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:
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, Upstate NY USA