Work Bench

So, I took the plunge and ordered my Northeaster Dory kit.  It is set to ship next week and I'm warning you all now that I will probably break some kind of record for number of question posts.  I've already notified Guinness. 

Question #1

How important is having a work bench for assembling these kits?  I'm organizing my garage and I've noticed I don't have one.  Originally, the plan was for me to build one using the free plans Lowe's offers online (  but costs are mounting and I'm looking to decrease my overall expenses.  Do you think a larger folding table would do?


If anyone has any insight or wisdom I would be greatly appreciative.  Thanks!


18 replies:

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RE: Work Bench

Idid my bench on the cheap..suggested in this forum last year.  I got 2 used hollow interior doors and mounted them on 4 saw horses.  I secured them to the saw horses and strapped the ends together.  Once the hull is together i took away the doors and use the saw horses with home made cradles to hold the kayak for the rest of the build.  I am almost done with a wood duck 12 hybrid. I have 2 coats of paint on the bottom, one more coat to do and then varnish the top and sides(probably 4 or 5coats).  The build has had very few surprises and this forum, the buiders support at CLC, and the excellent instruction book have really made the project enjoyable.  I also got the video from CLC--The Zen of Wooden Kayak building and watched it numerous times.

Check out my blog at


RE: Work Bench

I built my Jimmy Skiff in a one-car garage that left little cat-swinging room around the boat.  I got away with just building everything on top of the cardboard from the boxes the plywood shipped in.  When the time came to carve and varnish the mast and sprit, I set up some saw horses with scrap wood screwed to the top (couple-inch bits of dowel made cradles for the spars during varnishing), and tilted the hull on its side, wedging a dumbell under it to keep it from rolling upright.  By the time I got to steps that required fine carving, I had enough boat to be able to use the decks and thwarts as work benches, though I ended up doing some of the fine work inside the house.  Before any steps that I expected to drip paint or epoxy, I made sure that the floor was protected by the cardboard or plastic.  Drips that hit the floor: none; pieces left over after the build: the saw horses I'd used on the spars, and a scarfing jig I used to make the spar scarfs straight (also, buckets of paint and varnish, and about a boat-load of new tools I ended up buying---clamps are your friend!).

This might only be for the Jimmy Skiff, which has a broad, flat bottom and is pretty stable right side up, upside down, or on its side and shored up with a dumbell.  A round-bottomed boat may need more support.

RE: Work Bench

Here's what I did for my Wherry build. Ripped a 3/4" sheet of plywood down the middle the long way. Fastened the two short ends together with 2x4 and sheetrock screws. This gives you a 2x16 work surface. You can stiffen it up by screwing some 2x's to the back of it. Set it on 2 sawhorses and Bob's your uncle. You can set the whole thing on wheels like I did for mobility if needed. You really don't need much more than this. Mine was kinda flimsy and wavy, not really flat. Boat came out perfect. After the build I took the whole thing apart and used the lumber for other things. Have fun with your build.

RE: Work Bench

You will appreciate a suitable work bench and more for any build.

Like McCarty - I used a bit of construction grade 16mm plywood ripped lengthways, mounted it on a pair of 2" x 3"  rails which I supported and bolted to the side of the shed.  This gave me 16' which was not really long enogh for my CH18, but I managed.  Take a look in my gallery  you can see the bench in several of the early ones. 

I additinally used some straps to hang it from the roof and a couple of saw-horses as well.

At various stages, you will appreciate a bench, at other stages a bench is a hinderance - enjoy your build

RE: Work Bench

However you end up building your workbench I suggest you give some thought to how high you want the work surface to be.

For my first build, an Annapolis Wherry, my workbench was too low and my old back spent many uncomfortable hours wiring, sanding etc..  For a second build, a Paddle Board, I raised the work surface to a more comfortable level with much more satisfactory results.



RE: Work Bench

One more vote for plywood and 2x 4.  Built 2 tables 2x8 with 2x4 legs and a few scraps for diagonals.  Not having it shake when you are planing is very helpful.  Clamped them end to end until I got the long pieces glued and assembly started,  Then put the boat on one and used the other alongside for tools, wood, epoxy etc. I put the 2x4 framing of the top an 1 1/2 back from the edge so I could clamp things down along the edge as needed.  The same tables have now gone through many projects.  Shortened the legs when I needed something lower as the boat got taller.  Etc.

now on 3rd kayak on the same tables.  Put 1/8 masonite on top.  when it gets too beat up and full of glue drips etc. take it off and slap on a new piece.  Drilled a few holes in the middle when I needed to clamp something down elsewhere.  With plywood, who cares?

