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Woodworking on a Half-Shoestring #42: Beefing Up A HF Windsor-Style Workbench

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Blog entry by Paul Bucalo posted 04-19-2015 01:54 PM 2381 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 41: Outdoor ACU>RITE Digital Wireless Temperature Sensor Housing (Finale) Part 42 of Woodworking on a Half-Shoestring series Part 43: Tool Tip - Simple Depth Gauge for Twist Bits »

Keeping within the budget and guidelines of my frugal perspective, I opted to take a chance by purchasing a Harbor Freight Windsor-style Workbench last weekend. Over the past two days I have been working on its assembly and beefing it up to meet my needs in the dungeon workshop.

I’m sure many serious woodworkers would frown upon my choice, even call me some unsavory things for choosing to go this route. I didn’t go this route because I thought it was an optimum or preferred choice. It was the practical, achievable one. I had my birthday last week and my father was uncharacteristically generous in acknowledging it. The wife and I planned to travel to a large city South of us to spend the day shopping and eating at one of our favorite family restaurants. I had planned on stopping at the Harbor Freight store because at over an hour away from home, I don’t get to visit the place very often. The workbench was on sale. With a crisp new hundred dollar bill in my pocket (thank you, Dad!) it made sense to pick one up for what would ultimately become an ~ $79.00 USD buy. The dimensions were perfect for my workshop: I needed one narrow and not too long. Two other criteria made this the best choice for now: price (with the price of lumber in my area, I couldn’t build this for less than three times the price I paid for it) and weight. Oh yeah, you heard me: weight. We are contemplating a move some time either late this year or the next. No way do I want to tackle carrying a 300-400 pound Roubo-style workbench up the old stone steps of the dungeon entrance. In the beefing up process, I made sure to allow for disassembly of the legs from the bench top, and both units will be manageable by myself or with a little help.

I have no idea what hardwood the bench is made of. I used pine boards and quality dimensional fir. Here is the bench assembled from instructions, to the point where I needed to start the strengthening process. What’s missing from the original build design are the side braces with tracks, the center brace with tracks, and the four shelves that would fit underneath the top:

I purchased a vice from our local Lowe’s a couple of years ago. This was the perfect opportunity to incorporate it into the bench. It’s obvious in the picture that the thin top and sides can’t handle the vice without help. Two-bys were run crosswise and a thin hard maple shim was used between them and the vice to insure it wouldn’t dig into the softer wood in use. Polyurethane construction glue was used to to attach the two-bys to the top and sides, and the maple shim to the fir. Four #14-3” wood screws attach the two fir boards to the sides behind the vice. This will be obvious in the backside view:

The fir rail support installed on front side:

The fir rail support installed on back side. Note the larger, longer screws on the left side of the picture. These secure to the crosswise braces to the front and back rails:

Front and back rails supports are screwed into the legs. On the vice side, only the back rail support is attached:

Rail support attachments to the legs:

Three-quarter view of the leg bracing boards attached:

View from the other end:

Back side of completed bench upgrade:

Front view:

You are probably wondering how flat the top is after all the bracing I have done. It’s off a little, in spots. Right now it’s not important to resolve. Once I get the benches and equipment reorganized, I will come back to this and do some careful planing/sanding. It really isn’t bad.

Before turning off the lights for the night, I did some edge planing in the black vice. Nice. The bench didn’t budge or rock. :)

Next project: putting up walls in the dungeon using pallets!

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA



5 comments so far

View luv2learn's profile

luv2learn

2467 posts in 1770 days


#1 posted 04-19-2015 02:58 PM

Paul, no need to apologize for shopping at Harbor Freight. For many of us woodworking hobbiest that is our favorite store. I was one happy guy when a Harbor Freight opened in our town. The bench with your modifications ought to serve you well.

-- Lee - Northern idaho~"If the women don't find you handsome, at least they ought to find you handy"~ Red Green

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

626 posts in 827 days


#2 posted 04-19-2015 03:35 PM

If I could be so lucky as to have a Harbor Freight in my little city, they would be my candy store, Lee. :)

Time will tell how well the bench works out for me. This, and the modified desk-turned-bench conversion I assembled this on, will make it possible for me to work on larger projects. The dungeon workshop is slowly coming together.

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

View handsawgeek's profile

handsawgeek

591 posts in 863 days


#3 posted 05-21-2015 02:58 PM

Hey, Paul,
No shame in shopping at Harbor Fright. I pop in there myself once’t in a while to see what’s new.
This looks like it will be a very servicable workbench!
Heck, my bench is all made out of scrounged construction site lumber with an old solid core door for a top. Works fine for me and the price was right!
Have fun!

-- Ed

View davidroberts's profile

davidroberts

1025 posts in 2953 days


#4 posted 05-26-2015 07:51 PM

I bought a HR bench at a divorce, er garage sale for $40, assembled and unused. Hard to pass up. Using at the moment for storage but would like to beef it up. Not a bad bench for the price, and respectable when on sale at HF. My HF brad nailer outlasted a Porter Cable. There are some diamonds in that pile of coal.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

626 posts in 827 days


#5 posted 06-26-2015 12:38 PM



I bought a HR bench at a divorce, er garage sale for $40, assembled and unused. Hard to pass up. Using at the moment for storage but would like to beef it up. Not a bad bench for the price, and respectable when on sale at HF. My HF brad nailer outlasted a Porter Cable. There are some diamonds in that pile of coal.

- davidroberts

My apologies for taking so long to get back to your comment, David.

So far the HF bench has been useful and holding up well. The bench has the only working vices, so it can’t help but be useful. I would have wanted more dog holes, but that is something I can add on my own. I’m glad I bought it. I would have loved getting mine for the price of yours, though. ;)

I also have a HF nailer (18 gauge) that has been a good tool. I run an in-line oiler, which tends to send quite a bit through. I think that has helped in keeping it (mostly) jam-free and running predictably. Careful screening and taking good care of HF tools can give back unparalleled value.

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

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