BUY A WORKBENCH (Option B)
Buying a workbench is a valid option for woodworkers who don’t have the time or are unsure about undertaking such a large project as a beginner.
If you’re new to woodworking, and have less time than money, then you may decide to buy your first workbench. Don’t let anyone give you a hard time. It’s just fine to buy a workbench. You can build one later on to earn your right-of-passage, if you want. However, there aren’t many good commercial workbenches on the market for woodworkers who want to use hand tools. I’ve done quite a bit of research on this, since I wanted to have one commercially-built workbench in my school (the other 9 are shop-built). Earlier in this article I showed different characteristics to look for when choosing a workbench design, and I used that criteria to narrow it down to a couple models, which I show below:
Sjoberg Elite 2500 Beech Workbench (built in Sweden)
I spent a good deal of time researching different commercial workbenches, and eventually settled on a European style workbench made by Sjobergs in Sweden. This Sjobergs is the only commercially-built workbench that I own. This workbench is completely made out of quality European beech wood. European Beech is a very sturdy and stable hardwood, and is very plentiful in Europe. Most historical wooden hand planes were made out of beech, so you know it’s quality lumber. This is the Sjobergs workbench model that I purchased several years ago (there’s a video about this bench at this link too). You can also find Sjobergs workbench models here at Highland Woodworking. It is 8 feet long with a 4″ thick beech top and beech base. The bench weighs in at over 300 lbs. The face and end vises are convenient and powerful. The bench top is flush with the legs, which is great for planing large boards. This is virtually the only commercial bench that I was able to find with this feature. I love tool trays (some people despise tool trays), but I also love having a workbench, like this, without a tool tray. There’s a wide, flat 24-inch wide surface of this Sjobergs workbench. The bench came with 1″ dog holes and metal bench dogs, and I drilled my own holes for holdfasts (see below). I actually purchased my workbench with an optional under cabinet, which is handy but not vital. It does add extra weight, stability, rigidity, and storage.
German Hofmann & Hammer Workbench
This large European-style “Hofmann & Hammer Premium German Workbench” is the workbench that Roy Underhill uses for his students at his Woodwright’s School: see it here at Highland Woodworking. I’ve used these workbenches quite a few times and really love the traditional-style vises.
It’s not as heavy or as rigid as the Sjobergs Elite 2500, but you can remedy that by placing bricks underneath the workbench undercarriage to weight it down. And it’s a lot less expensive than the Sjobergs bench, at around $1,500 (plus freight shipping). That’s not a bad deal.
Not many online retailers sell workbenches, but Highland Woodworking has a good selection of other traditional woodworking workbenches: here.
Buy Workbenches at eBay
You can also find quite a few workbenches to purchase (new and used) on eBay. Shipping is surprisingly affordable on some of these workbenches on eBay. Here’s some workbenches on eBay. Just make sure that it’s heavy and sturdy enough for your intended use.
Buy Workbenches at Amazon.com
Amazon now has a wide selection of workbenches. Many are flimsy, so make sure you use my above-advise to help you in choosing a workbench. Here are some workbenches and workbench accessories.
Buy Workbenches Locally
Every once in awhile I see nice antique workbenches listed for sale on Craigslist or other free classified ad websites. This is a nice option because you can go “test drive” the workbench before you buy it. However, be aware that most people that sell these workbenches locally are thinking of selling it as expensive decor for someone’s fancy house, so the price may be too high.