Build the Torsion Box
1. Cut out the parts according to the Workbench
Cutting List, and the plywood cutting diagrams
(Fig. E). Cut the top and bottom
skins (A) to width on your tablesaw. Because this
skins are so long, we found it easier to rough-cut
them to length with a circular saw and then trim
them to final length with a router and straightedge,
rather than wrestling with them on our tablesaw.
2. In the skins, drill the screw holes that will be
used to attach them to frame boards (Fig. A).
3. Lay the bottom skin on a pair of plywood
I-beams (Photo 1) and glue and clamp on the outer
torsion-frame parts (B, C). The I-beams guarantee
that the parts clamp up flat (see “Working with
I-beams”). It’s OK to glue and clamp one
outer frame part to the skin at a time; just keep at
least one clamp at each corner of the skin to keep it
flat on the I-beams.
4. Cut the inner torsion-frame parts (D, E) to size
and use a dado blade to cut the bridle joints on your
tablesaw (Photo 2). Make sure to cut test joints first.
You want these joints to interlock perfectly, so the
parts line up flush on the top and bottom. You also
want them to go together smoothly. It’s better to have
joints that are a little loose rather than tight.
5. Screw the short inner torsion-frame parts (E)
to the long center one (D) with a screw at each bridle
6. Test-fit this grid assembly in the outer frame that’s
glued to the bottom skin (Photo 3). When you are satisfied
with the fit, predrill holes through the outer torsion
frame, glue the inner torsion-frame assembly to
the bottom skin and drive screws through the outer
frames into the ends of the inner frame parts.
7. Flip the assembly and add screws through the
bottom skin into the inner grid frame parts (Photo 4).
8. Now flip the torsion-box assembly back and glue
the vise screw blocks (F) in the front left corner of
the top (Fig. A).
9. Next, add the top skin with glue and screws.
10. Drill the access holes through the torsion box
(Fig A). Should you ever need to remove the top, you
can push a stick through these holes to lift it.
11. Cut the side trim boards (G, H) to final size.
Double-check the size of your torsion box and then
cut the trim boards to fit. Attach them with glue and
clamps (Photo 5). Use a biscuit at each corner to
help them line up. Note that the trim’s top edge stands 3/4 in. above the torsion box. This space provides
a recess for the work top (J).
12. Screw the work top into place (Photo 6). For a nice
finished look, counterbore the screw holes and add wood
plugs. Trim the plugs flush using a router, chisel or belt
sander. When the top gets worn and you want to flip it or
replace it, simply drill out the plugs and remove the
13. Now is good time to glue together the three parts
(L) for the vise jaw. When the glue has dried, drill the
holes through which the vise will fit (Fig. B).
Build the Base Cabinets
14. Cut out the sides, top and bottom, and back (M,
N, P) for the base cabinets. Add iron-on edge banding to
the front edge of Parts M and N (see the Workbench
Cutting List and “Iron-on Edge Banding,” AW
#113, March 2005).
15. Cut slots for biscuits in the cabinet parts (Fig. A).
16. Because these cabinets are only 10-1/2 in. inside
when complete, it’s easier to install the drawer slides
(see Sources) before the cabinets are assembled.
Spacers (DD, EE, FF) simplify the job of positioning
the slides (Photo 7).
17. Assemble the cabinets with biscuits, glue the cabinets
and install levelers (Photo 8).
Assemble, Install the Drawers
18. Cut out the drawer boxes’ parts (V through CC)
and assemble them with biscuits and glue. Screw on the
remaining drawer-slide components and slide the drawer
boxes into the cabinets.
19. Cut out the filler front (Q, Fig. C, right), which fits
around the vise mechanism. Cut out the drawer fronts
and toe kicks (R, S, T, U). Apply iron-on edge banding to
20. Install the toe kicks first. Then add the drawer
fronts, starting at the bottom. Place a 1/8-in. spacer on
top of the toe kick. Set the bottom drawer front (T) on
top of the spacer. Attach the drawer front with a couple
drops of hot-melt glue and then add screws from inside
the drawer. You can scrape off the hot-melt glue when you
remove the drawer front for finishing. Reuse the spacer
and repeat this step for the rest of the drawer fronts.
