Progress of a self taught cabinet maker #3: Mobile workstation

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Blog entry by RGtools posted 04-12-2011 03:25 PM 2260 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Took the 50 home. Part 3 of Progress of a self taught cabinet maker series Part 4: Building better boxes »

For quite some time I have been contemplating a workbench that I could pack in the car, with a small set of tools, so I could do a bit of handwork during my lunch breaks. The thing that has always stopped me is the worry of wood movement due to the temperature extremes in the car. But when I think of it I don’t want to do my major projects out there, even if I just practiced joinery I think it would serve the purpose of helping to ease my stress levels.

So here comes the tricky parts that in my long and drawn out way I would like to put to you. How to create a bench that is solid enough for handwork and yet can be broken down quickly and placed flat in the back of my CRV? The second part is, how do I create the bare essential tool kit for what I am trying to do?

My initial thoughts in the bench are a Japanese Beam stile bench, or a tuned up Workmate (I have an ancient one from Gramps). I have about as close to a zero budget as you can get (maybe $50) as this is a side project and my real extra money goes towards good tools or wood.

Speaking of good tools, I do not intend to put any of my really good tools in the car as I would hate to see that investment get stolen. I also think I will have to go with steel planes as opposed to my custom wood ones based on the temperature swing issue.

Here is my bare minimum tool kit. If you see anything that is obviously missing or that can be pared out please help me out. I plan on making a small box out of southern yellow pine or something from my wood pile if I can find something suitable.

Combination Square
Mechanical Pencil
Marking Knife
Dovetail Marker (my Veritas, the artisan flamingo is staying on my bench)

Block plane #4 smoother

“1, 3/4”, 1/2”, 1/4” chisels

400 and 2000 “stones” (mdf with automotive sandpaper attached)
Stubby flathead screwdriver
Sharpening Jig


Hand Drill And a few bits

Dovetail Saw
Tenon Saw

2 12” quick grips clamps.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

5 comments so far

View rance's profile


4274 posts in 4080 days

#1 posted 04-12-2011 03:44 PM

How about one of these:

There are more, I just can’t find them. They are usually called a “Mini Bench”.

I think I’d leave the sharpening stuff at home. Surely you can get through lunch without having to resharpen. I might also leave the drill at home.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 4028 days

#2 posted 04-12-2011 03:58 PM

Not too sure how long a lunch you have. I can understand how woodworking during the break helps ease the strain. Have done similar practices during lunch breaks in my own job and it does seem to help to have a direction in which to lead that stress.

Based on the toolkit you are listing, it sounds more like a collection to have for whatever you might need but that might not be the way to go for a mid-shift break. By the time you figured out what you wanted to do, break time would be over. I would suggest planning an activity the day before and bringing just what you need for that day. After awhile, you will be able to gauge what you can do within that hour and the time it takes to unload and reload your supplies in the car.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3574 days

#3 posted 04-13-2011 04:08 AM

Rance, depends on the day the tool and the wood, but you have a point, Most likely I should not have to resharpen during an hour long work break, I just hate the idea of having to stop if I develop a nick in the blade. I like the mini bench but I was thinking something that I could take out of the car and set up quickly. (I have thoughts in regards to a fold up Nicholson hybrid but I would have to out pen to paper before I decide if it’s worth pursuing).

David, That’s a good point, maybe just build a small tool box that can store whatever safely enough for a day and then unload when I get home. I am a bit spacey in the morning though, so having some of the basics just stay in the car sounds very appealing to me.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View David LaBolle's profile

David LaBolle

216 posts in 3591 days

#4 posted 04-13-2011 04:38 AM

Here’s an idea:

You have a few tools you want to take with you and need to be able to set up quickly and play around with them at break time, and store everything in your car.

How about modifying a small saw bench like you have in your display picture into a tool tote with a shelf or boxed in area on the bottom half to carry all your tools in. For a vice put a set of dog holes on across the top and use some sort of quick hold downs designed to fit in dog holes.

That way you have what you need ready to use with no set up or disassembly involved.

Have fun.

-- When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3574 days

#5 posted 04-13-2011 03:22 PM

That’s a good idea. I would probably spring for a couple of traditional hold-downs though, they seem like they would be quicker.

The “saw-bench” in my display picture is actually a stepping stool that is a touch to low to saw at the correct angle. But your point is still very valid.


-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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