woodworking without a woodworkers bench

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Blog entry by Ben Haberer posted 640 days ago 4045 reads 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hey all,

I’m looking for some advice on what to do to clamp down my work for things like sanding, hand planning and chisel work. Everywhere I look on advice on woodworking and the more I learn all I see is woodworkers with sweet custom workbenches with proper vices. Tasks like these are simple and most importantly safe for them because of these benches and vises but my problem is I simply don’t have the room in my very very small shop. I was wondering if there others out there in this same situation without the means to have these types of vices and what you do to properly clamp down your work pieces to work on the safely and easily in a severely limited space. Any advice on the matter would be greatly appreciated!


-- Ben - Dallas, GA

16 comments so far

View hoosier0311's profile


355 posts in 651 days

#1 posted 640 days ago

maybe you could use one of those Black and Decker workmate type dealios? They don’t take up much room and they fold up out of the way.

-- I'm only deaf in one ear,,,,,I just can't hear out of the other one., Denny, Indiana implant, living in PA

View Mosquito's profile


4594 posts in 918 days

#2 posted 640 days ago

Yes there are… Self included.

I’ve used quite a few different things, from hand to power tools. I’ve got a work mate, and a folding table that are my primary means of a “work bench” for now. I’ve also used a sitting bench with a clamp as a planing stop as well. There are ways, you just have to get creative, and sometimes think outside of the “normal” approach…

Get creative, but most importantly, if it doesn’t feel right or safe, it probably isn’t.

One of my favorite things to do is clamp parallel bar clamps to the folding table, and clamp the table to the porch beam

Used this with my router

Sometimes I use two tables, if I have to make a cut in the middle of a piece (jigsaw)

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN -- Stanley #45 Evangelist -

View Ben Haberer's profile

Ben Haberer

26 posts in 674 days

#3 posted 640 days ago

Thanks Mos those are quite a few nice ideas, I’m really going to need to play around with a few ideas to find something that works for me and I think I might have to try out one of those workmates, I think that may work good for me. But the best piece of advice is “if it doesn’t feel right or safe, it probably isn’t.” I feel this all the time and I’m sure there are plenty of times I should have stopped and I didn’t, I really need to be more careful

-- Ben - Dallas, GA

View Fireguy's profile


132 posts in 1861 days

#4 posted 640 days ago

How about a woodworking bench from Harbor Freight?

-- Alex

View David's profile


196 posts in 1289 days

#5 posted 640 days ago

A pair of sturdy saw horses, some plywood, and a few sand bags for weight would be my solution. I’ve also used a pair of trash cans with plywood on top, but I don’t recommend it.

-- Perilous to all of us are the devices of an art deeper than we ourselves possess. --Gandalf the Grey

View JoeRPhilly's profile


92 posts in 777 days

#6 posted 640 days ago

I’ve gotten by so far with just a workmate, certainly not ideal, but you can make it work if you want. The biggest problem with the workmate that I’ve found is the lack of weight to it, it’s hard to keep it stable. But it will hold your work, and you just need to get creative to hold the workmate! That said, using that as my workbench has driven me to build a real wood working bench.

View Ben Haberer's profile

Ben Haberer

26 posts in 674 days

#7 posted 640 days ago

ok so here’s the question for those of you using the workmate. Do you use two of them or is just one? If you only use one do you wish you had two to lay large pieces across two tables? Or would having one be all you need along with a saw horse until you can eventually upgrade to a real workbench?

-- Ben - Dallas, GA

View Mosquito's profile


4594 posts in 918 days

#8 posted 640 days ago

I’ve just got one. I could see how two might make some things easier, but when I’m working with larger stock, I’m typically hand planing it, in which case, I usually need to hold the workmate down with a foot, leg, or something. The other issue I have from time to time is it likes to wobble, a lot, when hand planing.

For cutting, I would recommend building a saw bench… It makes things a lot easier.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN -- Stanley #45 Evangelist -

View johnnysilvey's profile


6 posts in 658 days

#9 posted 640 days ago

I’ve had the same problem, making do with with a small saw horse can be tricky. Paul Sellers has an awesome video series where he makes a tool bench in his back yard with a couple saw horses, with the purpose being you don’t actually have a workbench yet. Hoping for this to be my spring project.

View Don W's profile

Don W

14829 posts in 1193 days

#10 posted 640 days ago

You can also just screw into you benchtop surface, what ever that happens to be. A portable screw gun and a handful of screws, along with some pieces of scrap makes for some pretty versatile clamping.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Raymond Thomas's profile

Raymond Thomas

180 posts in 844 days

#11 posted 640 days ago

If you happen to have an opening along a wall in you shop, you might want to make a fold down workbench that is permanently mounted to the wall by means of a couple of hinges and a couple of folding legs so that you can pull the work bench up parallel to the floor, unfold the legs and you have a stable work bench.

-- Raymond, Charlotte, NC -------- Demonstrate the difference!

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

721 posts in 2458 days

#12 posted 639 days ago

I took a class at the local JC and used their shop, tools and benches to build my bench. Lot of folks took classes to build projects. Local colleges or craft centers or woodworking clubs my help you. Ask around. Us old guys enjoy helping younguns get started.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

View MT_Stringer's profile


1831 posts in 1856 days

#13 posted 639 days ago

@Ben – maybe this little guy would help you. I made this after seeing it in ShopNotes. LJ’s very own Serge made the original. It is a very handy work table and very portable. Bench dogs, clamps, whatever you need you can use on this thing.

My project is here.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Cole Tallerman's profile

Cole Tallerman

391 posts in 810 days

#14 posted 639 days ago

bench cookies work great for me. just put them under a cutting board or anything else to sand or plane and its not going anywhere.

View MedicKen's profile


1599 posts in 2088 days

#15 posted 639 days ago

An old door on a couple of saw horses is what I had used for years.

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

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