30 Minutes: Benched for the Day

30 minutes? Dress the top of your workbench.


You know you need to. It gets banged up, linseed oil slops on it, something slips and cuts it. Over time, it shifts slightly and you need to make certain it’s flat. You spilled coffee on it back in 2016.

Waaaaay back in 2011, I built the Roubo du Garage. It’s served well, and there are actually very, very few things I’d change if I were to do it over. But the top is looking its age. Well, it ain’t the dining room table… but it does take maintenance I was putting off.

Unscrew the (sometimes loved, sometimes hated) tool tray. Grab a plane and go to work. Starting (for me) with a Stanley Wood River #5. One or two strokes and I realized I had to touch the blade up. Back at work in under five minutes. Diagonal passes all down the length, reverse the angle, do it again. Remember that this is not fine work, and 2 3/8″ fine shavings aren’t the goal. Hog that stuff off.


Switch to a finer plane (Stanley #4, maybe… or in this case, my wooden smoothing plane) and start long passes straight down the top. The shavings will actually start to get progressively finer as it evens out. But still, it’s not a coffee table. Keep it moving.


Grab those ugly aluminum angles you use for winding sticks, and check occasionally to make sure you’re staying level.



Since you’re done for the day – especially since your arms are tired – give it a thick coat of boiled linseed oil and a wipe down before you shut the lights off. You’ll be glad when it’s over, but you’ll be really glad you did it when tomorrow comes.

  • Time: 28 minutes.
  • Cost: $0.00 USD.
  • Satisfaction: High.

Reflections on Pine:

Back when I built it, Chris Schwarz insisted on his blog and in the greatest of all workbench books that Southern Yellow Pine was stable, reasonably priced, and really, really tough.

I didn’t believe it. I though workbenches should be beech. Maybe rock maple. It was just a cost-driven decision for me.

I was very, very wrong. Damn, that stuff gets tougher over time. Do this with properly sharpened tools, or you’re in for a world of hurt.

Ross Henton

September 2019

One comment on “30 Minutes: Benched for the Day

  1. Bryan Layton says:

    I’ve always been a huge fan of Yellow Pine and never get tired of the versatility of a good 2×4 to make all sorts of projects. Good post!

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