When I am doing a bit of DIY in and around the home I like to have the right equipment as I find that having the right tools is half the battle, and nine out of ten times it saves time as I don't have to spend all night waiting in the local A&E holding the end of my finger in place until a nurse has decided to put in a few stitches... we've all been there???. But no matter how good the tool in hand are when it comes to having something to do the actual work on then it is important to get that right before you start the job.
What I mean by that is you know the feeling, you have to cut a few pieces of wood, or maybe plane something smooth, but you've only got a wooden chair to rest the wood on, leaving you with the option of holding the wood with one hand whilst trying to plane/cut it with your other hand, (although I tend to use a plane or a saw as I find using my hand can bring on scratches and blisters...tee hee). Or maybe you have your left foot pressed hard on a piece of 2 by 4, trapping it onto the chair top, trying to bend your body in such a way so that you can reach the wooden piece with the teeth of the saw, finally cutting through it only to discover that you've actually cut half way through the wooden chair as well. Leaving you with a chair that will trap the skin of anyone that sits on it, and, worst still, an annoyed wife who is going to hit you with a frying pan, or maybe even a rolling pin, when she finds out that she's only got three good chairs left from what started out as a 6 chair dining set. And don't get me started on what actually happened to the table..? I blame the kids, they broke it, honest.
Or was that just how it was for me...???
And that is how I discovered that buying a workbench saves on more than just time, it saves on effort and, more importantly, it saves on a lot of GBH to the ear hole from the other half.
Once I'd discovered workbenches I now tend not to saw through as many chairs as I once used to, but the odd one does have an 'accident', depending on how quickly I want to get the job in hand done.
But, as with all things in life, when it comes to getting the right workbench you have to ask yourself what sort of jobs are you intending to do? How often are you going to be doing them? How much weight you are going to be putting onto the bench? And how much space you have to actually work with.
These questions have to be asked as there are a vast array of workbenches which come in all shapes and sizes, catering for all your needs, from a small wood cutting idea to much heavier work such as carving a bench out of a tree stump that has been taking op space in your garden for too long now.
In fact, I remember the workbenches we had at school, which were the size of a small bus, taking up half the wood work room so that we had to squeeze around the corners in order to get anything done, (avoiding the T-Rex as we cowered in our caves), and to be honest I do actually have a similar one of these work benches in the shed at the bottom of my garden as they are as strong as an ox and can withstand the pressure of a couch load of McDonalds fans bouncing up and down on it. The only thing wrong with this workbench is that it is not exactly portable, which is were a particular workbench that I have had for a while now, being stored comfortably on a couple of hook in the shed in question, come in to its own.
That particular workbench that I am talking about is in fact a bench from one of the best known tool making companies on the market, (although maybe not the best). This company being called Black and Decker, with this work bench being the B&D WM301, (which is not to be confused with any other similar named benches, one of which I actually have as well, which has a little more to offer than this one, but it's the 301 I want to tell you about here).
* When you first get the 301...
Don't panic when you're handed the box that this comes in, especially if you've seen the pictures of the 301 set up and you're now wondering how on earth such a small rectangular package can contain a full size workbench, even if the box actually weighs more than Pavarotti's lunch box.
Even when you take out all the bits and bobs, the square hollow metal tubes, the two flat pieces of wood, the strange looking sheet of metal, the few bits of plastic that almost resemble handles, the four bungs, the four orange wedges and a plastic bag filled with nuts and bolts and what looks like a 'borrowers' hat. Even then, with all the bits scattered on the floor, it still doesn't look like the picture of the workbench that you ordered on line
But before you pick up the phone to begin your rant to the supplier, ready to spit venom at who ever answers the call on the other end, demanding that they come and collect the obviously 'damaged in transit' workbench that you ordered. You have to remember that this is a sort of 'Ikea' system... you have to assemble it yourself, and that's why it comes on such a small package, and at a small price too.
* What about putting it together..?
This looked a little on the complicated side and I knew that it had to be done properly as it would be taking some hassles in my DIY times so I did not want it to be collapsing on me when I was on the verge of cutting through a piece of wood with my power saw. So I spent a bit of time checking the pieces an figuring out which was which and what went to where.
Then, after a few minutes, and a good check of the little drawing on the instruction panel, which is actually on the box and not on a separate leaflet, I was ready to bung it all together.
So, with the tools in hand, I began to slot the bolts into the little pre-drilled holes in the appropriate sections of the frame and tightening up the nuts on the other end. Then it was a matter of doing the same with the rest of the fittings in order to get the wooden worktops into place, making sure that the rotating handles were in the right place and that the 'screw threads' moved the right way.
Finally, the little plastic bungs on the bottom of each leg were slotted, nay pushed into place, using a mallet to make sure, and I was ready to start using my workbench.
