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Suggestions on purchasing a bench

cmt1669's picture


I'm seriously considering buying instead of building a workbench.

A friend of mine recommended that I contact Lie-Nielsen to see what they could do for me.

I talked with them today and found out they are backlogged for about 6 months on delivering a workbench. I also found out that including shipping to the West coast, I would probably be spending about $2,700.

They are willing to customize several items on the bench:

a workbench height of 32" (I'm 5' 7".)
and I'm left-handed (so I want the shoulder vise on the right side.)

Can anyone else make a recommendation for a purchased workbench?

Thanks very much.


9619's picture

(post #116085, reply #1 of 37)

Hi cmt,
When I saw your message, I got on Google and searched on phrases like "custom woodwork workbench". Lotsa stuff that is not what you are looking for. However, you might want to pursue a search like that on Google. You might find a custom workbench maker.

You could also buy a glued up maple top from Grizzly and add on a few vices and just make a base.

You could go to the following website:

which is a Woodcraft ad for a Sjobergs workbench. They are around $2000.

Hope you find something good. I'll follow this thread to see what advice you get. Please let us know what you finally decide to do.


Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

cmt1669's picture

(post #116085, reply #4 of 37)


Thanks for writing. I need to ponder this a little more.

Another place to puchase a premade top is:

They are in northern california and will make it a custom length. You can get one 3" thick. (about 150lbs)

forestgirl's picture

(post #116085, reply #27 of 37)

Wow, thanks for that PerfectPlank link!  N. Cal isn't too far from me shipping-wise.  Cool site.

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #116085, reply #2 of 37)

Diefenbacher Workbenchs import some very nice benches from Germany.  I don't know about leftie set ups however, but it would be worth a call.  They are in Colorado so shipping should be a bit less.

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

cmt1669's picture

(post #116085, reply #3 of 37)

Thank you for responding so quickly. That is an impressive bench. It still doesn't met my height requirement. My current homemade workbench is about 35" high (initially build to also serve as an outfeed for my contractor saw) and I lose a lot of leverage when face jointing.

I still might just need to build what I need.



SteveSchoene's picture

(post #116085, reply #5 of 37)

Did you actually speak to them at Diefenbacher?  I did see in the description section the possibility of ordering left hand versions, and I wouldn't be surprised if shorter couldn't be done too. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

cmt1669's picture

(post #116085, reply #6 of 37)


Yes, I did talk with them. They used to do a special order for left-handers but that is not available anymore. They also can't adjust height so I think I'm back to square one.

Thanks for your suggestions.


TrueGentleman's picture

(post #116085, reply #13 of 37)

He cmt, My I suggest you contract a local woosworker to make one for you.  purhaps you can work with him/her. 
You can learn a lot and help a fellow woodworker.



highfigh's picture

(post #116085, reply #8 of 37)

If it's not high enough, you could add to the base so it is. You could even do it so the height is adjustable with cams or slots and bolts

"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."

"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."
Napie's picture

(post #116085, reply #7 of 37)

I just have to ask, why buy versus building your own?  The three benches I have built, (so far…), have been the most enjoyable WW projects I have done in twenty years.  I know all about the time value of money etc. but they are not that difficult at all to construct, even if it is a complicated design, which, based on the commercial units you are talking about, it wouldn’t be. Also, as my skills and needs have developed and changed, the ability to build a new bench that fit them has really helped.  As far as cost, you could buy all the lumber, (I never bought any wood for mine, that’s why I save all those off-cuts), the hardware and two new L-N planes for the cost of a; lighter weight, sorta custom, almost fits my needs, weak vice construction commercial bench.


Just the rambling thoughts of a bench and tool box junkie.

citrouille's picture

(post #116085, reply #9 of 37)

I wouldn't be surprised if you ened up building your own.
If you do check out Dietr Schmid vises, the shoulder vise has two screws (and only one handle) and the tail vise is just massive.
I installed them on my bench and I am very happy.


