View Full Version : Workbench dilemma (new shop)

dan s
07-03-2007, 03:26 PM
So I have finally moved into a new place, and my shop has effectively doubled in size. Sadly during the move I had to leave my old built-in (a costly mistake) work bench behind. In the future I would like to avoid the costly mistake of building a built-in bench.

Thus I have been shopping for a bolt together bench that I can take with me something around 72w x 24d x 42h. I have seen several that I like, but they are ridiculously priced in my opinion, and not high enough. They want $450 for this sears model.


I donít have any welding equipment, or tools to cut steel tubing to length (except a hacksaw). But I think if I could get the parts cut to length I could figure out a way to hold them all together without welding. A buddy of mine says you can use a fiber reinforced disk in a miter saw to cut tubing. Anyone ever tried this?

Should I try the home grown bench or just break down and buy one (actually I need 2)?

Mike Burdick
07-03-2007, 03:40 PM

Maybe it's time you invest in a welder...

You can get a 225 Amp Lincoln, Miller, or other AC stick welder for very little and it will do the job just fine. As for cutting the tube...a hacksaw will do that too. Sure a bandsaw would be easier but if you don't have one...

And Yes, if you don't want to get the welder, bolting it together will be just fine too. Even if you do weld it, some of it should be bolted anyway - for portability sake. You don't want to leave these behind like you had to do with your old ones!:)

If you still want to buy one don't just look at Sears... There are many much nicer work benches out there - try farm suppliers in your area. They usually sell some heavy duty ones, at least they do in my area.

07-03-2007, 03:54 PM
Here is what I did recently. I used one Gorilla rack kit of 48" x 16" shelves and turned it into a workbench. No modification of the Gorilla rack is required and all parts are bolted together. It has a top of 3/4" plywood covered in 1/8 sheet steel. You can have the steel cut to size when you buy it. The supports around the top are 1" x 1" angle iron and can be cut to size with a hacksaw and drilled with a hand drill. I bolted down the top to the plywood and the angle iron using flush socket head cap screws. I left the plywood very slightly oversize and then sanded it down to match the edge of the steel after assembly.

I forgot to mention that total cost was maybe $250 to $300.



07-03-2007, 04:06 PM
I bought one of these: http://www.grizzly.com/products/H2612 and then went to the lumber yard and bought a heavy duty solid core door to put on top. My time to assemble was next to zero, and all parts were off the shelf and rugged. No way I'd ever build another bench. The last scratch built bench was made with 4x6 cedar for the top and 2x4 and 4x4 for the base. Weighs a ton. The top is flat and perfect for gluing and clamping, though.

07-03-2007, 05:27 PM
The Sam's Club by me (Hodgkins, Il.) has one that looks identical to the one in your picture for $200.00. It looks to be powder coated with the wooden top?

Peter N
07-03-2007, 05:48 PM
Why not build one from extruded aluminium section - I think you call it 80/20 over there?
That's what I did just recently as I wanted a work surface higher than the standard size, and shaped to fit round the end walls of my small workshop.

It's a bit late to take a picture now, but I'll snap one tomorrow and post it here. This method worked out very well for my needs.


dan s
07-03-2007, 06:43 PM
The Sam's Club by me (Hodgkins, Il.) has one that looks identical to the one in your picture for $200.00. It looks to be powder coated with the wooden top?

that sounds about right, i will have to head over to Sam's club and check it out. THe one at sears is rated for 1000 lbs, so maybe in the future i could put my lathe on it (250 lbs).

dan s
07-03-2007, 06:45 PM
Why not build one from extruded aluminium section - I think you call it 80/20 over there?
That's what I did just recently as I wanted a work surface higher than the standard size, and shaped to fit round the end walls of my small workshop.

It's a bit late to take a picture now, but I'll snap one tomorrow and post it here. This method worked out very well for my needs.


Peter thats an interesting idea, what kind of load do you have on it?

Tin Falcon
07-03-2007, 07:27 PM
When I first started out I built a couple of benches out of scrap 2 bys. When I set up shop in the "Mud room" I purchased a pair of benches from sears 5 drawers on one side and a cabinet in the other I set them up spo the tops meet but there is about a 2 foot gap between the bases. IMHO you should have as many ball bearing drawers in a work bench as you can afford. A open bench tends to collect boxes of stuff that is hard to get to. Some open space is good for a shop vac or if you are building a bench to sit at you need leg room a welding bench needs room for the welder.

