Anyone have feedback on stability of extruded bench? Vise?

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Forum topic by toddbeaulieu posted 02-09-2021 04:09 AM 1065 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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854 posts in 4245 days

02-09-2021 04:09 AM

Topic tags/keywords: extruded aluminum vise

I dumped my workbench after finally admitting that I never used it for anything but storage because my assembly table was just so much more convenient IMO. It’s the red table in my projects.

Now I’m thinking of replacing the assembly table with an MFT style bench around 60×40 (approx) with drawers below, mostly for marking and measuring tools/chisels/planes, etc. My plan is to install a festool style fence and to use the table for cross cuts, as well as general assembly and hand work. I have a WoodPeckers MFT jig/router template kit to mill the hole pattern in the MDF top.

I’ve never worked wit extruded aluminum, but I’m excited about trying it. Especially when considering all the amazing creature features I could whip up in similar fashion, such as tool shelves/racks, sliding fences, a sliding table saw attachment, etc. Yes, it’s super pricey! I’ve been shopping around, to see what my options are. Most people seem to have used 1515 for the frame and 1530 for the apron, claiming that not only is it “enough”, but that even the light and ultralight wouldn’t probably be fine.

As I get closer to pulling the trigger I realized that I really want to incorporate a vise or two into it, as well. I have a nice, heavy AMT pattern maker’s vise (same as Emmert) that I’d like to mount. It’s heavy, at 55 lbs. Obviously I’d have to tweak my design to accommodate it, but … is it too heavy? Also considering the Veritas Twin Screw as a second vise. I have visions of putting the vise on the side and watching the entire table tip over! Once the wood panels and drawers are in, it will be more stable and heavy, of course.

So … does anyone have and direct experience with making a medium/large table from extruded aluminum? Should I bump up to 2020 and 2040? Add corner brackets, instead of just captive anchors? Anyone actually have a vise mounted like this?

Thank you.

12 replies so far

View Rodango's profile


36 posts in 469 days

#1 posted 02-09-2021 04:20 AM

Just from looking, I’d say go to larger material. I always push the boundaries of what something should do so I picture the same for everyone. I’d use brackets in the corners, but they could/should attach to captive/track nuts. Panels will add stiffness and prevent collapse! For the heavy vises, consider your ‘moment of lever’. And maybe double the material that supports it. Sounds like you just want to try it, but don’t be passive, design it for the intended uses, then go beyond that because of failure-modes.

-- I won't even try to tell other people how to live their lives: they're not listening and I'm probly wrong.

View toddbeaulieu's profile


854 posts in 4245 days

#2 posted 02-09-2021 04:45 AM

If I’m not misunderstanding, 30 series on the same site ( is significantly cheaper than their 15 series. Supply/scale of mfgr? I could go to 3030 (they don’t list 3060 – not sure it if exists – will look).

View toddbeaulieu's profile


854 posts in 4245 days

#3 posted 02-09-2021 05:49 AM

Can’t edit my last comment. I just realized that on their site, 15 series is 1.5” but 30 series is 30mm. Grrr.

View SMP's profile


4820 posts in 1147 days

#4 posted 02-09-2021 06:00 AM

For hand work, and vises, a heavy bench is your friend. Paying extra to make a bench out of ultralight airplane parts is pretty much the reverse of what you want, at a higher cost. So maybe i am missing the point of why you want to use this?

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854 posts in 4245 days

#5 posted 02-09-2021 06:22 AM

Tell me this doesn’t look sexy. Something like this would be perfect for me, but I wanted to add vise to it.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


4888 posts in 2735 days

#6 posted 02-09-2021 07:02 AM

+1 Does not make sense using light weight aluminum framing components, when you want a heavy work bench for wood working and project assembly.

So … does anyone have and direct experience with making a medium/large table from extruded aluminum? Should I bump up to 2020 and 2040? Add corner brackets, instead of just captive anchors? – toddbeaulieu
Have built all kinds of frames using TONS of extruded aluminum profiles.
There is a steep learning curve. Mistakes can be really expensive if you don’t head mfg recommendations. Best to design all frames in CAD, then use FEA analysis to determine if meets your needs.

Every work bench I have built using this stuff, was required to be bolted to ground, or it would move around with heavy use. Even the 6060 profile still not heavy enough to keep it from moving when bumped.
We primarliy used it for conveyorized assembly benches as it was lighter weight than steel and cheaper to ship between makers shop and mfg plant in another country.

Had one common conveyor segment built using 3030 that had motor/belt vibration near resonant frequency of the frame. It was notorious for walking around in large circles during buy off testing in factory. The frames produced are strong & rigid, but every design requires careful engineering to avoid issues.

