I need to fix-up my workmate

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Forum topic by Tedstor posted 05-27-2011 04:54 PM 14419 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1625 posts in 2055 days

05-27-2011 04:54 PM

If two years ago, you were to ask me my opinion of the B&D Workmate, I would have scoffed and proclaimed the workmate to be a gimmicky man-toy that ill-advised wives give thier husbands for thier birthday. Thats probably because the only workmates I had really noticed were the entry level models, which are little more than particleboard sawhorses.
However, after reading the Landis workbench book, I started to see how a workmate could come in handy. After a quick google, I realized that there were several versions of the BD workmate, and an infinite number of poorly built knockoffs. But thats were my interest in the workmate more or less stalled. The high end model seemed to be the only one I’d want, and I didn’t think I’d use it enough to justify paying $100+ for it.
A couple months later, I was milling around a local yard sale that had a workmate for sale. It was an older model, gray in color, heavy steel base, and a thick plywood top. I asked the seller about it. He said his father bought it in the late 70s and used it sporadically. But it had mostly just been collecting dust since the late 80s. And it looked as if it hadn’t been used much. It was in really good shape.
So having a soft spot for older tools, I smoothly negotiated the $20 asking price down to $13 (which was every dime I had on me), and the workmate came home with me.
In no time I realized what an awesome (30 year old) innovation the workmate was. I use it all the time. Its my planer table, miter saw stand, joinery bench, and lots more. My favorite part of owning the workmate is that I can easily carry it onto my driveway or backyard, and build stuff while my kids are playing in the yard. Heck, I sometimes take it outside on a nice day, simply to enjoy the weather while I work.
Of course, mistakingly leaving it outside a few times in the rain has made the plywood top start to bubble and crack. Its time to replace it. So the question is:

What should I replace the top with? The original plywood top lasted 30yrs, so I’m tempted to buy some 3/4” Baltic be done with it. Is there a particular playwood I should use? What about finish? Given my poor track record, may some Thompson’s Water Sealer ? LOL?

8 replies so far

View JimF's profile


143 posts in 2715 days

#1 posted 05-27-2011 05:10 PM

My workmate is 40 years old and I refinished the top about 3 years ago. I’ve used it for everything you mentioned and more. All of my benchtop tools have plywood bases that allow clamping to the workmate while in use. It has a lot of dings and scrapes (and a couple of saw kerfs), but still has the original plywood. No expert here, but I’d go with the 3/4 Baltic birch to be sure it would start off and stay flat. Any good outdoor finish should cover your occasional lapses in putting it away when finished with it.

-- Insert clever tag line here

View Lynden's profile


60 posts in 2569 days

#2 posted 05-27-2011 05:26 PM

A few years ago I replaced the top of a round, metal-framed picnic table with 1/2” MDO plywood. The original glass top broke. I painted the MDO top and it has held up really well. Check into using 3/4” MDO for your repacement top. Sign makers sometimes use MDO plywood for exterior signs. Check with local sign shops to see if they have any scrap pieces. Another idea would be to laminate 1/4” tempered hardboard onto some 1/2” plywood.

View Bertha's profile


12989 posts in 2115 days

#3 posted 05-27-2011 05:43 PM

Yeah, those older ones are really nice and sturdy. I’ve always been a fan of the Workmate. For $2 worth of wood, you can replace the top and put any kind of dog imaginable wherever you want one. It seems like this could come in handy for carvers in certain circumstances. I bolted my dovetailer to mine & I can just collapse the whole thing and tuck it away. Me like workmate.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View bdjohns1's profile


43 posts in 2114 days

#4 posted 05-28-2011 08:44 PM

I inherited one of those beefy old workmates from my grandfather. It’s been a great addition. I did build a new table for mine from 3/4” BB plywood, doubled-up at the jaw faces. I made the back table longer so it could accommodate my portable table saw with the jaws closed.

-- Ben - resident cheese whiz.

View bubinga's profile


861 posts in 2090 days

#5 posted 05-29-2011 02:21 AM

I have two of them one is over 30 years old ,I bought it new,, it is solid ,and works fine,. The top is dented up, and has a couple of partial holes I accidentally drilled in it, but still does the job.
I only use them once in a while. the tops look to be baultic birch.
In case you didn’t know, you can buy tops and other perts to repair it

You can set them up with the legs folded up, for the down low work
Have you ever seen the extensions you can make ?
You can make these as long as you want, and hold large pieces
Here is some pics,of the newer one I inherited from my father

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

View brandon62's profile


2 posts in 872 days

#6 posted 06-07-2014 05:27 PM

Hello everyone! I also have a workmate, the 550 model and after seeing these pics and reading about this great addition to the shop, I have a question. Some time ago, mine got left outside and rained on. Since the jaws were made from mdf(?), they began to disintegrate. Now, I have cut new ones from 1/2” plywood, but since the originals broke apart, I need the placement of the holes mainly for the plastic “feet” that go into the unit, both for the fixed ones as well as the moveable. I’m really looking forward to getting more involved and posting some pics too, since I mainly work with scroll sawing and some other things too. So, have a great day and thanks in advance for any help with this. Cheers!

View mrgreen's profile


1 post in 730 days

#7 posted 10-27-2014 03:21 AM


I know this reply is a bit late, but I figured you might still be looking for an answer, and anyway this might help others with the same dilemma.

I’ve just spent the better part of two days trying to find out if parts are available for my aging Workmate 550 but the only parts retailers listing that model were all in the UK (I’m in Canada), and the exploded diagram didn’t really match my unit exactly. Like you, I had part of my clamping jaws (the center loose portion) swell after getting wet. Also, about 10 years ago my ex-father-in-law broke a corner off the particle board rear jaw. I am considering making a new set of jaws from baltic birch plywood, and was just out in the garage measuring the parts up when I noticed something interesting on the label. Although the large label text clearly says “Workmate 550” there is smaller print in the lower right of the label that says “Model 425 Type 3”. THAT model is easy to get most parts for in North America, including a set of all three clamping jaws (made of bamboo now) for just over $50USD. Just thought you might want to go that route instead of making your own from scratch. That said though I have seen some reviewers complain that the bamboo jaws are too flimsy so I am probably still going to laminate up two 12mm sheets of baltic birch plywood and make my own replacement jaws.

Although my center jaw has swelled, I can still determine the layout and dimensions of all holes so when I properly get down to the job I will post my findings and maybe a drawing to match.


View brandon62's profile


2 posts in 872 days

#8 posted 07-06-2016 01:27 AM


Wow, I had all but given up on getting a reply to this and only just today was going through my bookmarks and found/saw this! Okay, this helps, especialy with the addition of that smaller-print number to look up for parts. As well, that price sounds reasonable and I’m already looking into it. Thanks again for the reply and I apologize for the severe delay in getting back to you.

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