07-03-2007, 07:42 PM
When I built my bench, my thoughts were: SOLID, and cheap. I ended up bolting a 4x4 to the concrete wall using Star (brand) "Tamp-In" anchors for 3/8" bolts. The top of the bench is a piece of 3/4" plywood ripped the long way and stacked together and glued, producing a 1 1/2" x 2' x 8' top. I covered that with half a sheet of 1/4" tempered Masonite. Under the front edge, inset about 2", I bolted another 4x4, with 4x4 legs held by angle brackets. After 20+ years, it's still solid.

Regarding size, my thought was that for the stuff I do, I don't need a wide bench top, and 2' would be wide enough. That's turned out to be the case. (Your mileage may vary....)

07-03-2007, 09:31 PM
The reason nobody builds benches out of the 80/20 sections is that it is damn expensive. Evans idea is easily the most space efficient and cheap. Those gorilla racks are also available at Sams and they are cheap. Thats a lot of usable space.

I purchased some heavy duty legs from McMaster-Carr and bought two old very solid and very heavy doors from a surplus building materials place. I got some 1/8 plate sheared to fit and attached it to the top. So for less than $600 total I got two 3 x 7 benches that are extremely heavy duty. 1000lbs is no problem at all.

I do need some extra flat space (who doesn't) and I going to give Evan's setup a go. I think I am going to double up and build it a bit bigger though.

07-03-2007, 10:08 PM
The real sad part of the 80/20 stuff is the extruded aluminum rails are fairly priced, but the brackets, widgets, clips and hardware are priced as if they were diamond encrusted gold. At work we used it and they just enough of the hardware, and as notthing else will work, if your short parts, it doesn't get finished.


dan s
07-03-2007, 10:17 PM
Iím looking for an open work bench, because as with most people my shop is the garage. With an open bench I can wheel my table say, tool chest, bandsaw (when I get one) back under out of the way.

07-03-2007, 11:40 PM
Look at steel machine tables in McMaster-Carr. surprisingly cheap. The modular-component work tables from Grainger aren't bad either.

I scored a lot of the more swanky and deluxe version of 80/20, Parker-Hannefin Parframe in 40x40 and 40x80mm cross sections and a crate of all the various fittings from a failed biotech company I once toiled for. A friend gifted me a nearly 3" thick 67" x 56" rock maple butcherblock top out of a high school shop that was being remodled. It weighs 275#, easily.

The maple and Parframe are going to comprise my ultimate workbench once I finally get a new garage slab poured. I'm practically salivating at the thought of having a huge immovable work surface that won't get wobbly when you assemble a British Leyland A engine on it.

07-04-2007, 12:47 AM
A buddy of mine says you can use a fiber reinforced disk in a miter saw to cut tubing. Anyone ever tried this?


I've used an abrasive disk in an old circular-saw to cut all sorts of sheet stock. I've also used those disks in dedicated metal chop-saws. I can only imagine that using it in a miter saw would work. However, I do have a few words of advise:

First: make sure that the saw's speed is lower than the maximum rated speed for the blade. I've seen those blades blow up, and it's not pretty.

Second: the abrasive dust and metal flakes that result when using these blades will really kill a good tool in a hurry. If you do choose to try this, make sure to clean the saw really well afterwards. The dust and debris can get into the motor and gearing and really screw up the saw.

Would I use my miter saw for cutting metal? Probably not. Is it do-able? Probably.

07-04-2007, 01:36 AM
A few odd thoughts:

1) Yes, there are abrasive disks that will work, but most of the "newer" woodworking saws have plastic parts that will melt from the sparks. Also make sure that you have cleaned out the sawdust! Also, most people use a woodsaw without clamping the stock, and many of the factory add-on clamps don't hold "slick" metal. Having said that, I have cut 1/8" or so steel "this way", but it is less than ideal. If you are cutting non-ferrous metals, you can get a blade designed for this work.

2) The "cheapest", "sturdiest", "easist" to move bench can be made from used pallet racks. The "problem" is finding used pallet rack, with scrap prices being high, it tends to go there; instead of being "offered" in the newspaper. My shop benches are an unholy clustering of other peoples cast off items and "discontinued overstock". None of them have collapsed yet, but I have to stop stacking stuff when it hits the ceiling.

