Canadian Woodworking

Portable Work Support

Most workshops have a stationary workbench of one kind or another. However, it’s often convenient to have a portable work support that you can move around the shop, take outdoors or transport to a jobsite. The work supports we look at here are generally easy to set up and can be folded or collapsed for storage and transportation. All can be conveniently and quickly repositioned and repurposed for the tasks at hand. There are specialty miter saw stands, router tables, and toolbox-style workbenches that we don’t cover here.

Sawhorses

This is probably what first comes to mind when you think ‘work support’. They’ve been around forever – Noah probably used a couple while building the ark. They serve a multitude of functions around the home, shop and job site. You’ll find them made of wood, metal or ABS, and in a variety of styles, including the classic A-frame with fixed legs, trestle, folding and clamping. Most often they’re used in pairs, for cutting long lengths of stock or with a piece of plywood lain on top to provide a stable work or assembly surface. Sawhorses made out of dimensional lumber can be bulky and heavy, awkward to transport in your vehicle and carry from shop to work site, and they take up precious shop floor space when not in use. However, if you do select a metal or ABS sawhorse with folding legs, make sure it’s rock solid when the legs are deployed. Some are fairly light in weight and don’t support a lot of weight, making them better suited for light jobs around the house. Others are built like tanks to withstand the rigors of job site abuse.

Except for the Centipede, these are traditional style all-steel folding leg sawhorses. The Portamate supports up to 500 lb and has a 3-1/2″-wide by 36″-long top at a 33″ height. The Centipede is an arrangement of steel struts, available in a number of different sizes. The smallest version opens to 24″ by 24″ and collapses to 6″ by 9″, while the largest version opens to 48″ by 96″ and collapses to 9″ by 14″. It supports up to 2,500 lb. The DEWALT supports 1,000 lb, has an integrated V-groove for cutting pipe, and a standing height of 32-1/4″. The ToughBuilt supports 1,300 lb, has a carry handle, 2×4 support arms, and is height adjustable from about 25″ to 32″.

These are all-steel combination sawhorses and clamps. The JawHorse has a 37″ top with a 600-lb capacity that is also a 37″ clamp (activated by a foot pedal) provides 2,000 lb of clamping capacity.

The SuperJaws has a 39″ top with a 550-lb capacity that is also a 39″ clamp (activated by a foot pedal) that provides 2,200 lb of clamping capacity. Both feature a tripod base for stability on uneven surfaces and fold for easy storage and portability.

The King Canada K-2800 Portable Clamping Workstation features a powerful foot operated clamp that frees up your hands for full control of the workpiece, while applying up to 2,200 lbs of clamping force. It also has a reversible sliding clamping jaw and a lock/release switch that provides trouble-free release of the jaws.

Sources: BoraTool.com, DeWalt.com, KingCanada.comRockwellTools.com, ToughBuilt.com, TritonTools.com

Bora Portamate PM-3300, $69.99

Simple, Yet Strong – The Portamate is a traditional style steel folding leg sawhorse that is easy to set up, supports a heavy load and breaks down very small for storage.

Bora portamate

Bora Centipede, From $60

 

Lots of Size Options – The Centipede is available in a variety of sizes, and it folds up small for storage. It also holds a surprising amount of weight.

 

bora centipede

DEWALT DWST11155, $68.98

Nice Features – The DEWALT sawhorse is well built and has a few nice features, including trigger clamps to help secure stock while in use.

dewalt DWST11155

ToughBuilt C600, $69.99

Many Different Models – Some of the Toughbuilt models have cutting brackets, adjustable height legs and can use 2 × 4s and 4 × 4s to extend the work surface dimensions.

toughbuilt

Rockwell JawHorse RK9003, $199.00

Hands-Free Clamping – The foot pedal lever on the Rockwell Jawhorse provides extremely high hands-free clamping force.

rockwell jawhorse

Triton SuperJaws SJA300, $189.99

A Powerful Helping Hand – With the ability to clamp workpieces up to 1 meter wide, the hands-free clamping jaws of the Triton Super Jaws will come in handy.

triton

Clamping Workbenches

These lightweight portable workbenches, variously referred to as Project Centers, or Work Centers, combine the convenience of a sawhorse with the practical advantage of a clamping system. All have a two-part top. Some (like the B&D and Grizzly) have one fixed jaw and one movable jaw and two independently adjustable hand screws, enabling them to be used as clamps and as bench vises. Others, (like the Kreg and Worx) have two tables that fold down, so they can be used as a sawhorse. These latter models include their own clamping systems. All have an array of 3/4″ holes in the top that provide additional clamping points and come with a set of bench dogs. They can also be folded or collapsed for storage and transportation.

The all-steel (except for top and handles) B&D Workmate, which has been on the market for over 40 years, is the original clamping workbench. This latest version has a 550-lb capacity, 8-5/16″ clamping capacity, two height levels, and a convenient clamping system that enables you to adjust the two handle clamps together or independently.