For any frame with heavy stuff on top, ALWAYS reinforce the corners with brackets. The fancy inter-tube connectors do not stand up well to vibration or bending stresses. If the ends are not machined flat with these connectors, will create high stress points on mating tube, and joints that loosen up over time.

Another challenge is aluminum slots can cold flow under high clamping pressure with steel hardware, and if you over torque the fasteners; the joints loosen up and entire frame becomes unstable wiggling mess. We would always build the frame, wait a week or two; then re-torque every fastener. When final machine was installed at mfg after shipping several months later; all the fasteners were re-torqued a second time before machine was powered on. The shock loads from shipping frame bolted to pallet would always loosen a couple joints.

IMHO – This stuff is world’s greatest erector set that avoids need for welded frames on one-off tools, but would be my last choice if I wanted to make static work bench for heavy assembly table with vise. Plus making heavy duty structures with this stuff (due extra bracing/hardware) ends up as THE most expensive solution available.

#IAMAKLUTZ, not an expert, and YMMV.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, Doom, despair, agony on me… - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View tvrgeek's profile


2282 posts in 2890 days

#7 posted 02-09-2021 10:56 AM

Personally, I like old bed frames as I can mig iron. I don’t have tig. For a workbench, heavier is better, so the cost of buying aluminum would seem to be counter-productive. You are going to load it with tools anyway. I will be building a new one very soon (outfeed table/bench/everything) and this time I may use 1 inch steel box.

For something like the picture above, I would use plywood.

Do plan on the vice(s) so it can miss the legs. On one corner, I had to add a plate so I could drill a hole for the vise rail to pass. Look into the heavy caster/lever foot thingies. Worth the money

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Craftsman on the lake

3882 posts in 4679 days

#8 posted 02-09-2021 11:38 AM

I also gave up my Workbench I had made after I found out I needed more of an assembly bench than a work bench.
Mine is a heavy assembly table about 5’x5’. It’s made with 2×4’s and plywood with doors underneath and pull out shelves. and a place for a small compressor on the other side of it. The top is wrapped with a 2×4 and it has a 1/4” tacked on hardboard top that is removable. I’ve yet to replace it after several years. The edges overhang for clamping. I can paint on it, wipe the titebond off my fingers, let glue drip form glue-ups, and not worry about other stuff. I have at times tacked finish nails into it to hold the edges of wood that I don’t want to move. It’s heavy but has 4” locking wheels so that with a push the momentum moves it pretty good. It’s also about 1/2” lower than my table saw so it acts as an out feed table. Also, a lot to be said for something with some heft to it when working. It also has a plug on both sides of it for power. The bench itself plugs into the wall.
here it is from my blog page when it was being made…

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View toddbeaulieu's profile


854 posts in 4245 days

#9 posted 02-09-2021 12:41 PM

Sadly, the above advice does make sense to me. I feel like I’d be 100% fine replacing my assembly table with one as-planned, up until the vise mount, which could end up sliding around on me, leaving it effectively useless for activities met with resistance, such as hand sawing and planing. I’m 75% “there” with my current assembly table, which is oak and lots of ply. Desired improvements:

  • Larger.
  • More accurate dog holes for flawless fence and clamping operations.
  • Drawers, instead of open storage.
  • Vise!
  • Ability to move easier. My shop is crowded.

Finally … one thing that I do have to weigh heavily into the equation is personal style. What works best is what’s best suited for how I work, and what I don’t need, for sure, is a massive traditional bench, so it’s definitely a matter of finding a compromise for my shop.

View tvrgeek's profile


2282 posts in 2890 days

#10 posted 02-09-2021 02:11 PM

True industrial design is always functional, as well as pleasing. Eames, Lowey, Wilkenson…
Aesthetics without function is useless.

Don’t forget:

View toddbeaulieu's profile


854 posts in 4245 days

#11 posted 02-09-2021 02:17 PM

Well, I’m nothing, if not impulsive, so …. I think you’ve talked me into a new plan. Stick with the assembly table that I am confident will suit me well for most of my projects, AND rethink a real bench. Most of my complaints about my bench were due to design/execution flaws, so if I were to go down the route of, say, a split Ruobo I’d have the best of both worlds.

I hadn’t seen a caster like that one. I like that design.

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854 posts in 4245 days

#12 posted 05-17-2021 02:34 PM

Thanks for all the feedback, folks. I finally completed my assembly table last week. I went with 1010 and 1510. I added extra framing for weight and strength. Baltic panels, 12 baltic soft close drawers. 3/4” MDF lower surface and a laminated 1” MDF top surface, CNC’d with 20mm holes. I have not yet added the vise, but I intend to. This table is HEAVY! I was going to mount the nice pattern maker’s vise that I have, but I changed my mind, going with the showy twin screw that Andrew Klein is making. Will I ever get to use that PM vise???

I will post the project soon.

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