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Whether you are a journeyman contractor, a Do-It-Yourself person or a weekend hobbyist, one of the most useful tools you can own is a workbench. Also known as a shop table, having a large, level surface is critical to doing an efficient job. It will be the most utilized tool in your workshop.

There are many things to consider when making the terrific decision to buy a workbench. Variables like size and height, wood or steel frame, table top material, and of course, customizing with accessories, all play a role. Will it be portable or fixed in place? Center of the room or on a wall? So many possibilities, it can make your head spin. But don't lose heart. We are here to guide you on this journey.

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Should I get a mobile workbench or one fixed in place?

Let us first ask you a question: What is it going to be used for? Clearly you need a large, flat surface to do a project. If your answer is handyman or contractor work, then a portable workbench is the obvious choice. If the answer is you want a space for woodworking or a hobby involving building things, then you aren't going far from home except to get supplies, and having your workbench stationary, or on lockable casters, is perfect for you.

Portable benches

Portable workbenches aren't typically as large as the models for fixed purpose use, but they are quite versatile. With telescoping legs, folding table tops, and weighing very little because of their aluminum and plastic construction (wood tops also available), they go anywhere you go. The top affords the option to add a clamp if needed. The legs are set at an angle to increase stability. And taking your own workbench is the best way to guarantee you have your most important tool on hand. These are also rarely taller than 36".

Portable Industrial Stainless Steel Top Workbench
Solid Stainless Steel Workbench Table
Portable Compact Manufactured Wood Workbench
Folding Work Table Stainless Steel Workbench
Portable Solid Folding Stainless Steel Workbench
Solid Portable Adjustable Height Workbench

Shop benches

In your workspace, your two choices for a workbench is stationary, or rolling on wheels, also known as casters.

Functional Butcher Block Top Workbench
Practical Adjustable Height Wood Top Workbench
Mobile Functional Wood Workbench Top
Solid Steel Large Top Workbench
Stylish Wooden Top Workbench and Cabinet Combo
Folding Adjustable Height Butcher Block Top Workbench

Do I go with a metal frame or a wooden frame?

Metal frame

A metal (steel) workbench has one detail that its wood counterpart lacks. While there is still some weight to it, because metal is often stronger, it requires less of it to make the framework for the bench, and thus less overall weight. That makes it easier to relocate to another part of the shop if need be. It is still just as sturdy, but has a skeletonized look, more function than form. Only a single or double shelf on the base or back is available. Adding to a steel framed unit can only be done if the addition in question is mounted to the frame itself, or the table top. And steel vibrates, made very noticeable when power tools are used.

Wood frame

A wood frame however has equal parts form and function, allowing many custom possibilities. Wood is soft and therefore drilling into it to mount a new piece of hardware is relatively simple. The benches are heavier, which can make them more sturdy. And unlike steel, wood absorbs vibrations, so your projects don't dance on the table while you are working with power tools. They often have an overhang on the perimeter, which makes adding a clamp very easy. Wood frames are more squared off than their steel counterparts and adding drawers or shelves is less of a hassle.

Manufactured Wood Adjustable Height Wood Top Workbench
Practical Adjustable Height Steel Top Workbench
Solid Maple Wood Top Workbench
Industrial Black Steel Top Workbench
Solid Maple Wood Large Top Workbench
Workstation with Electric Adjustable Height Workbench

What type of table top can I have on my stationary workbench?

There are three kinds of table tops for your home or shop workbench, each with some specific functions for use.

Metal

These table tops typically only go with metal frame workbench set-ups. They are welded or bolted on and made of stainless steel. They are rarely the go-to option for anyone who works with wood. However if you need something that won't stain and is a snap to clean, this is perfect for you.

Laminate

Table tops with a laminate coating, also known as Formica, are terrific if you want to choose what color the table top will be. Formica comes in a whole host of styles and a wheel of colors. It is smooth, easy to clean, but will stain if a caustic substance is left on the surface too long. The laminate is a thin piece of plastic, surrounding most often a particle board interior. It is hardened and can take a beating.

Wood

Wood table tops, usually maple, are great for many projects, but have the flaw that it will tell all of your abuses. If you are rough on it, stab it, saw it, stain it, or otherwise damage it, everything that has been done to it will show. No one wants to ding up their work space, but accidents happen, things get spilled, and the consequence is a large wooden record of the trials and successes, or failures, of your many undertakings.

If you intend to be rough on your workbench table top, a removable particle board top is a great idea. Particle board is basically compressed sawdust, held in place with glue. You can dig it, dent it, drill into it, spill glue on it, drip paint on it, and, when you've decided it is beyond saving, throw it out and replace it. Cheap and easy.

What are my options in shelves and drawers for my workbench?

Having somewhere to store your tools is key to maintaining the workspace.

Shelves

A good sturdy shelf, installed on the appropriate brackets, can handle quite a bit of weight, and give your tools a home when not in use. They can be metal or wood, of many different lengths, and can be installed under the table top with an all wood workbench. Metal workbenches have arms that extend above the table surface, and can accommodate shelves there as well.

Drawers

For any and all storage and organizational needs, drawers are invaluable. Deep or shallow, custom designed for specific items or a catch-all, adding one or more drawers to your workbench will put tools, and things like screws and nuts, at your fingertips. They install easily under the table top, ready for storing your things.

What are some accessories I can use with my workbench?

Once you pick out your perfect workbench, now it's time to choose whether or not your job or hobby would be benefited by a few additional attachments. Some accessories can improve efficiency, productivity and be an extra hand if you're working alone. And they can be either permanently installed or easily removable.

How do I clean my workbench in-between projects?

Keeping your workbench tidy and maintained is a snap, regardless of which table top you choose.