Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I bought this workbench a few years ago from a family that had been using it as a kitchen island. I told the owner, who was clearly unimpressed, that I was going to use it in my woodworking shop.

And up until now, it still hadn't been put to the use for which it was built. Instead, it was a flat surface on which to dump everything that was cluttering up my main workbench.

But with all the storage units I've been building lately, it's finally cleared off.

This is not an ideal workbench. It's not easy to use clamps along the front edge and the backsplash is an obstruction. Presumably, the recessed section on the work surface is a tool tray (or in my shop, a shavings and sawdust reservoir), which I find unnecessary.

And by the looks of the disparate drawer fronts, it's had a few cosmetic repairs. I don't know how many different wood species complete this bench, but it's a patchwork of patterns.

There is plenty of storage, with sliding tool trays in the main drawers and a set of cubbies and small drawers on one end.

Two things I love about this bench: the near-perfect condition of the top and the design of the vises. The rectangular wooden arms provide a flat, non-marring surface on which to place your workpiece when you tighten the vise. And wooden screws are just cool.

The three metal screw-arms that work each vise on my main bench will leave indentations if they touch your workpiece.

The first thing I did was remove the backsplash. And since the workbench had to be placed with the left side close to the wall, I removed the door that enclosed the little cubbies so they could still be accessed. Finally, I added a piece of old chestnut to cover the tool tray—a species similar in appearance to one of the woods used in the drawer fronts.

Some might not approve of a bench being altered, but I did save the two pieces that were removed, and the chestnut is only tacked down with small nails in case the next owner wants to restore it to its original condition.

It's been patched up, pulled apart, and rebuilt over the years, but it's once again experiencing the joy of being covered in plane shavings; it smells like sawdust instead of tarragon; and instead of wearing pizza stains, its patina will continue to darken naturally. As it should.