Out with the Old? Thankfully, Not Yet.

May 14th, 2010 by
14 Comments

Ten years ago, our family moved from the Minnesota to central Ohio. We had young kids, I was transitioning from a 9 to 5 publishing job to full-time freelancing and let’s just say, the budget was really strapped. I needed a workbench for cheap. I also didn’t have a lot of time to build it. So, I tabled those dreams of a fancy bench and drove to Lowe’s to buy my bench supplies. That amounted to a pile of 2x4s, two sheets of 3/4-in. MDF and a piece of subflooring. Oh, and some casters. I didn’t even have a clear plan for what the final bench would be, just a bigtime need.

$75 or thereabouts was a price I could handle. A bottle of glue and a box of deck screws later, I had a bench. As you can see, it’s nothing special to look at…long, wide and extremely heavy. But, it got my woodworking started again here in Ohio. I was grateful to have it.

Now, a decade has passed, and I still have the behemoth bench. In the amount of time it’s taken my oldest daughter to go from kindergarten through middle school, that bench has kept on giving. At first, it was my “everything” workstation, just as I hoped it would be. The double-thick MDF top has proven to be both durable and useful—partially because it’s so dense and knockabout. I just didn’t care if it got spilled on or banged up. It certainly has seen some abuse, and that hasn’t curbed its utility one bit.

Five years ago we moved again—this time into the country. The bench moved with us. It was never heavier than when I had to load and unload it. First from our rented moving truck into the garage. Then about a football field away into the shop. With the newer house I stepped up to a bigger shop and a “real” woodworking bench. It’s smaller and made of beech, with two proper vises. Trading up to a better bench was a good thing to do when the budget allowed it. But, honestly, I wish it were a little heavier and more sturdy…like my first bench is.

Once I had the fancy bench, I pulled the casters off of the old one and gave it a different lease on life. It became a miter saw station. And, while it’s worked in that capacity, the job change has never been ideal. It was deeper than a miter saw station should be, and there has always been a mess of offcuts underneath it. That explains why, in the current (June) issue of the Journal, I built a better miter saw station for myself.

But, once again I was left with a predicament: what to do with my “Lowe’s Special?”

In early March, I actually debated about tearing the old bench apart and getting rid of it. It seemed to have finally outlived its purpose. But, around the same time, Rob Johnstone called and gave me my next tool review assignment. While I can’t tell you more about that until the ink dries, I will say it requires a sturdy, wide, bulletproof bench to hold all of the test tools that I’ve rounded up for the story. In fact, my old MDF-and-2×4 battleship has turned out to be the perfect solution for the article. I even put the casters back on. Guess it’s on Lifetime #3 at this point.

Moral of my story: never underestimate a bench—no matter how rag-tag or “unwoodworking” it may seem. When it comes to shop furniture, you just never know when you might need an ugly duckling the most.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

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14 Responses to “Out with the Old? Thankfully, Not Yet.”

  1. Ian says:

    Chris, I’ve been holding out for several years now about building a bench in hopes that one day I’ll build a “proper” woodworking bench. Normally my table saw or one of my smaller wall benches suffices but there have been many occassions, especially during glue-ups, when I really need a bigger table. You’ve just convinced me go ahead and build that ugly 2×4 monster and quit waiting. Maybe one of these days I’ll get time to build that dream bench, but this is just silly to go w/o for so long in waiting. Besides, that proper bench will be a lot easier to build if I have a bench to build it on. Now I know what I’m doing this weekend…

    Thanks,

    Ian

  2. John says:

    Sometimes the ugly ducklings work the hardest. My 4×8 out-feed table for my table saws is also my favorite cabinet construction site. The vises on my workbench are nice, and the experience gained from constructing it was great, but I can’t say I would build another one if this one were gone.

  3. Paulette says:

    Care to share your “plans” for this? I’d love something like this to put in my shop!

  4. Chris Marshall says:

    Paulette,

    Would some rough dimensions and a few more photos be acceptable for you? I never actually drew this bench up as a formal set of CAD plans. It was sort of, “build as I went along.” If you’d care to offer your email address here, I’ll contact you that way with more information.

    Best,

    Chris

  5. Paulette says:

    That would be perfect, yes! I don’t need formal anything, just general is fine. Email at caseyst@gmail.com Thank you in advance, I really appreciate it! :)

    Paulette

  6. Dale Widel says:

    What is a “proper wood working bench” ?
    Is it not a tool that helps us build something out of wood ?
    Yes, we have those beautiful benches and we have those old benches that we think of as being “proper”, but in reality what works to get the job done is what we need. It looks like you did build a “proper wood working bench” . If it were not, it would not have served you so well for so many years.

  7. Stafford White says:

    Hi Chris…
    I, too, would love a rough estimate of dimensions and a few photos. I also do my assembly, gluing and whatever on my table-saw or even on the cement basement floor. Your table looks very interesting, and looks like something I could build. My email is: staffordwhite2002@yahoo.com

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Stafford

  8. Chris Marshall says:

    Paulette and Stafford,

    Have a look at the new blog post for today, Friday, May 28. I think you’ll like what you see.

    Thanks for commenting about this workbench project.

    Best,

    Chris

  9. Stafford White says:

    Chris, thanks for sharing the workbench plans with us. We really appreciate it.

    Stafford

  10. Jackie Nettles says:

    Chris
    I am in the middle of gathering wheels and materil as we speek,but my work bench is going to be made out of 3/4 ” birch plywood, I bought the wheels yesterday and each wheel is rated fo 400 lbs I am inlaying it to the sides of 2×4′s and after I get done with that I am going to install an overhead crane to pick it up, thank for your input Chris I am just a hacker but I do love the wood dust

  11. Chris Marshall says:

    More power to you Jackie! I hope you like the bench. Just used mine yesterday, in fact. So glad I didn’t get rid of it!

    Best,

    Chris

  12. hey Chris I two would like to have the right/correct dimensions for the ugly work table… any chance u could send photos or cut list…..thanks

  13. pat says:

    Out with the Old? Thankfully, Not Yet.
    May 14th, 2010

    Do you think I could also get some info on building this workbench, It will be my first.

    Thanks in advance
    Pat

  14. Joanna Takes says:

    Pat,

    Check out Chris’s follow-up blog post here for more information on building the bench:

    http://www.woodworkersjournal.com/woodworking_blog/index.php/workbench-you-can-build-in-an-afternoon/

    Joanna Takes
    Editor
    Woodworker’s Journal

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