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Woodcarvers' Benches

Carving with gouges means holding the carving tool with both hands. Thus you need to hold the work itself securely in some other manner.

If you only carve one type of thing, then you only need one way of holding your work. Mostly, though, we carve a variety of shapes and sizes and 'one way' will not fit all. You need a repertoire of adaptable methods. The bench, the carver's 'workstation', is where it all starts. Here are some thoughts about my own benches, including the one I made 35 years ago...

In this lesson, I introduce you to ideas about the size and height of a carver's bench, and some of the features that increase its usefulness. Most carvers make their own bench. There are more ideas in my book, Elements of Woodcarving. 


| 24 June 2019 03:10

Dear Chris. I am tremendously enjoying the lessons in these series. They are fantastic. I am trying to build a simple work bench. I had a few questions.
1- In the 1st bench that you built what type of wood did you use for the top? How thick should it be? If I build a 36"x24", which side should be the overhang? and how much? would a 3 inch overhang suffice?

2- What is the pattern to the holes on the top for the dogs? How far apart? how many rows? I am planning to start with the practice board and low relief carving project that you teach. For this I am going to build a work board and use the fence and wedge technique that you talk about. So, I don't need to work with the dogs yet. Can the holes be placed later? Thank you

| 18 October 2016 13:06

Alejandro - You can certainly make your bench top out of glued up pine, though 2" thickness is enough, and it'll be great.

Sorry for the confusion. The issue was about the slot along the middle of my tilting bench, which let's me move work up and down when the bench top is upright. I don't have this slot in my benches that have fixed tiops, like the one you are making, only holes to take dogs or screws.
The thing is, the long slot weakens the top, which is not supported by any under-frame as it is when fixed like a usual benches; it's only held by the hinges. The way to strengthen the tilting top is to 'cleat' the ends - add wood ACROSS, like a table top. This makes construction much more complicated compared to simply gluing boards together.
So my thought was that if I used plywood, I could route in a slot with little loss of strength in the top and thus make the job much easier.

By the way, you don't NEED a tilting top to your bench, but it is useful to be able to hold panels more upright to get a better sense of the perspective. You could make a frame to clamp to the bench top when you need it...

| 17 October 2016 15:11

Sorry, I'm confused and about to make my own bench.

If I understand you correctly, you'd make a new bench with lumber and ply? Or only use ply if your top wasn't thick enough? Thick enough being 2"... yes?

I plan on making my benchtop out of 3" pine, for a top that's 36 x 24 x 3... yes?

| 16 October 2016 10:35

Marshall - You need a substantial hinge on a tilting bench; it's really the weakest point. I used a pair of heavy duty gate hinges on my bench, with the pintles facing each other

I made the work surface on my older bench from what I had to hand, cleating the ends like a table top.
If I was to make the bench again, I'd use 2", 50mm, plywood (or with sheets of good quality, thinner ply glued together the make the thickness if necessary) and route through the centre slot.

| 15 October 2016 14:47

Dear Chris,
In some of the videos, you show us that your newer bench has a hinge in it for large carvings like the Shirt or Solar Green Man. Is this hinge custom? I was also wondering how you made the work surface on your older bench.

Thank you in advance,

| 02 August 2016 11:48

Alejandro - Mmm, I think you are making that up! I store most of my tools in drawers - the metal, office stack that takes A4 paper is a good one. Mine is lined with cork.

As for benches when I travel, that travel is only for teaching purposes and there is always an adequate bench when I arrive. If you can get hold of a copy of my book, 'Woodcarving - Projects and Techniques' (GMC Publications) there are ideas for a portable bench in there that I used when I was demonstrating.
I have to say I don't know whether the book is out of print right now; I don't have copies myself.

| 27 July 2016 16:32

Last question(s?) on the subject... (I nearly promise)...

You mentioned a rack at one end, but now I can't find where you said that. Am I making that up? Or do you suggest some sort of extra storage?

Also, how do you deal with workbench issues when you travel? I'd like to have something for hotels or camping... Thoughts?

| 27 July 2016 16:08

Alejandro - Yes, except put the vice along the short (2') edge. That way you can also use it with dogs to hold relief work on the top - as you see I do in various projects on the site. I'm assuming you can work at either the long or short side, rather than have the bench tight against a wall.
You won't see this on WWtv but I often haul my bench around in the workshop to use one side or the other, or for better light - hard work when it's weighted!

| 26 July 2016 03:55

Chris, I think Ive got the idea of what you're describing...

a 3' x 2' top, with 30" x 18" x (elbow - top - 2 or 3 fingers) weighted base,
with hinge and end vise at 3' edge...


| 30 December 2013 18:51

Reginald - The newer looking bench is the Sj÷berg that I mention in the notes below the video. It's modelled on the one I made that features in my 'Elements' book.You only need one sturdy bench and it can be really simple: 3ft x 2ft (90 x 60cm) is a good surface size; a flat bench top - no 'well' in the middle; and with the top overhanging the horizontal rails (between the legs) by about 3" (75mm) for C/G clamps. Fit an end vice (rather than the carpenter's vice) and add holes for bench dogs. The height should be 2-3 finger widths below your elbow when you stand upright. Weight it so it doesn't move when you carve. That's it! See it as a 'work station' for other holding devices etc.

| 27 December 2013 05:32

Chris, you show two benches in the lesson, did you build the newer one or did you purchase it somewhere? Are there any plans out there for it? Would a bench like that be suitable for most carvings, or would you suggest that carvers acquire other types as well?

| 24 November 2012 12:48

Oscar - You'll find you'll have most use if you put the vice at the end that has the hinge.

| 24 November 2012 01:16


I just bought a 24"x36" 1.75" maple top to make a similar bench
as in your elements book and the sjoberg sumo carvers bench you
Show in the video Just one question, is the vise on the end
that pivots or the end that lifts up in the ai?


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