Build A Carving Bench archive

Thursday 4 February 2010

Richard Davies shows you how to put together this wonderful workbench suitable for all your carving needs


Being fairly new to woodcarving, and not knowing what type of carving I would prefer in the long term, I wanted a bench that could be used for large and small work for both in the round and relief. The height was worked out using the guide explained in Chris Pye's book, Woodcarving: Tools, Materials & Equipment, Volume 2. I noticed that the Swiss carving benches used a sliding table on a vertical board, however, when I saw a carving vice attached to a steel post, this gave me the idea to have a two-screw heavy vice that would allow nearly 180 degree movements and then linked to the ball movement of a carving vice, providing a very large combination of positions.

The next problem was to support the carving vice and steel post. If the vice screws could be moved up and down then I could accommodate different lengths of wood. Five hole positions give a fair amount of variation in height.

For working on relief carvings, the benchtop can be used, and with Veritas dogs and a vice with dog holes in the travelling jaw, would, with a good spread of holes across the bench top, allow for holding most flat work.


For the construction, I wanted a bench that was heavy enough to support substantial pieces of wood, so this meant a good size and plenty of weight, but small enough to be moved through standard door openings when dismantled.

Vice parts were available from Axminster Tool Centre and ideally I wanted to use dried beech

(Fagus sylvatica), but a local sawmill had some kiln dried sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), about 45mm thick. I wanted the top to be 70mm thick when finished, so this meant laminating with biscuits.


The legs were made as two sets joined by wide boards to help prevent a rocking movement, and secured with bed nuts and bolts.

The two leg sets were made with a large connecting rail fixed by pegged mortise and tenon joints.

The top of each leg is marked into four on the end and cut down 70mm. The waist is then removed to allow the legs to support the top and be flush with the sides. The bench is next assembled, checked for height, and the holes drilled to secure the legs with counter-sunk coach-bolts.

Top vice

Having created all the main bench parts and dry fitted each part, the top vice can be fitted; this involves positioning the vice mechanism on the underside of the bench top, marking the holes in the skirt for the guide rods and the screw. When drilling the holes, allow room for the wood to move, so not too tight. Use these holes to act as a template for the running vice jaw by positioning the jaw in the correct place and marking through the existing holes. Complete the vice assembly. Note the dog holes can be drilled when the bench is finished and you have an idea where you want the holes and the diameter, depending on what dogs you will use.

Side vice

I find the side vice most used. It has two thick boards held at the bottom by a loose mortise and tenon in the bottom rail, and a coach-bolt through the bench top skirt at the top (the loose mortise and tenon allows for easy dismantling).

To accommodate the vice screws, both boards are drilled with 5 holes of 30mm diameter at 125mm centres. 125mm gives space at the bottom for bench height adjustment.

The fixed vice nut is counter sunk into a board at the back which is laminated onto the retaining dado board. As with the other vice, use the 30mm holes as a template for the running vice jaw.

In order to hold the 50mm square bar that I use as a base for my carving vice, I developed a pressure limiter; this has an off centre spacer which allows it to be positioned between the vice screws. A rebate 2mm less than the thickness of the bar gives sufficient pressure. On this one, I have a vertical cutout and a continuous cutout at one end, thus giving both vertical hold and sideways hold.

Finishing touches

The top of the bench can be drilled for dogs, as can the top vice. A number of devices are available but I have used Veritas round dogs which I find are easier to fit than the square dogs.

A shelf can be fitted over the bottom rails either as an extra storage space, or to accommodate extra weight. As yet, I have not needed any extra weight as the bench needs two people to easily lift it.

Woodworkers Institute

Tagged In:

Richard Davies , woodcarving workbench

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Workbench size
Height 1050 x 770 x 770mm
The height should be adjusted to suit the person using the bench

Cutting And Equipment List

Suitable hardwood:
Beech (Fagus sylvatica),
Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)
Dried to about 9 percent moisture, particularly if the bench is to be used in a centrally heated room
Cutting list
Legs (4): 90 x 90 x 980mm
Side rails (2): 90 x 90 x 680mm
Side stretchers (2): 45 x 120 x 640mm
Infill (15): 46 x 70 x 680mm glued together with biscuits to form a square 680 x 680mm
Surrounding skirt (4): 140 x 45 x 770mm
Side vice
Support legs (2): 120 x 90 x 750mm with 5 x 30mm holes at 120mm centres starting 60mm from the top
Front Vice plate (1): 45 x 120 x 770mm
Back plate (1): 80 x 120 x 770mm
Infill runner (1): 90 x 120 x 375mm and a 35 x 20mm slot
Vice handles (1): 28mm diameter hardwood brush handle cut to length as required. Make turned knobs for handle ends
Shelf (1): 18 x 770 x 770mm cut to fit
Note: all sizes are finished dimensions unless stated

Tools You Will Need

York quick release vice guide 1 x 310mm
York tail vice screws 2 x 535mm
Axminster bed bolt nuts 4 x M12
Bolts with washers 4 x 200mm M12
Coach bolts with nuts and washer 6 x 100mm M10
Screw bolts 7 x 50mm No.12
Screws 12 x 30mm No.12
Optional Equipment
Veritas Surface Clamp x 1
Veritas Dogs x 4
Veritas Wonder Pups x 2

Diagrams Click an image to enlarge