Alan Az's picture

(post #116085, reply #10 of 37)

You might want to check these out, although the price on the first one is ($$$$)


Started Learning, Still Learning, and will never know enough!

skidkid's picture

(post #116085, reply #11 of 37)


Your post was on "BUYING" a bench and there are lots of good ones on the market.

No matter what you buy it will be a compromise even if it is custom made; you have to be there and try the thing on as it develops.

Personally I find that half the fun of woodworking is designing the piece and the other half is making it; I have yet to make anything that I didn't revise as it was being built and I have worn out all the erasers during design.

Pasa bon tarde.


ctsjr82's picture

(post #116085, reply #12 of 37)

I know that my hardwood outlet here in Houston carries maple slabs made by John Boos Co. that are around 1.5/1.75" thick, and the width and lengths are variable.  You can go to their webstite and see if they sell direct.  That's a premade top that is flat, stable and ready to go.  Again, may not be your first choice, but it's an option.  Good luck whatever you choose.  Tom

"Notice that at no time do my fingers leave my hand"

"Notice that at no time do my fingers leave my hand"
gb93433's picture

(post #116085, reply #14 of 37)

Those who build workbenches usually have a supply of hardwood that goes back about five years. The older the wood is, the better it works and the harder it is.

At one time I worked for a company that sold Boos blocks. The problem usually with Boos blocks is that they wil crack and often warp when exposed to sunlight. I found that there is less problems with Michigan blocks. However I have not seen Michigan blocks in a long time.

BilljustBill's picture

(post #116085, reply #15 of 37)

  If you can find your material supplies on sale, surplus, or at flea markets, you can build your own for a Fraction of the price.  Mine is a "T-Shape" workbench. Overall, it's 12' long and 36" wide with a 12" wide tool tray.  Instead of have a seperate assembly area, this workbench serves me also as an assembly table.

Mine cost me $850...  $400 of that was for the two Vertias twin screw vise kits and the Maple, Oak, and Walnut I used to make the 8" deep by 36" jaws...

The doors came unfinished for $3 each from the local monthly flea market.  The three Wilton vises for $15 each and one Columbian vise is new on closeout for $50.

There are 6" locking casters for mobility and came mounted on a 3" steel tubing metal trolley on which I screwed 1-1/8" Oak. It was purchased at a flea market because it was a rejected special run baseboard and cost pennies on the dollar.

The finish is Minwax Red Oak stain and Deft on the cabinet doors and Oak framework.  The top is sealed with Waterlox.


Edited 8/27/2006 12:25 am ET by BilljustBill

RickS503's picture

(post #116085, reply #16 of 37)

You could contact a local cabinet maker and see what they would charge.

1 - measure the board twice, 2 - cut it once, 3 - measure the space where it is supposed to go        4 - get a new board and go back to step 1



" There'll be no living with her now" - Captain Jack Sparrow

cadiddlehopper's picture

(post #116085, reply #17 of 37)

I built 2 benches. The first was almost like the one described in the 4th issue of FWW. It was a beauty! But I had to sell it. The second one I built from scrap mostly. It has 2 steel vises, but structurally & functionally resembles the first bench. If I had to build another, I would copy the one in FWW issue #181 for its economy. It can probably be built more quickly than a solid wooden one, too. I might buy a laminated maple top & enclose the storage space beneath. If you are sophisticated enough that you want custom modifications, surely you can modify one of these designs to have what you need. You may spend more calendar days shopping & awaiting delivery than you will spend building. Then there is the personal satisfaction! And you did it for yourself. Aaaaaah!!


pins's picture

(post #116085, reply #18 of 37)

Here's my take:

If you want to be a woodworker you need to know how to make a bench. Basically, no disrespect intended, if you can't make a bench why waste your time trying to make furniture? It doesn't have to be perfect because most woodworkers never achieve perfection. I am still uslng the first bench I made over 20 years ago, it has suffered two moves, and it still works for me.

