Jack Bench Designer, Charlie KocourekMy name is Charlie Kocourek. I live in in Fridley, Minnesota which is a suburb of Minneapolis. I have been woodworking for many years, and I have a shop in the basement of my home.

Several years ago I was doing some woodcarving and I thought about how nice it would be if I could adjust the height of my workbench. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.

I looked around for an adjustable height woodworking workbench, or at least workbench plans for one that I could build myself and was disappointed in what I found. The best I could find was one that required me to literally lift it up with no mechanical assistance, and it was expensive, too. Since my idea of a great workbench is one with lots of mass, the idea of having to pick it up to adjust it did not appeal to me at all.

I also wanted to be able to easily move my bench around the shop. I then began putting together a list of criteria for an ideal workbench.

  • Ability to adjust the workbench height. The adjustment must be very quick and easy because the reality is that if it isn’t quick and easy then it won’t get used.
  • Ability to move it around. Again, it must be quick and easy.
  • Great stability, my workbench can’t wobble or slide across the room when in use.
  • Tremendous versatility. I only have room for one workbench, so it must be an all-around bench that is good for hand work, power work, layout, carving, detail work, clamping, and assembly.
  • Ergonomics beyond the height adjustment; I wanted to be able to stand next to it without banging my feet into the base.

Then I started thinking about different ways to do this. For the next year or so I just rolled the idea around in my mind. I came up with many different ideas. Some were too complex, and some were too expensive. I kept coming back to the idea of using regular scissor jacks, like the ones for cars. They are inexpensive and readily available at any salvage yard or on Ebay. And they have plenty of mechanical advantage and plenty of lift.

Next, I got serious about the details of the workbench design. I worked out any problems with construction, materials, and with the operation of the bench.

I am a past president and active member of the Minnesota Woodworker’s Guild.   Every year the Guild has a woodworking show called the Northern Woods Exhibition.  I wanted to show off my design at the show. So, when I built the bench, I built it as a showpiece. I used mahogany, makore, cabinet grade plywood, and figured maple veneer. I then used dyes, glazes, and varnish for a finish.

Workbench on display at the Northern Woods Exhibition

Workbench on display at the Northern Woods Exhibition

The bench was a huge hit at the show. People loved it! I expected woodworkers to like it, but I was surprised by the response from non-woodworkers as well. Some people wanted to use it as a piece of furniture. One guy wanted to use it as a table in his game room. A couple talked about using it as a table at their cabin.

Honestly, I only set out to build the perfect bench for my own use. The overwhelming response I received from woodworkers was “I want one!” That is what led me to this web site.

I spent several months drawing up a set of plans that woodworkers of almost any skill level could use to build their own adjustable height workbench. Along the way I improved the design by simplifying it. The improved design is much easier to build than the original design. Also, the original design used an automotive jack for the mobile base. I have since discovered that the bench is much more stable and level when I move it around if I use a motorcycle jack for the mobile base.

I also realized that I would need help if I was going to publish a good, professional set of plans and instructions on how to build this bench. I turned my drawings over to a professional draftsman who put everything into a CAD program. He does nice work and the plans are really quite good! I also have a friend who is a mechanical engineer with several patents to his name. He reviewed all of the drawings and all of the instructions for accuracy and clarity. There is no way that the final plans could have turned out as good as they did without the help of David Root and Richard Tendick.

As I said above, I am a past President of the Minnesota Woodworkers Guild (2010-2013) I have also had the opportunity to appear with the Jack  Bench on Scott’s Phillip’s PBS show, American WoodshopCurrently, I am the Contributing Editor for the Woodworkers Guild of America and the Show Chairman of the Northern Woods Exhibition. 

I first learned woodworking from my father and others when I was very young. I have since trained with some amazing woodworkers including; David MarksDavid OrthScott GroveFrank KlauszSeth RollandJeff JewittPaul SchurchDon WilliamsThomas StangelandPhilip Lowe, and Graham Blackburn. I have also had Hands-On Studies of a week or more with; Thomas Schrunk and Michael Fortune for Veneering techniques, Mark Laub for furniture design, construction, and embellishments, Mark Laub and Fred Cogelow for woodcarving, Mitch Kohanek for wood finishing, and Tom Casper for hand tool techniques.

I was happy and a bit surprised to win not one, but two awards for the blog on my website.

I want to thank you for visiting my site. Please feel free to send me an email if you have any questions. I would be happy to hear from you!

Thanks, Charlie