I'm in the process of building a knockdown workbench, following the general design of a short bench (similar to roman bench seen here).

Most of these use dowel style legs, which I am not confident in my ability to make, and the number of legs also seems to vary from 4 to 8 legs. I'd like to avoid that complexity and use a single 4x4 for each leg instead.

The current connection to the workbench top is based on what amounts to a primitive sawhorse formed by a 2x4 running between two 4x4 legs, which slots into a dado on the underside of the table: Cutaway of the connection between the legs and top.

While I've run the dimensions through The Sagulator and the components themselves should ok past 1,000lbs, I'm unsure of how it will handle racking. For reference, these are the dimensions: 8ft x 20.5in with 16.5in legs

This is intended to be my main workbench, and will be used for all of my hand tool work. I've got a taller bench that's sturdy enough for working with my power tools (mostly limited to a corded drill and hand router). The tall workbench isn't heavy enough for working with hand tools, as I lose too much energy when working with the mallet and chisel. Based on my research on this type of bench, I'll be doing most of the work either sitting on the bench or standing with one foot on the floor and one knee on the bench, and will be generally closer to one of the ends than the middle.

This will probably see work for an hour or so a couple times a week in the evening, and longer on the weekends when I can swing the free time. I currently do mostly rough work, so the amount of planing will be minimal at first, though I expect that to increase as I get better (not much point to doing a lot of planing until the limit on how nice it looks stops being my skill deficit in other areas).

Additionally, my "workshop" is currently a covered back porch, so temperature and moisture control aren't really feasible.

For this to be stable, would the legs need a stretcher or other form of support?

  • 3
    Congrats on a thoroughly detailed Question but you have left out one important detail that I see, the type of work the bench is intended to withstand (how much it'll be used is also a factor). If this is purely or mainly for hand work and it would see a lot of planing then you would almost certainly benefit from adding something to increase rack resistance, a rule of thumb with benches being overbuild if at all possible.
    – Graphus
    Oct 25, 2018 at 6:51
  • @Graphus thanks for the feedback, I've updated the question with a description of the type of work I'm intending on doing.
    – Morgen
    Oct 25, 2018 at 15:40
  • @Graphus what direction would you be most concerned about racking?
    – Morgen
    Oct 25, 2018 at 15:48
  • 1
    On almost all benches and narrow ones especially the majority of planing is done side to side, not across the width. For me this is difficult to answer succinctly because I'd build something completely different. But for this the quality of the joinery is key, with nice tight joints you'll have much less racking than if there's even the smallest amount of play (literally 1mm total could be a problem). So one possible option is to build exactly as you now intend, then try it out and see how much racking there is and then IF needed add stiffness, e.g. rails (1x4s?) front and back.
    – Graphus
    Oct 26, 2018 at 4:29

1 Answer 1


This is intended to be my main workbench, and will be used for all of my hand tool work

A rock solid desk that doesn't shake or wobble would seem to be a requirement for hand tool work of any kind. It's the defining difference between a desk used to hold things, and a desk used to work on.

Your design has no support for lateral movement. When you apply repeated lateral forces the legs will start to wobble, and even if it is the smallest wobble it will be one that transfers to your hand tools.

My recommendation is to make the legs independent from the table top. They should stand in place firmly if there was no table top, and be strong enough to resist forces that would be applied via hand tools. This makes the table top a functional surface attached to a solid base.

One way of thinking about it is to picture yourself lifting on end of the table, and dragging it around the workplace. This places all the weight and stress on two legs. Will this weaken those legs? If just one leg starts to wobble the entire table is unsuitable for hand tools.

  • This makes sense. What would you recommend as a way to add lateral support?
    – Morgen
    Oct 25, 2018 at 16:26
  • The depends upon personal style and preference. The easiest design is to create a rectangle with the legs in each corner, and do this twice. One rectangle near the bottom of the legs, and another up higher. There are many other ways.
    – Reactgular
    Oct 25, 2018 at 16:45

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