Don't get yourself caught up with the 'workbench as art' folks.


gb93433's picture

(post #116085, reply #24 of 37)

"If you want to be a woodworker you need to know how to make a bench. Basically, no disrespect intended, if you can't make a bench why waste your time trying to make furniture?'

A lot of fine furniture makers never build a workbench. James Krenov did not build his work bench. The workbench companies usually have a back stock of about five years to build their benches from. That gives time for the wood to get harder and to stabilize.

Napie's picture

(post #116085, reply #26 of 37)

Wood is only as stable as where it is located. My bench as some chestnut from a 100 + year old barn, and it will still move if the weather conditions are right.  Also, I was not aware that wood got “harder” as it ages.  If that were the case, that very old Cuban mahogany I have should be like concrete.

gb93433's picture

(post #116085, reply #28 of 37)

It gets harder the older it gets up to about five years.

kevink's picture

(post #116085, reply #29 of 37)

I've never heard of this - could you elaborate more? Are talking about 5 years after the wood has been air or kiln dried, or is this 5 years the drying process? Is this the same for all woods, or just for Rock Maple & Beech?


gb93433's picture

(post #116085, reply #30 of 37)

" I've never heard of this - could you elaborate more? Are talking about 5 years after the wood has been air or kiln dried, or is this 5 years the drying process? Is this the same for all woods, or just for Rock Maple & Beech?”

I find it is much the same for most any species. Personally I have not experienced any exception. Working with old wood works much better than freshly sawn and dried wood. It cuts better and tear out is typically much less.

It is a period of about five years after the wood is dried that the wood will become more stable and will achieve a greater hardness up to a point.

If wood is kiln dried it is not the same all the way through. Typically it is dried to achieve the desired moisture content inside and then steamed because the outside is too dry once the wood is dried enough to get the inside dry. Typically the wood is dried in such a way to be able to utilize it with no or very little milling.

If you take moisture content readings in a kiln dried piece of wood you will typically get different readings at different depths from the surface.

The ideal is to get the moisture content the same all the way through the piece. Kiln drying will not do that.

pins's picture

(post #116085, reply #31 of 37)

I don't have a clue about whether or not 'old' wood is harder, or not. What I do know is that air dried wood is much nicer to work with than kiln dried lumber. Virtually everything I have made is with air dried lumber, except when I have to buy some species that I don't have for a client that is kiln dried.

There is so much static, if that's the right description, when I run the kiln dried lumber through the planer that the shavings cling to the planer like it was magnetic.

Given that all the great furniture made in the 18th century was air dried I think my analysis is substantiated.


gb93433's picture

(post #116085, reply #32 of 37)

"What I do know is that air dried wood is much nicer to work with than kiln dried lumber."

I agree. One of the problems with kiln dried lumber is that typically the kiln is heated from 165 to 180 degrees.

Napie's picture

(post #116085, reply #35 of 37)

In over twenty years of woodworking I have had no experience that would back any of what you are saying.  Tear out is a function of grain and the sharpness of the cutting tool.  I have “very old” wood that is no harder than much newer lumber of the same specie.  So where does the five year value come from?  If it gets harder with age, what makes it stop at that point? As to movement that is as much a function of environment as anything, 200 year old furniture still moves.  One reason to kiln dry is to get the M/C even as possible all the way through, if it is not you will get casehardening.  All wood will achieve equilibrium with its surroundings in a pretty short time no matter how it is dried or to what degree.  No less an authority than Sam Maloof stated in his book that he sees little difference between KD vs. AD stock.

gb93433's picture

(post #116085, reply #36 of 37)

Sam Maloof may not see much difference but I do and so does James Krenov. If you have ever worked with KD and AD wood you would immediately notice the sound coming off of a hand plane when the wood is planed. You would also notice the difference in the shine that comes especially after using a sharp hand plane. Sandpaper would immediately dull that shine. Using sandpaper is simply grinding the fibers off much like using sand to remove rust from steel. The steel will not shine like a mirror when sandblasted.

