Opinions on a first workbench?

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Forum topic by WoodsmanWoodworker posted 09-26-2011 06:06 AM 3091 views 0 times favorited 33 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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146 posts in 2851 days

09-26-2011 06:06 AM

Hi, been here a while now and still gathering my tools. Saw this on harborfreights website. I know they arent known for high quality items but my budget hasnt been up to the quality of items i wanted so far, so for a first workbench i would really appreciate your comments. Do you think it will last a while? Do you recmoned another for less or around this ones asking price. Thanks again, i really appreciae your help. There is also a smaller version

-- We must protect the forests for those who can't speak, for the trees and animals. ~THE WOODSMAN~

33 replies so far

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2980 days

#1 posted 09-26-2011 06:21 AM

You probably aren’t going to find another one in the same price point, but I doubt you’ll be very impressed with the quality of the HF bench. I’ve seen it in person and it didn’t seem very sturdy. Have you thought about building one instead? I’m sure there are a plethora of plans available online that use construction grade lumber for the legs and support and perhaps a hardwood for the top.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3026 days

#2 posted 09-26-2011 06:28 AM

I have one of the older models (different drawer arrangement). It is not bad but you could build something a lot more useful with some lumberyard 2×4 and ply and still have pocket money. My only real complaint is that it is not very heavy unless loaded down and the vises are cheap and wimpy. I am planning on re-purposing mine as a stand for my lathe.

Other ideas:

I like this one, from Roy Underhill’s and other places. The legs are its weak point but it is meant to be portable:

I really like this type. Lots of strength and stability for little money. If I were building one right now, this is the way I would go. The only thing I would add would be strategic webbing pieces in the torsion box to use holdfasts:

It doesn’t have to be fancy, just stable and flat.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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146 posts in 2851 days

#3 posted 09-26-2011 06:29 AM

Yeah, i saw the legs were thin. I mean i posted a second one, for looks. Something that size would really be all i need. Does anyone know of one this size for under 150 or have an example on how to build one for about that. Thanks all

Yeah those look good. I just want to have a smaller bench with a good weight to it so it dosnt rock whilst planeing and such.

-- We must protect the forests for those who can't speak, for the trees and animals. ~THE WOODSMAN~

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3026 days

#4 posted 09-26-2011 06:47 AM

Well, take a look at the one I have on my projects. It is public on sketch up. Unless you are used to making big mortise and tenon, it is a lot of chopping and drilling.

The next ones I will make (For my machine tools) will be the torsion box style. As long as you are not looking for pretty, you are not going to get stronger and cheaper. 2pieces 2’x4’ ply and some economy studs for the top and you are in business. Put the top on some saw horses. Then you have a workbench to build the base on. Add some nice wood later for a skirt and you can even make it pretty enough for a dining room table.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2668 days

#5 posted 09-26-2011 06:48 AM

I would have that at the sale price, then during assembly beef it up or replace any components I didn’t like where needed.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View grantlairdjr's profile


31 posts in 2618 days

#6 posted 09-26-2011 11:13 AM

You can find simple workbench at—that’s where I build my first one last spring. It cost me no more than 50 dollars on woods. If you don’t have Kreg system, try non-Kreg version – I’ve seen some good tutorial at

-- Grant Laird Jr - Garland, Texas

View PutnamEco's profile


155 posts in 3315 days

#7 posted 09-26-2011 03:21 PM

Fine Woodworking has a series for the beginning woodworker that features an easy to build workbench. Should come in well under your budget, and it looks like an interesting build.

-- “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3187 days

#8 posted 09-26-2011 03:42 PM

If I were to purchase this, I would apply a 3/4” sheet of plywood to the back to really sturdy it up and keep it from racking. Or (and), I would fill in the gap between the lower shelf and the drawers with an “module” or box of additional drawers. This alone woulld supply tremendous rigidity and additional weight to the structure. I might also explore some better (stronger) joinery options, if possible.

Nothing says you can’t purchase it and then improve upon it.

-- jay,

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3677 days

#9 posted 09-26-2011 04:10 PM

I’d second the Fine Woodworking “starting in woodworking” workbench which would be cheaper to build than the HF version, it’ll be sturdier (especially if you plan to plane and pound on it) and will give you much more option to customize it down the road.

I made one of those several years ago and still use it to this day (check my projects)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3187 days

#10 posted 09-26-2011 04:24 PM

BTW, I gave you suggestions to improve that bench…it’s not what I’d do. I’d build my own.

-- jay,

View pierce85's profile


508 posts in 2591 days

#11 posted 09-26-2011 05:26 PM

I third the Fine Woodworking “starting in woodworking” workbench. It’s not the prettiest bench but it’s very functional and you can always upgrade the top later while keeping the sturdy base. Here’s a useful site that’s dedicated to workbenches –

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3026 days

#12 posted 09-26-2011 06:41 PM

Here is a link to the article for the torsion box workbench.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2722 days

#13 posted 09-26-2011 06:45 PM

I can see using this thing as an assembly table, as the price is quite attractive. However, I don’t think it would hold up to even moderate tasks, certainly not handplaning. I think you could build something you’d be happier with for about the same money. Good luck!

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

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3144 days

#14 posted 09-26-2011 08:26 PM

hello woodsmann nice to see you online again :-)

my surgestion is you build one yourself out of 2×4 a knockdown model
and laminate two pieces of 1 inch plywood as top
make the trellis at the same high and you can add shelfs if you want
it don´t have to be fancy but study and flat then use money on a good vice
not that you need that either but it is good to have


View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3026 days

#15 posted 09-26-2011 08:27 PM


Actually, it would hold up fine. You could probably safely put a car up on it. If I were building one personally, I would reduce the webbing to 3/4 in material and go down to 1/8 in ply on the bottom and 1/4 ply on the top with a sacrificial 3/4 as a replaceable surface. I have one with 2×2 cedar webbing with 1/8 on the bottom and 1/4 on the top for my sewing machine (Nearly 100lbs) and I don’t have any noticeable deflection. I have also stood on it without worrying about it and I am not a light weight. :)

For a horizontal box beam, the bottom is in tension. The 3/4 in ply has an obscene strength (one piece will take in the range of 8,000 pounds in tension and much more in compression). The beam is only cantilevered a foot or two on the ends. The webbing members (spacing blocks) are in compression. Take three 2×4’s and see how much it takes to crush them. As far as the legs, they are just like stick framing for a house. The force to deform or break that bench would be measured in tons (assuming the parts are glued).

Now they do have a real down side. Unless you have some dampening, they are LOUD to bang on. It is just like a drum. You also have to plan and put wood in places you want things like holdfasts.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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