Chairmaker's Workbench

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Compact but capable, this knockdown design can be built with basic tools, framing lumber, and a ready-made top

When I’m not making Windsor chairs, I sometimes teach the craft at different woodworking schools. My students need benches that are compact and rugged, with versatile clamping capability. Easy disassembly is important, too, making it possible to keep benches stored out of the way.

The compact workbench shown here has proven its worth to students and in my own workshop. The leg vise on this bench is easy to build and nearly indestructible. Just as important, its throat capacity is far greater than what’s available on more expensive commercial vises. That extra capacity is really helpful when clamping a large chair seat.

The bench also has appeal if you’re a minimalist woodworker like me. No fancy tools, complicated jigs or costly materials are required to build this project. I made the bench shown here from 2 × 12 framing lumber, a $40 vise screw and a premade birch top (see Buyer’s Guide, p. 60). You can complete most of the work with a circular saw, chisels, an electric drill, and a square.

The workbench is easy to take apart and reassemble. Start by inserting the through tenons in their mortises and wedging the joints tight. Then fit the top on the base, and set the shelf boards on their cleats.

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