All Replies on Workbench Tool Well? Yes or no and why.

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View Brad's profile

Workbench Tool Well? Yes or no and why.

by Brad
posted 11-25-2012 04:17 PM

35 replies so far

View Biff's profile


126 posts in 2011 days

#1 posted 11-25-2012 05:34 PM

I also struggled with that idea when building my bench and decided against it. It was the same reasoning that there are hardly any shelves or counter space in my workshop: If you have a flat surface, you will stack stuff on it instead of putting it away.

I reasoned that if I had a tool well it would quickly be filled with tools, cut offs, glue rags, etc until it was full. By deleting the well I am forced to clean up and put away as I go along, that way I have an uncluttered workspace.

Just my opinion since I work with a little OCD when it comes to clutter!

-- Interested in Oregon property? Visit me at

View Raymond Thomas's profile

Raymond Thomas

189 posts in 2216 days

#2 posted 11-25-2012 05:43 PM

I am a organizational nut – everything in its place and a place for everything. I built my workbench out of a 2-inch, solid-core door; I wanted a large flat work surface. I have never wanted a tool well because of the way in which I organized my working are/shop.

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

18713 posts in 2565 days

#3 posted 11-25-2012 05:45 PM

When I built my workbench I made a conscience decision to not add a tool well. Here was my reasoning.

-I left a spot above the drawers so I could slide the tools under my benchtop. *The well would constantly fill up with dust, dirt and shavings, thus hiding any small tools, bits, blades and the like that wound up in there.
-I figured if I built anything with legs (and I often do), one set of legs would always be falling in the well.
-I didn’t want to loose that much benchtop.
-I would rather have a rolling cart or tool chest (not the Swartz style, more like a mechanic’s box) that I could roll around my bench to set tools on, but I have another bench behind mine that I often set tools on while working with them.

As unorganized and haphazard as I am, I’m pretty good at not pushing my tools off the other side. If it was a problem for me, I’d rather make a sideboard that could be raised and/or lowered. To form something like this style benchtop. The other option, put it against a wall.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3156 days

#4 posted 11-25-2012 05:59 PM

I will design a tool well into my bench, not just for the utility of it, but also to save on cost. It’s a good way to get more working area. A prime example would be if you wanted a 30” deep bench…by adding a tool tray you can build a double layer mdf or plywood bench using only 1 sheet of it.

-- jay,

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2854 days

#5 posted 11-25-2012 06:13 PM

I go with the tool well.

Yes it collects a pile of …... but makes it easy to

clear a flat piece without putting all the tools you

are using. But I’m a slob :)


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2574 days

#6 posted 11-25-2012 06:23 PM

No tool well for me.
It will get filled with dust and chips, along with tools. Especially small ones that are easily vacuumed up when you decide it’s time to clean the well out.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2966 days

#7 posted 11-25-2012 06:34 PM

I regret incorporating a well into my workbench. It’s a magnet for shavings, chips and other workshop detritus. I don’t need the storage space either as the cabinet beneath has a 5” gap between it and the bench top – the gap gives 3 times the capacity of the well, but doesn’t fill up with junk.

View TeamTurpin's profile


85 posts in 2059 days

#8 posted 11-25-2012 06:41 PM

I have one. It’s unusable work space and a junk collector. I’d rather have work surface.


View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2633 days

#9 posted 11-25-2012 06:42 PM

I chose against it on my bench for the reasons others had stated. If you decide to go with it, make it easy to clean the chips out. The incline end it ok, but a open end is better if it is possible.

View css's profile


3 posts in 2006 days

#10 posted 11-25-2012 07:40 PM

I had one in a table saw leaf, collected a lot of dust so, I replaced the bottom with Chicken wire fence. This helped a lot with dust.

