22 Simple Ways to Make Your Workbench Work Harder
Ingenious DIY upgrades that will make your workbench work better!
Mobile-But-Secure Benchtop Tools
Pencils at the Ready
Reader R. B. Himes sent several cool tips for keeping pencils handy. Insert pencils into holes drilled in the edges of shelves, or put small screw eyes into the erasers and hang ’em from nails. Reader Jerry Seaward has another: Glue a scrap of window screen to the bottom of a piece of 1-1/2 in. dia. PVC pipe and clamp or screw the pipe to your workbench for a dust-free pencil holder. Other pencil hangouts? Wrap a strip of self-stick Velcro around a pencil and put a corresponding strip wherever you need a pencil. To make a pencil stay put on metal surfaces, attach a piece of magnetic tape ($2 a roll at fabric stores) to it.
Need another? Buy plastic coaxial cable holders ($2 for a 20-pack), reverse the brad direction and tack ’em on the side of a work-table or tool rack. You can quick-draw the pencils out of the plastic jaws. Or try adding a piece of tape the end of a pencil to stop it from rolling around.
Instant Bench Vise
Laminate Flooring Bench Top
The Well-Clamped Work Table
When you make a table for a portable workbench with a clamping top, bevel the edges of the auxillary table’s cleats at 10 degrees. Beveled cleats will keep it from popping up when you’re working.
And using two cleats on the outside, instead of one in the middle, lets you store the table flat between jobs.
Mount a roller window shade on one end of your workbench and pull it out for painting projects. Home centers will cut shades to the width you need, so measure your workbench before going to the store.
P.S. It’s a good idea to wipe wet paint off the shade before rolling it back up.
Melamine Workbench Topper
A 4 x 8-ft. sheet of melamine (plastic-coated particleboard) costs about $35 at home centers. Check out our best tips for using melamine.
Miter Saw Waste
This waste-management ingenuity is pretty handy at a miter saw station. Directly below the hole is a recycling bin resting on a rollout shelf. When the bin fills up, it’s off to the burn pile. Learn 11 things you didn’t know about recycling.
This handy under-mount rack keeps your clamps right where you need them. Simply cut a series of 1-1/4-in. diameter holes along the center line of a 2×6 and then rip the 2×6 in half to create the half-circle slots. Next, screw 1×4 sides and top to the cradle and screw it to the bottom of your workbench.
Find-Anything Hardware Drawer
Nothing has a chance to randomly accumulate in the shop—not in apron pockets, on cabinet shelves, not even in a drawer. There is truly a place for everything, everything goes in its place, and no usable area remains empty. One of his hardware drawers is a sublime example.
In this drawer, movable partitions are held in place by strips of foam weather stripping at the front and back. The 44-plus boxes rest on edge, labels up, for easy grabbing and stowing.
Think of never having to wonder where to find a 1-in. drywall screw or a 3/8-in. washer!
Shop for boxes at craft, tackle, office or dollar stores (See why it isn’t safe to buy dishes from the thrift store). But if you want lots of just about any particular size box, check out althor.com. This is for super-organized shop rats, though. The minimum order is $100! But you get tons of high-quality boxes for the money.
Easy-to-Access Cordless Tool Chargers
Mount charger stands for your cordless tools on scrap pieces of pegboard and hang them on a pegboard wall so they don’t become an octopus-like tangle on a shelf or workbench. Just pull one out for charging, or plug it into a power strip under the pegboard and charge batteries right on the pegboard. Most chargers have mounting holes or keyhole slots on the bottom. For those that don’t, use a large hose clamp ($2 at a hardware store) to mount them. Getting sick of that cordless tool battery? Rebuild it. Thanks to George Moyer for ending our charger clutter.
Rosin Paper Workbench Cover
In-and-Out Benchtop Tools
Vinyl Tool Tray
Make a Simple Bench Hook from Wood Scraps
Check out these other simple DIY workbench upgrades.
Ever scratched your head over how to position clamps on a project that requires clamping from all four sides? This gluing pedestal makes the job a breeze. Buy a 12-in. pipe nipple with pipe flanges on both ends and screw it to a couple of scraps of 3/4-in. plywood. Cut the pedestal top an inch or so bigger than the project to make clamping easier. Now, with the base of the pedestal clamped on your workbench, you can crank on the clamps from every angle; up, down and sideways. (Be sure to cover the top with plastic sheeting or wax paper, or the top will become a permanent part of the project.) Thanks to Travis Larson for this high-flying tip.
Vise Jaw Liners With a Little ‘Give’
Scrap pieces of composite decking boards make ideal jaw liners for a woodworking vise. Compared with a wood liner, the rubbery surface has more give and grip. That makes composite liners good for holding cylindrical or oddly shaped work pieces. And when you release the clamp, the composite liner returns to its original flatness.
Space-Saving Cutting and Finishing Bench
Save space and make plywood cutting easier by building this hinged, flip-up, open-web bench. It’ll take some care and patience to cut the interlocking joints, but after that, assembly is a cinch. Make everything from 1x4s. The bench shown is about 3 x 5 ft.—a good size for nearly any plywood cut. Keep the screws at least 1/4 in. from the top edge. Get it out of the way by tipping it up against the wall and locking it into place with a wooden turnbuckle, turned behind a 1×2 catch block that’s mounted with the thin side against the front board.
The grid work provides solid, even support for sawing or finishing. But make sure to set your saw to cut only 1/8 in. into the table so you don’t hit any of the assembly screws or weaken the table. Thanks to Bob Dawson for this cutting-edge tip.
A vinyl tablecloth—any size—comes in handy for all kinds of woodworking jobs (available at discount stores). Put it under boards you’re gluing together. Any glue drips will easily peel off the plastic surface after they dry. Or place the tablecloth as a thin cushion under workpieces you’re sanding and finishing, and use it as a protective barrier between the workbench and project parts when you’re tapping that next masterpiece together.