15 Best Tips for Making an Economy Woodworking Bench

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This is 15 Best Tips for Making an Economy Woodworking Bench that you can be proud of, and why there’s nothing wrong with an economy bench. Follow these tips, and you will have an excellent bench without spending a lot of money. Enjoy.

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Making an Economy Carpenters Bench

15-Best-Tips-for-Making-an-Economy-Woodworking-BenchMaking an inexpensive woodworking bench can be a little bit of a challenge, but it can also be quite a bit of fun if you make it so. You would be surprised how much you can do with a small budget, and intelligently source materials.

While everybody loves to see really expensive hardwood benches, most of us woodworkers will rarely be able to afford something like that. That’s life, but there are ways around it, and an inexpensive bench is just one of them.

Besides, you can have a lot of the features in the higher end benches for a lot less than retail if you make it yourself. You can also do a lot better on cost if you make good decisions in the designing phase. The following tips will help you quite a bit.

Take this to heart when you are designing your economy bench, and you will be surprised at how nice it can turn out. It’s all about what you do with your materials, not necessarily where you get them or how much you paid for them. That’s the most important part.

See Also: How to Save Space with a Modest Workbench

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Inexpensive Bench Making Topics

Here are the tips and topics, and I will go into each one of them in deep detail coming up in the post. I’ll explain everything you need to know about each one, and you will be able to use the technique to make an inexpensive woodworking bench.

  • Choose the Right Wood Species
  • 2x4s Get a Bad Reputation
  • Use Plywood in Hidden Areas
  • Make a Laminated Top the Easy Way
  • Don’t Make it Too Large
  • Find a Deal on Reclaimed Wood
  • Make it a Mission to Collect All Free Wood
  • Make Your Own Vises
  • Choose an Old Fashioned Vise Design
  • Elaborate Designs Cost More
  • The Simple Principle
  • Check Board Length to Conserve Materials
  • Use Wooden Runners Instead of Glides
  • Avoid All Fancy Hardware and Make Your Own
  • Use a Light Oil Finish

Choose the Right Wood Species

In order to make an economical bench, you have to choose the right wood species. While high end benches are made from really nice hardwoods, that does come with a heavy price. Some hardwoods are a little less, but they are still up there.

You can do quite well with looking at a less expensive alternative types of wood that are not normally made into woodworking benches. These are much more economical, and you can make a beautiful bench without spending a small fortune.

You can use regular Maple, Walnut, Birch, and even Poplar to make an excellent bench. Yes, some of these aren’t as hard or dense as the mainline species choices, but it’s still a nice piece of wood to make a bench with.

In the beginning, you definitely don’t want to get hung up on wood species and think that they are all inferior compared to the most commonly used type. You can even use Pine for your woodworking bench and still get great results.

Again, it’s not about what you use as much as it is about how you use it. Some nice Pine boards in the hands of a determined woodworker can make an heirloom quality bench that will be passed down for generations.

See Also: 19 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Woodworking

2x4s Get a Bad Reputation

Even for an economy bench, 2x4s  get a bad reputation. This is a completely undeserved reputation mind you, because this can be a very economical source of material. You can even make an entire bench out of 2x4s if that’s what you want.

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2x4s are just pieces of Pine in a different shape. If you have no issues working with Pine in general, then you should have no issues working with 2x4s or any other type of dimensional lumber that’s used in construction.

Depending on where you get your wood from, it’s good practice to make sure that it’s fully dry, and that any movement is done before you build it. This is because construction materials tend to be wet when they’re in the store.

All you have to do is pick out the right pieces, and make sure you allow them to fully dry before you start building. The wood itself is just as good as any other piece of Pine, Douglas fir, or whatever species your 2x4s are made of.

Don’t let anyone tell you that your workbench is in anyway inferior to another because you used 2x4s. Take steps to get the necessary equipment into your shop, and don’t listen to other people’s opinions about how you do your work.

