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Mobile Torsion Box Workbench

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Project by Ron Stewart posted 01-21-2013 03:53 AM 6831 views 46 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here are some photos of a mobile workbench I just finished building. It’s built from yellow pine and birch plywood. It’s overall dimensions are 72” wide, 24” deep, and 35” tall.

The top is a torsion box. The structural members are 2.5” x 1.5” cut from 2”x6” boards, and the panels are 3/4” birch plywood. The dog holes are spaced 6” apart and go all the way through the top (in case I ever decide to try holdfasts).

The base is an direct implementation of Christopher Schwarz's $175 Workbench, cut from 2”x8” boards and sized to fit my bench.

The caster system is also based on a pair of Schwarz blog posts, The Easiest Way to Make Your Bench Mobile and Mobile Base Mark II. I made my casters swing to the inside of the base when parked, and I used sliding patio door latches instead of luggage-style latches to lock the casters in the down position.

Because the bench wobbles depending on where I place it in my garage, I added levelers to the front legs to stabilize it. That works very well.

You’ve no doubt noticed that I didn’t install any vises. There are simple reasons for that. I have limited storage space in which for the bench when it’s not in use. My wife parks her car in front of this bench, and I didn’t want anyone to catch a hip on a face vise handle. I didn’t install a tail vise because I don’t have much room on either side. I have a Veritas surface vise and surface clamp (along with the usual F-clamps) for workholding. We’ll see how that goes when I actually start using the bench.

The board running across the front of the legs in one photo is sort of a planing beam. I’m not a hand-tool woodworker, so I won’t actual use it for planing. But I do envision using it to support panels vertically for edge banding and trimming.

I’m looking forward to using this bench, and I’m excited to have my first real bench. To date, I’ve been using a five-foot folding cafeteria table and a 25-year old Workmate (which I will continue to use and think I will always consider an extremely useful tool.)

I know from reading the forums here that there is a lot of interest in workbenches, and some amount of interest it making them mobile, so I plan to document the rationale, design, and construction of my bench in detail. In the past, I’ve put that sort of information on my personal web site. This time, I think I’ll try my hand at doing it in a series of blog posts here.

-- Ron Stewart





12 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112104 posts in 2235 days


#1 posted 01-21-2013 03:58 AM

Great Job,a super looking bench.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View MT_Stringer's profile

MT_Stringer

1904 posts in 1889 days


#2 posted 01-21-2013 04:30 AM

Very nice.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

4942 posts in 1235 days


#3 posted 01-21-2013 04:58 AM

Favorite for sure, good job Ron and Welcome to LJ’s!

View ptofimpact's profile

ptofimpact

260 posts in 974 days


#4 posted 01-21-2013 12:58 PM

Wonderful job looks great, and you have accomplished what I have not, mobile and steady. May have to revisit my mobility setup, thanks for sharing.

-- Pete in NC

View BigDawg's profile

BigDawg

51 posts in 2378 days


#5 posted 01-21-2013 01:57 PM

Awesome bench. I like the torsion box implementation.

-- Shawn DuGay, Wallingford, CT http://www.bigdogwoodworks.com

View Pete Pedisich's profile

Pete Pedisich

127 posts in 1305 days


#6 posted 01-21-2013 03:19 PM

Fantastic bench, well executed. I’d be proud to own that bench.

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

4983 posts in 1456 days


#7 posted 01-21-2013 05:55 PM

Good looking bench.
If you are interested, here are a couple of videos of vices that may work for you, both leg and wagon vices that don’t leave anything sticking out from the sides of the bench.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/

View GrandpaLen's profile

GrandpaLen

1519 posts in 930 days


#8 posted 01-21-2013 05:56 PM

Ron,

A bench or an assembly table that is solid, dead flat and level is the precursor to square and plumb projects.

Very well done, thanks for sharing.

Work Safely 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 Ron Stewart's profile

Ron Stewart

27 posts in 1162 days


#9 posted 01-22-2013 12:28 AM

Thank you all for your comments. I really appreciate them.

And Paul, your bench and wedge clamps/vises are incredible and ingenious. Thanks for directing me to them; I had not seen them before.

-- Ron Stewart

View RickRinger's profile

RickRinger

77 posts in 609 days


#10 posted 01-22-2013 01:05 AM

Okay, I’m new here and I’m fascinated by the many different styles and designs of work benches. In fact, I’m reading Chris’ book now (thank you Santa!). I don’t understand what differentiates a torsion box bench from any other bench. Would you all mind telling me about it, how it works, and how you build it? It sure looks dandy. Kudos to the person who built this.

By the way, I LOVE the bench wheels idea! I love that such a simple solution can be staring us right in the face. I built mine to a height that I thought was ideal for me, but when I put the wheels on my bench, it raised it up to being just a bit too high. The good side of it though, is that since I’m getting older, I don’t see as well as I used to, so having things up close is a bonus. :)

View Ron Stewart's profile

Ron Stewart

27 posts in 1162 days


#11 posted 01-22-2013 01:48 AM

Hi Rick. “Torsion box workbench” is really an imprecise description of what I built. I really built a “workbench with a torsion box top.” A torsion box is basically a hollow box—thin slabs of material on either side of a structure composed of a lattice of crossbraces. A hollow core door is a good example.

Most people (including Schwarz) will tell you not to use a torsion box for a bench top because they’re not heavy enough and can’t withstand the pounding and other abuse a typical benchtop takes. You tend to see a lot of assembly tables made of torsion boxes. It’s not hard to make them flat, and the lighter weight isn’t a problem for assembly tables.

Many benchtops are solid slabs or laminations (sort of like butcher blocks). In my case, I didn’t think I could pull that off because I don’t have a planer and don’t know how to use a hand plane. So, in my case, the use of a torsion box is a compromise that I think will work well for me.

I have started writing some blog postings that describe how I built my bench. I hope to post some articles in the next week. But you can just search for “torsion box” on Google or here at lumberjocks.com and find many examples.

-- Ron Stewart

View Ron Stewart's profile

Ron Stewart

27 posts in 1162 days


#12 posted 01-28-2013 12:28 AM

Just wanted add a note about the series of blog entries I just finished writing. There’s a link to it at the end of the project description above.

-- Ron Stewart

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