07-04-2007, 02:29 AM
I've seen those blades blow up, and it's not pretty.

The type of blade used for cutting sheet stock is commonly called a zip cut wheel. They don't so much blow up as they disappear into fine shreds. You can buy such wheels designed for use in a circular saw so I see no reason why they won't work in any other saw.

This is what happens when you push a large zip cut too far. I was flexing it heavily in an angle grinder when it simply evaporated the middle third of the wheel. No pieces other than in this pic remained to be found and it didn't pose any obvious hazard as it didn't throw off large chunks.


07-04-2007, 03:44 AM
Here is another workbench I built a year or two ago. This one is all wood with melamine finish mdf and lumber. I use this bench mainly for electrical work. It's strong enough to park a car on.



Peter N
07-04-2007, 05:04 AM
Here are some pictures of the aluminium framed bench in my workshop.

The size is 74" long on the right hand wall, the span across the back wall is 8ft, and the length on the L/H side is 60".
Height from the floor to the work surface is 41"(1040mm).

As you can see the back and l/h spans are open from the front, although there is a strut across the bottom at the back, about 6" up from the floor.
I share the workshop wth the wifes washing machine and this needed to go underneath easily, as did a compressor and other stand-up items for storage.

As far as loading goes, only the r/h span has shelves, and on these are about 300lbs on the lower shelf, and currently about 100lbs on the middle shelf.

I weigh around 100kgs, and I can jump around on the top without worrying about it at all. It is very, very sturdy, and is freestanding -not bolted to wall or floor - but it was designed to be a nice tight fit against the walls, and this braces it very adequately.

There is no crossbracing underneath the shelves or worktop, just the perimeter frame section, and the top and shelves are just 3/4" ply, but I've bonded some formica sheet on the top, as this is nicer to work on than ply, and easier to clean.

With regard to cost, it's not as bad as you think, at least over here.
We have at least a dozen companies selling this stuff, and the price can vary as much as 300% from different suppliers. The suppliers for the bosch profile were the most expensive, and the company I thought would be dearest (MBS Item) were the cheapest by far.

I needed a custom built item to go in the space available, that could be taken down easily if/when I decide to move, and this is just bolted together through the ends. When compared to the price of buying 2 or 3 standard benches over here, none of which had the height I really needed (only 900mm to worktop) this worked out to about 2/3rds of the cost.
Buying the timber and making one may have been marginally cheaper, but this was well worth the little extra IMO.





J Tiers
07-04-2007, 08:44 AM
Workbenches, (IMO, of course) need three main characteristics.....

1) they need a strong flat top

2) They need a very solid base that is as flexible as a cube of concrete

3) They need a very solid base that is as flexible as a cube of concrete

A bouncy, limber, wobbling workbench is useless. I would not pay $400 or whatever for that first pictured one, for that reason. I'd think hard before spending $50 for it...... the base could be strengthened, but the top doesn't look too good.

I bought an old workbench that is great. Top is about 6 foot by 30 inches or so, 3 foot from floor. The front half of the top is made of 3 x 3 glued lumber, the back half is steel. Base is heavy pressed steel sections, welded, with a steel shelf and heavy back plate. It isn't going anywhere. Haven't seen another one like it since, but I have seen much lighter versions.

07-04-2007, 08:58 AM
Agree with Jerry.

They want $450 for this sears model.

What's up with that?

I bought this one from Sears for less than that. It has 1500 lb capacity and ball bearing glide deep drawers.


07-04-2007, 09:14 AM
They want $450 for this sears model.

For that kind of money you can buy a Pallard workbench with two drawers and a maple top.

At work we have benches welded up from 2x2x.125 tubing. basically a box frame with legs extending 6 inches and an MDF top. very sturdy and cheap. (well. They were cheap when steel was less pricey)

07-04-2007, 09:25 AM
Iím looking for an open work bench, because as with most people my shop is the garage. With an open bench I can wheel my table say, tool chest, bandsaw (when I get one) back under out of the way.

