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22 Simple Ways to Make Your Workbench Work Harder

Ingenious DIY upgrades that will make your workbench work better!

Mobile-But-Secure Benchtop Tools

Shazam! Fasten your bench-top tools to your workbench in seconds. Bolt 3/4-in. plywood bases on the tools and then glue and screw a wood strip along the front edge to fit into a woodworking vise. Crank this strip into a vise to lock the tool into place. If you don't have a vise, drill a couple of clearance holes along the face of the wood strip on the base and drive screws through the strip into the edge of your workbench. Then just unscrew to remove the tool. Plus: Learn how to use a bench grinder with these expert tips.

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

Clamp a hand screw on your workbench and use it as a vise for holding boards on edge for planning, drilling or sanding. See more tips for updating your classic workshop tools to do more.

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. Plus: How to install luxury vinyl plank flooring.

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.

Check out these other workbench upgrades.

Workbench Dropcloth

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

Screw down a sheet of 3/4-in melamine as a new workbench surface. You can write on it and it erases easily. Dried glue scrapes off, varnish spills don't stick and heavy projects slide on the slick surface for easy positioning. Use two-sided melamine and flip it over when the first side gets worn out to expose a brand new surface. 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.

Pipe-Clamp Cradle

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 2x6 and then rip the 2x6 in half to create the half-circle slots. Next, screw 1x4 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 . This is for super-organized shop rats, though. The minimum order is $100! But you get tons of high-quality boxes for the money.

Racquet Caddy

Here's a slick use for that old wooden tennis racquet that's gathering dust in the garage. Drill a hole in the handle and screw it to the underside of a workbench. Position the racquet so it can swing in and out from under the table. Use it to hold tools, parts or other small items. Plus: 30 more handy hints for the workshop.

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

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. If you don't have a dedicated workbench and you'd like to build one, we've got more than a dozen different step-by-step plans for workbenches from simple to spectacular. For complete step-by-step instructions, click here.

In-and-Out Benchtop Tools

Go clampless with bench-top tools! Determine a base width you can use for all the smaller power tools you own—grinder, sander, drill press, scroll saw. Cut a base for each tool from 3/4-in. plywood with 45-degree bevels along both edges. Next, cut and screw 1-1/2-in.-wide boards with 45-degree bevels on your workbench for the tool bases to slide into. The tools will remain rock steady as you work and slide off when you're done.

Space-Saving Workbench

If your garage isn't big enough for your car and a workbench, you could get a smaller car. Or you could build a fold-down workbench. This one sets up in seconds and eats up zero floor space when not in use. The only things you'll need are a 2x4, a pair of beefy hinges, a couple of threaded pipes and flanges, and a handful of screws. For a work surface, we used a 30-in. solid-core door, but you can use other materials such as two layers of 3/4-in. plywood glued together. To set up the workbench, just screw the pipes into the flanges. Plus: Check out these other knockdown workbench ideas.

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. Check out these other nine uses for gutters that aren't on the roof.

Make a Simple Bench Hook from Wood Scraps

A bench hook minimizes the need for vises or clamps, allows you to make quick cuts and the more sophisticated hooks make quick miters easy. We modified our simple bench so that hooks stop fence is shorter than the platform to help prevent tear-out on your work piece. Here's how we made ours. Check out these other simple DIY workbench upgrades.

Gluing Pedestal

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.

Check out this wood gluing guide.

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.

Build a work bench on a budget that functions like a million bucks.

Woodworker's Tablecloth

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.

Worktop Saver

To keep your workbench clean, use a sacrificial worktop tacked to the top of your work surface for those nasty mechanic's chores like metal work, grinding or carving. Just buy a 2 x 4-ft. piece of 1/4-in. hardboard and either tack it to the top with small nails or use double-sided tape to hold it in position. When the rough-and-tumble work is done, you can lift off the temporary top and still have a clean, blemish-free workspace for fine work. Plus: 25 gift ideas for a budding home mechanic.