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2561 days

#11 posted 11-25-2012 08:32 PM

really glad to come across this topic. I will be building my bench this winter and had never heard of a tool well. At this point I think I would forgoe it based off of others negative reviews, but its a good option to think of as I continue to design in my head.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2949 days

#12 posted 11-25-2012 09:24 PM

I do not have one on my bench; never wanted it and will never want one. For a hand tool user, that tool well is not only a magnet for shavings, dust, etc, it is a place where tool edges are going to get ruined from banging into each other and tools getting dinged up. I also use all four sides of my bench for clamping and such. The tool well is detrimental to that.

I have a home for all of my tools. Some of them are sharp and I do not want them to get dull by any other way then usage. Some of them are expensive (or they are restored) and I do not want them banging into other tools. They take their share of nicks and dings from normal use, no sense in damaging them further. I work at the task at hand and then put the tools away. I spent most of the day working in my shop this day (see my blog – shameless plug!). During that time, I think I pulled out and put away my miter box and saw like three or four times. I was finished with it for the time and I put it away. I used a few planes and every time I finished with them, I put them away. I am really glad they are not hanging out in a tool well.

-- Mike

View Loren's profile (online now)


10385 posts in 3645 days

#13 posted 11-25-2012 09:44 PM

The tool tray bottom has a structural roll in a skirted bench
with end caps, like my bench.

I’ve got used to the tool tray. A drawer under the bench
to sweep clutter into would serve a similar purpose. If
all you do on your bench is work with wood and set
woodworking tools, you won’t have screws, fasteners,
switches, capacitor covers, fret wire and stuff like that
cluttering up your bench…. but I usually do and the tool
tray gives that clutter a place to go until I get around
to sorting and putting it away.

View Mosquito's profile


9304 posts in 2290 days

#14 posted 11-25-2012 09:53 PM

I am currently building a workbench, and I am incorporating a tool well because the way I have mine designed is with splayed back legs, and a narrower (10.5” wide) bench top. I am also planning on making it so I can put a cover piece over the tool well that sits flush with the top of the bench, so I can have a larger flat surface when I need it.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View rustynails's profile


747 posts in 2526 days

#15 posted 11-26-2012 02:58 AM

I would not build in a tool well but instead make one that slides/attaches under the top. So if you need one you just slip it in and if you don’t need it don’t attaché it?
Make the well the same thickness as the top then just attach two long pieces of wood in the middle of the well sticking out the side , then make two pockets /brackets that would accept the long pieces of wood. Slip the well off or on as needed. That way you can clamp any were on the bench.

Good luck

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3244 days

#16 posted 11-26-2012 03:10 AM

When I finally get started on mine, I’m adding the trays that turn over. Sort of the best of both worlds thing. Something else to consider.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3106 days

#17 posted 11-26-2012 04:38 AM

I have a simple bench and I pretty much turned my back on attaching any storage options to it. I wanted to avoid drawers, wells, trays, etc. The reason is that I wanted to utilize as much clamping, assembly, working, etc. space as I could. Everyone’s needs are different. My space is limited and open storage areas like this eventually turn into headaches because it ends up becoming a resevoir for all the tools, hardware, fasteners, etc. that I do not already have a pre-assigned location for. Eventually, that chaos overtakes the bench and then requires me to clean off my bench before I can use it.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3306 days

#18 posted 11-26-2012 04:41 AM

I do not have a tool well but I am considering building several slide out trays/drawers that would utilize a strong wire mesh bottom as opposed to a solid bottom so chips and sawdust could fall through.

View mbs's profile


1656 posts in 2937 days

#19 posted 11-26-2012 04:49 AM

I have a tool well because the benches I looked at before I made mine had tool wells. I can’t say that I like a lot though. I probably wouldn’t make one with a well again.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29226 posts in 2335 days

#20 posted 11-26-2012 04:53 AM

I am with nitewalker it’ll fill with dust and shavings. Also, I need the work space too bad.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View JADobson's profile


1035 posts in 2108 days

#21 posted 11-26-2012 05:42 AM

I haven’t built my bench yet but I’m planning on skipping the traditional tool well and making a small detachable well that would hang from a french cleat off of the left hand side of the bench for those times when a well would be handy.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany

View BigYin's profile


416 posts in 2413 days

#22 posted 11-26-2012 05:46 AM

got a tool well, hate it, it has to go.

