Traveling Work & Saw Bench

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Project by JayT posted 06-28-2014 08:57 PM 24074 views 181 times favorited 57 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A couple years ago, I first ran across Greg Miller’s Saw Stool on Steroids. The idea rattled around until I decided to build a modified version, to make it more versatile for my needs.

While not a total Christopher Schwarz fanboy, I can relate to his advice for workbench building material, “The material should be cheap, easy to get, heavy (if possible), dry-ish and heavy (if possible).” A few months ago, I had the opportunity to pick up a good load of trucking skids for a ridiculously cheap price. The skids were predominantly red oak and mostly 2-1/2×3-1/2 in lengths of 40-48 inches. That fit Schwarz’s guidelines perfectly and using reclaimed wood is easy on both the wallet and the landfill. Sorting through, I picked out enough pieces to build this project and set to work about two months ago.

The top is about 9×40 and just under 2-1/2 inches thick, which makes it plenty heavy for its intended use. Legs splay out approximately 10 degrees in both directions, similar to Miller’s inspiration piece and result in a work surface 31 inches off the ground. The top is drilled for bench dogs and thick enough to allow for the use of holdfasts, as well.

The face vise was easy—an inexpensive unit picked up at a yard sale for $12. The tail vise was a bit more of a challenge. Almost any commercial vise is too wide to fit between the legs and other pre-made options cost more than I wanted to invest in this project, so I decided to do what many other woodworkers have done and utilize a pipe clamp. This actually worked out really well.

The pipe clamp can be adjusted as fast as a quick release vise and can clamp for working edges . . . . . .

or pivot 90 degrees for working on ends.

But how in the world am I supposed to work the face of a board? You probably noticed the vice chop doesn’t have any dog holes. No worries, the chop is sized so that turning it 90 degrees allows it to project 3/8 inch above the top, so the whole chop becomes the dog.

A pipe vise also has another advantage—travel distance. If I had used a traditional vise, it would be a big challenge to work a board that is longer than the bench top.

No worries here, just pull the pipe out, clamp it in and plane away. The bench can clamp a piece up to 50 inches long.

It’s not perfect, as there is a lot of play in the the pipe vise chop, but hey, it’s a travelling workbench and compromises have to be made. If I needed ideal, I could take the knockdown bench out of my shop to wherever it is needed.

In order to release the pipe clamp/vise, there is a lever on the side.

It was ridiculously easy to make. I simply took a rope cleat, modified it slightly and screwed it to the framework around the pipe vise jaw.

Since the whole point of a traveling bench is to be able to easily take it on the road, the components are not glued. The legs and top join with sliding dovetails, the stretchers fit into angled dovetails on the legs and the support shelf wedges lock everything together. The whole bench can be set up or knocked down in a few minutes and the parts will easily fit in the trunk of a mid-size car.

Edit: 8/18/14 After a few uses, I was having issues with the stretchers popping out of the legs under planing load. Rather than try to rework the legs, I glued the stretchers & legs together. It now makes the leg assemblies a bit bigger to store, but they still easily fit in the trunk of a car.

Now if all I had was small workbench, that might be fine, but in the spirit of the late night infomercial, “Wait, there’s more!” Since legs just slide in, I took advantage of that fact and built a set of auxiliary legs to convert the travelling workbench into an 18 inch tall saw bench with vises.

So far, I’ve found the shorter legs are stable enough to not need a shelf, but can make that modification in the future, if needed. My plan is to utilize the saw bench configuration in my shop most of the time, while still having the flexibility to take it on the road as a workbench if working away from home or doing demos at a woodworking guild meeting or show. Whichever configuration it is in, there is very little to have to worry about finding storage space—sticking an extra set of legs in the corner or up in the loft is much easier than trying to find space for a whole bench.

Total investment is less than $50.

If you made it all the way to the end of this long winded post, I thank you for looking and hope you enjoy.

-- "My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right." Abraham Lincoln

57 comments so far

View Nindwood's profile


132 posts in 726 days

#1 posted 06-28-2014 09:05 PM

Very nice job Jay. That looks like something that I could use. Your post is fantastically well written and the photos are great. Awesome design and details. Cheers.

-- Narinder, Calgary, Ab.

View BigRedKnothead's profile


7029 posts in 1026 days

#2 posted 06-28-2014 09:10 PM

I dig it man. I need one of these to take on the train with me;-P

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View Don W's profile

Don W

16677 posts in 1611 days

#3 posted 06-28-2014 09:15 PM

That’s a great bench JayT. It should serve you well.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View watermark's profile


469 posts in 986 days

#4 posted 06-28-2014 09:37 PM

Great job!

-- "He who has no dog, hunts with a cat" Portuguese proverb

View knockknock's profile


305 posts in 1217 days

#5 posted 06-28-2014 09:48 PM

Very nice, and thanks for posting the details on how it all goes together.

View NDakota's profile


54 posts in 590 days

#6 posted 06-28-2014 09:50 PM

I just put it in my Favorites. Great job !!

View MT_Stringer's profile


2609 posts in 2275 days

#7 posted 06-28-2014 10:03 PM

I think that is just great. I don’t have room for one, but it still looks great. I better add this to my favorites before I forget about it.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


12062 posts in 1662 days

#8 posted 06-28-2014 10:03 PM

Fave is right, wow, what a cool build! I’d never come up with something so clever as the varied leg lengths and sliding dovetails. The vise release switch is awesome too. Very nice!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile (online now)


16495 posts in 2719 days

#9 posted 06-28-2014 10:06 PM

Nice job. Looks really handy for those times when….

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

View chrisstef's profile


13298 posts in 2050 days

#10 posted 06-28-2014 10:07 PM

Very adaptive project there JayT. I like that it serves multiple purposes and who doesnt like getting out if the dungeon to enjoy a little woodworking with some sun shining on ya.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

2600 posts in 1295 days

#11 posted 06-28-2014 10:10 PM

Sweet mobile bench, JayT! I have a saw bench in my favorites for future projects, but I’m swapping yours out for the others in my favs. Really like that it is portable and assembles and disassembles quickly. Well done!

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View DaveGlx's profile


334 posts in 1488 days

#12 posted 06-28-2014 10:22 PM

WOW!!! very clever design and constriction. Really like the pipe clamp solution.

-- Dave -

View JayT's profile


3792 posts in 1255 days

#13 posted 06-28-2014 10:26 PM

Thanks for all the positive comments. If my furniture building abilities ever catch up with my ideas, we might actually have something.

-- "My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right." Abraham Lincoln

View ColonelTravis's profile


858 posts in 938 days

#14 posted 06-28-2014 10:29 PM

That, my friend, is a neat little bench.

View Buckethead's profile


3102 posts in 912 days

#15 posted 06-28-2014 10:42 PM

Badassh. Pimp. Fuggin awesome and other CURSEWORDS.

I steals it.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

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