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Workbenches fill many purposes in our lives. Whether your work area is in your garage, your shop, a space in your basement, or if you have a special room in the house set aside, there’s nothing better than having your own workbench for projects. If you’re looking for a workbench, you’ll want to find one that fits your function.
All about workbenches: in today’s market, workbenches come in several forms and with a variety of functions. You can buy one that fits your needs, or you can find a myriad of different designs and build your own. The most important thing about your workbench is that it will be functional for YOU. Your first step is to make sure you know what its job will be so you can make sure it will stand up to its responsibilities.
In this article, we will explore different types of workbenches, buying versus building your new workbench, and prefab kits versus a Do-It-Yourself approach to assembling your workbench. We’ll also share some ideas of different models and building plans to take a look at.
What is Your Workbench’s Job?
Workbenches aren’t just for piling tools in the garage anymore. There are several decisions you will want to explore before you start looking for that ideal workbench.
What type of projects will you be focusing on?
How will you be working?
- Standing – If you’re going to be standing, you want to make sure that your work surface is generally between 34-38 inches high. It really depends on your height.
- Sitting – If you’re going to be sitting, make sure that the shelving under the work area doesn’t extend all the way to the front of the work surface. You will definitely want to have room for your legs to fit under your workbench without having to dodge shelves. An adjustable chair or stool is also a good idea.
- You want the flexibility to do both
What features do you want?
- A large surface – how long should it be?
- Drawers for tools and/or other small items
- What will you be storing?
- Places to store plans and patterns
- A wide lip so you can clamp heavy tools to it
- A place where large tools can recess – do you want to lift and lower a saw, a drill press, a sewing machine, a die-cut machine, etc.
- A place you can use your cutting tools without dulling them.
- Do you want to include an area that is made of bamboo or a synthetic cutting surface that won’t dull your small cutting tools?
- A place you can use a drill or punch without damaging the surface
- It would be really nice if it had a light and/or easily accessible grounded outlets too
The decisions you make around your workbench’s functionality will determine what you want to look for. Getting the best workbench to suit your purpose will save you time and energy in the long run.
Before you go any further, decide exactly where you want your workspace to be – where you’re going to create those special items. Take measurements that reflect exactly what size your workbench can be. Now you know your first parameter when you begin looking for your ideal workbench.
Best Workbench Features for Woodworking
If you’re going to use your workbench for woodworking, there are specific features you’re going to be interested in:
- Heavy-duty and sturdy
- A hardwood surface such as birch, hickory, ash, maple, beech, walnut, poplar, or oak
- Built-in vises
- Dog holes that make for easier workpiece securing
- Drawers to organize your chisels, bits, sanding supplies, and glues
- A nice-to-have feature would be that it’s expandable
Note: Quality woodworking benches are incredibly heavy, so if you choose to have an expandable workbench, chances are good you’re going to need someone to help you with the adjustment.
When you think about your woodworking bench, one thing to think about is whether you’re going to use your workbench as outfeed support for your table saw. If you are, that’s a critical measurement to take into consideration.
What Height, Length, and Depth Should I Look For?
Whether you are purchasing or building, you want to know what size is standard and/or comfortable for you. Here are some recommendations for workbench dimensions.
Most table saws are about 34-inches high. On average, this will mean that when your arms are relaxed at your sides, the top of your workbench will be about the distance from the floor to the first knuckle on your thumb.
Another school of thought is to measure from the floor to where your pinky finger attaches to your hand.
Because you need to be able to use your own leverage with your project, most woodworking benches are designed assuming that you’re going to spend your work time standing. If you are going to be doing some fine work, an adjustable stool may be a good addition to your work area.
When you think of how long you want your workbench to be, there are a few things you need to take into consideration:
- How much space do you have for your workbench?
- What are the lengths of wood you’re going to be working with?
Most prefab workbenches are about six feet long. The thought is that length gives you room for four feet of lumber while still allowing room for your tools to sit on the surface while you’re working.
If you’re making your own, you can go even longer if you’ve got the space for it. If you use large patterns for your woodworking projects, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got enough length (and depth) to spread them out.
As far as depth is concerned, you want to make sure that your work surface is manageable. For most people, having a surface larger than three feet deep ends up being more work and expending more energy than the extra surface is worth.
A three-foot-wide surface is usually a depth that you can readily reach across to grab something that is on the opposite side from where you are working.
Woodworking Bench Patterns
The chances are that if you’re a woodworker, you want to have a hand in building your own worksurface to make sure that it meets your expectations.
If design isn’t your strength, but you work from a plan like a boss, here are five options you might want to consider:
This workbench is built to be solid. It may look basic, but it has a shelf underneath to store some tools and has two built-in vise-grips that face different directions to give you workable options.
If you’re looking for a workbench that has multi-depth drawers instead of an open shelf, this is the one for you to make. This model only has one vise-grip designed into it, but you could change that if you want to.
The author says, “This is a brag post, not a tutorial,” but he provides enough information that if you are beyond the beginner stage, you would be able to figure it out. This workbench has slots under the work area, so every tool has its own place. It also has a lower work area where you can set your table saw to feed directly onto the worktop.