-- ... Never Apologise For Being Right ...

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15349 posts in 2616 days

#23 posted 11-26-2012 06:14 AM

I think wells are a waste. I have a bench with a well and used it. Grew to hate the tool well for the crap it allowed me to not put away… If you include in your build, Mos has a great approach.

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

View MNWOODWORKER's profile


105 posts in 3582 days

#24 posted 11-26-2012 07:21 AM

I am just getting started building my Roubo and there will be a tool tray. I do not have one on my other bench and always wish I did. I am very much a clean freak, tools will be put away at the end of the day and the tray, as well as the rest of the shop, will be clean. That being said the bottom of the tray will pop out for easy cleaning. I can see both sides of the fence, I just know which side I stand on.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7757 posts in 2911 days

#25 posted 11-26-2012 12:27 PM

My tool trays are reversible in that I can turn them over and have additional bench space when the trays are not needed. This is a typical feature of the 21st Century WB design that many of us have built.

Here is mine:

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Brad's profile


1139 posts in 2737 days

#26 posted 11-26-2012 02:54 PM

Thanks everyone. I appreciate the pros and cons you’ve stated. The consensus among those that have a tool well is that the cons (collect shavings and clutter, subtract bench-top space, provide an uneven surface) seem to outweigh the pros (able to keep tools at hand during a project, and keep them from rolling off the bench).

I like renners’ idea of using the space immediately under the bench top as a “temporary holding area” for tools during a project. While that’s not practical for my bench design I’m thinking that when I build my new bench down the road that I’ll design in that feature.

...which leaves me with my original issue, tools rolling off the backside of my bench. The garage floor is not flat all the way to the wall. There’s a 4” high concrete “lip” at the wall that prevents my bench from sliding flush to the wall. So what I’ll probably do is use Don’s suggestion to apply a “skirt”. But rather than put it on the bench, I’ll put it on the bottom of the shelf I’m using to dock my every-project planes. Then I’ll snug my bench up to the skirt and walla, no more grinding nicks out of chisel edges :)

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4097 days

#27 posted 11-26-2012 02:59 PM

Everyone’s needs are different based on the style of work and projects that they build.

After looking at a few workbenches in town I decided not to add the tool tray, the guys that had them expressed regret.

The problems expressed are the same as what other guys have stated before me, the dust & crap that the tray gathers and that legs of projects drop into the hole causing projects to tip alarmingly at time.

I will say I like HorizontalMike’s location of the tool tray if you wanted one, which is in the middle of the bench. The problem of project legs dropping into the tool tray would be abated to some degree if they were able to naturally straddle the void as you work on the project. Many tool trays are set off to one side and if you are working on a project there is not enough surface to the outside edge near the worker to place the legs of the project.

For the most part, most traditional work bench designs are not wide enough for the work that I do. I have a full 4×8 work bench. The size and design of this table fulfills my needs.

I just realize I need to get more better pictures focusing on my bench.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2284 days

#28 posted 11-26-2012 03:17 PM

I have not read the comments above, but I couldn’t work on a small bench like that after working on a 4×4 bench. Why not just make a bench you can do something on that’s wide enough, or is space a considration?

