The Beginner's Workbench

Now that I've gotten a great and comprehensive list of tools to have in my arsenal, I'd like to turn my attention toward the workspace. I'm looking for input on the little nitty gritty details, like how do you store your tools, on a pegboard with outlines on them? How do you store your screws and nails, etc.?
Regarding the actual workbench, how big should it be? I currently have an old dresser that's 3'x1.5'. Is that sufficient, or should I mount a larger sheet of plywood to the top? Or try and build one from scratch? What kind of setup do I need to do some basic wood cutting with a circular saw?
Any advice on what makes your workspace a more useful and comfortable place to tackle the honey-do list would be appreciated. :)
Thanks.
-Fleemo
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Here is a link for free plans. I built the modular one w/out the modules and kept it at 12' in length, and raised it approx. 4" since I'm tall. It was built using a compound miter saw (circular would suffice), hammer, and a ratchet since I used lag screws to affix to the wall.
http://www.freeww.com/workbenches.html
HTH
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Of course, it all depends on the kinds of projects that you plan on. Having said that, I will tell you that I have never had a workbench that was too big. The largest one, several houses ago, was built by taking a standard sheet of plywood, slicing it down the middle, gluing the two halves together and ending up with a 2'x8' surface. It was great, but when we moved to a house with less free space it had to go. There are days that I still miss it.
Charlie
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snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net (Fleemo) wrote:

In their original containers, lined up by size. Pound boxes where possible. So, Square drive and Phillips galvanized (or other non-rust) coating, 3/4" to 3.5".

Should be very good. Drawers can hold stuff, and not get dusty.

Stability is my concern there.

Take a 2x4 piece of sheet material, like hardboard, and one 1x4 that is 4' long (or even a bit longer).
Cut a straight edge along one side of the 1x if it doesn't already have one.
Glue down to the hardboard, along one side. Let dry.
Use the circular saw, and cut along the finished edge, and remove the extra hardboard.
The jig that is left, will give you a perfect cut every time, as the edge is exactly the width of the saw. Just drop the jig on the line, clamp it down, using the part of the 1x that sticks back, and cut.
Perfect every time.
You could make one that is 8' long, or more, if you need to. Put screw holes, with counter sinks, so you can screw it down instead of clamping.

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Sorry, I meant for the above, storing stuff.
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(Fleemo) wrote:

A friend of mine put foam weather stripping on the upper edges of his workbench drawers (speaking of dust).
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i think its time for you to take a trip to the library.
randy

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like how do

I began with a pegboard, but found it tiresome to replace tools properly. Store bought pegboards also have really sucky hooks, that wobble and fall out. I made one of my own design, using a 4x8x3/4 inch painted plywood sheet, laying out on the floor all my owned - and intended - tool outlines, then bought real hardware clips and such for attachment points. Pegboard positives include: you know when something is missing, and you can find tools fast. Downside: difficult to plan and build right, and very limited for expansion, if you fill your board early. Also, a challenge to find that much wall space to hang it on.
In midlife I morphed to a Sears craftsman chest-high roll-around tool chest, and I love it. Organized drawers by function, e.g. cutting, drilling, squeezing, screwdrivers/awls, punches, clamps, files, etc, etc. Even without drawer labels, you quickly remember where to look, have great tool expansion possibilities, and there is less rusting, where I live. Downside is they are out of sight, so a bit more searching required.
My first-ever shop project was building a workbench, and what fun it was. I used the classical plans from a 1950's book called "Better Homes Handyman's Book", which hopefully has been updated over the years. I think now the publisher is Better Homes and Gardens. It has many shop hints and the best workbench plans I have found. The bench is waist high (most people build them way too low for their height), as uprights of 2x4's and bench top is 2x6 pine or fir with a 1/4 inch plywood replaceable top. The back has a 4" backstop to keep stuff from falling out of sight next to the wall. The thing is tensioned with heavy galv. wire and turnbuckles in X patterns at each end, lots o' machine bolts, and is stiff and sturdy. Bench needs to be really strong, as I recommend you plop your heavy duty grinder, front-mounted wood vise, and top mounted metal vise on the surface. A heavy bench means you can really torques stuff around, and saw metal/wood without it being wobbly. Mine is 28" x 68", but used to be 72" before I moved into a small garage, some years ago. This is very useful size, and the bench looks unbent and proud after 40 years. Your 3 x 1.5 is a bit small for a workbench, but ok if that is all the room you have. I made the bench with hand tools only, using a hand saw. Today, all you need to make a really nice bench in a short time is a circular saw, drill, triangle, ruler, and a couple of saw horses for propping wood on, you can make yourself. Good Luck.
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On 8 Nov 2004 10:43:26 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net (Fleemo) wrote:

TimeLife Books has a woodworking book that contains plans for building a few workbenches. You can probably find this book at the library. More advanced, "The Workbench Book" by Landis show several plans for fancy workbenches. You need a large workbench for large projects, and the height of the bench depends on what you build most often. A heavy vise (for metal or for wood) is very handy. Your dresser is way too small for most projects. Old cabinets or an old dresser may be fine to store tools--you want to keep your tools dry! I use a variety of plastic containers for storing nails, screws, fasteners, etc. Those cabinets with lots of small clear plastic drawers is very helpful. I don't have many shelves as these are sawdust collectors! Think about good lighting and a comfortable chair (I use a drafting chair).
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Phisherman wrote:

