Wood working with a shop style bench

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Forum topic by BrindleDog posted 12-18-2020 09:19 PM 684 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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85 posts in 139 days

12-18-2020 09:19 PM

I’m going to pick up a shop top bench from a guy on Craigslist tonight and would like to know what I could do to modify it for wood working. It seems to be a laminated top on a metal frame. He said it came out of a high school shop class. Should I add a wood working vise? Make holes for hold fasts or stops? Can you accomplish this on a top that’s 2 inches thick?

I’m a newb to woodworking and just putting my tool collection together. If I can’t utilize this as a true woodworking bench it will still get a lot of use in restoring and maintaining tools and a lot of other projects.

Thanks for any advice.

This is the bench:

14 replies so far

View SMP's profile


3839 posts in 967 days

#1 posted 12-18-2020 10:16 PM

Instead of modifying that bench, I would look into making a Moxon vise or one of the “mini vise” projects you see on youtube, and buy some clamps. You can then use that as a build/glue up area, and clamp the mini bench or moxon to it for hand work.

Something like this is really cool

Or less expensive, i made one with a $20 irwin vise from Lowes and it works surprisingly well lol

View Foghorn's profile


1166 posts in 448 days

#2 posted 12-18-2020 10:27 PM

The Moxon vise is a great idea but I would still add a front vise of some kind as you’ll find it handy for the other, non-woodworking stuff you do too. I’m a little vise fixated though so take it with a grain of salt. I have seven different vises on three different benches. That looks like a pretty decent bench. Schools usually buy good quality.

-- Darrel

View BrindleDog's profile


85 posts in 139 days

#3 posted 12-18-2020 11:25 PM

Wow that woman is a beast. That’s a great idea.

I have clamps for days…

My wife bought them from a woman she is friends with who is the widow of a cabinet maker.

Unfortunately I only have a dinky little vintage sears vise right now. I’ve noticed that guys have vise restoration and collection hobbies. I need something more substantial.

View sansoo22's profile


1415 posts in 716 days

#4 posted 12-18-2020 11:32 PM

Here’s an example of an inexpensive moxon vise using pipe clamps.

Maybe you could combine the first link SMP provided with the pipe clamp moxon. I think you will eventually want a vise mounted to the workbench you’re getting but I wouldn’t dive right into that. It takes a little time to figure out what works best for you. Once you get an idea of how you like to work you can add a face vise, tail vise, dog holes, etc.

That’s a nice looking bench you’re going to get and while I’m not afraid to modify something like that I would want to be pretty confident once I do I’m not going to end up disliking my new mods.

View Chenier's profile


39 posts in 768 days

#5 posted 12-18-2020 11:42 PM

Start out simple. My bench is a similar flat surface. It came with a woodworking vice on the left face – a clamp-on Moxon will do the same thing. The left side has a piece of steel about 4 inches long attached that sticks up about 1/4” above the table top. That’s the planing stop. I’ve added a 4-1/2” machinist’s vice to the right front corner because I use it all the time (but usually not for woodworking). That setup, and a bunch of clamps, has kept me happy for the last 18 years or so.

Get yourself started and get to work. Then, if you find you need a different or new feature for the project d’jour, that’s the time to buy or create it. Otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time and money on features you don’t need.

View SMP's profile


3839 posts in 967 days

#6 posted 12-18-2020 11:42 PM

I guess another question is how much the thing weighs. Putting a woodworking vise on a light bench like a lot of those are is a recipe in frustration. You clamp wood in it and grab your plane and start planing and the right side pops up in the air and slams down. You start sawing and the thing rattle ls like your washing machine when you wash the comforter. If it weighs 150 pounds or more and is actual 2” top or close then i would go ahead and mount a vise and pop some holes in it.

View BrindleDog's profile


85 posts in 139 days

#7 posted 12-18-2020 11:51 PM

I just got it home and the top is really heavy. I was happy with the thickness of the steel base. It’s heavy duty for sure. Yeah I’m a little hesitant to drill holes it it. Are there any bench vises that clamp on instead of bolt?

Yeah it’s about 2 inches thick and over 100lbs.

View SMP's profile


3839 posts in 967 days

#8 posted 12-19-2020 12:09 AM

Every clamp-on vise i have tried has been a failure. Except for light duty stuff.

View BrindleDog's profile


85 posts in 139 days

#9 posted 12-19-2020 12:13 AM

I’m sure that after I get used to it I wont worry about babying it.

These videos you guys linked are awesome. Thanks for all of the information!

View Sylvain's profile


1226 posts in 3561 days

#10 posted 12-19-2020 09:55 AM

What is its height?

I have found a study where they tested different heights with different people and evaluated pain in back, neck, wrist, shoulder etc in multiple hours work. It seems the optimum height is about 150 mm below elbow height (with shoes on).

I am 1.75 m and happy with the 38” recommended by Paul Sellers.

Moxon vise is not needed if your workbench is at the above recommended height.

2” is thick enough for Grammercy holdfast.

How long and wide is it?

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

View Sylvain's profile


1226 posts in 3561 days

#11 posted 12-19-2020 10:19 AM

Those Moxon videos are nice but you don’t need machine to make one.

see this for example:

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

View drsurfrat's profile


575 posts in 248 days

#12 posted 12-19-2020 02:07 PM

You dove right in, I’ve seen your other posts as well. And nobody posts here without getting lots of opinions (sometimes disguised as “you must”). Here’s mine.

I used my first, cheap, beater bench to figure out what I wanted in terms of layout, vices, storage, height, etc. I prototyped up things like the moxon vice with cheap/free/already-had parts to see if it was my style. If it was, I then spend the time and reasonable money to get it done well. Including a bench that is pretty and actually flat.

The prototypes also allowed me to see what was important to me as features. The clamps you might use for a quick moxon would drive me nuts (we only have 2 hands), so would know later that the ‘real’ moxon would have a chain drive, or something like that.

Your craigslist beach seems like a really good start. The steel base seems substantial, but if not heavy enough, sandbag it. The feet are perfect for bolting on heavy feet to change the high and add weight. It might be a challenge to get an end vice to function through the steel base, but challenges are good. The shelf is perfect base for dedicated cabinets or moveable tool boxes.

-- Mike (near Boston) ... Laziness is the mother of invention, necessity is the mother of exhaustion - me

View controlfreak's profile


2007 posts in 663 days

#13 posted 02-25-2021 02:54 PM

Boy this Business news adding 50 links in each forum is getting really annoying.

Now for the bench the OP just got. You can build a cheap Moxon to help with dovetails and such. If the top is slick and sealed you may want to take a plane to it so it has some grip. Holdfast holes are a must IMO, they really speed things up and can double as dog holes for an end or wagon vise. Depending on what’s going on underneath with metal framing you should be able to get a clamping front vise to workout. By the time you get this all dialed in you will have a good idea what bench features you want for your style of work. I see a workbench build in your future.

View LittleShaver's profile


748 posts in 1681 days

#14 posted 02-25-2021 06:28 PM

I have a bench base similar to that one. Mine came out of a GM pattern making shop and came with a Emmert vise installed. I have no problems with it moving when using hand tools. Takes two men and a strong boy to move it.

-- Sawdust Maker

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