Menushopping cart
Tools for Working Wood
Invest in your craft. Invest in yourself.

JOEL Joel's Blog



Bench-on-Bench 4A while ago I wrote a blog entry about sawing dovetails and the main jist of it was about sawing uphill to slice through the wood, not downhill into the endgrain which gives jerky cutting. The problem with this of course is that the average workbench is too low to saw a dovetail uphill unless you bend over and hunch. This of course is hard on the back. A solution can be found in Moxon's (and other early writers) double screw vise which Chris Schwarz has written about extensively.

Another issue with cutting dovetails and in fact any fine work is that as I get older I'm finding harder and harder to see anything. The Moxon vise solved the closeup problem for dovetailing but not for much else. A better solution can be found in in Jeff Miller's Bench-on-Bench which was first published in Fine Woodworking back in 2005.

Miller's solution gives you a small table to clamp your work vertically or horizontally and this greatly expands the use of the bench.

The Philadephia Furniture Workshop has taken the design further and added a camber to the jaw so that it's far easier to clamp something rock solid in the vise, and holdfast holes so that horizontal work is easily gripped and the holes can also also be used for dogs, screw clamps, etc. They also created a much simpler base for the bench to sit on, and it's easy to create several bases for work at different heights. The clamps are modified veneer screws which won't pinch your fingers. Read the full description (update: we currently stock hardware for the Moxon Vise only) along with a link to the instructions and a sketch for making a base.

As you can see in the picture the concept is pretty simple. The top is made of thick hard maple butcher block, and the whole assembly is very solid. In the picture above I'm using the bench to hold some wood while I demonstrate sawing for another blog entry. We use the bench a lot for fine work too and the holdfasts of course make clamping work to the top a snap.

One of our customers suggested another application which has become a personal favorite of mine. A lot of people don't use hand tools much. I know - it's hard to believe but they don't. They use power tools and some of them have lots of Festool tools. One really useful application of the Bench on Bench is as a hand-tool friendly accessory top for a Festool Multi-Function Table. The MFT tables are great for power tool usage but as a hand tool surface they aren't really set up very well. We use the Bench on Bench in concert with the MFT table because instead of the MFT table collecting junk while I do hand work, I get another useful workspace. It's also a great accessory for someone transitioning to traditional work, or for someone who only occasionally needs a tradition bench (at a nice height too).

PS- we are out of stock on holdfasts right now but we should have them back in a couple of weeks.
Join the conversation
02/10/2011 Fred West
Joel, that looks like a great idea for dovetails and I like the bench on bench idea with the Festool MFT. However, from the picture it looks too small for anything other than small planing and even then I would be worried about the movement with the MFT. I know that your blog was strictly about sawing but I was wondering how it worked with hand planing given my worries of above. Fred
02/10/2011 Steve
You say that you're demonstrating sawing in the photo, but it looks more like you're casting some kind of spell with your marking gauge. ;-)

02/11/2011 sandy lamovsky
i don't see a plan for the bench on bench on your website. if this in fact the case, would you please put a plan in your site
The link to the instructions is at the end of the production description. Here is a direct link:

04/05/2011 Jim Hackney
After seeing this piece about a month ago, I thought what a great idea. I went out to the shop to build mine. I had some 2" white oak left over from my workbench project and after a quick trip to my local Woodcraft store to pick up a coupla vise screws I had it made. I'll have to tell you I haven't taken if off my workbench since. I'm in the middle of a shaker kitchen hutch and what a joy it has been to work on joinery at this new higher level. Thank you for posting, my back thanks you too.
Comments are closed.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.