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7757 posts in 2911 days

#29 posted 11-26-2012 03:28 PM

One thing that I did not mention (above) about having my tool trays in the middle of the WB is that they are completely removable. When the trays are removed I can then have/use additional clamping/clamps and still have “top” left on both sides of the project. And the removed trays can still be used to hold/protect tools elsewhere.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View chrisstef's profile


17384 posts in 3004 days

#30 posted 11-26-2012 03:44 PM

Man, so much to think about when building a bench. Ill be venturing into a bench build in the spring i hope. In the mean time ill be reading and evaluating my specific needs. I tend to leave a lot of tools on my bench when i work but i do a lot of hand planing and can see the thought of chips and shavings filling it up. Makes a guy get to thinkin …. good post Brad.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2108 days

#31 posted 11-26-2012 03:49 PM

I am in the process of finishing up my bench. I am building a tool well. I plan to build it sturdy enough that I can use it to clamp to. Probably 1.5” maple on the back side and .75” maple on the side next to the bench top. I will use a tongue and groove joint to join .75” plywood bottom. With the ends of the well extending the full depth of the bench I think that I will have enough strength.

I chose to go with a tool well because i am always working on multiple projects at the same time. I need some place to put project A’s parts when I have to stop and work on project B.

As far as it being a “collector of junk” I reserve the first 10 minutes of each day to straightening out the shop and figure that I can empty it out each day.

For times where I need the additional surface space I will have a rabbit around the inside edge and I can drop a cover plate over the well.

I sized my well to hold the largest tool I figure that I will need to store in it.

Hope this helps.

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2680 days

#32 posted 11-26-2012 11:19 PM

With tool wells, it’s half of one or six dozen of the other (wait, that doesn’t sound right…)

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View Texchappy's profile


252 posts in 2218 days

#33 posted 11-27-2012 12:04 AM

I’m still in planning my bench but I’m not going to put in a tool well. I have a thought to build a small rolling saw till/tool tray cart that I can load up and take to whatever I’m going to be working at – shave horse, saw benches, work bench, whatever. (Not that I have any of those things built).

-- Wood is not velveeta

View Brad's profile


1139 posts in 2737 days

#34 posted 12-02-2012 03:51 PM

Thank you one and all. After careful consideration of all your input, I decided to forgo the tool well. Instead, I added a back panel/skirt, to the shelf holding my planes, and I’m using it as a backstop to abut my bench to. No more tools/materials rolling off the back of the bench to be damaged.

I fashioned the backstop from left over pieces from the wine glass rack prototype that I built. (that’s the finished product in the picture)
Click for details

The overall length is a few inches shorter than the full bench, but that’s ok. Don’t need every last inch covered. I used a simple butt joint to affix the backstop.

And I used a marking gauge to determine the centerpoint of the thickness of the shelf I was abutting the backstop to. That way, I avoided splitting out the wood when I drilled pilot holes and screwed in the metal screws.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3149 days

#35 posted 12-03-2012 02:54 AM

How did I miss this post? Thats my bench up there in the intro!

I thought about making a “backsplash” that could drop down similar to those planing stops you see people make for the end of the bench. That way you prevent things from falling off the bench but can still move it down out of the way if you were working on a wide piece. But I ended up going with the tool well.

In the end I went with the backsplash because the way I saw the argument is this:
-If you don’t have a tool well you have to be organized so things don’t fall off your bench
-If you have a tool well you have to be organized because it will fill up with crap

So either way you have to be organized, except with no well you still have the chance for things to fall off your bench. I prefer to err on the side of keeping my tools from falling off the bench and hitting the concrete floor. Imagine one of you prized planes falling off the bench, I would lose sleep over that one.

Also with a tool well you have options, you can have the tool well open, or you can make a filler piece when you need the extra surface. With no tool well you have no options, it is what it is.

I filler piece can be a simple board with feet on it that elevate it to the height of the bench or a rabbet or cleat around the lip of the well that you can drop a board into. Or boxes you can flip over like the examples some folks have posted. Again you have more options.

Also, in building my bench I was determined to work with the materials I had on hand. I kind of like that added challenge.

A well also helps you maximize your materials. It’s why so many of the antique benches had them. 4” of top thickness on the back half of the bench is wasted material, you’re not going to do any chopping back there!

Anyway, that’s my reasoning. I’m glad not everyone thinks the same, I enjoy seeing all the variety of benches people come up with. ;-)

Great topic Brad, thanks for posting it. I also like the solution you came up with.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

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