Episode #23: Workbench Work Holding

Note: All of my old podcast videos have been moved to my YouTube channel.  You can now watch this video here:


36 thoughts on “Episode #23: Workbench Work Holding

  1. Inspiring! I’m tempted by this design because of the low cost up front, and it’s versatility. I think I’d like to go the leg vise route, but it’s an easy enough mod to the basic design. Nice work!

  2. Very nice bench Bob. After seeing your demo, I really like the crochet on the left and the twin screw on the right. With the board on top of the 2 holdfast to support the workpiece like you showed, jointing an edge of a board into the crochet is a piece of cake. And no vises to loosen when you want to flip the board. Great bench. Looking forward to following the next project.

  3. Great bench Bob. The demo was eye opening. You planned the bench brilliantly. Will you finish the bench or leave it raw?

    • Jeremy,
      I’ll be leaving the bench without any finish. I found with my last two benches that adding a finish does nothing but make the top more slippery. The unfinished soft wood top has a nice grip to it that I prefer to keep as is. If it gets glue or finish on it, so what. It’s just a workbench and I can always plane or scrape it clean.

  4. Great podcast, Bob. We need more exposure to how easy it is to hold work without a bunch of complicating vises. As we’ve discussed, I want a bench just like yours and will build it as soon as I can find some 2x12s in Quebec City, which seems to be as difficult as the holy grail quest. I may end up with a 3-board top, using 2x10s.

    One thing your excellent demonstration confirmed for me is that I will be putting some holdfast holes in the front top board. When chopping I like my work closer to the front of the bench.

    You’ve also shown me why I NEED a crochet, something I was thinking of leaving off my bench. That 2×4 trick is what turned the tide for me.

    Thanks so much for these podcasts.

    • Larry,
      I agree with you. A coupe of holdfast holes closer to the front will be useful and I’ll likely be adding one or two. I don’t think it will be necessay to have as many as the back row though.

  5. Bob-

    Your new bench is great! I’m impressed with the thorough attention to detail you give the placement of dog/holdfast hole and how they align with the bench’s other features.

    One question – it seems the bench is rocking or moving slightly when you work across the bench – has this been a problem? Do you intend any changes to rectify this?

    • TJH,
      The bench was rocking just a little because the floor in my shop is not even. I’ve taken care of it with a shim under the leg on low spot of the floor. It was only a slight rock though and in truth it really wasn’t a problem.

  6. I’m going to drawbore my bench. I wonder if you glue the peg to the knob how easy is it to remove the screw if it gets damaged? If the peg is glued, is it just as easy to remove if it was without glue? I assume you used liquid hide glue.
    Thanks, great workbench!

    • Mark,
      I’m assuming you’re referring to the vise screws? Those pegs and the screws are actually not glued. If I said that they were in the video I apologize for mis-speaking. Having the peg and screw shaft only friction fit to the head of the screw without glue allows me to easily knock the peg out later if I have to replace a damaged screw. If the peg were glued, I’d likely have to drill it out and replace it with a larger peg. Not a big deal, but not as easy as just driving an unglued peg out with a punch. If the screw shaft were glued into the head, I’d either have to make a new head or steam it out if it was glued in with hide glue. The screws have been fine without any glue at all.

  7. Thank You Bob!

    I feel very lucky to have found your blog. The bench build blog has completly changed my direction in woodworking and my future bench.

    I am enjoying your past blogs and podcasts and I can’t wait for future episodes.

  8. Great wrap up episode Bob. It certainly shows off your preferred work holding techniques, and is enlightening in a couple of ways.

    I really enjoy my 12 foot long (still too short) Nicholson bench, especially the front apron. When it comes time to repair or replace the top, a split top looks a great way to go. You’ve given me many ideas on how I can make good use of that feature. THANKS! … and mebee, I’ll move that pesky leg vice to the less used end of the bench and stop leaning over it all the time. 🙂

  9. Great bench and great podcast. Showing the bench in action through the various tasks was extremely helpful to a newbie like me! Thanks!

  10. You say you can’t drill large holes by hand. Have you tried a drill like this?

    It’s a heavy duty hand drill, with a 10 or 13 mm chuck (more info at http://www.fine-tools.com/bohr1.htm ).

    I haven’t tried one of these myself, but I’m curious if anyone else knows more about tools like this. Does a drill like that take ordinary drill bits, like forstner bits? I would like to find a way to do all my drilling by hand, without electricity. 🙂

    • Staffan,
      I don’t think that heavy duty wheel auger is what you want. That is basically an egg beater drill on steroids. I wouldn’t expect that it will easily bore a hole much over 1/2″ in diameter. It just doesn’t have the torque of a brace and bit. I can’t bore a hole over 1″ in diameter simply because I don’t have an auger bit larger than that. They were made however and you can find them. That’s what I would use if I had one, a 1½” auger bit and a big brace. Alternatively, you could look for an old “T” auger similar to this one:


      These have a ton of torque and were used to bore beams for timber framing and ship building.

