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Mods for Harbor Freight 60" workbench?

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Forum topic by ADHDan posted 06-09-2014 02:17 PM 9010 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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ADHDan

800 posts in 1568 days


06-09-2014 02:17 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m going to be getting the 60” Harbor Freight workbench because my current workbench is way too big (a conference room tabletop mounted on base cabinets) and I have no time to build one from scratch. It has good reviews (e.g. http://lumberjocks.com/reviews/1325 ), and I think it should suit my needs pretty well. But I’d like to tweak and mod it to make it better, and I was wondering whether any Jocks have done any customization to this bench. What are some good things to think about for making it more useful?

I mostly work with power tools (I haven’t touched my single plane in over two years), so I’m thinking more along the lines of extra storage space, beefier supports, etc. I’d really like to put a couple enclosed cabinets under the drawers, instead of just the single shelf – I’ll be losing a lot of storage space when I ditch my current monster bench. I’d also like to have a small front vise (it only comes with a side vise), so I’m hoping this little guy can fit somewhere in front without blocking the drawers: http://reviews.homedepot.com/1999/202688767/pony-6-1-2-in-light-duty-woodworkers-vise-reviews/reviews.htm.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.


9 replies so far

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dirtycurty

44 posts in 1038 days


#1 posted 06-09-2014 05:38 PM

I have 2 of those benches. First off if you want to use the bench dogs they need to be drilled out to 3/4” to use common size dogs, the holes are only 5/8”. Since you are wanting to mount a vise on the front I wouldn’t even install the vise that comes with the table, it is very sloppy and the jaws don’t close evenly. If you plan on doing any heavy work on it, you need to brace the legs better, they do wobble. Since you want to put a cabinet of some sort under neath, I would not even bother installing the drawers that come with it because I think they are terrible and the bottom shelf would have to be replaced with something better besides the pressed cardboard shelf it comes with.

I know this sounds very negative but believe it or not I really do like my benches but I use one for glue ups and the other for a sanding table so they suit my needs just fine. It’s just if your gonna do heavy work they have some issues that need to be addressed.

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unbob

718 posts in 1363 days


#2 posted 06-09-2014 06:31 PM

A bracket for the leg vise screw, added some needed support to the legs at that end.Also a board that is flush with the back table edge, tying the legs together.
A better end vise.

A 2X6 tying the legs, cheezzy shelf down under.

I have one of the benches to fill in until I can build one, its not too bad.
I glued the thing together and added a 2X6 under the bottom shelf tying the legs together. Also, a maple board along the back side that is flush with the top edge. This stiffened the thing up enough for hand planning.
I added a leg vise, and a better end vise using some vintage screws I came across.
I did hand plane the top flat. Some photos.

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Ripthorn

1406 posts in 2444 days


#3 posted 06-09-2014 06:47 PM

unbob, that piece of snakewood is unreal. I am dying of envy over that thing, I can’t even fathom what it must have cost!

As for the bench, I have no real suggestions.

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

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NiteWalker

2735 posts in 2036 days


#4 posted 06-09-2014 07:04 PM

By the time you invest the materials and time into making the hf bench a good bench, you’ll have already surpassed the time, effort and money on building a good bench from scratch. A really great design is fine woodworking’s GSIW workbench. Easy to build and very sturdy.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

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unbob

718 posts in 1363 days


#5 posted 06-09-2014 07:04 PM

My wife purchased that and another large piece of snake wood for $75 from a small wood dealer. He had that wood for around 50yrs. It was buried under piles of other wood for decades.
The old guy is a little cranky, and would not allow me to dig through his stuff, but he cant say no to my wife-same as me.
She pulled some of the most amazing burls from there also. She is the wood buyer, then tells me what she wants.

I poked around a little, snake wood in that size is very hard to find with the spots all through it. No cracks!

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Ripthorn

1406 posts in 2444 days


#6 posted 06-09-2014 07:10 PM

Yeah, half logs that size go for several hundred bucks anymore. Congrats on the score, that is truly amazing.

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

View ADHDan's profile

ADHDan

800 posts in 1568 days


#7 posted 06-09-2014 09:09 PM

These ideas are exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

I plan on keeping the drawers because I need that type of storage space, but I figure it would be pretty easy to replace the mdf bottoms with some scrap plywood (same with the lower shelf). I’m also not dead-set on cabinets underneath; a few shelves would probably work just as well.

NiteWalker, one of the main reasons I’m getting the HF bench is that I have very little free time, and I can use it straight from the box (after a little setup) and then build on it here and there, as I have time. Plus, honestly, building my own bench just doesn’t appeal to me. If I had more space I wouldn’t even be getting rid of my current bench, wonky as it is.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View baldguy's profile

baldguy

18 posts in 832 days


#8 posted 01-04-2015 05:19 AM

I realize this is an old post, but I picked up one of these benches as a “hold-over” until I can afford (the money and the floorspace) to go all-out on my dream bench. I’m also looking to modify mine to add some cabinet space, raise it up a bit, etc. I only paid $119 b/c it was on sale and I used the HF 25% coupon. put it together in about an hour and it seems decent enough… should be better once I get it modified. Still trying to decide how to go about that, though.

ADHDan – how did yours turn out?

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ADHDan

800 posts in 1568 days


#9 posted 01-05-2015 04:01 PM

It turned out quite well. I beefed it up in several ways. First, I replaced the lower shelf with plywood, and I screwed plywood panels across the sides and the back to make an enclosed underside shelf and prevent racking (and I screwed some oak strips as trim to maintain a decent aesthetic). I also screwed a plywood panel across the bottom to further prevent racking and to let me use all of the space under the bench for storage. I built a few risers on the lower shelf, and picked up some plastic bins of various sizes that slide nicely into the shelves and cubbies for extra storage.

For mobility, I added a set of Rockler kick-down/retractable casters to the sides of the bench. With the addition of the plywood bottom, the bench sits just a quarter inch off the floor with the casters engaged, so it’s really no trouble to kick them down/up. I also connected the casters with angle iron so I can just kick down on a bar to engage both casters on a side, rather than having to engage them individually.

For non-structural modifications, I drilled out holes in the front and added a small vise, which JUST fit with enough clearance for the drawers to be able to open. I also screwed a hacksaw blade onto the front for a sandpaper cutter (just fold a sheet in half and slide it over the blade) and I mounted a power strip to the side to provide easy access for power tools. I also extended the benchtop back by an extra inch or two with a thick piece of oak to give me more of an overhang for clamping.

Here are some pics. With all of the plywood panels on the side, back and bottom, plus loaded up with storage, the bench is really heavy-duty. I’m pretty sure you could do just about any hand tool work on it without racking.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

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