During his career as an instructor Paul Sellers has made it a priority to make woodworking accessible to anyone who wants to learn the craft. He has done this through his online videos and books.
The workbench he built in this article is one of his time tested designs. It combines two mortise and tenon leg frames with aprons housed on them to provide excellent rigidity.
The Paul Sellers workbench is a time-tested design that has been used in Britain for centuries. It has a simple structure, consisting of two mortise and tenon leg frames, which are secured to an apron. The apron supports a thick laminated bench top. The structure is very sturdy, with a mechanical interlock that ensures it will not sway or move. It is designed to take a traditional cast iron quick-release vise, but can also be used without it. The bench top is made from 1 1/2” x 2 1/2” (38 x 63mm) spruce, but any studs or stock up to about 3″ in width would work. It is a good idea to plane the surfaces to make them as smooth as possible. You can also sand the edges of the legs and aprons, which are held to the frame.
The Paul Sellers workbench is an excellent example of a traditional European design, with haunched mortise and tenon leg frames and wide aprons. The thick laminated top is secured to the apron and a simple tool well is housed behind it. The structure also features housed dados, which provide considerable stability to the bench and give the aforementioned solid-top-to-floor interlocking. The book is a well-crafted, time-tested design that will please both beginners and seasoned woodworkers alike. The material and tools selection is also a major point of interest, as Sellers covers the materials and equipment most needed by the hand tool woodworker, including restoring and setting up older handplanes and other tools. The book is a great introduction to woodworking and includes a number of useful and practical tips.
Paul chose a simple design, and used time-tested joinery. The leg frames feature a pair of mortise and tenon joints. The aprons are built on top of this mechanical interlock, which provides excellent rigidity. The thick laminated top is secured to the apron, with a simple tool well behind it.
There are many other aspects of this workbench that make it an exceptional woodworking project, including the simplicity of its construction and the minimalist tools that Paul used. It also possesses the qualities that make it a good training project, namely, that it does not require dead-on accuracy and therefore is not as frustrating as other types of projects. In addition, it possesses the best attributes of a lifetime workbench – it is sturdy and can stand up to years of use and abuse by students. The best part about this workbench is that it will allow you to develop your woodworking skills and learn how to use the various tools you rely on in day-to-day work.
Finishes are a very important part of any woodworking project. They protect the wood and add an aesthetically pleasing appearance to the piece. Paul Sellers recommends using shellac, which is a traditional finishing product that is easy to apply.
In this video, Paul uses a brush to apply three coats of shellac to his workbench. He shows how to get an even finish and how to control the application of the product.
He then finishes the bench with a mixture of boiled linseed oil and linseed wax. This gives a natural yellowing to the wood that is very characteristic of old furniture. It does not provide as much protection as a lacquer or a built-up shellac finish but it is an easy and quick way to make your project look fantastic. A sanding and re-application of one or two coats should rejuvenate the wood. It is also very easy to repair damaged areas. You can also use a dye to add colour.