If your fix-it tasks are performed on a kitchen table or on an old wooden door held up by two sawhorses, it may be time to spring for a workbench. There are plenty of reasonably priced ones that can make home-improvement projects safer, easier and more productive-and more fun. Not all workbenches are worth their prices, though.
To find the best workbench for you…
- Think about how you’ll use the bench. If you need a temporary workspace to do small repairs in several areas around the house or you simply have no space for a permanent workbench, a folding portable one that’s relatively lightweight or has wheels may serve you better. They are inexpensive and require little or no assembly. Disadvantage: The top typically is two feet by three feet, not enough for most woodworking projects but useful for mixing paint, cutting small pieces of lumber and repairing small items.
Top portable models…
Craftsman Professional Height Adjustable Clamping Table has a heavy-gauge steel frame and a two-piece top that doubles as a clamp. It weighs 45 pounds. 2 feet 6 inches by 14 inches. Cost: $80.
Rockwell Jawhorse Portable Workstation RK9003 has a three-legged design that makes it easier to balance on uneven surfaces and a powerful vise operated by a foot pedal, which is great for clamping and sawing heavier objects. It weighs 43 pounds. 4.5 inches by 3 feet one inch. Cost: $150. Available at Amazon.com and JawHorse.com.
- Opt for a stationary bench if you want to do more extensive home repairs and projects. Top stationary models include…
Gladiator Modular Workbench, with a bamboo top, is 5 feet 6.5 inches by 20 inches. Its adjustable legs compensate for uneven floors, and there is room underneath to add rolling storage cabinets. Cost: $300. Bamboo is durable, but for heavy-duty work, Gladiator offers benches of various lengths with maple tops ranging from $450 to $550. GladiatorGarageWorks.com
Garrett Wade Value-Based Full Service Workbench comes in a model that is 5 feet 7 inches by 19.5 inches ($635) and also is available in a 6-foot-by-7-inch length for $700. It has a solid beech hardwood top, three long shelves and a storage cabinet underneath. GarrettWade.com
- Important accessories. These are crucial add-ons…
Steel pegboard. Attach it to the wall behind the workbench to hang and organize your tools. Lower-end workbenches sometimes come with quarter-inch high-density fiberboard pegboards, but they are not rugged enough to store heavy items. Cost: Less than $50.
Protection. Add a few coats of wipe-on varnish to the top surface to minimize scratches and dings. Also, buy sheets of Homasote to lay over your workbench when you’re staining, gluing or painting. Homasote is thick fiberboard made from compressed recycled paper that’s easy to cut to size and more effective than newspaper. Cost: $15 to $25 for a 4-by-8-foot board at The Home Depot.
Lighting. The simplest, most cost-effective lighting is a four-foot-long fluorescent fixture with two 32-watt bulbs that you can hang from chains on the ceiling over the workbench. Cost: About $30.