..and served me well.
3 x 2 stringer along the wall, At intervals place outrigger supports (bench width) screwed down onto the stringer (intermediate supports as needed) Supports screwed to the outrigger and angled down and back to the wall bottom plate and nailed or screwed. A front support rail is optional. Use Triboard or strandboard as the benchtop. Vertical post where the vise is located.
Not costly and quick to erect. Ordinary old Boric, untreated or 2nd hand timber will do as well as.
I hope that description isn`t too muddy
A picture is worth a thousand words but unfortunately I don`t have one.

dan s
07-04-2007, 12:28 PM
I have one more place to check today, and if nothing pans out, i think i will be building a wood bench. Will just have to sit down and figure out how to make it easily to take apart.

I believe they want so much for the sears model because the top is 1 1/2" thick maple. still way over priced in my opinion.

Paul Alciatore
07-04-2007, 01:09 PM
I recently outfitted a new shop - well, I guess I still am. I needed two benches with all the specs mentioned above, emphasis on inexpensive. I used 2X8s for legs (no frame, just two leg units) and a double layer of 5/8" chip board for the top, glued and screwed together. I added an edgeing of 1X2 as I hate it when things roll off the table. Legs were painted white and the top was sanded and finished with clear poly varnish, four coats. It may not hold a V8 engine, but so far it has stood up to everything I put on it. Screwed them together and to the wall for stability. But they are easily removed.

Under $200 for two benches. You can't beat that unless someone gives you one.

07-04-2007, 04:11 PM
FWIW, my work uses alot of 80/20 and we have started using Faztek. It's totally compatable as the company was started by defectors form 80/20.
With our distributor, it's a pretty good savings.


07-04-2007, 06:09 PM

The wood bench I posted above comes apart. The table is held to the base by four lag bolts from underneath. It can be taken apart in a few minutes and is much easier to move.


07-04-2007, 11:54 PM
The bench by Peter Neill, looks alot like one end of Studio G. I think I have a slightly larger "U", and I used square steel tube, strut, hardwoods (oak, maple, and poplar) for the "understructure" with a built up top of plywood, particle board, MDF and hardwoods. The rear edges are supported by angle iron bolted to the masonary walls. It is really more of a wide shelf (about 24" and 30"), because it has some "longish" spans. I made that design compromise because I wanted to store four rooling toolboxes under it, leftovers from an earlier, more mobile era. (The 28" tool boxes a stored the "longways", ie the narrow end "out", have to pull them out like drawers, to get at the drawers).

I have a few "smaller" benches that are more task specific: welding, "beating on", "oily leaky", etc.

Oh, I do keep my shop, my ax, and SWMBO clothes washer separated!

07-05-2007, 03:37 AM
My main workbench is an ex-government wooden office desk.the top is a solid inch thick,and the sides about 3/4".I welded up some leg extensions a foot long to bring it up to standing height.Total cost about $30.Solid as a rock.
For the price of 2 of those Sears benches you show,you could buy a welder,a bandsaw,and still have enough change to buy some steel tube.That's the way I would go in your position.And like somebody else mentioned ,the tops on those $450 jobs look positively puny.

Philip in China
07-05-2007, 09:23 AM
The best bench I ever made was the simplest, fastest and cheapest. An industrial weight adjustable steel shelving unit. I hacksawed the angle iron in two then made 2 tables of it which I bolted together. I left the legs slightly over length and put one shelf very low. Dug out the concrete floor under the legs and cemented it in. It bottomed out on the bottom shelf. Once dry it was immovable. I then bolted kitchen work top to the top of it and bolted a shop vice throungh that and the top steel shelf. When I moved I took the vice but abandoned the rest.

The point is the whole job must have taken all of two hours and cost less than UK£10. So who cares about leaving it?

Main thing for me with a bench is it should be rock solid and the easiest and cheapest way is to drop its toes into the cement floor.

07-05-2007, 09:26 AM
I just happened by a construction project when they were dismantelling shoring timbers. They were rough cut (actually 2" by 8") oak planks in varying lenths between 7 and 10 feet. They said that they were just going to burn them and I could take all I wanted. Having my car, instead of my truck, I was able to carry only a few of them. I picked about 8 planks, all that were 8 ft. or more.

