Dean O’Neil was asking about workbenches on the NPModelersyahoo group and I’ve had a post in the wings since summer, so, belatedly, here it is:
I’m running a split shop with all of the heavy, dirty stuff happening at my father’s shop and the light, clean stuff at my place. My most recent workbench is plain and functional, built using regular 2X4s with a decent 3/4” ply top and 1/2″ ply backboard to keep things from rolling down the back or splashing against the wall. The need for some modularity meant that I screwed and bolted everything together versus gluing and stapling or gluing and screwing the top as I would normally. With cross bracing the table is sturdy enough for my light work. In the recent Victoria shaker everything jiggled around for forty seconds (I must be on top of a garbage dump) but otherwise stayed put. I was very relieved that the feet (visible near the stool in the picture above) did their job and kept my stuff upright.
I stand for much of my work and opted for a higher top and that in turn allowed the use of some 60 year old furniture for under table storage. I had thought about placing tools on the backboard but they just rattle around when I run machines or hacksaw so I keep them in the drawers for the most part. A fairly old laptop is mounted flat on the backboard, mostly for CNC use, but it also sees duty as a picture display and a CAD viewer. As the computer runs a machine it is air gapped but this is mostly a formality as I don’t have internet access. The front two inches of the table are unsupported and this allows easy mounting of small vises and blocks for swing-arm mounted lighting. Being able to clamp clear across the front makes the arrangements customizable to the task at hand.
Those magnifying lights that everybody sells are very, very handy and, I would say, a must have for anyone doing small work. Quite often the difference between acceptable and unacceptable work on my part is related to how much light I have on offer. It can be night and day in terms of results so whatever you can spend on lighting is money well spent in my books. Something else I do whenever I can is to paint everything in the work area white. I’m not picky about sheen and I don’t need an off-white as many people recommend. The bench pictured hasn’t been painted yet and I regret that decision quite often. Inertia is the only thing holding up the paint job.