When companies dry wood they figure about 1" of thickness per year to air dry in the yard before kiln drying it. That can be greatly reduced with the use of a pre-dryer. 4/4 lumber takes about 27 days in a pre-dryer and about 3 days in the kiln. I do not know of anyone that kiln dries 16/4 Red or White Oak. That is dir dried. Kiln drying is done to make a buck. Kiln drying reduces the yard space needed and decreases the amount of time it takes to dry wood.

I have noticed a distinct difference in the workability of wood which is a few years older and wood which has just come out of the kiln. If you have ever walked into a kiln when it is 180 degrees you will never forget what you see and the smell. That smell does not get there from the outside air but from the wood. Something left that wood under heat. It is not just water. Temperature also changes the structure of the wood. Sometime take a piece of wood which was burned when it stopped in a planer. By some standards that wood could not be used. If I remember right it is in an airplane.

Tear out is not always a function of grain and sharpness of the tool. More importantly, it is a function of the direction of the rays. The direction of the rays can be opposing the direction of the grain. Tear out can also be reduced by changing the angle of attack of the tool and how the tool is sharpened. Sometime use a 60 degree smoothing plane and a low angle plane on the same piece of wood. You will see a huge difference on wood that has crazy grain. Also use a scraper on a piece of wood.

Kiln drying never gets the wood completely even inside. Why do you think they steam the wood at the end? The wood dries from the outside in. To get the inside dry the outside will be drier. Then they steam the outside to get it back to the target MC. If you take a moisture meter with long prongs and insert them into a 2" or 3" thick piece of wood you will see what I mean.

When lumber is kiln dried, it is dried to be used at or near that thickness, not cut up into thinner slices. If it is slabbed off into thinner thicknesses it will change shape.

If you do not believe me take a piece of wood that you made a piece of furniture from and then let it set for about five years and use a hand plane on it. Some woods will not be much noticeably different but other woods will have a huge difference.

If lumber was dried equally all the way through in KD, then do you see surface checks on the surface of rough lumber? They are very shallow and can be surfaced off. Imagine what the lumber would be like inside if there were the same checks inside. If that does happen it is usually called honeycomb. When that happens there will probably be cell collapse as well.

Casehardening — A condition of stress and set in wood in which the outer fibers are under compressive stress and the inner fibers under tensile stress, the stresses persisting when the wood is uniformly dry. (

The standard in kiln drying is online at

It is a copy of the Dry Kiln Operator’s Manual. That manual is also very cheap to purchase in a hard copy.

kevink's picture

(post #116085, reply #19 of 37)

Hi cmt1669,

I'm in agreement with pins on this one: build your own - it will be so much more satisfying. It's a straight forward project and it will give you an excuse to buy some tools that you don't already own. Check out The Work Bench Book, which is published by Taunton. This book has plans for several really good designs.
If you really don't want to build it, I'd suggest you follow the advice of a previous poster - have a local woodworker do it for you. Besides supporting a local craftsman/woman, this has several advantages: you'll be able to check out benches they've made in the past, see how you interact with them and figure out what need, and the cost will be decidedly less than the Lie Nielson or Diefenbacher. Additionally, it's hard to believe that they wouldn't be able to build something that would surpass the quality of the manufactured benches out there.



cmt1669's picture

(post #116085, reply #20 of 37)


Thanks to all that replied. I'm in the process now of building my workbench. Originally, I really didn't have a surface to true and square the lumber I needed. (My existing bench was only 4'long.) I'm building a bench 7' long.

I ended up building a quickie plywood bench in order to give me a suitable work surface from which to build the more permanent one. It also gave me opportunity to "adjust" the height of the workbench to see what was comfortable. (I kept lowering it via a handsaw an 1" at a time until it felt comfortable.)

(It sort of seemed like you need to have a bench to build a bench.)

I was also put off by the price of the prebuilt benches and I wasn't impressed with the stability of the lower end benches.

So I think everything will work out OK.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.


Edited 8/29/2006 2:36 pm by cmt1669