See Also: How to Find a Good Woodworking Bench

Use Plywood in Hidden Areas

Another way to save money on an inexpensive workbench build is to use plywood in hidden areas. Most people think of a workbench as being made of all solid wood, but you can hide a little plywood here and there.

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Things like drawer bodies, backs, and bottoms, and anything that you won’t see from the outside can easily be done from plywood. It will save you a lot of money, and since those areas are hidden, it really doesn’t make a difference in the look.

Select wood that matches so at least it won’t stick out like a sore thumb. Then, use the plywood any time you need larger pieces and you don’t want to laminate solid pieces of wood.

See Also: 50 Awesome Reasons to be a Woodworker

Make a Laminated Top the Easy Way

This is one my favorite tips. You can make a laminated bench top like you see on all the old carpenter’s benches out of 2x4s. The beauty is you don’t need very many of them, and in the end you will have a heavy and sturdy bench top.

All you need to do is gather enough 2x4s to do the job. For most smaller to average size economy carpenters benches, they are going to measure about 6 feet wide and 18 inches deep. This is a good working area, not too big, but not small either.

2x4s measure an inch and a half thick, and when you stand a bunch of 2x4s up on their end, to get to 18 inches you need 12 boards. All you need to do is find 12 straight 2x4s that are at least 6 feet long, and you have everything you need for your top.

Make one pass through the table saw to cut off the radius on one edge of each stick, and then arrange two of them using clamps so that way the edges you just cut are facing up and level. When they are aligned well, use wood screws and glue to glue your first two boards together.

Keep adding boards one at a time, clamping them to the bigger piece, and aligning them carefully before you screw and glue them to the larger piece. Once you have all of them together, you will have a very sturdy and heavy bench top.

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If you take your time with the clamping process, and drill pilot holes for your wood screws, you can end up with a bench top that doesn’t require any leveling. Since you use the previous stack to level the next board, by the time you’re done it should remain level.

See Also: Restoring a Workbench

Don’t Make it Too Large

A big mistake to avoid when designing a workbench is making it too large. Most of the time, anything deeper than 18 inches is too much of a strain on your back to reach. Also, anything much wider than 6-8 feet becomes too much running around.

You do need to have a bench that makes sense for the type of projects that you make, so don’t make it too small, but avoid making a gigantic bench too. Not only will this cost a lot more, but you will probably never use the entire bench.

Keeping the price down means keeping the materials down. If you make a mega bench, it’s going to cost a lot more in materials just due to the sheer size. Even inexpensive materials at this point can become quite pricey.

The goal of an economical workbench to get you into woodworking without very much of a price burden. In order to do that, you need to build a sensible bench that is not going to take up all the money that you need for future tools and materials.

Settle on a modest size, and when in doubt use existing carpenter’s bench dimensions to find out just what you need. Those benches have worked with for hundreds of years for many carpenters that are better than you or I will ever be.

If that size of bench was good enough for them, then it’s good enough for you, and it’s good enough for me. Besides, once you start working on your bench, you will notice right away how much you actually need. I promise, it’s not as much as you think.

See Also: 17 Important Tips on How to Sand Wood

Find a Deal on Reclaimed Wood

To really save a lot of money on making a woodworking bench, start looking around for reclaimed wood. These are pieces of wood that of been used before, and are no longer needed for the original purpose. A lot of times, you can find a great deal.

You might already have some of this wood just laying around the shop, and you can use it for your carpenters bench. You may even know somebody that has a wood pile who is willing to let you pick through it.

If you can use reclaimed wood, you can lower the price of your bench too far less than you thought, and in some cases make it free. Free is obviously the best number, but if you can get a good deal then settle for that too.

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See Also: 15 Great Places to Get Woodworking Wood

Make it a Mission to Collect All Free Wood

If you want a fun assignment, then make it a personal mission to source every bit of your workbench wood from free sources. You can find free materials all over, and if you are willing to commit, you can end up with a free woodworking bench.

Great sources to find Free wood include:

  • Online marketplaces.
  • Social media sharing groups, neighborhood groups.
  • Clean pallets that aren’t sprayed with chemicals.
  • Discarded wood from shipping crates or containers.
  • Harvesting wood from old projects or pieces of furniture.

