bevel edged chisels.

  16. Steve Mclean on 1 December 2017 at 9:22 pm

    I have nearly finished my bench build, bit of a hybrid from Paul’s earlier bench and the 21st century one. Glad to see the same things happen to a pro as happened to me. Things falling over all the time and clamps crashing to the floor.

    One thing I wish I had practiced more before building was the sharpening of tools … I had really cheap chisels (think I bought them from Screwfix 10 years ago) and they didn’t hold an edge, which made it much more difficult. I bought an inexpensive set of Narex and they are brilliant compared to my previous ones.

    Anyone can build a bench, you don’t really need to worry about mistakes as its a workbench, not a piece of fine furniture. I say go for it!

  17. millermj on 1 December 2017 at 10:33 pm

    Looking forward to the next installment. Thanks.

  18. nevynxxx on 1 December 2017 at 10:54 pm

    I love that knot trick! Would you sharpen up before each mortice on stock this big? Or just as you need to?

    • Philip Adams on 4 December 2017 at 11:30 am

      Go for sharpening when you need to. You get a feel for when your chisel isn’t cutting very well anymore.

  19. jakegevorgian on 1 December 2017 at 11:25 pm

    That brass ferrule grabbed all my attention. Glad it didn’t pinch Paul’s hand.

  20. wmathieu on 1 December 2017 at 11:30 pm

    Is that an ALDI chisel Mr. Sellers is using in this episode?

  21. Don Donaldson on 2 December 2017 at 12:31 am

    Paul, I have used your mortise technique for timberframing and must admit that the mortise is just as fast and more accurate being cut by hand rather than with either a brace and bit or a chain mortiser. It is quite amazing how well it works.

  22. ehisey on 2 December 2017 at 2:22 am

    Did I miss Paul doing the leg glue up? Or was that step skiped in this series?

    • Larry Geib on 2 December 2017 at 3:54 am

      How do you glue up one solid piece of lumber?

      • ehisey on 5 December 2017 at 5:53 am

        Your right, I thought it looked like a glued leg when he was marking it up. Thought I might have missed a part of a video.

    • Roy Richardson on 2 December 2017 at 7:31 am

      If you are using dimensioned lumber like I am you will have to laminate your bench legs to dimensions you choose. Remember to make adjustments to the overall length of the rails as well as the tenons and mortises based on the size of your legs. Here Paul used solid wood for his legs, if you choose dimensioned solid wood you will have to make adjustments based on the wood you are able to acquire. You will also have to make adjustments elsewhere like in the apron dado (housing) for the leg + wedge width. I suggest printing out Paul’s plans and making measurement notes on his drawing based on the material you have available to you once they are cut and planed to size.

  23. Ola Wetterberg on 2 December 2017 at 8:56 am

    Dear Paul, great as always. Don’t you ever use hearing protection? Do you find that unnecessary for this kind of work?

    • Bas Cost Budde on 2 December 2017 at 6:47 pm

      If you feel the need to protect your ears, maybe your blows are too strong? I never felt the need to cover my ears except for when filing metal.

    • Ed on 2 December 2017 at 7:05 pm

      Hammer blows hurt my ears, especially in a small space with stone walls and cement floor. I keep a pair of these around my neck. They aren’t the most effective protection, but since they are always there, they actually get used because it takes two seconds to pull them up to my ears.

      • Andy Doller on 3 December 2017 at 3:29 am

        Impulsive sounds are the most dangerous for your ears. Your body has a natural reflex to prevent loud sounds from damaging your ears. You can recognize this when you leave a loud place and you can’t hear anything outside, but just a few minutes later you can hear again. It takes a few seconds for your ears to engage the natural reflex and some longer time to relax again. This protection is best for continuously loud places (ie, bars). However, impulsive sounds are too quick for your ears to engage the natural defense, even if they are successive and long in duration. This leaves your ears exposed to high sound levels without the natural defenses.

        Wear your hearing protection….

        • Andy Doller on 3 December 2017 at 3:38 am

          I should add that this protection only lasts for a few minutes as your ear muscles get fatigued and then relax again once more. At this point, you risk further damage to your ears if you remain exposed to loud sounds for long durations.

          OSHA in the USA has good recommendations for daily exposure to sound that protect workers who are exposed to loud sounds for days months or years of continuous exposure.

    • aanghelescu on 9 December 2017 at 1:05 pm

      I too was concerned about this, not least because they bothered my son (who doesn’t like loud sounds made by someone else ;)). I tried to make some changes to how I was chopping the mortises, and I found these to be helpful:

      – anchor the piece solidly to the bench to allow a lot of the sound to be absorbed by the sheer mass of the bench
      – sharpen often – a mildly dull chisel will require a heavier blow
      – take a smaller “bite” – 2mm works well for me
      – use the soft face of the hammer – a last resort, as it slows down your work

  24. Nicholas Newble on 3 December 2017 at 10:42 am

    I am free account only and it works fine, so something doesn’t seem right. Have you tried either using a different browser, or downloading the video to watch offline?

