This Week in the Shop: The Split-Top Bench with Plans


This week in my home shop I finished up a new bench project I developed for class at Nova Labs in Reston, VA.  While simple in design and execution, it does involve the full suite of woodworking tools and a custom jig to complete.  This great intermediate project uses the Fab Five of a powered woodshop:  table saw, band saw, miter saw, jointer and planer.

starred-photos1I built the entirety of this project at Nova Labs, Inc using their woodworking tools.

Nova Labs is a membership-driven all-volunteer makerspace based in Reston, Virginia that was founded in 2011 with the purpose of empowering everyone to Rediscover the Joy of Making Things!

The current 10,500 sq. ft. facility located at 1916 Isaac Newton Sq West houses classrooms, workspace, incubator offices and a shop that includes both common tools and advanced fabrication equipment. Members enjoy 24-7 access and help co-manage our space by teaching classes, maintaining equipment, and promoting making in the community.

I cannot say enough good things about the membership and openness of the culture they have built up.  It’s rare to find a makerspace that has such a grassroots structure and active volunteer culture.

If you are interested in learning woodworking, you can join me in class in 2017.

Nova Labs members support a wide range of open source development projects that benefit both the local community and the world! Consider joining today to learn how and meet the people behind these projects!

The Split-Top Bench


The Bench:

2”x12”x6’ of untreated pine, found at most home centers.  Pick a board that is clear and straight.  Most centers sell these in 12’ lengths, so build two!

32 2” pocket hole screws, coarse thread.

4 #8 x 2” wood screws

The Jig:

6” x 36” section of 3/4” plywood

1”x2”x48” of scrap wood

Scrap wood for a wedge

Long, thin strip from a rip.

1 1/4” screws


Table saw

Miter saw

Band saw



Pocket hole jig



#8 Countersink Bit

Milling and Dimensioning:

1) Crosscut your stock to 36” lengths at the miter saw.  The entire bench can be made from two 36” long sections of 2”x12”.

2) Use the jointer to joint an edge flat on two sections.


3) Use the table saw to rip one 36” length into 2 pieces at 5” wide.  Then, use the jointer to face joint both work pieces.  These two sections become the split top.


4) Rip the remaining section into 1 1/4” wide strips.


5) Use a planer to thickness everything to 1 1/4”.dsc_2685

If you do not have access to a table saw and jointer, consider joining your local makerspace.  You can also get square dowels at your local home center or order online.  Substitute a 2”x6” for the two bench top sections.

Building the Planing Sled:

A planing  sled create the sloped seat slats with a few passes in the planer.  To create the sled:

1) Screw 1×2 strips around 3 edges of the plywood base as shown.dsc_2679

2) Place and fit a thin scrap against the edging.  This acts as a shim to raise one corner of the slat.dsc_2687

3) Put a top slat into the sled.  Tap the wedge into the end to secure the board.

4) Use the planer to plane the slats into it’s sloped shape. Go slow and check progress frequently.  Both pieces should as close to the same thickness as possible.

Constructing the Base:

1) Trim the 1 1/4” square dowels to length.dsc_2744

You need:

  • 4 lengths at 30”
  • 4 lengths at 18”
  • 4 lengths at 8 3/4”

2) Use the pocket hole jig and drill to drill two pocket holes in the 30” and 8 3/4” sections.dsc_2747

3) Assemble a base end with pocket hole screws.  Repeat for two base ends.

Its easier to assemble the short end first, into an H than the long sides first.

4) Assemble the base ends together with aprons & pocket hole screws.dsc_2759

5) Attach the middle struts with pocket hole screws.

Constructing the Slats:

1) Mark cut outs using the base as a template.

2) Cut out the slots with a band saw.


3) Drill pilot holes with countersink bit at top apron and middle struts.  Attach slats to base with #8 screws.


Sand and finish as desired.

This look can be achieved by:

1) Sand every surface through the increasing grits, 80 to 120 to 150 to 220, with a 1/4 palm or orbital sander.

2) Unassemble the slats from the base and sand any hard to reach parts.

3) Using a simple propane torch, scorch the base.

4) Clean all dust from the base and top slates with a vacuum, tack cloth or air hose.

5) Apply boiled linseed oil with a clean rag  to the base.

6) Reassemble the bench.

7) With a clean rag, apply boiled linseed oil to the top slats.

8) Let dry and cure.

Thank you for your continued support.

Thank you for visiting my blog.  To support for this site, please like WoodshopCowboy on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.  If you are interested in making and education, why not check out Work Notes, a curated set of Maker articles from the web, published every week?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s