Mobile-But-Secure Benchtop Tools

Shazam! Fasten your bench-top tools to your workbench in seconds. Bolt 3/4-in. plywood bases on the tools and then glue and screw a wood strip along the front edge to fit into a woodworking vise. Crank this strip into a vise to lock the tool into place. If you don't have a vise, drill a couple of clearance holes along the face of the wood strip on the base and drive screws through the strip into the edge of your workbench. Then just unscrew to remove the tool. Plus: Learn how to use a bench grinder with these expert tips.

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

Clamp a hand screw on your workbench and use it as a vise for holding boards on edge for planning, drilling or sanding. See more tips for updating your classic workshop tools to do more.

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. Plus: How to install luxury vinyl plank flooring.

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.

Check out these other workbench upgrades.

Workbench Dropcloth

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

Screw down a sheet of 3/4-in melamine as a new workbench surface. You can write on it and it erases easily. Dried glue scrapes off, varnish spills don't stick and heavy projects slide on the slick surface for easy positioning. Use two-sided melamine and flip it over when the first side gets worn out to expose a brand new surface. 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.

Pipe-Clamp Cradle

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 2x6 and then rip the 2x6 in half to create the half-circle slots. Next, screw 1x4 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 . This is for super-organized shop rats, though. The minimum order is $100! But you get tons of high-quality boxes for the money.

Racquet Caddy

Here's a slick use for that old wooden tennis racquet that's gathering dust in the garage. Drill a hole in the handle and screw it to the underside of a workbench. Position the racquet so it can swing in and out from under the table. Use it to hold tools, parts or other small items. Plus: 30 more handy hints for the workshop.

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

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. If you don't have a dedicated workbench and you'd like to build one, we've got more than a dozen different step-by-step plans for workbenches from simple to spectacular. For complete step-by-step instructions, click here.

In-and-Out Benchtop Tools

Go clampless with bench-top tools! Determine a base width you can use for all the smaller power tools you own—grinder, sander, drill press, scroll saw. Cut a base for each tool from 3/4-in. plywood with 45-degree bevels along both edges. Next, cut and screw 1-1/2-in.-wide boards with 45-degree bevels on your workbench for the tool bases to slide into. The tools will remain rock steady as you work and slide off when you're done.

Space-Saving Workbench

If your garage isn't big enough for your car and a workbench, you could get a smaller car. Or you could build a fold-down workbench. This one sets up in seconds and eats up zero floor space when not in use. The only things you'll need are a 2x4, a pair of beefy hinges, a couple of threaded pipes and flanges, and a handful of screws. For a work surface, we used a 30-in. solid-core door, but you can use other materials such as two layers of 3/4-in. plywood glued together. To set up the workbench, just screw the pipes into the flanges. Plus: Check out these other knockdown workbench ideas.

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. Check out these other nine uses for gutters that aren't on the roof.

Make a Simple Bench Hook from Wood Scraps

A bench hook minimizes the need for vises or clamps, allows you to make quick cuts and the more sophisticated hooks make quick miters easy. We modified our simple bench so that hooks stop fence is shorter than the platform to help prevent tear-out on your work piece. Here's how we made ours. Check out these other simple DIY workbench upgrades.

Gluing Pedestal

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.

Check out this wood gluing guide.

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.

Build a work bench on a budget that functions like a million bucks.

Woodworker's Tablecloth

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.

Worktop Saver

To keep your workbench clean, use a sacrificial worktop tacked to the top of your work surface for those nasty mechanic's chores like metal work, grinding or carving. Just buy a 2 x 4-ft. piece of 1/4-in. hardboard and either tack it to the top with small nails or use double-sided tape to hold it in position. When the rough-and-tumble work is done, you can lift off the temporary top and still have a clean, blemish-free workspace for fine work. Plus: 25 gift ideas for a budding home mechanic.
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