Assemble the Bench, Add the Vise
21. Place the torsion box on top of the base cabinets.
The cabinets should be flush with the back of the torsion
box and set in 3/4 in. from the ends.
22. Remove the drawers and screw the cabinets to the
23. Install the vise mounting board (K) to the torsion
box’s bottom with screws and glue (Fig. D).
24. Mount the jaw to the vise mechanism and screw the
vise to the vise mounting board.
25. With the building complete, you can disassemble
the workbench, do a final sanding and then stain and varnish
26. When the finish has dried, reassemble the entire
workbench, level it and attach it to your shop wall by a
couple of L-brackets screwed to wall studs.
(Note: This information may have changed since this story's original publication date.)
Woodworkers Hardware, woodworkershardware.com, 800-383-0130, Workbench Hardware Kit, #KIT0601,
$75.72 (includes seven 9-7/8" stainless steel drawer pulls, seven
sets of drawer slides, eight cabinet levelers, two L-brackets and all
mounting screws; Nickel Plated Continuous Hinge, 2" x 72", #C112723, $13.26 each (3 required).
Woodcraft, woodcraft.com, 800-225-1153, Quick-Release Front Vise, #17A11, $215;
7/64" Self-Centering Hinge-Drilling Bit, #830810, $11.50; Large Wooden Vise Handle, #17E52, $7, 5-3/4" Stainless Steel Drawer Pull, #836227, $6.79 each (6 required); 4" Double Locking Swivel Caster, #141050, $20.50 each (6 required).
Home centers and hardware stores, Sash Lock, about $4 each (2 required).
Workbench Cutting List
Fig. A: Exploded View
Fig. B: Vise Jaw
Fig. C: Vise Filler Drawer Front
Fig. D: Vise Mounting Board
Fig. E: Plywood Diagrams
Rigid Top. This bench’s top is amazingly
strong, although it’s only plywood. The
secret is easy-to-build torsion-box construction.
Sturdy Vise. The front vise has a large
4-in.-tall by 15-in.-wide by 10-1/2-in.-deep
clamping capacity. The hardware comes
as a kit and you make the jaw to fit.
Replaceable Top. The bench’s top is
removable and reversible. If you ever
wear it out, drill out the screw plugs,
remove the screws and lift off the top by
pushing a stick through access holes in
the torsion box.
1. A torsion box is composed of two sheets of plywood, or
skins, separated by a frame. The first step is to glue the outer
frames to the bottom skin. Clamping the parts to a flat surface,
such as these wooden I-beams, guarantees that the top will turn
Working with I-Beams
2. Cut the bridle joints on the inner torsion-frame parts with a
dado blade. You can cut them as a group by clamping them
against an auxiliary fence on your miter gauge.
3. Test-fit the inner torsion-frame assembly. It should slip into
place using hand pressure only. Then remove it, add glue
and reinstall it. Hold it in place by adding screws through the
outer frame parts.
4. Flip the assembly and screw the bottom skin to the
inner torsion frame. Then flip it back and add the top
skin. Keep the torsion box clamped to the I-beams during
each step to ensure that it stays flat.
5. Glue the trim boards to the torsion box. Install them
flush with the torsion box’s bottom. This will create a
recess on the top side for the removable work top to fit into.
Make long clamps by joining short clamps with couplers.
6. Install the work top. Screw it to the torsion box and use
wooden plugs to hide the screws. The top should fit
loosely into the recess, so it’s easy to remove if you wish to
7. Use spacers to position the drawer slides for mounting to
the sides of the base cabinets. It’s best to mount the
slides before the cabinets are assembled, because it’s hard to
fit a cordless drill inside cabinets after they are put together.
8. Add levelers to the base cabinets if your shop floor is
uneven. These heavy-duty levelers are easily adjusted
from inside the cabinet through an access hole in the bottom.