RE: Work Bench

It was probably my post that Rod saw, suggesting the use of flush doors on sawhorses. They are light weight, rigid, and have solid wood around the edges for clamping. You can easily screw into them to hold pieces in place. You can move them around easily to support curved pieces while planing edges. They are easy to store between projects. You can see photos of mine in use on my Shearwater, Merganser, and Ganymede pages at

RE: Work Bench

You guys have given me an idea. I plan to build a 19' Expedition kayak. I also have a commission to build some garden gates and I had planned to take a thick MDF or plywood sheet. Fit to to a 2x6 frame with legs so as I have a perfectly flat surface to work from. I have just thought, if I rip the 8x4 sheet length ways and make two tables. I'll make sure they finish up level and plumb. Then fit window latches to the ends and sides. In this way I can use this table 16x2 or 8x4. I agree with someone and make these tables fairly heavy as that will help with scraping and planing. Also, when I'm making the gates, I'll be making tennon joints so there will be some hammering. 


RE: Work Bench

Erik, I can tell you from experience that the plastic folding saw horses sold at Home Depot or Lowes will ultimately disappoint you.  I don't know the weight of the boat you are building but I will bet this experience will light the fire to build another which may be larger and heavier.

I am building a Skerry and started with the plastic saw horses and found the legs bending slightly making it impossible to level the thing.  I built two similar to the third one down at this site:  I used 2x4's and they work great and are rock solid.  You have the option of removing the cross piece at the top and using a webbed strap so you can twist and turn the hull as necessary without worrying about damage.

Whatever you use, make sure it is wood and solid.

RE: Work Bench


The only thing you really need any sort of workbench for on the dorry would be to glue up the panels and bulkheads which can be done on the floor of your garage. The workbench keeps you from bending over to the floor. After the panels are glued up you're going to need two sturdy, level sawhorses, about 30" high and 36" or so wide, to assemble the hull. Unless you really want to spend money on a workbench it's not necessary for this boat. (That being said, my workbench is 3/4" plywood ripped in half, 1x4 side and end rails, folding legs and a 2'x2' section that bolts on the end for boats longer than 16'.)

Have fun!

George K

RE: Work Bench

We did not use a workbench for our 2 Shearwaters currently in construction (they are canoes at this time), but sawhorses are great.  The top bars are removeable on the sawhorses and can be replaced with lashing straps which hold the hulls upright and steady.

RE: Work Bench

I am not familiar with the dory bur have built a couple of ch17's, a oneocean cirrus and currently nearing completion on a pax20 surfski. Haven't found the need for a workbench yet but couldn't do without sawhorses. the pax ski is currently on stands made from 4 saw horses, some carpet offcuts and some clamps. very sturdy for planing and sanding.



RE: Work Bench

Northern Tools has a very good work bench kit. 2x4 Basics Workbench Kit, Model# 90158.  Check it out.

RE: Work Bench

Since ThistleErik's initial post was in June of last year, I'll bet the work bench issue is solved!  For what its worth, my dory is abuilding in the back yard on two saw horses (covered of course).  I did string 2x4s across for gluing side panels together.  You really don't need much.  I plan on the lug rig and have really enjoyed the posts and the monograph on that.

RE: Work Bench

I concur on the workbench with hollow core doors - I picked mine up for $10 each at the local habitat for humanity restore. Cut off 6 inches on each side (due to workshop constraints, screwed them one on top of the other, with one 4 feet longer than the other - then added the sides (each cut in half) to the lower side.  Saw horse brace is screwed into top of the lower door.



          /\                                         /\      

     saw horse                            workmate

The open core area makes a great clamping surface for creating the longer strips and an important consideration for me - the whole workbench is light enough for me to move around.

RE: Work Bench

Here was my rather inexpensive but effective solution to a 16 foot long, perfectly level work bench to get started on my 18' Hybrid Night Heron. The type of reinforcement as you can see in the first picture underneath the two 4' x 8' boards plus two saw horses did actually hold up well.;postID=5300475732171518953

Once the S&G hull was completed I no longer needed the work bench but in the meantime it did the job very well.

Chris (Pittsburgh)

RE: Work Bench

Let me try the link again!

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