Whenever I’ve taken my workbenches out to a show I’ve always enjoyed lovely feedback and appreciation. One line that I can guarantee will come up at least a dozen times though is “it’s too beautiful to use!”. You’ll think I’m mean but it’s always that line that leaves me feels somewhat deflated – it’s put across as a compliment but I take it as a kick in the knackers! What’s the point in a workbench that can’t be used … it would be like having wings but not being able to fly!
Now I’m not suggesting that I don’t want my work to be appreciated for how it looks; I do feel that we can get a lot of encouragement from our tools if they’re nice to handle and admire as well as to use. This can add pleasure to our work and keep us reaching for a high level of finish in the items that we build with them.
Update: At the present time we’re not making any workbenches for sale, however we have many resources on this website that will help guide you with your own workbench build.
Our English Workbench Video Series takes you step by step through a traditional bench build, starting out with a discussion on choosing the ideal dimensions, demonstrations of how to cut the joinery, right through to flattening your workbench top and building the face vice from scratch.
If you’d like us to guide you through your build with detailed videos and PDF plans, then you can find full details for this Workbench Series here.
There are a good number of wonderful hand tools being made where priority is purposefully put on an ability to be appreciated, displayed and admired over being put through a hard days graft but I like to think of my workbenches the opposite way around. They are firstly designed for function with every area thought through to ensure they provide the user with maximum versatility and strength. The timbers used are large in section and the traditional joinery is draw bored – both are to give strength, stability and long life to the bench but also result in sound proportions and lovely peg details that are pleasing to the eye. In other words the beauty comes from designing for function and being fit for purpose. The final thought goes to the subtle details such as the curves on the hub of the wooden screws which are a finishing touch on something that’s already there.
There’s a lot of strong opinion on what’s right and wrong when it comes to workbench design and I think this illustrates their importance within our workshops. It also illustrates just how personal a good workbench is and I feel this is the vital point to take away. Whilst I’m building workbenches for sale I’m also aware that many woodworkers are browsing through the web to get inspiration for their own workbench builds. Workbench design shouldn’t be about seeing something you like the look of and copying it detail for detail as one person’s needs differ to the next. Whether you are building or buying a workbench you should understand what your requirements are before making any decisions. A snazzy vice might look the part but if your bench rocks from side to side just for looking at it then you would have been better off getting the basics right first. I design workbenches that are the best that I can create for that price range and whether that is £800 or £3000 I’ll always make sure that the priority is on function.
I’m going to try and suggest a few pointers from time to time and these will be filed in a new category on the blog called ’Workbench Design’. It’s not rocket science but it might help out if you’re feeling a bit confused.