Six were cut to 8' lengths and the others were cut to 4' to make a 4' by 8' table top with oak cross members. I had to pre-drill each hole to ensure each spike would be driven to its head without bending! The top was covered with a 4' by 8' sheet of 1/4" plywood. The plywood provided a smooth top, covering the rough timbers. The plywood can be replaced if it gets too badly damaged.

I used 4" by 4" posts for the legs which were cross braced by 2 by 4's. They were cut so that the table top had a height of 44" above the ground. I built this work bench to fit me!! I made it to be portable and have moved it twice so far. The top is so heavy that I have to use a hydralic jack and cribbing to lift the end so that the legs can be re-attached. However it is very sturdy.


dan s
07-05-2007, 10:00 AM
I used 4" by 4" posts for the legs which were cross braced by 2 by 4's. They were cut so that the table top had a height of 44" above the ground. I built this work bench to fit me!!

I know what you mean, I find it uncomfortable if the bench top is below about 40".

I compromised on the benches and purchased 2 from Sears. I got one on clearance for $58 that I will cross brace with angle iron, The second cost $220, but has a 2500lb load capacity. I will post pictures when I get them together.

07-05-2007, 11:46 AM
If you are dead set on buying one, I bought this one from Sears maybe 7 years ago. It has ball bearing drawers and a thick particle board top with a metal cover. I bought it to hold my mini-lathe and mini-mill when all I had was a basement shop in my old house. I had to have something that could come in in pieces. It was under $200 at the time on sale.


I have several benches in my newer shop. One was one of the steel top and leg sets that you can get. Its like this but with a steel top. I got it well used and with 5-6 different paint jobs for about $35 and stripped and repainted it. http://www.globalindustrial.com/gcs/product/productsPerPicGroups.web?picGroupKey=13&options.parentCategoryKey=168&index=50&catSearchParams.categoryKey=1949&REQ_SUB_CAT=Industrial%20Work%20Benches#gridAnchor

I built the long bench at the back of my big shop as well as one in my basement shop. This makes for a really rigid bench and its cheap. If your bench does not need to be free-standing, this may be the best way to go. Use 4x4 posts, 2x4 top frame and a plywood top. The one in the shop building is similar but uses some big old thick heavy doors I salvaged on top of the 2x4 frame. No need for rear legs....you build the 2x4 frame on the floor and then pick it up and just lag it to the wall at the rear with a front post clamped in place. Cut the rest of your posts and screw them to the frame in front. Here's one I built in my basement shop in the new house. I do electrical and other small mechanical work at this bench when I don't want to run to the big shop and half of it is dedicated to handloading (ammunition). You can build them to a corner shape as I did. I covered the plywood top with tempered masonite and gave it a couple of coats of polyurethane which mostly soak in, but help make it more durable.



07-05-2007, 11:58 AM
Even cheaper, just get a damaged solid core door 3'X6'8" and buy 1 2X4 and 1 4X4 . Cut the 4X4 to what height you want the work bench then screw or nail the 2X4 to the wall, screw 6"lag screws through face or door close to the edge and then set door on the 2X4 and nail or screw it . (Cheap work bench but sturdy)

07-07-2007, 11:11 AM
a cheap solution for a welding bench was a free surface plate. heavy duty. the addition of the casters (to get it away from the wall when welding/cutting) has made it a bit taller, but am getting use to it. also made a secure base to attach my manual ironworker onto.


07-07-2007, 01:23 PM
Just bought 5, 40" x 88" stainless steel old time hog butchering tables at an auction, 2" high raised lip across the front, and 4" on the sides and back with a 2" drain in the back left corner. Each table weights about 500 pounds, about 33" high, but with adjustable feet to raise and level. Will be delivered on 7/19/07. Then is clorox time, to scub and get them real clean, don't want any rancid pork smell in the shop.


07-08-2007, 01:55 AM
If you want cheap, go to HD or a plumb shop and buy or have cut to length 1 1/2 or 2 inch black or galvanized iron pipe, thread both ends, 1/2 a buck per thread at HD, buy flanges for top and bottom of however many you want.

Flanges have 4 holes in them for anchors.

Top, HD, again, sells MDF in 3/4 thickness, 49 X 97, was about 15 bucks when I built my 4 X 8 assembly bench (woodworking ), rip in half, 16'2" X 24 1/2 inch benchtops, minus the kerf..

1/4" flathead bolts/screws from face down through the flange holes.

