A strong, stable and collasible worktable

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Blog entry by Don "Dances with Wood" Butler posted 07-22-2011 10:32 PM 2552 reads 4 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Having a good workbench is a luxury beyond hope for my shop.
It’s a 20×28 floorplan, but its full of machines and I have to garage our car every night.

What to do?

I needed something strong and stable, good and flat, but something I could get out of the way after a day’s work. It also needed to be light enough for me to handle. 50 years ago I wouldn’t have much trouble with heavy parts, but now, its definitely an issue.

After quite a lot of modeling in SketchUp, I settled for a design that uses light parts, most of which are fabricated with .5” plywood. The top is a torsion box.

Here’s a link to the video I made to show how it works.


-- Will trade wife's yarn for wood.

15 comments so far

View tinnman65's profile


1235 posts in 2416 days

#1 posted 07-22-2011 11:28 PM

Nice table Don, great idea using 1/2’’ plywood and a torsion box top. I was wondering what you’ve been up to and know I see. By the looks of your garage I’m surprised you have room for that table even when its broke down flat :-)...... Just kidding

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

View kenn's profile


804 posts in 2722 days

#2 posted 07-22-2011 11:39 PM

I liked the video. Nothing like seeing a 78 yr old man climb up on his bench and jump a few times to inspire me to see that age is just a number. Keep at it, Don.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View Bob N's profile

Bob N

131 posts in 2929 days

#3 posted 07-23-2011 12:32 AM

BRAVO! What an excellent design and solution to a common problem. You did a great video demonstration also. Thanks for taking the time to share it.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3745 posts in 2167 days

#4 posted 07-23-2011 02:48 AM

Great work Don. I suspect this design is rigid, as well as strong. It’s only limitations would be, hmmmmm, not stability…..maybe that is right, meaning a push would move it, meaning not a good planing bench for instance. But that is not its purpose.

For over 20 years I used three tables with picnic table folding legs, and I still have two in use. Your bench is light years ahead of those. Of course I have a large more traditional bench and I am sure you have something similar.

The integrity of plywood and torsion box tops is underutilized, I suspect.

Did you check out my project from hell, the multifunction bench, a totally different, and barely moveable, let alone collapsible bench…..

I only mention this to note that smaller benches come with various attributes. Yours is a masterpiece of its sort. Thanks for posting.

On a different vein, I have to improve the lighting in my little La Conner, Washington shop. How are those lights you built with the small fluorescents working. I know, over a year ago. I am kinda interested.

Have a good day…....I am out to the deck, where Sherie is drinking a little wine and spinning… Kermit and I will head out there too, a balmy day in Anchorage.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View NormG's profile


4964 posts in 2006 days

#5 posted 07-23-2011 03:14 AM

Wow, now that is a secure, stable and user friendly work bench

-- Norman

View Don "Dances with Wood" Butler's profile

Don "Dances with Wood" Butler

1051 posts in 2398 days

#6 posted 07-23-2011 02:38 PM

The lamps I built using highly reflective housings and CFL lamps are doing very well.

In my wife’s knit store I am converting old four foot 2 tube fluorscents by stripping out the ballasts, installing reflective mylar film over the white reflectors and four standard screw base lamp holders. The light balance(with the proper CFLs) is better, the amount of light is greater and the electrical current draw is 30% lower.

Good, recent model CFLs start up quicker, even in the cold.

By the way, I don’t have a heavier bench, this is the only bench (worktable) I have.


-- Will trade wife's yarn for wood.

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4560 posts in 2038 days

#7 posted 07-23-2011 06:02 PM

I have to admire a man who’s prepared to stand by and on his own work.

Good bench, Don.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3745 posts in 2167 days

#8 posted 07-23-2011 06:09 PM

Thanks, Don, I will review the lamp construction when I add stuff in La Conner. It just makes more sense to me than the big fluorescents, which are noisy, not necessarily easy to replace, and not easy to store. I have to replace 8 footers here in this shop, and install new lamps in La Conner.

The only thing that I would think your bench couldn’t do would be heavy planing. Over the years I have mostly used my flimsy project tables for everything, and I still use them for most things. The new bench is particularly useful for dry fits and glueups of more complex objects and for sanding. It will work very well for planing as well. I am getting a medium siize vise for it to assist in planing.

Great design, thanks for the post.

What is the connection system you are using, looks like a varient on the old metal adjustable shelves? What are the materials used in the torsion box?

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Don "Dances with Wood" Butler's profile

Don "Dances with Wood" Butler

1051 posts in 2398 days

#9 posted 07-23-2011 10:28 PM

Materials in the torsion box are .5” plywood for the grid and rim, .25” ply for the skins.

The connectors are slot and hook bed frame connectors two at each corner. They hold very well.


-- Will trade wife's yarn for wood.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3745 posts in 2167 days

#10 posted 07-23-2011 11:50 PM

Thanks Don, you are always thinking out of the box, but I guess that’s me also.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3745 posts in 2167 days

#11 posted 07-24-2011 05:30 PM

Decided I better favorite this, I like the idea of the torsion box top. I plan to replace at least one more project table eventually, and I too had thought of the plywood sides, but I probably wouldn’t make it break down. I may make it to store infrequently used small stationary tools, like the grinder, scroll saw, etc. The other may be just deleted, or follded up for occasional use. I also need clamp storage, but Roger came up with a small foot print clamp rack that looks about right for me.

Have a good one…..........

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View lou's profile


340 posts in 2445 days

#12 posted 07-25-2011 02:11 AM

Great job Don.Simple ,strong and will last for many years.Thanks for the video.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


16230 posts in 2678 days

#13 posted 07-25-2011 09:22 PM

Awesome!! Nice design.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View TheOldTimer's profile


226 posts in 2088 days

#14 posted 07-27-2011 08:18 PM

Very nice bench Don, just wondering what you use for a vise? I have to make room for the car here in AZ during the summer months also. No fun getting into a 180 degree automobile not to say what the sun does to the paint and upholsterry of the car if left out.

-- TheOldTimer,Chandler Arizona

View Don "Dances with Wood" Butler's profile

Don "Dances with Wood" Butler

1051 posts in 2398 days

#15 posted 07-28-2011 12:30 PM

I make great use of a goodly number of clamps of all sorts. Quite a few wood screw clamps, spring clamps, Bessys, Ponys, and c clamps, among many others.
But, when I actually have to have a vise, I have a woodworker’s vise mounted on a plywood base that can be clamped to the table or a wing of the tablesaw.
I also have a picture frame vise that I prefer to be loose on the table top so I can turn the work any way I want it.
I must say, however, that I use the ww vise very rarely.


-- Will trade wife's yarn for wood.

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