Make Your Own Vises

Another thing that can help you control the cost of your bench is to make the vises yourself. The hardware for these things can tend to run quite a bit of money, but you can do a lot with just the two metal parts that you actually need. That’s the screw and nut.

Most woodworking benches run an acme screw. This is a modern alternative to the old fashion wooden screw, which are even more expensive to get now because they’re not as common. Thankfully, an acme screw is not expensive.

Using any basic front vise design as your inspiration, you can incorporate an acme screw and nut, and then make your own handle. The rest of the process is pretty straightforward, and you can have a vise that is both strong and long lasting.

You can even compromise and buy a bench screw from a manufacturer on a deal, and make your vice using that. It’s still buying vice hardware, but it’s about a fifth of the price of standard front vice hardware packages.

This portion of the exercise can take away quite a bit of your budget if you’re not careful. Make it a point to get the vises that you need on your bench, but don’t get sucked into buying fancy hardware that you don’t need, or that you can make yourself.

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See Also: Homemade Front Vise

Choose an Old Fashioned Vise Design

To make it a little easier on your woodworking bench, for both manufacturing and for the price, choose an old fashioned vise style. These were meant to be made in simple times, and with simple materials. This is great for an inexpensive bench build.

A front vice is an extremely versatile clamping method. You can make all sorts of amazing projects, and it’s all with one simple mechanism. Look around online, and there are several places that show you detailed pictures.

All you need are the pictures in order to duplicate vise. There are hardly any parts, and after you see the diagrams, you’ll know exactly what to do. This will save you money, time, stress, and still make your bench look great.

See Also: 17 Worst Ways to Ruin Your Woodworking Project

Elaborate Designs Cost More

Have fun with your designs, but don’t go nuts. Elaborate designs are going to cost a lot more, and that takes the economy right out of your bench. A few frills aren’t bad, but keep the design from going over the cliff.

Besides, it’s much better to execute a simple design really well. If you attempt an elaborate design and fail miserably, nobody around you is really going to know that it was a difficult design, they’re just going to think you’re a terrible woodworker.

In reality, you’re probably not a bad woodworker, you just bit off more than you could chew. That’s OK, we all do it. The point on this bench, because it’s going to be a central focus of your shop, is to not make that mistake.

See Also: How to be a Modern Renaissance Woodworker

The Simple Principle

Simple benches also do one more thing that you may not think of immediately. Simple bench is easier to make, and you’re going to progress through the build faster. These things make you less stressed, and you end up having to solve a lot less problems along the way.

Because the problems don’t creep up, and the amount of time it takes to build the project doesn’t start to feel overwhelming at any point, you will make better progress. This will build upon itself, and eventually you’ll feel like a superstar.

Before you know it, your bench will be completed, and you will feel amazing. The simple design made really well will look awesome, and will be very fulfilling. Also, people that see it will appreciate how well it’s made.

You will get to start using your bench a lot faster, and that’s good too. After all, the goal of this project is to get you started in woodworking. It’s not really about making a bench, it’s about making the foundation that you were going to build the rest of your woodworking projects upon.

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See Also: 10 Fun Things to Build With Wood

Check Board Length to Conserve Materials

Another great way to make an expensive workbench even less expensive is to plan your cut list according to your materials. The boards that you have will be different sizes, and if you use a little strategy, you can get the most from them.

For example, if you have a couple pieces that are 4 feet long, plan on cutting both of them from a board that is just a little over 8 feet. If you were to cut it from a board that was 7 feet, you would need another board that was 7 feet for the other piece if they are all the same size,

Assuming you didn’t have anything smaller, and you made two really bad decisions about wood material economy, then you would have 6 feet of material left over that might be totally useless. That’s a really big waste.

Instead, plan the cut list based off your material. Arrange your boards, and plan out the material for size. Once you know what a full size mark up looks like, it’s easy to see which boards you need to cut in order to get the most efficiency, and at least scrap.