If you’re looking for a basic plan that will be sturdy yet not take a lot of time or money, this is the plan for you. Four legs, leg braces, and a work surface. That’s all you have to build with this one.
Note: There are many more plans to be found out there. Some have casters on them for portability. This article has not included any of those plans for your woodworking bench because you most likely want it to be sturdy and not have any “wiggle” to it.
However, if you are in an apartment or other small space without a dedicated workspace, you might need to be able to roll your table out of the way, so you may want a plan like these.
Although it isn’t an online plan, this hardcover book could provide you with options for building your ideal workbench. It will take you through all of the decisions you need to make when preparing to build the woodworking bench that will work best for what you plan to do.
Budget-Sensitive Do-It-Yourself Solutions
Some of the above templates suggest they can be made for between $50 to $100. That seems like a reasonable investment, but what if you don’t have easy access to a home improvement store?
Chances are pretty good that you have some sawhorses in your garage. You probably have some clamps too. As a beginning, a temporary solution you could consider securely clamping some wood to your pair of sawhorses to provide you as a starting point.
If that doesn’t sound like something you even want to consider, there are also workbenches that you can buy and put together. This way, this option can still give you the sense of “look what I just did!”
Popular Pre-made Woodworking Workbenches
Would you prefer to order a workbench that has been pre-cut, includes all of the required hardware and “all” you need to do is assemble it? Here are some of the top woodworking bench options.
If you’ve been reading about woodworking for long, you’ll recognize the name Sjӧbergs. They are known in the industry as one of the premier woodworking workbench manufacturers. A couple of the below options are their benches. There are a few other manufacturer’s products provided as well:
If you want it in your workbench, this high-end model has it: Steel bench dogs, end and front vises (which can be positioned for either left-or-right-handed work preferences), six drawers, a double-doored cabinet for additional storage, 3-¼-inch thick beechwood top.
This workbench has a front vise, a lower storage shelf for your tools, and is made of sturdy hardwood.
This model is made of oak, has front and side vises, removable bench dogs, and two storage drawers.
This birch-topped workbench has a double row of dog holes that line up with both the end and front vise locations (which can be positioned for either left-or-right-handed work preferences). It also has a small shelf underneath for tool storage.
This basic workbench has adjustable steel legs that allow you to set the bench as close to the exact height you want as possible. The top is made of bamboo with rounded corners.
Metalworking and Mechanic Workbenches
You still want sturdy and well-made for these heavy-duty projects, but wood may not be your best option. Can you imagine welding on a wood surface or having oil or grease seep into the wood, making it a permanent source of potentially staining your work?
For these workbenches, heavy-duty steel is the best option for your top work surface.
Different Dimensions for a Metalworking or Mechanic Workbench
The same holds true as far as surface height and depth are concerned. As a reminder, here’s what we said about height: On average, this will mean that when your arms are relaxed at your sides, the top of your workbench will be about the distance from the floor to the first knuckle on your thumb.
You still don’t want to exceed three-feet deep, although you may want to consider something more along the two-to-two and a half feet deep to make it easier to reach across when you’re sitting down working on components.
As far as length is concerned, you could still go with six-feet or more, but you may be happier with a workbench that’s three-to-four feet long, depending on what kind of work you do there.
Viable Prefab Workbenches for Metalworking or Mechanics
This heavy-duty steel construction workbench comes with a handy pegboard backboard for hand-tool storage, a 13-watt fluorescent cabinet light, two storage drawers, a lower storage shelf, and a three-outlet grounded power strip.
The tabletop can withstand up to 220 pounds of load capacity. It is 23.8-inches deep and 47.2-inches long. Total height to the top of the back pegboard is about 61-inches.
This thick-gauge metal workbench is 24-inches deep and 48-inches long. This workbench features adjustable legs so you can set it to the perfect height for you while working on your project, whether that be sitting or standing.
It has two storage drawers and fluorescent light with a power strip. Its pegboard back also comes with a 23-count hook set. The only downside to this for metalworking is that although its frame is made from steel, the worktop is made of birch hardwood. This model also comes with leveling feet.
This heavy-duty stainless-steel workbench includes a bottom shelf, foot levelers, and both back and side guards. This work surface measures 28-inches deep and 48-inches long but is also available in 28×60 or 34×48-inch options.
If you’re looking for something that can handle the weight of your heavy project, you just found it. This workbench can handle up to 1,750-pounds of weight capacity. It is 25.25-inches deep and 79-inches long.
Its two shelves go the full length and width of the shelf, so there isn’t any knee room for sitting, but it is a comfortable 34.5-inches high for standing work. This worktable also has two-inch ledges along the sides and back to catch any stubborn pieces that think they may want to try to roll away.
Do you have a monster-project? This workbench has a 4,000-pound load capacity and is six-feet long. The table has a lower shelf that is slightly recessed to allow for seated work.
The shelf also has a 3-inch lip on the back, so tools don’t fall off the back. This workbench is 36-inches high, 36-inches deep, and 72-inches long.