The Grizzly is a basic clamping workbench with a 9-1/2″ × 24″ work surface, 4-1/4″ clamping capacity and a 220-lb capacity.

The Kreg has a large 27-3/4″ by 31-1/2″ work surface (made up of two independently operating reinforced polypropylene tables) that fold into a sawhorse mode. The top has an integrated clamp track that accepts the innovative Kreg Automaxx bench clamps (#KBC3, KBC6). The base is made of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel. It has a 350-lb capacity (1,100 in sawhorse mode) and a lower storage shelf that holds up to 25 lb.

Similar to the Kreg is the Worx, with a 25″ by 31″ folding work surface that supports 300 lb (1,000 in sawhorse mode) and two integrated quick clamps with a 25″ clamping capacity. The clamps can also be tilted upwards to hold stock onto the work top.

Sources: BlackandDecker.com, Grizzly.com, KregTool.com, Worx.com

Black & Decker Workmate 425, $149.00

Pioneer Workbench – The Black & Decker Workmate has been around for over 40 years and has lots of great options to assist you in the shop.

workmate

Grizzly G8586, $41.95

Simple and Strong – The simple portable workbench from Grizzly will lend a solid hand at a moment’s notice.

grizzly sawhorse

Kreg KWS1000, $210.00

Multi-Purpose Workbench – Kreg’s KWS1000 has a work top with a full-length T-track and dog holes for added clamping options.

kreg KWS1000

Worx WX051, $100.00

Power and Flexibility – Up to 2,200 of clamping pressure and a reversible sliding clamping jaw for maximum versatility.

work WX051

Multi Function Work Table

This new style of portable work table owes its genesis to the Festool MFT (Multi Function Table). These work tables consist of clamping tables – replaceable work surfaces (except for the Veritas) with a series of dog holes that can accommodate clamps and other hold-downs and fixtures to secure stock for you to saw, sand, rout and otherwise manipulate. The Festool and Triton clamping tables have 20-mm dog holes and the table legs fold for easy transit and storage; the Veritas has 3/4″ dog holes. T-slots on the top or side table rails provide extra clamping options.

The MFT/3 (#500608) is primarily (but not exclusively) designed to be used with a Festool track saw, a router or jigsaw (both require optional rail attachments), and a guide rail. The replaceable 19-mm MDF top is 33″ by 45″ and is encased in an aluminum frame with slots on the sides to mount various clamping accessories. There is a kitted version (#495315) for $968 that includes a 42″ guide rail, angle stop and hose/cord deflector.

The Triton also has a 3/4″ (19 mm) MDF replaceable top and 25-1/2″ by 33-1/2″ work surface. The aluminum frame has T-slots on the top of the long side. The top can be replaced with either an optional Router Table Module (RT001), 10″ Contractor Saw Module (CS001), or 5″ Project Saw (PS001) and plugged into the onboard power switch.

The Veritas Worksurface is the most compact MFT style work table around. There are three sizes available, from 12″ by 15-1/2″ up to 19″ by 29-1/2″. The top is made of 1-1/2″ Baltic Birch ply, and is surrounded by an aluminum frame that has integrated 1/4″- 20 T-slots on both the top and side of the frame, which provides additional options for clamping stock. Rubber feet provide 2-1/2″ of clearance. For greater clearance optional 3-1/2″ tall risers are available.

Sources: FestoolCanada.com, LeeValley.com, TritonTools.com

Festool MFT/3 Basic, $812

One Serious Work Table – Festool has done a great job integrating their MFT/3 to work with their wide selection of well-thought-out power tools.

Festool MFT

Triton TWX7, $669.99

Powerful Partner – The Triton TWX7 is a well-made work station. You can even plug power tools into the mounted plug.

triton TWX7

Veritas Worksurface, $89 - $139

Well-Thought-Out Design – The Veritas Worksurface, available in three sizes, essentially performs like a full-sized workbench, but at a smaller scale.

Veritas worksurface

Mini Workbench

Pressed for space? Work in a closet? A functional mini workbench, like the Sjobergs Smart Workstation Pro might be the ticket. The solid beech top is 1-1/2″ thick and a generous 14″ by 18″.

The bench stands 5-1/2″ high, has a 4-5/16″ vise capacity, and 10 3/4″ dog holes. It’s easily clamped or bolted to the top of any table or workbench.

Sjobergs workstation

Small, But Mighty – The Sjobergs Smart Workstation Pro is designed with cramped quarters in mind, and will go a long way to helping you create big things in a small space.

Saw Your Own Horse

Making your own sawhorse (or two) is a fun and satisfying project for a novice woodworker. All you need is couple of 2 × 4s (or whatever wood is at hand), a saw, and a few screws or some glue. If you really want to speed things up purchase sawhorse brackets from Lee Valley (#03K06.08) or KMS Tools (W53994). You’ll find tons of photos and plans on the Internet.


Carl Duguay - [email protected]

Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

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