Mobile Torsion Box Workbench #2: Design and Features

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Blog entry by Ron Stewart posted 01-26-2013 05:16 PM 43314 reads 11 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Background, Research, and Requirements Part 2 of Mobile Torsion Box Workbench series Part 3: Torsion Box Top »

I ended up building a workbench using a Christopher Schwarz stand design (from his $175 Workbench), a torsion box top that I designed, fold-up casters adapted from another Schwarz idea, and levelers on the front legs.

The overall bench is 71.75” long, 23.75” deep, and 35” high. I finished it with one application of Watco danish oil. I’m not sure what that accomplished, other than making the wood a bit darker. I may end up putting a light coat of wiping varnish on it later to make it more moisture resistant.

Here’s a transparent CAD rendering of the design so you can get a rough idea of how it’s put together.

If you have Adobe Reader installed, you can view this 3D PDF of the design. In Reader, you can spin the bench around, change how it’s displayed (so you can get an X-ray view like the one above), or hide different parts (e.g., you can hide the plywood top to see the torsion box structure). If you can’t make this work, let me know and I’ll tell you how.

Here the actual bench in its storage location.

The top is bolted to the stand, so I can replace it if that’s ever necessary. I used pocket hole screws (and glue) to build the top, so there are no exposed screw heads on the top. My next entry will focus on the design and construction of the top.

Here it is with its wheels down. In a later entry, I’ll talk more about the caster setup and discuss other options I considered.

Depending on where I position it in the garage, the bench wobbles slightly. Three of the legs contact the floor, but one doesn’t. I added levelers to the front legs to solve that problem.

For Christmas, my wife bought me the Veritas Surface Vise and Surface Clamp I mentioned in my previous entry. Here’s how I’ll use the surface vise to work the face of a board.

Here’s how I’ll use the surface clamp to work the edge of a board. (I need to screw a clamping strip to the back edge of the planing beam so I can use an F-clamp on the workpiece.)

If I go back and review my original requirements and nice-to-have’s, I did okay:
  • The bench fits nicely into the space we allocated for it, and it has no handles for us to bump into.
  • I can easily move the bench, and it’s nice and solid no matter where I place it.
  • The array of dog holes on the top, plus the holes in the front and legs, allow me to clamp pieces horizontally or vertically.
  • The shelf is strong enough to hold anything I’m likely to place on it.
  • If I ever want, I can run pipe clamps through the bench top (from front-to-back, like the Blum Bench Horse).
On the flip side, some things didn’t pan out (or are still in doubt):
  • The top is too heavy and awkward to swap out easily. So my idea of swapping it out for a router table top isn’t going to work. Plus, bolting the top to the stand locks everything in place better.
  • I haven’t checked to see if I can use the bench as an outfeed table. With all of the holes in the top, I’m not sure that was such a good idea anyway; I worry that they’ll catch the ends of the pieces coming off the saw. (But, if there’s enough clearance for a smooth 1/8” thick hardboard cover, this may still work…)
  • To make the casters fold to the inside, I had to move them closer together. Even with the casters locked, the bench may be too tipsy to use that way. So my “tall mode” idea may not work out either. I’ll just have to try it and see.

-- Ron Stewart

5 comments so far

View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2796 days

#1 posted 01-26-2013 05:43 PM

Some very good ideas presented in this one.
The clamps seem to work well.
Is there solid blocking in way of the dog holes?

Nice bench… enjoy

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View GrandpaLen's profile


1650 posts in 2271 days

#2 posted 01-26-2013 06:06 PM


It’s easy to see that you have put a lot of thought and due diligence into the planning and execution of your bench.

I found that a couple of 80 lbs. bags of Sak-create stored on the bottum shelf of my 2×4 and plywood assembly table encourages it to stay put if I am working on larger projects on it.
Just a suggestion, if it wants to dance around a little. :-)

Very thought provoking, in a good way.
Thanks for sharing.

Work Saffely and have Fun. – Grandpa Len.

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View roofner's profile


122 posts in 2281 days

#3 posted 01-26-2013 06:13 PM

Where did you get the dog hole accessories?

View Ron Stewart's profile (online now)

Ron Stewart

120 posts in 2502 days

#4 posted 01-26-2013 06:49 PM

Paul: yes, every dog hole is backed by solid wood. I’m about to start on the next entry describing that.

GrandpaLen: Thanks. Regarding the Sakrete bags, sometimes the simplest ideas are the best, aren’t they (like Paul’s wedge clamps)?

roofner: I changed the text above to link to Lee Valley, where my wife purchased the surface vise and clamp. Be warned, though, that they are expensive… The dogs are cheap plastic ones from Rockler. The dogs will do for now, but I think I’ll replace them. They don’t fit snugly in the holes, so they rock backward slightly, and that might cause the workpiece to lift. Dogs with faces at a slight angle (leaning out a bit at the top) would be better. Later on, I’ll provide a full materials list with sources (including casters, hinges, etc.)

-- Ron Stewart

View roofner's profile


122 posts in 2281 days

#5 posted 01-26-2013 09:36 PM

It was the Lee valley that I was interested . I don’t think I can justify the price even though they look heavy duty.

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