Note: Regardless of whether you’re looking to buy a woodworking bench or a metalworking/automotive workbench, you can be assured it’s going to be very heavy.
Make sure you check into shipping costs and delivery expectations. There are times when freight delivery will only bring an item curbside, and it’s up to you to get it in your garage or wherever you are going to set it up.
Maybe your thing is making and finishing die-cast models, making jewelry, finishing pottery, making stained glass, or working on a myriad of other hobbies.
If this is you, you’re typically looking for a completely different work surface than what we’ve been discussing so far.
Desirable Features for a Hobbyist or Crafter’s Workbench
When you think of what you would want for a workbench that supports this type of work, you are usually looking for:
- A flat, smooth work surface that’s easy to clean
- Good height and knee space for seated work
- Lots of storage options
- Methods for organizing small tools, paints, papers, etc.
- A built-in power strip would be a bonus
- The ability to have good lighting
- Maybe even a cup holder
Ok, maybe you’re not looking for a cup holder, but it would be nice.
The good thing about your crafting workbench is that you are open to many surfaces from the treated wood and stainless steel we’ve already discussed, to Formica, or even plastic.
How to Create Your Best Crafting Workspace – Do It Yourself
What do you want in your space? Are there features you’re looking for in addition to what is listed above? It’s possible to create a space that is perfect for you. There are a lot of supplies you can find at one of the big box home repair stores, IKEA, or other areas.
Here are some steps you can take to do that:
- Consider looking for a rectangular kitchen or dining table at a thrift store or on Craigslist. Even if you don’t like the color or finish, you can easily sand it and use a glossy finish paint that will be easier to clean up.
- Another option is to get a piece of remnant countertop that can be turned into a work surface by using brackets to attach it to halved porch posts.
- Don’t want to attach the piece of countertop to legs? Consider getting some shelving or prefabbed cabinets with drawers or cubbies large enough for baskets that you can glue to your new work surface.
- Pick up some peg board to attach to the wall for your tools. Don’t want your pegboard to be a boring brown? You can lightly sand it and paint it whatever color you want it to be.
- Glue a finished piece of wood or countertop to two two-drawer file cabinets.
- Repurpose an old desk that you no longer use for work or study purposes.
Options for Buying a Crafting Workstation
Sometimes you just want something that has been designed with the express purpose of meeting your crafting needs. Here are some options you can find. They still require assembly, but you will have all of the pieces you need to finish your project:
This workstation has lots of storage, including hidden places to store your scissors and other tools in an upright position behind the doors. With plenty of shelves and cubbies, as well as a drawer, you will be able to get many of your supplies organized. This can come assembled, or you can put it together yourself.
If you’re looking for a workstation that can be collapsed and somewhat hidden when you need to tidy up, this option can be a good choice. The table folds into the cabinet and has a brace on a caster to make it easier to maneuver. There are several cubby areas behind doors that will hold your supplies. There’s even shelving large enough to store flexible lighting, a sewing machine, a die cutter, or other larger tools.
Another option for a hobbyist area that can be hidden behind closed doors is this shorter armoire. The table collapses into the cabinet, which also has plenty of storage areas for your papers, paints, glues, accessories, etc. There is one larger shelf that would accommodate a larger tool, such as a die-cut machine or sewing machine.
This is branded as a computer desk, but it has several storage options for shelving and drawers and a good work surface. It would make a wonderful crafting/hobby workstation.
This compact, collapsible mobile desk is on casters. With seven drawers to store your paints, papers, brushes, scissors, etc., the fold-down tabletop lets you keep this in an area where you may not have much room.
This craft/hobby workstation disguises itself as a decorative piece of furniture/storage cabinet. On casters, it is a portable cabinet with a front door that swings open to become a brace for the tabletop expansion. Inside the cabinet are shelves and two bins for storing notions.
This modular set provides tons of storage and workspace. There’s an area that recesses into the workstation, allowing for easier storage of larger tools like sewing machines, die-cut machines, etc. This set also includes a surface that makes cutting items safe for the surface.
Many of these options have mentioned they have casters. One thing you will always want to look for is the ability to lock any casters on your worktable.
Deciding What Type of Workbench You Need
Although all of the options that have been provided in this article are conveniently available through Amazon, there are many other places you can find a workbench that will meet your needs.
Are you still not quite sure what you’re looking for?
Maybe you should consider starting with a sturdy table that you pick up at a second-hand store or on a local auction site and a toolbox.
Keep a notebook and pen nearby and make a notation of everything you wish you had while you’re working on projects.
After you have been consistently using that space for a few months, review the notes you have made in your notebook.
Now you know what you need to look for in your new workbench, whether you’re going to build it yourself or if you’re going to buy one that’s been designed by someone like Sjӧbergs.
Are You Ready to Start Your Projects?
It doesn’t matter whether you are planning on becoming a master woodworker, an auto repair genius, a metalworking maestro, or a crafting/hobbyist aficionado. You want to have a workspace that meets your needs.
Build or buy your workbench and set your workspace up with everything you need to be successful with your project.
Get ready to plan your project, gather, arrange, and lay out your materials and tools, and create the next masterpiece that will come out of your personal creativity.