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Torsion Box Work Bench, Mobile and Stowable, for Small Shops

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Project by Jim Bertelson posted 05-05-2015 12:20 AM 4380 views 18 times favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This project is for a mobile, stowable, and flexible bench system, particularly adapted to smaller shops.

In my La Conner vacation home I have a modest stationary bench that sits against the wall. However, it is only accessible from the front, for all practical purposes.

Like most woodworkers, a workspace that allows access from all sides, is frequently required. It needs to be away from walls and other large floor mounted tools. Also, a somewhat lower height is frequently needed for assembly.

But a rigid limiting factor exists in my small shop. The shop must be stowed into a small area at the back and one side of the garage. At night, two cars are parked in the garage. Therefore, like all the big power tools, additional benches had to be mobile and easily stored in a relatively small space.

I turned to the FWW Archive and found a candidate in the 2008 Tools and Shops issue. Two pedestals supporting two torsion boxes seemed to be adaptable to my needs.

A number of design changes were required.

I made the pedestals of different sizes, although the same height, to allow nesting.

They are both large enough to be used alone as a work surface when the complete setup is not needed. The legs are at a 5 degree angle to the vertical to achieve stability, as per the article. I installed self-leveling feet on the legs, with a large slip over rubber foot to grip the floor.

The angled legs and the rubber shod feet make the pedestals unusually stable.

I shortened the torsion boxes to 6 feet for ease of carrying and for ease of stowing. This is more than adequate for a limited shop intended for smaller projects.

I also modified the torsion boxes so that they had clamping lips in all possible positions.

Internally, there are multiple cross members in each box.

The two torsion boxes together make a 24 inch wide work surface, perfectly level.

To further facilitate stowing and moving, I placed wheels at the ends of the benches and the torsion boxes.

It turned out that the easiest way to store the pedestals was nested sitting on one end.

This eliminates trying to lift one bench over the other. It also makes the smallest possible footprint.

Construction materials were 3/4” birch veneer plywood, with all edges covered with 1/8” pine strips, my standard style for shop cabinets, benches, and large fixtures. Most of the construction is glue and nails, although the pedestals were reinforced with screws to survive the expected abuse.

While working, I frequently use just the pedestals alone.

When the torsion boxes are needed, they are clamped together, and clamped to the pedestals with quick clamps.

The pedestals alone are very stable.

The torsion boxes may also be set apart to allow cut or rout through actions.

With the torsion boxes clamped to the pedestals, the practical effect is a massive nearly unmovable bench system.

I usually set the pedestals like you see in the pictures, with the boxes to one side of the pedestals, so that the exposed part of the pedestals becomes additional work and storage area, particularly appropriate for placing the tools in use.

I find this system to be very flexible and useful, actually better than I thought it would be.

To put the pieces away, the torsion boxes are put away first, holding one at a time like drunken buddies stumbling our way out to the awaiting taxi. Can’t imagine why I pictured it that way…..(-:

Then the large pedestal is placed on its end, and the smaller one is upended and slid inside of it. Then both of them are wheeled over nested together to the storage area. All quite fast and easy.

If there are questions or you are interested in detailed dimensions, I would be happy to oblige.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska





30 comments so far

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

9443 posts in 3517 days


#1 posted 05-05-2015 12:31 AM

Jim,

What a SUPER project! You spent a little time on this one!

Super EASY to setup any way you want… Easily stored w/o taking up a lot of room!

If I used this, I’d be forced to clean my bench off every time I wanted to store it away! (that might be a GOOD feature!) LOL

Very COOL… Are you going to post a Project for it… with a few details?

Thank you!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: http://www.WoodworkStuff.net ... My Small Gallery: http://www.ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?ppuser=1389&cat=500"

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3963 posts in 2629 days


#2 posted 05-05-2015 12:40 AM

Joe

I thought I would make a blog item with details if there was interest. Starting with you, there is interest, so I will work on it….............

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View lew's profile

lew

11340 posts in 3220 days


#3 posted 05-05-2015 01:18 AM

Now that’s just plain COOL!

I really like the use of the casters. That’s thinking “outside the (torsion) box”!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3963 posts in 2629 days


#4 posted 05-05-2015 03:01 AM

Lew

Thanks Lew, this was a little while in the making. It has been at use now for a bit, so I knew it was a winner. Definitely out of box…......made for this location.

