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Woodworking Essentials: Benches & Boxes

Build three quick, easy projects you can use at home, in the workshop or as gifts. Along the way, get confident working with a chisel, handsaw, dovetail joints and more.
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Make a simple bench, a dovetail bench and a dovetail box as you discover a variety of small woodworking project ideas and techniques. Woodworking professional and instructor Mike Siemsen shows you how to sharpen a chisel and shares tips on proper usage. Next, find out how to construct a simple workbench top, and use effective hand-sawing techniques. Then, build a sturdy, simple bench with secure dado joints. Go step by step through building a more complex bench with snug, clean dovetails, and use a compass and coping saw to cut an impressive ogee design in your bench apron. For your box project, you'll create dovetails with an excellent fit, construct mortise hinges for the lid, add decorative hardware and finish your work with shellac. Enjoy making three useful, personalized projects as you build essential hand tool skills.


Mike Siemsen



Mike Siemsen is a lifelong woodworker. He has run his own cabinet and furniture shop, worked as a house carpenter, a restoration furniture maker on 18th century American furniture, and in millwork and fixture shops. Mike holds a B.S. in industrial education. He currently runs his own woodworking shop and teaches classes at Mike Siemsen's School of Woodworking.

By This Expert

Getting Started

01: Getting Started

Meet your instructor, professional woodworker Mike Siemsen, and preview the projects you'll make in this class. Mike shows you how to create a simple, inexpensive sharpening station with sandpaper and a piece of glass. Next, learn the proper steps for sharpening a chisel using your newly created sharpening station. Before beginning the first woodworking project, Mike constructs a simple work area, shares his tips for using a handsaw and chisel and discusses how to select quality materials from a long board.

31 min
Simple Bench

02: Simple Bench

Mike walks through the steps of creating the first project of the class, a simple bench, and shares his time-saving techniques and tips for measuring and cutting the leg pieces and the two aprons. Learn how to chisel dado joints and lay out and cut notches as you pick up advice for dealing with imperfections in the wood. After all the cuts have been made, assemble the bench and discover ways to improve upon the final product.

27 min
Dovetail Bench, Part One

03: Dovetail Bench, Part One

Apply the skills learned in Lesson 2 to create a dovetail bench. Learn how to prepare and mark the wood before making cuts, as well as the best technique for laying out and cutting tails and pins. Mike shares his time-saving trick for making a simple gauge with an index card. Finally, learn how to precisely lay out and cut pins using the dovetails you just created.

26 min
Dovetail Bench, Part Two

04: Dovetail Bench, Part Two

Finish your dovetail bench as you measure, mark and cut notches in the legs and apron. Next, learn how to test fit each of the pieces and, if necessary, make precise adjustments using a chisel and shims. See how Mike assembles all the pieces together, then makes final touch-ups with a sanding block.

22 min
Creative Options for Bench

05: Creative Options for Bench

Take your bench to the next level by adding a series of creative touches. First, Mike shows you how to create tapered legs with a handsaw. Then, see how to make an arched cutout at the bottom of the legs using a compass and coping saw. Learn how to lay out an ogee design on the apron and the legs. Finally, discover Mike's technique for taking a basic bench and adding storage and a hinged lid.

28 min
Dovetail Boxes

06: Dovetail Boxes

Continue practicing the techniques you've learned by building a dovetail box. Mike shares his time-saving tips for laying out and cutting dovetails and demonstrates how to use the dovetails to lay out the pins. Learn proper techniques for cutting out the pins using a handsaw and chisel. Assemble all the piece, make fine-tuning adjustments and finish the box as you attach a bottom and hinged top.

36 min
Decorative Options

07: Decorative Options

Add more personalized touches to your woodworking projects. Learn how to create a slightly different version of a dovetail box as Mike shows you how to make an alternate lid by sawing off the top of the box and mounting hinges to it. Then, explore the wide variety of decorative feet you can attach to your box, from doorknobs to baseballs to wooden blocks. Finally, Mike shares several finishing techniques and ideas for future projects.

15 min