Be Picky When Considering Workbenches

A good one does more than make your task easier. It keeps you safe.

Photo by Shaffer Smith Photography
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A workbench is an essential fixture for any job site or workshop. Portable or permanent, equipped with drawers, vises, or drafting-table tilt top, a bench not only helps work go faster and more accurately, it also keeps you safe.

"I very seldom work with something that's not clamped to the bench," says Norm Abram, This Old House master carpenter.

"You can't be accurate when you're squatting on the floor, and you're going to get hurt holding something in one hand and cutting with the other. It's really worth the effort to set up a bench, and it doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate."

Workbenches come in all shapes in sizes: Small, foldable ones can travel from job to job, while heavy, furniture-like pieces with drawers and cabinets become a permanent fixture in the workshop. Most permanent benches have standard tops set near counter height (36 inches), which will suit a lot of different projects. But adjustable benches are handy if you want to tailor them to your own height and the tools you're working with.

It's best to test out any bench in the store to see what feels most comfortable for your size and working habits. But with any of the ones shown here — plus several heavy-duty clamps to hold materials to them — you'll have a safe and convenient place to get the job done.

A workbench is an essential fixture for any job site or workshop. Portable or permanent, equipped with drawers, vises, or drafting-table tilt top, a bench not only helps work go faster and more accurately, it also keeps you safe.

"I very seldom work with something that's not clamped to the bench," says Norm Abram, This Old House master carpenter.

"You can't be accurate when you're squatting on the floor, and you're going to get hurt holding something in one hand and cutting with the other. It's really worth the effort to set up a bench, and it doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate."

Workbenches come in all shapes in sizes: Small, foldable ones can travel from job to job, while heavy, furniture-like pieces with drawers and cabinets become a permanent fixture in the workshop. Most permanent benches have standard tops set near counter height (36 inches), which will suit a lot of different projects. But adjustable benches are handy if you want to tailor them to your own height and the tools you're working with.

It's best to test out any bench in the store to see what feels most comfortable for your size and working habits. But with any of the ones shown here — plus several heavy-duty clamps to hold materials to them — you'll have a safe and convenient place to get the job done.

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Portable

 

Portable

Crawford #90 portable sawhorse
Photo by William A. Boyd
Simple: Sawhorses
BEST FOR: Job-site carpentry, cutting down moldings and trim, wallpapering, and other messy jobs.
LOOK FOR: Folding heavy plastic or sturdy wood supports with wide tops. Or make your own sawhorses with inexpensive brackets and leftover lumber. Top with a sheet of plywood, several 2x8 planks, or an old door to complete the bench. Add a third sawhorse for center support if needed.
SHOWN: Crawford #90 heavy plastic brackets, $8 a pair, with 2x6 tops, 2x4 legs, and ¾-inch plywood.
A portable workbench travels with you wherever you need it. About $100 buys a fold-up work center with a top around 2 feet by 3 feet, good for mixing paint, pasting wallpaper, setting up tools, and cutting lumber. Says Norm, "I like a great big table made simply from a sheet of ¾-inch plywood on a pair of sawhorses, but I've seen some of the guys work great with a folding bench."







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Permanent

 

Permanent

Wolfcraft 6135 Work Center Pro adjustable workstand
Mid-range: Adjustable workstand
BEST FOR: Drawing and layout, smaller carpentry projects (cabinet and trim installation), and cutting tile.
LOOK FOR: Folding stand, top that tilts and slides up and down (to hold cabinets during installation), clamping system.
SHOWN: Wolfcraft 6135 Work Center Pro, $80.
A permanent workbench is a sturdier alternative to portable benches, weighing up to a couple of hundred pounds. It should measure at least 2 feet by 5 feet and can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000 or more, depending on size and construction. The better ones include drawers and cabinets, so tools and materials are always at hand. It can go in the middle of the shop so you can walk around it for woodworking, or up against a wall for general storage and projects.







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Where to Find It

 

Where to Find It

Adjustable workstation: Black & Decker Workmate WM425 Project Center
High-end: Adjustable workstation
Best for: Bigger carpentry projects, general woodworking, small furniture repair and refinishing, painting, and product assembly.
Look for: Folding metal stand with variable-height top that lowers to sawhorse level, built-in vise, clamping system.
Shown: Black & Decker Workmate WM425 Project Center, $100.
Opener —
Workmate #WM425
Black & Decker
800-544-6986
www.blackanddecker.com

Portable —
Sawhorses:
Crawford Double Duty Sawhorse Brackets #90
The Lehigh Group
610-966-9702
www.lehighgroup.com

Workstand:
#6135 Work Center Pro
Wolfcraft
630-773-4777
www.wolfcraft.com

Also sold under Craftsman brand as the Height Adjustable Clamping Table
#65796
800-549-4505 www.craftsman.com

Workstation:
Workmate #WM425
Black & Decker

Permanent —
Homemade:
Model #RTC24
Simpson Strong-Tie Connectors
800-999-5099
www.strongtie.com

Storage bench:
Model #65978
Craftsman

Woodworker's bench:
Traditional Storage Workbench #88A0201
Garrett Wade
800-221-2942
www.garrettewade.com
 
 

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