  25. David B on 3 December 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Paul and team–just wanted to say that the production quality of your videos continues to improve. I really liked the ending sequence here with Paul narrating while showing the other mortise cuttings. Cool that he even included a few seconds on having to repair the ferrule of his chisel. These are great!

  26. deanbecker on 3 December 2017 at 7:42 pm

    those tidbits at the end are perfect stuff comes up . just deal with it
    that would make a perfect lesson in its own .just tidbits kinda like q&a

  27. Philip Adams on 4 December 2017 at 11:37 am

    Hi Ken, If you are still having this problem, please let us know through the contact tab at the top of this page or below these comments. This message will be deleted after a week. Thanks, Phil

  28. tenjin on 5 December 2017 at 3:59 pm


    Paul notes in the big-bench You Tube series that the top cross-rail on one end should be lowered by a couple of inches or so if you want to fit a tail vise.

    Is there any reason why I shouldn’t do this on both ends anyway? I haven’t decided where I want my tail vise, and might want one on each end?



    • Larry Geib on 5 December 2017 at 6:16 pm

      A tail vise at each end? Why? I am struggling to see what functionality you gain for the doubled effort and expense.

      If you haven’t decided which end you want your tail vise you can swap the leg assemblies if you built carefully. The main thing to watch for is that the bolt holes line up the same.

      But for at least 600 years since the first recorded tail vise, it goes on the right for righties and on the left for lefties.

      • tenjin on 5 December 2017 at 7:32 pm

        Thanks for the reply.

        My conundrum is because of limited space in the workshop.

        While Paul has his tail vise to the right of his main vice, on the other end of the bench, and in line, I might need to put mine on the same end as the main vise. My bench will be wide enough to support that. It’s because one end of the bench will be close to the wall.

        What do you think?



        • Zeppos on 5 December 2017 at 7:39 pm

          I have put in a veritas inset vise, my bench is still very new but so far very happy with it.

          • Larry Geib on 6 December 2017 at 12:18 am

            I’ve never used one of these. It looks like the stops are pretty thick. How do you deal with thin stock?

          • Zeppos on 7 December 2017 at 8:04 am

            You can buy an optional low profile jaw, which I did that allows for down to 1/4″ stock.

        • Larry Geib on 5 December 2017 at 8:24 pm

          If it’s going to be in a location where you can’t use it, it seems silly to have a vise there.

          Buy a nice combination plane or something instead.

          But with a little planing, you can decide later, like I said, by swapping the leg assemblies. You may even find you don’t need a tail vise at all, if you have a holdfast and doe’s foot.

          You don’t really need access to the end of the bench.

          I love my tail vise, but in constrained spaces there are other, cheaper ways.

          • tenjin on 6 December 2017 at 11:34 pm


            Larry: thanks for the video link, that is really helpful. I have a couple of Grammercy holdfasts that I’m going to drill dog holes for, so this could work well.

            Zeppos: I was thinking of getting one of those instead of a full vise. How are you finding it?



  29. Christophe wloskowicz on 5 December 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Hi Paul
    I am just making the modernization of my workbench.
    I would like to know ,where is there a better place for a vise, take the long edge of the table?
    Maybe In one third of the table length or half its length?
    The table will have a vertical 1″ thickness and 10″ heights board and with some holes for fixing the sticking boards and supports for longer elements. The total lenght of the table is 56 “.
    Thanks for your advice.

    • Philip Adams on 6 December 2017 at 5:41 pm

      We position the vise directly to the inside of workbench leg. This is the most solid position so that the vise can support hammering. Does this answer your question?
      Best, Phil

  30. Umut on 7 December 2017 at 5:34 am

    Fantastic episode but I wish there was more because there are already multiple mortise-tennon videos by paul online. Knot work was interesting. Can’t wait for the next episode.

  31. Edouard Poitras on 8 December 2017 at 5:15 am

    Dear Paul;
    I have been woodworking for about 13 years but due to a bad elbow in my major arm I have had to use mostly power tools to get the work done. When I came across Roy Underhill’s Woodwright Shop I had my first taste of hand woodworking. He brought me along in many ways and gave me a good basic understanding of the craft and tools.
    When I discovered Paul Sellers, the art of hand woodworking came into sharp focus and inspired me in ways untold. I wish to thank you for all you are doing in passing on the craft so completely and with such great explanation and example!
    My only regret in watching you is that due to my limitations, I will not be able to follow you in some of the techniques you demonstrate- but that does not mean I can’t remember them and pass them along to those who can do it.
    Merry Christmas Paul

  32. Chris Wall on 8 December 2017 at 11:23 am

    I am very much enjoying this series. I decided to make this a new year personal project, and I am very much looking forward to it. I have also watched Paul’s other video series on creating a workbench a number of times. I love watching Paul work. There is something very calming in his manner and his skills are something to be envied. I find myself watching him chisel out a mortice in real time and don’t feel that it should be sped up or skipped through. Keep up the good work!

    I would also like to praise the video editing and production.

    Best wishes and merry Christmas,


  33. alex lemon on 16 October 2018 at 11:44 pm

    great video thanks. the first time i tried this the wood split at the end from the chiseling action. oh well, start again

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.