  11. Hi Bob,

    where can I find a large thread box and tap like the one you used in the video? I checked woodcraft but they only sell a 3/4″ version.

  12. I am really glad you showed how to use a few of the specialty hand planes, such as the dado plane. I have very limited space and have been trying to figure out how to use these tools on my own. I enjoy that you show how to use the tools during your videos. I discovered the auger bits from you previous shows and what a difference they make.

  13. Did you say no dogs? Is the top too thin for using dogs or do you just not use them? Or perhaps I misheard.
    Thank you for the great podcasts!

    • Nope, no dogs. No need for them with this design. The planing stop and holdfasts handle everything that dogs would handle in a more contemporary bench setup. In fact, this bench is perfectly functional without a vise as well. It’s the ideal, low budget, easy and fast to build workbench for someone who is more interested in working on the workbench rather than admiring it.

  14. You’ve got me ready to supplement my power tool shop with some hand tools (or maybe more than some)

    I have a question: When you used the dado plane, you nailed your fence to the piece. WHY!? now you have holes to fill. I’m pretty new to this, I just wanted to know if there was a trick I didn’t know here.

    Keep the shows comin!

    • Hi Stu,
      Nailing the fence to the case side was a traditional method used in the 18th and 19th centuries when hand tools were the only tools. Inspection of old furniture from these periods will commonly reveal old unfilled nail holes under the shelves where a fence was nailed on to guide the dado plane. There’s no need to fill the holes. They will be hidden from view in the finished piece.

  15. Bob, great bench. I work with hand tools a lot, and love all the holding techniques you cover in the video. One question, how long is the crochet you built? It looks to be about 14 to 16″ in length, but would like the know the length you used.



    • Hi Scott,
      The crochet is about 16″ long, made from 8/4 ash, and has an opening that will accomadate stock up to 2″ thick for edge planing.

    • Eh, about 30″. For me it could actually stand to be an inch or two shorter. I’m only 5’6″ though, with a very short inseam.

  16. Thanks Bob. I am 5’10”, and my bench is 35″, which I find is a good height. I also like the way you mount your bench against the wall, so your hand tools are within reach. You work is fantastic, and thanks for the podcast and Blogs.


  17. Bob, thanks for the great video series on bench building.
    I am preparing to build a Nicholson too.
    Do you have a drawing/blueprint for the crochet?
    or can you tell me/us the dimensions of it? (other than 16″ long, 2″ mouth)

    • Hi Carlos,
      I did a Sketchup drawing of the bench early on that you should be able to use for approximate dimensions for he crochet. You can find it in this post http://logancabinetshoppe.com/blog/2010/03/the-moxolson-workbench-my-next-big-thing/.

      The thing is, I really don’t use “plans” of any kind. Not that I don’t make drawings and sketches, but I don’t work to measured drawings. So it is very likely that the dimensions in the drawing are at least slightly different from what I actually did on the real thing. The Sketchup file should get you there though.

  18. Let’s see now. $20.00 for Popular Woodworking’s 20th century bench plans, $200.00 for enough hard maple to build it, $300.00 for the oak to build another one because I did such a poor job on the first one, $250.00 for the twin screw vice (Veritas if memory serves), $75.00 for the quick release vice and God only know how many hours. I didn’t need to buy either vice, I could have made Jigs, now called appliances, I did not have to spend $500.00 on what is now scrap lumber, I wasted time. No, that’s not true. I didn’t waste any time. I got an education from the tuition free School of Experience. Too borrow a pick up line, ” Where have you been all my (woodworking) life?”

    All this verbiage just to say a very big THANK YOU!!

    Now it’s time to build bench number 3 and put an ad on craigslist for bench number two. You’re right, by the way, oiled hard wood is very slick.

    • Nothing wrong with Bob Lang’s workbench. It’s heavy and sturdy and that’s about all that’s needed. Everything else is a compromise. To kill the slick surface you can just tooth the surface with a very fine toothing plane; the kind used for traditional veneering, not the ones sold by LN and LV, they’re different animals.

      Of course if you really want to build another bench, who am I to stop you :). This happens to be my third one as well, and after almost two years of hard use (I just resurfaced the top for the first time), I have no intentions of replacing this one.

  19. As a beginner with a similar budget I have been agonizing about installing a vise. Your wonderful series has convinced me to stop agonizing and find another way. Thank you, Bob, for a very enlightening and educational set of videos. Cheers.

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