Workbenches are a necessity in almost every garage area, workshop or warehouse. They provide a surface to work on at a comfy height and range from simple flat designs to complex, specialty benches designed for specific industries and requirements. There is a limitless amount of designs regarding both custom and pre-manufactured workbenches and one can quickly become overwhelmed when trying to decide on a design. For those people who are handy a custom built workbench can be a fun and very rewarding task. However it can be time consuming and if not really done correctly could end up in the particular garbage pile. Pre-manufactured workbenches is definitely an economical solution and with countless designs available may be a better choice. This post will focus on design and selection of pre-manufactured workbenches for the home garage plus workplace.
Workbenches in their basic form consist of a worktop surface plus support legs. Two saw horses with a sheet of plywood put across them can be defined as a workbench. This design may be suitable for having drawings or holding a few equipment, however without additional support it will not provide much more in the way of functionality or even utility. Basic workbench design ought to include additional support structures and a strong worktop surface that will increase the load capacity of the workbench. The design might include support stringers, lower shelves, storage, back and end stops, risers or any number of additional, specialty attachments.
A typical material for pre-manufactured workbench legs and supports is steel page. As we discussed in our previous article “A Handy Guide on Shelving Systems for the Home Garage and Workplace”, the thickness of sheet steel is called its gauge and the reduced its gauge number is, the thicker the steel is. Steel sheet ranges from about 30 gauge to 8 gauge, with thinner 30+ gauge material known as foil and thicker 8 evaluate or less material called dish. Typical workbench supports range from close to 12 to 16 gauge. Stringers and lower shelves add stability and strength to the legs and allow regarding heavier loads to be applied. They do this by connecting the hip and legs together below the worktop and forming a rigid structure that helps support itself. Without additional support the workbench legs would very easily fold under and collapse when weight is applied. The design may favor stringers alone if the workbench is intended to be used while sitting, permitting the person’s legs to extend under the worktop. Lower shelves may also be incorporated in to the design for storage below the particular worktop surface, and may be partial or full sized shelves depending on its use. Though load transporting capacities are frequently not listed upon workbenches, a general rule of thumb is to use the thicker gauge steel support structure for heavier duty workbench programs.
Worktop surfaces come in many materials and designs. Depending on the intended use one material may be more suitable than an additional. Common materials are steel, wooden, solid plastic, plastic laminate, yet others. Steel worktops are typical with regard to heavy duty use. They will not become oil soaked or crack and are extremely tough. Mechanics and small engine restoration shops favor this material as well as welders who might damage additional work top surfaces. Disadvantages are usually scratching or denting if they are strike sufficiently hard. Wood tops could be made of solid hardwood like walnut or made of plywood, MDF or other manufactured wood material. Hard wood worktops resist damage by sharp tools and hard blows, and it is ideal for tool and die work, electrical wiring, fabric cutting and is favored by woodworkers. The drawback is usually once damaged it may be expensive to replace. Manufactured work surfaces like MDF or particleboard is the preferred surface area for industry. They are warp and splinter proof and are highly resists oil and moisture. They are also more affordable than hardwood and can be very easily replaced if damaged. Plastic worktops provide strength, chemical resistance, and they are non-conductive. Plastic is great for electronics assembly, circuit board repair or any software that may be prone to spills. However plastic may be too slippery for woodworking and favor applications like ceramics work, pottery or anything that requires moisture or chemical resistance.
Workbench size, height and mobility may also be very important and vary by application. Sail makers may require very large function surfaces to spread out fabrics while jewelers and electronics repair stores may prefer smaller work tops for easy tool and parts access. The height also is important when choosing a design. Workbenches created for standing work in general are greater than those intended for sitting. The worktop height is also dependent on the workers individual height. Many designs incorporate adjustable legs allowing for multiple levels, application types and for leveling the worktop over uneven surfaces. For a few applications mobility may be required therefore casters are installed allowing the workbench to be moved around. The best approach is to get a workbench which is sufficiently large for your needs, has adjustable height for experimentation, and is on casters if mobility is required for your specific application.
In addition to the main pieces of a workbench there are many add-ons which are used to increase utility. Back and Finish stops might be installed to prevent points from rolling off onto the floor. Drawers, shelves and risers can be added for increased storage. Electrical power strips and outlet cutouts can be incorporated into the design as well to run tools, grinders, drill presses, etc . Vises and clamps can also be put into help secure whatever you are working upon. The best place to start when choosing a style is to define the intended use. Once that is established the support structure, worktop, add-ons and dimension can be more easily selected. There are literally thousands of available workbench designs and configurations, many of which will suit your needs plus budget.
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When in doubt contact your own supplier for assistance selecting a suitable design.