This is a skill that you will use a lot in woodworking. The better you are at using your materials economically, the more projects you can make from the same pile of wood. Also you could end up buying less material for each project.

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Use Wooden Runners Instead of Glides

Drawer glides can be expensive. Good drawer guides can be really expensive. Instead of spending money on drawer glides for your workbench, look into old-fashioned wooden drawer runners instead.

Not only are these a lot of fun to make, but they also hearken back to a time when things were far more simple. There’s a lot less to go wrong with a wooden drawer runner. In contrast, modern drawer glides have a lot of parts, and more chances for failure.

Look into some old furniture making techniques, and you may be really surprised with some of the techniques and ideas that you can learn. Many of these involve using wood for the function of the piece, and that’s a huge savings.

Back when these techniques were created, they didn’t have a lot of metal hardware or even the ability to source something like that. Instead of relying on mechanical devices, they created most of their solutions out of wood.

Understanding these techniques is great for you. The more you know, the better you can use the materials you have on far more than just your workbench.

See Also: 15 Great Tips for Making Wooden Tool Handles

Avoid All Fancy Hardware and Make Your Own

Avoid any kind of fancy hardware, or embellishments that are unnecessary. If you are going to make an economical bench, then you need to focus your efforts and cost on the wood and materials themselves.

Hardware is a huge money maker. You can spend a ton on hardware without blinking an eye, and before you know it you’ve inflated the cost of your bench more than double. Especially if you are into high end, or specially made hardware.

Instead, use of the techniques from the previous section and start looking for older methods for accomplishing the same thing. Many times those methods will show you how to make the hardware item out of wood, and that’s a huge win.

Embellishments can also be considered hardware, things like embedded rulers, or metal accents are also unnecessary. Later on down the road you can add things like that of course, but in the beginning it’s important to just get the foundation in place.

See Also: 12 Awesome Uses for 80 Grit Sandpaper

Use a Light Oil Finish

Any workbench, regardless of price is going to see some wear and tear on the top especially. For this reason, you don’t want to put a very thick finish on the surface. It’s much better to go thin and light, and that’s for several reasons.

First, the top is going to be damaged from time to time. If you use a very thin, and close to the wood finish, it will be very easy to repair. Also, with high clamping pressure, heat, another things that happen on a bench, you don’t want to take the chance of ruining the finish.

It’s much better to find a simple oil, like danish oil, or linseed oil, and apply a very light layer to the entire bench. Not only will this bring the wood to life, but it will protect just enough that it’s still easy to use as a workbench.

You can use a wiping varnish as well, but make sure to coat lightly. I recommend one to two coats, rubbed on so thinly that you feel like you’re drying the surface completely. This will also add a touch of warmth, which can be inviting on the workbench.

You and your bench going to become old friends, so select a finish that is warm, and appealing to your specific taste. Make sure that you care for this bench, because right now it’s the most beautiful it will ever be.

See Also: 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing

Your Action Assignment

Now that you know all of these tips on how to make an economy woodworking bench, it’s time to start planning. This is really the fun part, because it gets all your creative juices going before you even get out into the shop.

Take a look at the tips, and start formulating a plan. Get everything drawn out on paper, and work out as many problems as you can with your pencil before you cut your first piece of wood. It’s much less expensive to erase a line than cut a board.

Plan for your vises, your top, and your overall design. Get it 100% figured out, and even look online for some inspiration if you need to. Once you’re done, you should be able to make a great looking woodworking bench for a very low cost.

Once you’re done, I promise that you will love that bench more than any other. There’s something magical about a piece of woodworking that you create yourself, and then use yourself. No store-bought item can ever really compare.

You will make better projects on that bench because you made it. It sounds silly, but it’s completely true. Once you have your own bench, that you made with your own two hands, it will make you a better woodworker. 

If you have any questions, please Post a Question in the Q&A Forum and I’ll be glad to help. Happy building.

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  • More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
  • 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
  • Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
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