Setting Up a Wood Workshop with Limited Space – Part IV – The Workbench

Site & Workshop

Woodworking is full of rabbit holes – metaphorically speaking.  


Rabbit holes are topics that are mildly interesting to most people but that become obsessions for others.  


Some examples of well-known woodworking rabbit holes are: 

  • Period furniture 
  • Kumiko 
  • Sharpening (see our video dealing with this here
  • And workbenches! 


Some woodworkers are obsessed with workbenches. You’ll find the internet is filled with material on historic workbench design, as well as Youtube videos covering workbench builds - this makes it hard to know where to start.  

So, let’s get back to the fundamentals.  

At its most basic, a workbench is a flat, sturdy work surface, with some provision for work holding. At its most elaborate, it is a complicated behemoth with drawers, cupboards, multiple vices, power outlets, cupholders…you get the picture. 

Your workbench is going to be the focal point of your workshop and its design should reflect the kind of work you plan to do, the space it will live in, and your physical characteristics. You can build your own workbench, or you can buy one in kit like our Benchcrafted Roubo Split Top Bench Kits, or in finished form. Regardless, the following considerations apply equally.  


Sit or stand?

Most woodworkers will  stand at their benches, because planning, sawing, chisel work and so on are usually standing operations. But if you are planning on doing intricate, small projects like model ships, then a seated bench will provide more comfort for long periods of concentration.  


High or low?

Are you tall or short, or somewhere in between? Your workbench should be comfortable for your height. Some people recommend that your bench should be the height of your belt buckle. This is probably not a good rule of thumb if you wear high-waisted pants – or if middle-aged spread is pushing your belt ever lower!  



We tend to recommend a softer timber for the top of a workbench. Aussie hardwoods look cool and last a long time, but in most cases you will want a top that is softer than the material you tend to work with. If you drop a nearly-finished project on the corner of your bench, it’s preferable that the bench is damaged rather than the project. Don’t ask us how we know that. 



In case you were worried we were going to start moralising – a woodworking vice is not a bad habit! It’s a mechanical work holder that is essential to your bench.  A tiny jeweller’s vice won’t hold a table leg, so the vice(s) you choose should be appropriate for the work you intend to do.  Check out our guide to vices here.


Some workbenches include drawers or cupboards. These add convenience, but also complexity. If you have limited storage around the workshop, adding storage to your bench can really help optimise your space.   



Will you need to move the bench regularly? Castors add mobility but can introduce unwanted movement, even when locked. Side-mount castors that flip up and allow the bench leg to rest on the ground are ideal.  

It’s unlikely that any two woodworkers will find perfection in the same workbench. Every bench is different, just as every woodworker is different. So – take the time to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. With the right workbench, you’ll find that the time you spend woodworking will be more productive, and more enjoyable!   


Click here for Part I - Workflow and Layout 

Click here for Part II – Lighting, Electrical and Extraction

Click here for Part III - Storage