Canadian Woodworking

Carving Bench

Author: David Bruce Johnson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: December January 2007

The only way to effectively carve, while standing, is to use a bench.

Carving any sizeable project with hand tools can be physically demanding, especially if you’re like me, and you need to move around, and use your body for power. Carving while standing can be safe and comfortable, but doing so requires a sturdy and proportioned carving bench.

The most important considerations for a carving bench are weight, rigidity, and height. The bench featured in this article is fairly heavy, very rigid and specifically designed for my height. Best of all, this bench cost almost nothing, as it is constructed mainly from used hardwood flooring that I found at a local recycling store. Of course, you don’t have to use re-cycled flooring to make your bench – almost any hardwood will do.

Cross pieces notched

Establishing height of bench

Cut notches for legs

Drill holes to hold tools

Holes in top for clamps

Supports for bottom shelf

Place bottom cross on floor

Sit bottom shelf on cross

Fit legs onto bottom cross

Insert center cross into slots in legs

Sit center shelf in place

Slide legs into notches on both shelves

Sit top on legs

Insert threaded rods through holes

Tighten with lock washer, flat washer and nut on both ends

Attach bottom cross to legs with wood screws (pre-drill holes)


• All of the major components are layers of flooring; each layer is approximately ¾” thick. The legs and top are three boards thick. The center and bottom shelves are two boards thick. The cross pieces are single boards notched in the center, to form a stable ‘X’. The entire bench is held together firmly by threaded rods that cross under the top and bottom shelf.

Note: Holes drilled on opposing pairs of legs to accommodate the threaded rods should be spaced so as not to interfere with each other (i.e. ½” and 1″). The leg length should be chosen to have the bench top a few inches lower than your elbow. I am 6′ tall, so my bench is almost 38″ high.

• For the three layers (top and two shelves), first glue the tongue and groove flooring into panels. Then, join the panels using glue and wood screws. Cut the notches where the legs will join the top in two layers before attaching the third top layer. Cut the notches in the center and bottom shelves after the layers are joined. Drill as many ¾” holes in the top and center shelf as you like. Be sure to avoid the centerline diagonals because the two threaded rods that brace the legs will be underneath. The holes around the perimeter of the center shelf can be used as tool holders. The holes in the top also can be used to hold tools, but are more commonly used for clamps.

• To make the legs, I joined together three boards, then trimmed them to remove the tongues and grooves. That left approximately 2″ wide solid wood, with appropriate gaps for the cross pieces. The middle shelf rests on the center cross. The bottom shelf, however, sits on supports attached to the outsides of each leg, thus providing space for the threaded rod. The bottom cross extends wider than the legs to provide additional stability and is pinned to each leg with a wood screw.

There are many advantages to making this type of carving bench: it doesn’t take much floor space; you can walk around it; and you can access your carving easily from all sides.

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