Who Says a Workbench isn’t a Piece of Fine Furniture?

Maple and cherry cabinetmaker's workbench

The workbench features a 3-in.-thick maple top and plenty of storage down below for my most cherished hand tools.

When most DIY homeowners think of a “workbench,” they picture an old door stretched out across a couple of crusty sawhorses in a basement. When a fine woodworker thinks of a bench, we picture a piece of oversize fine furniture. Some are graced with contrasting woods and exposed joinery, and others may even include decorative dovetail joinery and perhaps a bit of metal work thrown in for good measure. A workbench is often the first piece of furniture a potential client sees upon entering a shop. As such, it should serve to reflect the values and abilities of the craftsman.

Cherry drawer fronts featuring brass ring pulls

Cherry drawer fronts feature beautiful brass ring pulls that add a touch of distinctiveness to an otherwise utilitarian tool.

After a long wait for the perfect workbench, I’m happy to report that my next humidor, or any furniture project for that matter, will be built atop a maple bench complete with cherry drawer fronts and brass drawer pulls. All of my most important hand tools—including handplanes, chisels, squares, rulers, and more—fit into neatly organized drawer compartments. The bench weighs in at about 375 lbs (without loaded drawers), meaning I can handplane tough woods without having to worry about the bench wracking under stress.

When Workshops Were Beautiful

A tool cabinet inspired by Duncan Phyfe

Furniture maker Bill Crozier’s tool cabinet, which was featured in Fine Woodworking magazine, is typical of the cabinetry most artisan’s would construct in their youth and keep for a lifetime.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, woodworking shops were full of beautiful cabinetry, stout storage chests, and a romantic mystique that is often lost in today’s world of power-assisted woodworking. Most cabinetmakers would pour their hearts into the construction of a custom tool chest during their apprenticeships. These chests would follow them throughout their careers, indeed their lives. With any luck, this humble bench will serve in much the same manner. It will assist another woodworker long after I have departed this Earth. But at the end of the day, the signature on the underside of the bench top will still read “Gabriel, 2012.”