In all, it took less than 25 minutes to finish the job, from taking it out of the box to getting the entire thing together so that it was fit for purpose, and safe to use.
Now, 25 minutes is good going really, and I only scratched my finger twice, which is good going for me as I have a tendency to cut myself at least five times no matter what 'little job' I'm doing.
* So, once this bench is put together, what does it look like..?
Basically, it looks like two 'A' frame of metal with a couple of pieces of wood holding the pair together. And that is what it is to be honest, although there are a few nuts and bolts that fix it all together so that it is strong enough to actually use as a workbench.
The work bench itself is more or less the same size as many others of its kind, being about 610mm long by 340mm wide and standing at a good 760mm high, weighing in at about 15kg. It can handle up to 160kg of weight which is enough for many jobs in the home really.
The clamping area is a good 115mm when fully opened, with both ends being allowed to be opened and closed at different widths which helps in gripping the more awkward sizes of materials.
The two top sections that make up the full wooden top, both have a little groove on the inside section, the part when the two halves clamp together. This is so that the tops get a better grip on the material that you put inside the 'jaws', making positioning at 'funny' angles more possible.
It comes with four little orange bit of plastic which are addition grips really. These plastic bits slot into any one of the 6 pre-drilled holes on the wooden tops so that you can grip those wider pieces of work that just won't fit into the grips in the two halves.
There are no other 'grip' parts with this table but luckily, as I have had other workmate I have managed to amass a few of these 'plastic 'grips' and as they are all more or less the same diameter they fitted neatly into the holes on the top of this worktop.
Believe me, these 'grips' really do come in handy when it comes to grabbing larger pieces of wood or the like, especially if they are of different sizes on each end.
The legs and the frame are made of a strong, hollow, rectangular metal that can withstand a lot of weight really without buckling like a skinny man trying to lift a regular visitor in McDonalds.
The top is split into two halves, with one half being moveable using the two little rotating handles whilst the other half remains static and is used for the other to squeeze against.
On the front half of the wooden top there is a little sticker, which isn't all there now as it has rubbed away. But when it was new this yellow sticker had a few measurement on it, inches and CM's so it accommodates for both young and old DIYers.
There's also a few little images on the sticker which are the do's and don'ts when using the bench.
* And how do we use it then..?
This can be used in a few ways to hold what ever you're working on. You can either place material into the main jaws of the wooden tops, closing the two halves together so that it grips the material in between. Or you can use the orange 'grip' placed into the holes on the wooden tops and use these 'grips' to trap the material you're working on.
But either way using the workbench is the same.
All you have to do first is open the workbench so that it makes the sort of 'A' frame, which is done by loosening the two little screws, one on either side, just below the wooden tops. Then you move the legs apart until it feels solid and won't move anymore. Then you finally re-tighten the screws and lock the legs in position.
To open and close the two halves of work tops you simply turn the two handles that are on either end of one side of the table. These handles can be turned in an independent sort of way so that you can open and close each end of the wooden top at different sizes, thus allowing you to grip different sizes. This turning action is done due to the strong screw threads which you can clearly see located along the ends of the metal frame, just underneath the wooden tops.
The handles in question easily rotate and, as the ends have a rotating orange knob, you don't have to let go of the handles whilst turning them.
* What about putting it away...
This folds up into a flat pack, sort of, leaving you to have to find a space of about
300mm in order to slide this unit into storage.
To fold it away you have to loosen those two flat screw heads that are on either side of the tops of the frame, just below the wooden tops. Then you slide the two legs apart so that the frame makes a sort of 'A' frame without the cross beam of course. You then tighten up the screw head so that the frame locks onto position, making it safe, sturdy and secure, as long as you have it on a level surface of course.
* And my opinion then... if anyone's interested..?
As I said, when I first took possession of it I was pretty stunned at the size of the box. This was because of the fact that it came in a small box, considering the fact that it was supposed to stand ¾ of a metre high and 350cm wide, but the box didn't really give that impression at all.
But when I dragged everything out of the box and started to put it all together, using the little tools that came in a plastic bag that was taped to one of the metal legs, it all started to make sense, looking more like the work bench that I had imagined it should look like, (like many others that I had used or seen to be honest). The tools, or more tool, that was needed to secure this together was a simple piece of plastic that had a hexagon locking nut inside the plastic unit and had two small handle things on the outside. It is simple a 'spanner' type device and it designed to slot over the bolts so that you can tighten then up without trying to find the right sized spanner somewhere in your toolbox. It does look like it could be part of the workbench itself but it is just for putting the thing together, although do keep hold of it as it does come in handy for tightening the frame up every so often.
