A no nonsense-low tech-off the rack-gotta start somewhere kind of workbench

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Forum topic by woodthaticould posted 03-30-2012 05:47 PM 2671 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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12 posts in 2328 days

03-30-2012 05:47 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’ve been following this website for a long time but only recently started on some small projects. My first question, and I apologize if it’s been covered already and re-covered, is this: what’s the most basic but still serviceable ready to use workbench I can buy (other than the thousand-dollar plus european specimens) that will allow me to get quickly underway. Of course, I will in the near future want to build one ideal for my situation, and I’ve been collecting designs for a long time. However, I just want to get started and therefore want buy something more or less ready to use and portable.

I have some good designs drawn up in SketchUp and, while they’re not world shaking, they’re interesting to me and I think worth building. I want to use hand tools, at least for the time being, and a few portable power tools. i.e., drill and router. Also, I’m an apartment dweller and my workspace is limited, to say the least. I’l be using either the basement or the roof of the building for cutting and sanding and I will be assembling and finishing indoors.

Thanks for reading and I hope responding.

21 replies so far

View AandCstyle's profile


3052 posts in 2258 days

#1 posted 03-30-2012 05:57 PM

The MOST basic would be a hollow core door resting on 2 saw horses.

-- Art

View waho6o9's profile


8191 posts in 2577 days

#2 posted 03-30-2012 05:59 PM

What Art said.

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3713 days

#3 posted 03-30-2012 06:39 PM

I’m using a sturdy oak office table, until I can build a real bench. The table was free and I’ve got a lot of use out of it. I think it makes sense to get a feel for the type of work you do and your particular work flow and style before you commit to buying or building a bench. Having said all that every time an LJ post a bench I think ‘That’s the bench for me’....not my skill level unfortunetly:-)

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View woodthaticould's profile


12 posts in 2328 days

#4 posted 03-30-2012 08:07 PM

Thanks for the feedback. I will probably go by way one of the routes you’ve suggested.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3109 days

#5 posted 03-30-2012 08:21 PM

If you go with a door, go with a solid core door instead of a hollow core. Hollow cavities can be problematic when clamping or performing any function that puts stresses on the work surface.

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

View KenBry's profile


484 posts in 2448 days

#6 posted 03-30-2012 08:24 PM

You can get a Solid Core Door at Habitat for Humanity restore for 20-30 bucks

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 2986 days

#7 posted 03-30-2012 08:51 PM

Harbor Freight has a solid wood workbench that routinely goes on sale for about $140 and has a front vice.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15354 posts in 2619 days

#8 posted 03-30-2012 08:52 PM

Perhaps a a B&D Workmate. Maybe even two of them for working longer projects. It has legendary (and easy) clamping ability, is stable, and if you want / need a table-like work surface keep a 2’x6’ panel (3/4” plywood, maybe?) nearby with spline to clamp into them: instant assy or finishing table.

My .02

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

View GrandpaLen's profile


1650 posts in 2273 days

#9 posted 03-31-2012 05:32 AM

As Ripthorn suggested Harbor Freight has a decent little bench with a hardwood top and a front vice and this week it was advertised at $144.99 and you can use their $20.00 off coupon, out the door for $125.00 + tax.
Reg. price was $229.99.

That’s a bench and a vice for the price of a low-end vice.

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View mrg's profile


826 posts in 3000 days

#10 posted 03-31-2012 03:57 PM

HomeDepot has a nice big fold up workbench for $60 or $70 dollars that would be great as a starter bench. Was looking at it for an extra bench for doing projects outside. It is 4×6 if I am not mistaken.

-- mrg

View MrRon's profile


4771 posts in 3244 days

#11 posted 03-31-2012 04:58 PM

How about one of those “Little Giant” combination ladders advertised on TV and a piece of plywood to serve as a bench top? A ladder will always come in handy anyway. I’m thinking here, portability as being a #1 priority.

View MrRon's profile


4771 posts in 3244 days

#12 posted 03-31-2012 05:08 PM

I gotta ask; Will the landlord of your apartment allow you to use power tools on the roof or basement? I once lived in an apartment that had assigned parking facilities. I was able to do a limited amount of woodworking as long as I didn’t disturb others and kept the area clean.

View woodthaticould's profile


12 posts in 2328 days

#13 posted 03-31-2012 05:23 PM

Thanks again for sketching out my options. Apparently there are many ways to approach this and I’ll try to pick the most feasible and practical and meanwhile remind myself that I will someday have something more permanent.

PS: To MrRon’s comment: the landlord of my building is the biggest _ in the tri-state area…
but thanks for the thought.

View Roswell's profile


77 posts in 2319 days

#14 posted 04-02-2012 02:48 PM

I’m military, and have to move every 2-3 years. I bought a workbench from Sam’s Club that has a wooden top and a steel base. You can get rolling/removable cabinets that store beneath it, and they’re very handy when you need more real estate, but tuck away nicely. You can get some inexpensive dogs, and either use wedges, or that nifty little Veritas surface vice to clamp pieces to the top. It has served me well, is readily available in stores, and is relatively inexpensive at $200.


Rolling Cabinets

Another Option, but not tall enough for me

-- _Never argue with an idiot. They'll just drag you down to their level and beat you with experience_

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3743 days

#15 posted 07-06-2016 04:31 PM

I have the Sams Cabinets in my shop –
Also I started out using a “workmate” as the vise function was pretty handy, and I got it for 10 bucks at a garage sale. – and could fold it up after using.

Also check out the “hot deals thread”

For my kid taking a class – I bit and got one of the sets of chisels from Aldi (yep the grocery chain).
4 chisels for 6.99.
Flattened the backs, and sharpened them and cut dovetails no problem!! and stayed sharp all week.

they were recommended by Paul Sellers.
They are reviewed here (and rehandled) but they work great, and will get you off and running without breaking the bank

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

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