Workmate improvements #1: A Grain of Salt

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Blog entry by shawnSK posted 03-01-2020 07:02 PM 665 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Workmate improvements series Part 2: Doe's foot and drill press clamps »

My bench is a Black & Decker Workmate 400. It’s likely to be my bench for a while, so any tips to make it a better bench are always appreciated.

I eventually want to hand plane, ideally even sizing lumber on this thing and I know it’s just too light as is. I hear of Workmates bolted to floors or braced against walls, but neither option is great for me.

Out shopping one day I spotted a possible solution – a 40lb bag of water softener salt. Portable, smallish, dense and cheap enough for a test. Maybe this is the anchor my Workmate needs.

I rest it on a base of two pieces of chip board (there’s a lip that gets in the way for a single piece).

I don’t know if it will be enough, but I’m hopeful. I will finish my tool tote project first, then concentrate on my sharpening game. I’m sure a dull blade will push this bench all over the living room, but a nice sharp iron might make this Workmate shine.

-- Shawn, Saskatchewan

10 comments so far

View Madmark2's profile


1472 posts in 1398 days

#1 posted 03-01-2020 07:13 PM

Sit astraddle with your feet on either side of the legs. If salt isn’t dense enough try a bag of quikset.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View theoldfart's profile


11822 posts in 3261 days

#2 posted 03-01-2020 08:08 PM

I’ve done the same method. I use my Workmate as a saw stand.

I still find that though it stays put on the floor, the joints are still loose enough too keep it from being rock solid.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View shawnSK's profile


39 posts in 169 days

#3 posted 03-02-2020 04:01 AM

Quikset! That’s brilliant! I’ll grab a bag or two if the salt isn’t quite heavy enough.

theoldfart – Looks like you make yours work for a living!

-- Shawn, Saskatchewan

View theoldfart's profile


11822 posts in 3261 days

#4 posted 03-02-2020 05:03 AM

Shawn, cutting fence posts. I have a number of mitre boxes and I use a few pretty regularly. I’ll change them out depending on the size of the cut. The workmate is great for swapping them around.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View JCinVA's profile


218 posts in 1641 days

#5 posted 03-02-2020 07:00 AM

The workmates can be invaluable in a workshop, even with a good bench. There are lots of videos online with ideas for upgrades and adding features – thicker tops, larger work tables, outriggers for holding case goods, bench top tool holders, bench bulls, dog extenders, the list goes on. You can even clamp wood in the workmate to make a perfect height in/out feed support for power tools, etc.

I have three workmates plus a benchmate and I use them for most of my projects. I like the Quikset idea for weight too.

There is a thread over on Garage Journal with lots of history if that interests you.

View Sylvain's profile


1057 posts in 3309 days

#6 posted 03-02-2020 09:05 AM

I have used a workmate to build my workbench in my back-garden.
Once I had made my top lamination, about 150 X 30 X 4.5 cm, I clamped it on top of the workmate (with the vise and dogs).
I was a great improvement: more mass and height.
I was then much easier to make the other parts of the workbench (leg-frames and aprons).
The workbench-top could be stowed vertically between two work sessions.
Of course I still have my workmate if I need to work outside my ” workshop” (about 5 m²).

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View TraditionallySpeakin's profile


47 posts in 551 days

#7 posted 03-02-2020 05:59 PM

2 bags of cement will be 4x as heavy and if turned the opposite direction of this bag will take up almost exactly the same space.

Spray them down with a hose first and let them harden in the bag. That way you won’t have to worry about the bags ripping when moving them around and dry cement pouring out. You will be able to take them on and off for years and years without them getting damaged.

-- “If not for Roubo, the back of the U.S. nickle would be blank.” -Roy U.

View shawnSK's profile


39 posts in 169 days

#8 posted 03-03-2020 03:04 PM

All great ideas! I’m looking forward to seeing who wins the pushing contest – me or the Workmate. I’m tempted to skip ahead and do some sharpening this weekend, but I promised myself one project at a time, so I’ll hopefully finish up the tool tote project first and post the salt/cement results after that. Sounds promising though.

-- Shawn, Saskatchewan

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16814 posts in 3428 days

#9 posted 03-03-2020 03:14 PM

We have a forum for Workmates too!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View NormG's profile


6506 posts in 3814 days

#10 posted 03-08-2020 05:24 PM

What a great start, take your time look at all the work benches others have done, you can use from 2 x 4’s to Oak and onward. You might build more than one. Mine is simply bolted together 2×6’s, that my oldest son and I did 20 years ago. Never go around to making the top, until 5 years ago and made it into my miter saw station.

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

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