If you need crossbracing, the clamp on stuff from fence distributors will work, or you use short lengths of pipe, T's, and maybe unions, so you don't have to spin the front legs onto the back legs to get them together, although you could do that, and that bracing pipe gives you, if you only need one, a use for the other half of the MDF (which is really untempered masonite, very strong).

DO Urethane or varnish the top, and that goes for Sears, too, as, if you don't, a drop of water will raise a "blister".

As an aside, why can't I access any pics posters post? Ebay, f'rinstance, I have to right click "view picture" or something. The other machining forum, the pics come up a "pipe". Hover, right click, "view pic", and it takes me to the pic. Here, there is a 4 line space with no pipe.

You post a pic, I can't see any way to click to see the pic.

Is it something to do with settings in Firefox. Don't use IE so don't know if it does the same, will try that shortly.

This is because I can't see any of the pics in this thread, either, not just off the wall.




Rich Carlstedt
07-08-2007, 02:47 AM
Cheap , strong, heavy top is made with a solid core 2 inch door.
Find a hospital or business doing remodeling and you get one free.
Ask a carpenter.

Your Old Dog
07-08-2007, 06:25 AM
Cheap , strong, heavy top is made with a solid core 2 inch door.
Find a hospital or business doing remodeling and you get one free.
Ask a carpenter.

That's how I got mine. They were remodeling at work and I got 5 commercial 2" solid core doors (oak exterior w/maple configured like bowling alley interior). These make fantastic benches for wood working because they stay flat. Mine are attached to the wall like Paul Carpenters, that makes them easy to level up. I'd like to mount one outside the barn on big hinges for messy outside jobs. These doors are all I can manhandle as they are very heavy.

grand master flash
07-08-2007, 11:56 AM
Being an electrician I like Unistrut ALOT so this is what i did.I went to Graingers and bought a pair of bench legs (some places sell them individually that would work better) Then I took 3 pieces of Unistrut laid them open side down on the legs.Then we took 3 pieces of plywood and cut them to size which 1 42X48 and 2 42X8' then we gluded then together making sure to offset the joints. This gives me a 12'0''X 42'' working surface. We then wraped a rabbited 2X4 around the edge . We then fastened the Unistrut to the plywood with 5/16 X 2 1/2 FHMS and nuts and washers with that complete we tacked down some 1/4'' Masonite for a working surface.Now this makes a very nice and sturdy bench but the 8' span for the 1 5/8 X 1 5/8 senior Unistrut is a bit much so I did have to add a middle leg .I did make it out of Unistrut.
I must also add that we did use 1 1/4'' drywall screws to hold the plywood together. It also helps to have a friend who is a carpender cabinet maker . GMF

dan s
07-14-2007, 09:33 PM
I finally have the shop set up the way i want it. I reinforce both benches using 1/8" x1" angle iron.



07-15-2007, 12:39 AM

All the suggestions, and you show a "finally" pic, and you have a, how much does it weigh, keyboard on one pic, and a tiny what looks like a DP and 10" mitre saw on the other pic.

I thought you were trying to hold up a 600 pound lathe, at the minimum. Those tools you could support with a resin folding table and double sided foam core tape to hold them down.

My Sears jig saw has been stuck to the bench for 15 years with 3M double sided tape. I cannot move it, unless I decide to slip a sharp, thin knife blade and cut it loose.

If that's all you needed, you should have bought folding table legs and attached your choice of top to it.

I am embarrassed that I mentioned 1 1/2 or 2 inch pipe to build what I thought you needed. THAT could have been built with conduit. And, CHEAPER.



I don't mean to put you down, but, man, that last pic was a real deflator.

dan s
07-15-2007, 02:45 AM

Eventually my lathe will be going on the first bench, but right now i have enough space that it's fine on the current bench. i hope to pick up a lathemaster mill this winter, and start working on a 4' x 2' cnc router. I would also like an old floor mounted drill press.

Once i get more toys, these benches will see a lot more weight, but for now its just nice to have the counter space.:D

07-15-2007, 04:26 AM
George, you need to review the part you slept through in class about Tact.


(n) (http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net/)tact, tactfulness (consideration in dealing with others and avoiding giving offense)

Pics: Check Tools>Options>Content and make sure "Load images automatically" is checked.