Workbench Tour No. 1: The $175 Workbench

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After I told Suzanne Ellison that we had 11 different workbenches here at the storefront, she (perhaps calling me out as a liar) suggested we do quick video tours of them. So, with the help of my daughter Katherine, here’s the first one.

This is the so-called $175 Workbench I built for a 2001 issue of Popular Woodworking. This poor bench has seen so many alterations and experiments, I feel bad for it. But the bench has remained a champ, and I still love working on it.


These short videos are a quick tour with my current thoughts on each particular bench. All the benches are in our shop for one reason: They work. People regularly ask me to rank-order the benches I’ve built, from my favorite to the black sheep. That’s not possible because each one of these benches was built to deal with a certain set of circumstances.

The $175 Workbench was built to see how little money it took to make a functioning bench. And to prove that construction timbers are an excellent bench-building material.

Here are some links to items discussed in the video:

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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20 Responses to Workbench Tour No. 1: The $175 Workbench

  1. Christopher Fitch says:

    I made one of those like 17 years ago- was nice – my brother has it now and it was a huge upgrade from what he had. The bench I replaced it with was a hybrid of the power tool workbench (baltic birch top with Veritas Twin Screw vice) and that bench (bottom made similar to the $175 bench but out of white oak) – I still using it …

  2. John Loggins says:

    Anyone making a good vice if I’m not buying or making a Roubo? When a Record or etc. comes up online the shipping cost can be prohibitive.

  3. flyandgrain says:

    Thank you for pointing out the mistakes and items you don’t really use. Sometimes I look at the things I’ve done to my bench and wonder what I was thinking, especially with dog hole placement. It’s nice to see someone else just going ahead and using the bench. It helps me remember that it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a hole that I’m not using.

  4. Steve V says:

    My first (and current) bench is a Frankenstein. The legs are are made out of 4×4 treated pine posts leftover from an outdoor cubby house build. The rest of the frame is all construction lumber. The top is 2 pieces of 3/4” laminated MDF with a 1/4” hardboard (Masonite) replaceable protective top layer (screwed in). It was my very first project at my current house which rekindled my love for woodworking. It’s very heavy and a couple of years ago I added some concealed casters that drop down when I lift the bench and lock in place using a nifty approach I got from an old Norm Abram video (what a legend). It’s not pretty, or a Roubo, but it works well. Just needs a few dog holes which I intend to create using the part guide system to enable use of my MFT clamping accessories and relate dogs. A Roubo bench with benchcrafted gear is on my to do list but I can’t bring myself to get rid of Frankenstein.

  5. Tom Bittner says:

    So I went and bought a “Record” vise at my local Woodcraft many years ago. It was a lot of money for me at the time but I splurged and bought it. This was a real Record Vise before they sold out to IRWIN or whoever makes the vise now in China. Summary, what a POS, I tried to keep using it but I finally threw that sucker in the trash ( right next to my biscuit machine). It was very painful because I spent good money on it.
    The quick release was always stiff, I tried to reduce the diameter of the guide rods but it never worked smooth. The screw is not an ACME thread and the metal is/was soft on mine, not hardened like it should have been. I sprung the screw righting the vise, I admit I was abusing it but not that much abuse! I tightened it by hand and didn’t use a pipe or cheater bar or bend the t bar doing it.
    Save your hard earned cash and buy a benchcrafted, Hovarter or any used vise with a acme thread. There are a lot of choices out there!
    Now I’m sure to get comments from all the people who just love their Record vise and never had trouble. All I can say is good luck finding one …..

  6. hgordon4 says:

    Wonder dog is a cool little tool. I’ve been pondering for a while now the idea of EITHER taking one apart and replacing the main shaft with a piece of 1″ pipe (with of course the hole drilled and threaded) OR drilling out the center of a 1″ dowel (easily done on a lathe) to insert the wonder dog (but a 1/8″ wall would be pretty thin) — so I can use it in the 1″ holes in my bench that take the Crucible holdfasts.

  7. Conwae Knight says:

    Thanks Chris, as part of your commentary it would be great to know what maintenance or upkeep has been required. I appreciated that some of the benches aren’t as old as others, but it would be interesting to know how, or how you think, they will hold up over time and what’s required to keep them performing well.

  8. Todd R says:

    I have a bench with front apron for my dog hole clamp down hold fast. I use it all the time when I don’t want to get my moxon vise out. One day I will make my dream bench a rubo Roman style bench and use the hi vise as the leg vise from bench crafted. I need to do some more testing but way better bench for a paraplegic.

  9. fitz says:

    Bean!!!!

  10. Ken B says:

    Chamfering of the pine dog holes – worth it? You said it it was set too deep – would you ~ half the depth? Seems 3/8″-7/16″ or so to me (not quite half?) So 3/16″-1/4″.

    Thinking of making a softwood bench myself, excited you’re reinforcing their 125 year lifespan (when made right!).

  11. Isn’t the $175 bench the one you made on the DIY network for the Ultimate Garage?

    • Wow. That’s a flashback. We did indeed make one of the $175 Workbenches for that show. But it wasn’t this particular bench, which stayed at home.

      • Serious flashback. I’ve been trying to dig up a copy of that video for ages. It was one of the first things that got me into DIY and woodworking post college. Nice one!

  12. Kevin Adams says:

    I built my Welsh stick chair on that bench. I remember it was like the orphan there up against the shelves as everyone seemed to gravitate to the other larger, newer benches. I found it to work just fine and had the added benefit of being closest to the coffee!

  13. I have an Equipto cabinet problem. But I also have a space problem, fortunately. There is no more room in my shop for any more Equipto…

  14. aaron keim says:

    I knew there had to be drawers somewhere in that shop. 😉

  15. I assume you’ll get to the bench behind this one eventually. When you do I’m really curious if that removable sort-of-leg vise ever actually gets removed or if it is impractical to have it come and go.

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