Modern Plywood Workbench

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A simple & super-sturdy bench built from strips

By Andy Rae and the crew at Making Whole

Atruly useful woodworking bench serves a lot of needs. It secures all kinds of workpieces for operations ranging from rough stock prep to detailed handwork. It offers a flat planing and assembly surface, and provides a suitable platform for a wide variety of hand and power tool operations.

As an instructor at Making Whole (see page 4), I share space with a bunch of fellow woodworkers, mostly novices, who’ve become enamoured by my European-style joiner’s bench, despite the fact that we have plenty of other benches and work surfaces. To keep what’s left of my sanity, it was time to build a similar bench with even better work-holding capabilities. We designed our new bench so that it could be built by budding woodworkers like my junior colleagues. Thus began a collaboration of many student hands to build a bench that would serve their further education.

The most obvious departure from tradition is the choice of building materials. Despite some initial reservations, I discovered that plywood offers several noteworthy advantages here over solid wood. For starters, the material cost for this bench is less than half the price of one made from maple or beech. You’ll also save considerable building time. Because most of the components are made from ¾"-thick strips, the intimidating joinery that would be involved in solid-wood construction (big tenons, deep mortises, and 28 dog holes) becomes a simple matter of cutting and stacking to create the joints. Aside from the expedited construction, the biggest benefits reveal themselves when you put this bench to work (see photos, top right). 

This strip-built workbench has become the new workshop favorite. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking that I might build another to supplant my old bench in my corner of the shop.

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