Review: The Workbench Design Book
...The Art and Philosophy of Building Better Benches
by Christopher Schwarz and the Popular Woodworking Staff
In 2007 Chris Schwarz wrote something of a revolutionary book on workbenches: “Workbenches...from Design and Theory to Construction and Use”. The book seriously addresses several key issues not well covered in other workbench books: The logic and the decision-making process in the choices that you make when choosing materials, bench hardware and basic bench designs. It’s those very points that I struggled with for many months when designing and building my Workbench 2.0 and the very reason that I decided to tell my story and to help others through this somewhat torturous process by building this website in 1999.
I really like Chris’s book “Workbenches” and when I heard he was writing a new book, I looked forward to getting my hands on a copy. The book is called “The Workbench Design Book”. And, though it can be considered something a follow up to “Workbenches” it’s really much more. To quickly get to the point: the book is excellent and I thought it would be of interest to visitors to this site if I did a review of it.
“The Workbench Design Book” is first and foremost about the “why” of workbench design. That’s something that hasn’t been extensively covered in previous workbench books. How different designs work under real use. How little details make different designs work a little better or worse in different situations. And, how these and other benches can be improved.
To illustrate this point, Chris’ book includes nine complete workbench plans and the stories behind them. These are very good plans of classic bench designs. They cover workbenches from the 24 hour workbench and the $170 workbench to a modern Roubo and the Workbench for the 21st Century designed by Bob Lang. He then adds excellent follow-ups on each plan with a review of what works well after extended use, what doesn’t work and how to improve the designs. This makes the book a very useful tool for someone wrestling with the difficult choice of what design to choose and build.
In a before-and-after section, he takes on the design of classic benches, like European and Scandinavian benches. He dissects these designs and comes up with suggestions to improve them.
With three years passing since his first workbench book, the author updates his coverage of the workbench world with several new entries into the latest developments of vises and other work holding tools used in workbenches. And a chapter on knockdown workbenches. As someone who’s moved around a few benches making them portable or able to be taken apart is something I’m a fan of.
In conclusion, “The Workbench Design Book” is an excellent book for anyone interested in building or designing a new workbench. If you follow Chris’ writing in Woodworking magazine you already know that there’s nobody more passionate about building workbenches then the author of this book. That Chris would continue on his quest to find and build the perfect bench and author another excellent book shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you find yourself on a workbench quest of your own and want help from an expert to find answers to the million questions that come up when making workbench design decisions then you’ll definitely want to add “The Workbench Design Book” to your collection.
So, how do you get a copy? There's only one source. The book is exclusively available at the Woodworker's Workshop Bookstore
My essential workbench book list. Sorry, I can’t recommend just one. They’re all different. I’d suggest getting all of them if you can.
“The Workbench Book” Scott Landis
“The Workbench Design Book” Chris Schwarz
“Workbenches” Chris Schwarz
“Making Workbenches” Sam Allen
“The Workbench” Lon Schleining