Moravian Workbench, SketchUp, Workbench, Workshop
Comments 16

Planning For My Moravian Workbench

After taking a short break from woodworking, mostly so I can get my yard in some sort of presentable shape (and I’m not finished with the yard, more work to do, sigh), I am starting to seriously think about my next project, a new workbench. In typical fashion, I have been on a super slow shop renovation that will mostly conclude with this new workbench. Past shop updates include a new router table and a new miter saw stand both from 2013, a removable panelled shop wall which serves as a backdrop for my woodworking photos completed in the Spring of 2014, and then the recently completed tool cabinet. Other projects have been completed (like this one and this one) as this series of shop updates have come to fruition which has impacted by shop upgrade schedule.

Finally though, this project is at hand. I say “finally” because I first announced my desire for a new bench in 2014; see the post here and the follow-up post here. In these two posts, I discuss Roubo and Nicholson bench designs. But it is the second post where I discover the Moravian workbench. I attribute Chris Schwarz with bringing this design to my attention. At his blog, he featured a Moravian workbench built by Will Myers; a design which immediately caught my attention (see the Lost Art Press blog post here). I like this design because it is historic; at six feet in length it is smallish, perfectly fitting my available workshop space. And it is also moderately easy to build, but does have through tenons and dovetail joinery in the legs; joinery I have not attempted in a long time.

My version of Myer’s Moravian design will differ in a few ways…

  • No leg vise; a metal front vise will take its place
  • No tool tray in the bench top; I will use a split top design
  • No wagon vise; I’ll use a modern Veritas inset vise
  • I’ll add storage via a modern looking cabinet

The image above shows the working design which has been in place for a number of years. But with final planning comes changes. I have begun to source the workbench accessories: the front vise, end vise and at least one hold-down. I want to do this to ensure what has been designed in SketchUp is in fact doable and proper in the real world. For example, I think I have allowed enough room for the vises and enough space between the bench top and the tool cabinet for the hold fast. To make certain these items will work as designed, I prefer to have them in hand so I can verify my design will work.

I purchased a Veritas Hold-Down at my local Woodcraft store, the first item purchased for this bench. I have also purchased the Veritas Inset Vise. I have yet to purchase the front vise due to the cost of my preferred option: a Veritas Quick-Release Front Vise. With the hold-down and inset vise purchased, I have already racked up about $200.00 in cost. The front vise has a price tag of $319.00. So, if I go with that option, the initial cost of the workbench will be more than $500.00 without me buying a single piece of lumber. When I told my wife how much the front vise costs, I got a strong comment in reply; something I won’t share here. 😮

There are less expensive options for a front vise. I have looked at the Woodcraft 10 inch Quick Release Vise (similar to this one) which is on sale for $119.00; a good option and I like the idea of supporting my local Woodcraft when I can, but I really want all my bench hardware to be Veritas.

Here is the current design...

The bench shown in red oak (base) and ash (bench top).

Top down view shows the split top.

The drawer depth will be half the cabinet depth. Back view shows six additional drawers.

The Veritas Inset Vise. Dog hole spacing is an estimate for now.

Open cabinet doors reveals extra deep storage space.

I will have to modify the design of the “gap stop” which is the item in the middle of the workbench top. The front vise will interfere with the left opening of the gap stop, so I suspect, I’ll just fill the first opening with wood.

I still don’t have the wood selection finalized. The illustrations above show an ash bench top and a base made of red oak. The cabinet will be plywood. Ash and red oak was suggested by David Traylor, owner of City Hardwoods in Birmingham. Red oak for weight and ash since it is durable and according to David, easy to work with. But, this lumber choice will likely be too expensive. The Will Myers Moravian workbench was made of what appears to be pine for the base and a second wood for the top which looks like a slab of cherry. I am thinking that the base will be pine and the top will be a wood of contrasting color. Money is an issue now since we are in the early stages of a major master bath renovation which will cost thousands of dollars. So I’m not sure how the cost of lumber will be worked out.

Also not decided is the front vise. I am still thinking about the Veritas Quick Release Front Vise, but the cost is high and the Woodcraft 10 inch front vise is on sale. We will see.

The goal this coming week will be to make the vise selection and choose the lumber species. Construction is still two weeks away since next weekend Jeff Miller will be teaching a chair making class at the Alabama Woodworker’s Guild, an all-weekend class. So a lot going on, but I am excited to say that construction on the workbench is getting close. 🙂


  1. As someone with an ash workbench, I implore you to try and get wider boards. It’s tough and dusty wood and you don’t want to waste a set of jointer or planner blades on all those laminations.

    • Thanks for your insight. It would make sense that ash would be tough. I likely would use the tools at the Alabama Woodworkers Guild which has a helical cutter head big jointer. So I hope that is tough enough. Have you had to flatten your workbench? Just wondering how ash is to flatten with a hand plane.

  2. I’ve flattened it twice since I made it. Not significant but I added the back section and if needed it. The wood was at 30% when I bought it. Have you looked at Horizon’s kiln dried ash package?

  3. Ralph Brunjes says

    I like your design and would love to go ahead and make one as I am missing one in my workshop.
    I may be stupid, but what is the split top design for?

    • Hey Ralph,

      I think I can safely say that the split top design was made popular by Marc Spagnuolo when he built a Roubo workbench with a split top several years ago as a Woodwhisper Guild project. It was a very popular build. See more below…

      I like the split top design because the cherry strip which runs down the center of my design can be removed allowing me to get a clamp in there and expand my clamping possibilities. But the two main reasons for it are as a planing stop of sorts…

      …and also as a place to store tool frequently used like chisels or a hand saw. This image shows a way tools can be organized…

      When not in the up position as seen in the second image, the gap stop is set flush to the bench surface as seen in the second photo.

  4. At least no one can accuse you of rushing into anything. LOL. The Moravian style seems like a great design. Personally I prefer a softwood bench top. SYP has served me well, just saying.

      • I try to keep an eye on the stacks. Usually I can get stuff that is pretty dry. If not, I let it sit in the shop for a while. A little hint…they rarely rotate the stock of the 2×12’s (too much work). The back bundle has usually been sitting for a while and is pretty dry.

  5. jefski says

    It’s going to be a great bench, thanks for sharing your ideas. FWIW, I’ve been using the more generic Lee Valley QR vise in the largest size for a year or so. Very happy with it.

    • Thanks for the info on the Lee Valley quick release vise. I have looked at that vise and it along with the Veritas will likely be too big. Both are still under consideration though.

  6. potomacker says

    I built a Moravian a few years back just as you plan with the Veritas inset vise. My one regret is that I should have set the metal surface below the wood top and not flush.

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