10 Great Workbench Upgrades
We looked at all of our clever workbench upgrades and narrowed it down to these 10 winners. Each one helps you get the most from your hard-working workbench.
Vinyl Tool Tray
What can you do with a leftover length of gutter? You can screw it to the edge of your workbench and use it to keep tools and fasteners out of your way but handy for assembly work.
Our Favorite Double-Duty Bench Stop
Here’s a simple add-on that can do double duty as a stop or outfeed support for your miter saw. Elevate the sliding piece of plywood slightly above the work surface and use it to keep your work from sliding backward while you’re belt sanding. Or adjust it upward to match the height of your miter saw bed and use it as a support for long stock. To make this stellar workbench top ideas, cut a piece of plywood 8 in. wide x 20 in. long. Then mark 3/8-in.-wide slots 2 in. from each end and 1 in. from the top and bottom. Drill 3/8-in. starter holes and cut the slots with a jigsaw as shown below. Use the completed bench stop as a pattern to mark the bolt locations. We screwed 5/16-in. x 4-1/2-in. hanger bolts into our thick workbench top, but you may have to use another method on your workbench. Hanger bolts have wood threads on one end and machine threads on the other. Drill a 7/32-in. starter hole. Then thread two nuts onto the bolt and tighten them against each other. Now place a wrench on the outermost nut and screw in the hanger bolt. Leave 1-1/4 in. of the bolt protruding. Remove the nuts. Mount the bench stop to the bolts with washers and wing nuts.
Simplest Support for Long Boards
Have you ever needed to hold a long board or door on edge to work on it but struggled to find a good method? If you have a woodworker’s vise, adding this board jack is an easy solution. The board jack shown hooks onto the beveled support strip and slides along it to adjust for the length of the workpiece. The 3/4-in. dowel adjusts up and down to accommodate different widths.
Start by ripping a 45-degree angle on a 1×3 board or strip of plywood. Screw the strip to the front of your workbench. Then build a board jack like the one shown. Drill 3/4-in. holes every 6 in. and insert a 4-in. dowel in the hole to support your work. Adjust the length of the standoff to hold the board jack plumb on your workbench.
Laminate Flooring Bench Top
Leftover scraps of laminate flooring make a great workbench surface. Laminate is tough and easy to clean—dried glue or paint scrapes right off. If you fasten the laminate with small nails, you can easily pry it off and replace it every few years.
Miter Saw Waste
Senior Editor Travis Larson’s waste-management ingenuity really shows up at his miter saw station. ‘I always had this huge pile of cutoff scraps on the table next to my miter saw. So when I rebuilt the miter saw table, I incorporated a drop hole right next to the saw.’ 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. ‘When designing my shop’s layout, I decided to keep everything stowed, like gear on a sailboat. Everything has a home, whether in a drawer or cabinet. It really makes things run a lot smoother.’
Rosin Paper Workbench Cover
Here’s instant protection for any kind of messy job. Before you start, just unroll enough rosin paper from this jumbo paper towel holder to protect your workbench. The thick paper absorbs all the glue or finish. When the paper gets too dirty, tear it off and throw it away. A roll of rosin paper is 170 ft. long, so one will last a long time. Here’s how to build your paper holder: Buy a roll of rosin paper and a length of 1-1/2-in. pipe at a home center. Round up some scrap lumber and get ready to do a little bit of head scratching to customize a bracket arrangement that works with your bench design. Our setup should give you the general idea. Bore 1-7/8-in. holes in the scrap wood brackets. Screw keeper strips over the holes to keep the pipe from falling out as you unroll the paper. Use a handsaw to cut the paper roll and a hacksaw to cut the pipe to match the width of your bench. Then load the roll and start dripping stuff all over it.
Easiest Add-On Drawers
These roll-out drawers are easy—you don’t even have to mount them to the bench. They’re just sturdy boxes that ride on 2-in. casters. Measure from the floor to the bottom shelf of your workbench and subtract 3-1/4 in. to figure the height of the boxes. Then subtract 3/4 in. from this measurement to determine the height of the drawer front, back and sides. Next, decide how many drawers you want and calculate the widths. Allow for a 1/2-in. space between drawers. Cut the parts and screw them together. Then measure the width and length of the box and cut the bottom. Screw on the bottom and cut a handhold in the front of the drawer with a jigsaw. Finish up by screwing 2-in. fixed (not swiveling!) casters to the bottom of the drawer as shown.
Instant Bench Vise
Clamp a hand screw on your workbench and use it as a vise for holding boards on edge for planning, drilling or sanding.
Most Versatile Hold-Down System
You don’t need a super-expensive vise or fancy clamps to hold large projects while you work on them. An inexpensive woodworker’s vise paired with shop-made bench dogs will do the trick. We ordered this adjustable clamp medium-duty vise online. You may have to cut and notch your workbench to make the vise fit. The goal is to align the top of the jaw flush with the top of the bench. If your workbench is less than 3/4 in. thick, reinforce it by gluing and screwing a 2×4 block underneath the vise area. Then drill 1-in. holes 1/2 in. deep to recess the mounting bolt holes, and bolt the vise to the top of the workbench. You can extend the versatility of your woodworker’s vise by drilling a series of 3/4-in. holes 4 in. apart in your benchtop. Drill the holes in a line at a right angle to the clamp jaws and centered on the sliding steel dog built into the vise. You can buy plastic or metal bench dogs to fit the holes, or make some simple plywood and dowel dogs like ours. To make a bench dog, rip a scrap of plywood to 2-1/2 in. wide. Set your miter saw to 10 degrees and cut a 2-1/2-in. length from the strip of plywood to form a 2-1/2-in. square with one beveled side. Drill a 3/4-in. hole in the center of the plywood square and glue a 4-in. length of 3/4-in. hardwood dowel into the hole. The short side of the bevel should be on the side with the dowel extending from it. Face the beveled side of the bench dog toward the piece you’re clamping. The bevel keeps the workpiece From sliding up and over the dog.
Benchtop Space-Saver: Removable Mounting Boards
When you want to use the whole top of your workbench, a permanently mounted vise or grinder just gets in the way. Free up space by mounting your grinder and vise to a double-thick piece of 3/4-in. plywood and hanging them on the end of your workbench until they’re needed. Cut four 20-in.-long x 12-in.-wide pieces of 3/4-in. plywood. Glue and nail them together in pairs to make two 1-1/2-in.-thick slabs. Transfer the location of the mounting holes on your vise and grinder to the plywood. Use a 1-in. spade bit to drill a 1/2-in.-deep recess at each hole location. Then drill through the plywood with a 3/8-in. bit and mount the tools with 3/8-in. bolts, washers and nuts. Position the recess on the side of the plywood opposite the tool to ensure a flush surface. We screwed a double-thick piece of 3/4-in. plywood to the end of the workbench to make a sturdy mounting plate, but your workbench may not need this. Any strong, flat surface will work. Drill two 1/2-in. holes into each tool holder and mark matching hole locations on the mounting plate. Drill 3/8-in. holes at the marks and attach 3/8-in. bolts with nuts and washers. We recessed the nuts in the mounting plate so the tool holders would sit flush, but this isn’t necessary.