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Workbench 1.0

If you've never built a bench, are a new woodworker, or just want to spend very little money, build this bench. It's great! A design created by Tom Caspar in his article titled, Workbench in a Weekend appearing in the October 96 issue of Woodwork Magazine, this design is a great beginners workbench.

Unfortunately, I don't have any good shots of my old bench. Thanks to Woodwork Magazine and Photographer Glenn Gordon for granting permission to reproduce the images and scan the thumbnails of the pages shown here. Tom has granted permission for the article and the plan to be available for downloading from this site. If you're interested in building the bench, click here for a downloadable PDF of the article and the plan that you can view and print out.

Tom Caspar revisited the design of this bench a few years ago in an article for American Woodworker called "Tom's Torsion Box Bench". Long since gone off the American Woodworker website, it's once again available for viewing. There's lots of great photos of the construction process, an exploded view and even a cut list to help you build it. Between the downloadable plan and the added photos and details of this article, you've everything you need to build it. Click here.

As a first bench, this is one of best designs I've come across. Before I built mine, looked at lots of other designs and haven't seen one that comes close to it's stability, function and appearance. It's uses simple torsion box construction that is solid, heavy, stable, very flat and has two vises including a real tail vise, cleverly made from a wooden clamp. And, not to be taken lightly, as you can see from the photo, it's a good looking bench. To keep it simple and inexpensive, it's entirely built out of plywood and 2by material. The photo above shows a Jorgensen metal vise on author Tom Caspar's bench. I used a Record 52 1/2 ED on mine.

As mentioned, it  was my first working project. I used the tools I had at the time: a portable saw, a power hand drill, and a newly acquired Compound Miter Saw. As the article points out, you don't need a chop saw, but, it really helps in terms of accuracy and speeds the project up. I also used one of those $12 straight edges for cutting plywood you get at home improvement stores. They really work.

I kept pretty good track of my time and costs while building the bench and figure it took me two weekends, not one. Okay, I was a complete rookie and don't work as fast as Tom. Three days to build the bench. One day for the dog strip and the various shallow shelves I added. Cost was $132 for hardware, glue, paint and materials. Add to that, the cost of the Record at $97.

Granted, I wouldn't trade my new bench with its thick Maple top for this one. But, considering that to buy a top quality, ready made ULMIA workbench would cost upwards of $1,500 and building one costs a good chunk of that, this is a pretty good way to go if you don't have the time and/or dollars to spend.

How is it to use? It really works great and now that I've built a traditional heavy duty bench, and can compare the two, I appreciate the first one even more.

The capabilities of the bench are virtually the same as my new one. The limitations of the first one are obvious--it has a soft plywood top. Mine did get pretty dinged up over it's two years use with plenty of beginner's mistakes added along the way. But, that wasn't really a problem since I veered a little from Tom's plan and by using countersunk screws, I  left the top unglued so it could easily be replaced. His plan calls for 5/8î plywood throughout to keep costs down. If I had to do it again, I'd go for 3/4î thickness as that gives you more options such as maybe screwing down 1/2î MDF and gluing on 1/4" replaceable hardboard, as a alternative for a plywood top. But,  that would add to the cost. I also became a little frustrated with trying to keep the tool tray clean. Adding little ramps at the ends or some sort of clean out would be good additions, too.

With the completion of Bench 2.0, Version 1.0 was given away to a good friend. I was sad to see it go. If you're interested in building one for yourself, download the plan and check out the American Woodworker article about for more information.


Article: Workbench in a Weekend appeared in the October 1996 Issue (#41)of Woodwork Magazine.
Author: Tom Caspar
Photography: Glenn Gordon.