Into to a bunch of maintenance and upgrade projects here. Needs to quiet down a bit.

Is summer quieter for you, or are you not working at all any more…..........?

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

7174 posts in 2041 days


#5 posted 05-05-2015 04:38 AM

Fantastic work benches Jim, good job!

View grizzman's profile

grizzman

7798 posts in 2768 days


#6 posted 05-05-2015 12:21 PM

well isnt this a really super job, can be used in so many ways and i like the wheels in place to help move them around, and built from strong plywood, it looks like you have most of everything in your shop in connner, which i know will see more days as you enjoy your vacation home…thanks jim for letting us in ….

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Roger's profile

Roger

19878 posts in 2268 days


#7 posted 05-05-2015 12:22 PM

Very cool Jim.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. Kentuk55@yahoo.com

View lew's profile

lew

11340 posts in 3220 days


#8 posted 05-05-2015 01:20 PM

Jim,
Still subbing a little and helping out the Network Admin with grunt work. Usually just before school starts we take all of the computers- several hundred- and re-image them to start the year. Not difficult- just takes time.

The Network Admin is very young and is super bright. He has everything to a point where things are running so smoothly that human intervention is rarely needed.

Lew

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3963 posts in 2629 days


#9 posted 05-05-2015 02:38 PM

waho6o9

Thanks for the view, they work better than they look. I am making some mobile stands for some of the power tools. With bigger projects such as the stands, the system really shines. I built the large pedestal first, with a 2×4 foot top, and then used it as a bench to make the other pedestal, which is about 3.5×1.5 feet, and then the torsion boxes were constructed on the pedestals.

As stated, with the whole thing up and clamped (which takes just a few minutes) the bench is almost impossible to move. The construction is fairly heavy, so the wheels really are useful

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View timbertailor's profile

timbertailor

1592 posts in 889 days


#10 posted 05-05-2015 02:44 PM

Someone once said that necessity was the mother of all invention.

I guess they were right. Thanks for sharing. Looks very useful and being able to store it out of the way when necessary is a real plus.

-- Brad, Texas, https://www.youtube.com/user/tonkatoytruck/feed

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3963 posts in 2629 days


#11 posted 05-05-2015 02:48 PM

Grizz

The La Conner shop has some good capabilities, although some of the power tools are scaled down to fit the smaller space. I ended up with a better shop than I thought possible here, by putting things on wheels, and making this stowable bench. When I figured out I could fit in a table saw, then it gained a lot of capability. The table saw rolls into the corner next to the stationary bench with just a couple of inches to spare. Then the bandsaw is tucked in next to the table saw, with more minor tools lined up against the back wall. I am using some square saw horses from HD as tool stands temporarily.

Joe has asked for more details, so I will cover some of the construction of the bench in a blog, probably later this week.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3963 posts in 2629 days


#12 posted 05-05-2015 03:09 PM

Roger

This bench, along with the Rigid R4512 table saw really improved the shop capabilities. I was surprised that I was able to make most of the memento box here without any issues. I bought a Rockler sled for the saw that has worked out quite well. It isn’t in the same league as my super sled in Anchorage, but it didn’t take a month to build, either…...(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3963 posts in 2629 days


#13 posted 05-05-2015 03:14 PM

Lew

I thought I remembered that you still had your hand in a bit at the school. Sounds like just the right amount of work. I may have some opportunity for part time work, possibly a little teaching/administration stuff at one of the hospitals, but frankly, I am ready to just punt it all.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3963 posts in 2629 days


#14 posted 05-05-2015 03:27 PM

Brad (timbertailor)

The article in FWW using torsion boxes was written by a professional. His boxes were bigger, and were slightly different purposed. But just looking at the pictures, I figured it would work better if the torsion boxes had clamping lips everywhere.

The nesting concept was obvious because of my limited storage space. Moving them around with side mounted wheels, and nesting them in the on end position was a solution after I started using them. They are very easy to flip on to the end, nest them, and roll them away for storage. That eliminated the awkward lift of the large pedestal over the small one.

The wheels on the boxes make it possible to avoid lifting the boxes completely as well. I just roll them over to the pedestals, lean them on a pedestal, and then lift and pivot the bottom end onto the pedestal as well

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View doubleDD's profile

doubleDD

5237 posts in 1508 days


#15 posted 05-05-2015 07:15 PM

Great flexible workbench for the small shop. Nice set up and storage options. An all around unique bench.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

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