A friend of mine made a long sturdy workbench some years ago put together with bolts. It moved with him about 6 times, and then it moved in with me. I intend to take it when I go, and possibly even be buried in it, vice and all. Just a thought. I use alot of peg board, and in my single days kept the screws in jars with the caps nailed onto the underside of a cabinet (I used canning jars). The hub runs that room now, and I think it is all a mess, but he knows where everything is, so I never touch it. No nice jars, though...just a variety of tackle boxes and little cabinets with little drawers, all found at garage, etc. sales. How you organize depends, I've found, on how organizational you are. blacksalt
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You guys are great. Thanks for giving me some insight to your own work benches, how to set 'em up, and even for the great bench plans! I really appreciate the input.
All the best to each of you.
-Fleemo
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On 8 Nov 2004 10:43:26 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net (Fleemo) wrote:

As I mentioned before, I think your first priority should be a carry-around tool bag, preferably the kind with lots of pockets so each tool is visible all the time.
I built a workbench out of a 28" x 80" solid core door sitting on a 2 x 10 frame with a 4 x 4 leg in each corner. I actually built it upside down by putting the door on saw horses and building up from there. I only screwed the legs in with a couple of screws each. Then I placed the workbench where it was going to go. Of course, the floor in the garage was a little out of whack. I removed the screws from a couple of the legs, leveled out the top and screwed the legs back in (with lots of screws this time).
The 2x10 frame may be a little over spec for the application, but I like to be able to hammer a nail without the work surface absorbing all the force. I think your dresser might prove a little weak for the task. Make sure to leave a "lip" around the edge (meaning, make the frame smaller than the top). This will allow for clamping.
I don't use a pegboard. I mounted 3/4" ply on the wall behind the bench and I use screws, nails, hooks and magnets to hold the tools. I have several really small wire "shelves", maybe 2" x 10". They have a little "railing" around them as well. Since the space between the "wires" is about 1/2" they hold about 15 screwdrivers perfectly.
I don't paint outlines. I think that's a fine idea for a shop used by more than one person, but I don't have much trouble remembering where my stuff goes. On top of that, I have occasionally changed things around.
I strongly recommend you don't mount a tool board to the workbench itself. Every time you hammer something some of the tools will fall down. Mount it on a wall.
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Greg G wrote:

Agreed! If it doesn't fit in there, you don't need it (big power tools excluded, of course.) Oh yeah, to combat "Spousal Probable Appropriation Syndrome" (SPAS) I suggest one of those simple plastic totes with the handle in the middle, socked with the *very* basics: Hammer, 4-in-1 manual scredwriver, set of Vicegrips, tape measure, level, a light duty cordless drill/driver and minimal set of bits, and not much else. The things a spouse, roomie, etc would likely (cough)borrow from *your* toolbox and not replace immediately, stranding you.
Oh yeah, almost forgot - Home Depot, Lowe's, etc, I think I paid about $15 for mine...it's a canvas "carry-around tool bag, with lots of pockets so each tool is visible all the time" - BUT... the beauty of this one is that it's designed to hang on a standard sized 5 gallon bucket! SWE-E-E-E-T! Most of your tools hang on the outside (LOTS of pockets) and the inside has some screwdriver loops, a hammer loop, a couple of bigger pouches for a drill or ? and the inside bottom of the bucket is accessible down through the middle, a place for containers of screws, maybe an extension cord. You can't beat it, IMHO.
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What ,,, just outa JAIL
BWAAAAAAAA HAAAAAAAAAA HAAA
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Fleemo:
(Hi again!)
F > Regarding the actual workbench, how big should it be? I currently F > have an old dresser that's 3'x1.5'. Is that sufficient, or should I F > mount a larger sheet of plywood to the top? Or try and build one from F > scratch? What kind of setup do I need to do some basic wood cutting F > with a circular saw?
A workbench is always too small! Dad built his out of planks that were about 1" thick, probably 8 or 10 feet long and probably 4 feet deep. I can remember we sometimes worked in a open space about the size of a placemat because the rest of the workbench was covered with stufffff. (I inherited some of that tendancy!)
The 3x1 foot dimensions sound small to me -- of course part of the dimensions could be limited by where your workbench is to be. Your depth should be limited by your reach: you don't want to have to crawl on to the workbench to get a tool hung on the wall behind it.
The plywood extension you suggested may work. I would use at least 3/4" plywood as " will tend to bow under weight. And a sheet of plywood is generally 4' x 8' -- how does this sound for a workbench size?!
One other thing about the dresser -- is the height correct for you? Too high -- and remember you probably have a 3/4" topper on it -- and you'll be working on tip-toe; too low and you'll be working off-balance.
F > Any advice on what makes your workspace a more useful and comfortable F > place to tackle the honey-do list would be appreciated. :)
Light! Lots and lots of light!! A two-tube 4' fluorescent fixture mounted slightly back of center for general lighting (you don't want to be working in your shadow!). Also a light on an arm for detail work. (A 60 W halogen bulb putts out more light than a 60W incandescent bulb - you probably want a flood vs a spot.)
Electrical. (Oh yeah!!!) Depends. For my electronics work bench I have two power strips mounted to the wall, one to the left side and one to the right, about 18" from the bench top. These outlets are turned off when the switch that shuts the light off is off: I don't want to accidentally leave a soldering iron on, or a device I'm repairing accidentally powered. The switch box is a two-gang box: one side the switch and the other has an always-on duplex outlet. This part I need to 'correct' as I found I need more always-on outlets for recharging batteries, etc. The whole bench is protected by a GFCI. There is also an emergency lighting device I rigged up from what originally was a battery-operated lamp using a 6" fluorescent: it now operates off remote batteries which are trickle charged and turns on when the power goes out (so far I haven't blown the circuit!) and also goes on for 45 seconds with a touch switch above the bench and at the base of the basement stairs.
- barry.martinATthesafebbs.zeppole.com
* A jogger? (He gives you the run-around.)
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