Once it was put together I was pretty amazed by how strong it actually was. To be honest, especially for the price I paid, I was expecting something that may wobble a bit, maybe have a few creaks under pressure, sounding like Cheryl Cole singing her latest offering. But it was as strong and silent as Roger Moore on a night out.
The frame is lightweight, almost, yet manages to withstand more weight than Vanessa Phelps under garments, which is a bonus, on both accounts really.
And the wooden tops can take some battering too, handling more whacks than Judy, (Punch and Judy not Richard and Judy... I don't think he knocks her about? At least I hope not???!!!).
I have used the tops for sawing, drilling, chiselling, in fact, everything that a workbench should be used for, and the wood has managed to stay more or less in tact.
Don't get me wrong, it has got more holes in it than a politicians excuses about their expense claim form, these holes coming from all sorts of tools, yet the wood has not split at all, which some wood can do when you whack a great big hole into it, but these two pieces really hold their own. I think the wood is made from compressed bamboo, and that is why it doesn't split apart on the first hit, but I could be wrong?
Anyway, the main thing about this work bench, unlike the big monster I have in the shed, is that this one can be folded away so that it can be stored in a small(ish) place once I've finished with it. All you have to remember is to keep you finger clear of the folding sides and make sure the handles are turned the right way in order for the bench to close fully.
* As for the price..?
This sells for about £30.00, which is not too bad considering the versatility of this workbench really. I mean, £30.00 is nothing really these days when it comes to safety, and this workbench will help you stay safe as you go about your DIY tasks.
* Is it worth the money..?
Yes, a big fat YES... once more I say yes.
So that's a yes then?
It is without doubt a very useful piece of equipment when it comes to your average DIY around the home, and beyond. It can take anything from a thin strip of wood to a sheet of ply, maybe a length of plastic tubing to a full blooded door... in fact, there's not a lot that it can't get a good grip on so that you can then use both hands to get the job done instead of trying to hold something with one hand and use a tool with the other.
The only downside is that if you don't get this on a flat surface then it will wobble a bit, or more in fact, so you do have to make sure you use it on a flat place. Ideally though this would be a little better if it had some form of little adjustable screws on the feet so that you can then use this on more rougher surfaces... maybe there's a bung out there that allows this sort of adjusting? I'll have to have a look around.
Here we have an almost iconic tool ( yes there is such a thing! ) - the Black and Decker workbench.
A handy gizmo for all DIY enthusiasts with all manner of clamps and vices and holes to put g-clamps through. It also holds a cup of coffee nicely while you work...
I have had mine for years and it is still going strong ( although it is looking a little Jackson Pollock these days ). I have used it as a sawhorse for logs, to hold wood during drilling, to hold wood for sanding and for decorating. I has rubber feet which gives it stability and it is surprisingly easy to carry and move about.
The workbench is a folding contraption with strong steel legs and a wooden type top.
The wood looking top is actually made from strong compressed bamboo and is in two halves which can be used as an extra large vice. The edges feature an inch/cm rule. Very useful. There are dual clamping cranks to increase the clamping power and a variety of swivel pegs and grooves for versatile clamping of wood etc.
It arrives boxed and is easy to set up and use within ten minutes.
This little wonder of engineering holds virtually anything steady so that you can drill, saw, rout to your hearts content. It fits in a small workspace and is easy to stash in a small space for storage.
I am not a huge fan of Black and Decker for power tools because I find them to be rather weak and feeble. But this is an essential item for me and very reasonably priced. Black and Decker do different versions of their famous workbench which have all manner of bells and whistles as you go up the price range. This one is suitable for most DIY jobs and semi-professional work.
I use it for predominantly hardwood which it holds with ease. More importantly it does not mark or damage the wood as I am working on it. When I am using softwood such as pine, cedar etc I always protect the wood in the clamps with some cloth and would advise others to do the same. I have never (thank goodness) had an occasion where the wood has slipped in any of the clamps whilst I have been working so this is a good and safe item to own.
Holds virtually anything within vice jaw range, bench tool stand, vice for cutting, drilling, routing, painting etc, general workbench and stable enough to use as a sawhorse.
Vice jaw length: 610mm
Vice jaw opening: 0 - 115mm
Vice jaw material: Compressed Bamboo.
Working height: 760mm
Table width: 341mm
Folds for easy storage.
Prices range from £28-£45 and it comes with a 2 Year Manufacturers Warranty.
In conclusion - a fantastic item to assist in any DIY task. Easy to set up and fold down and light enough to carry about. Stable and safe.
For those that undertake DiY tasks less frequently the Black & Decker WM301 Workmate is all you need. The dual clamping cranks increase clamping force and versatility while the pegs have a variety of positions to work with even awkward-shaped pieces. Rubber feet ensure that the Workmate stays where it's put and the whole thing folds flat for compact storage and easy transport. Requires self assembly.