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Workbench on Wheels?

KEN_SPRAGUE's picture

I am a beginner in the process of building my first workbench. I could use some input on whether it would be a good idea or not, to put wheels on a workbench. I have yet to see wheels on any workbench. I plan to build a bench like the one in the Dec 99 FWW article in the same approximate dimensions, and would like to put 4 or 5 inch castors on it, 2 fixed and 2 with swivels and locks. I have not seen any discussion on this particular bench, so I would welcome any comments on this item. Also what are the disadvantages of a workbench being too high? The reason I ask is that bending over really bothers my 53 year old back. I'm 6'1" and plan to build a 40" high bench. Thanks in advance, this site is a blessing for a beginner with no mentors.

Dave_Wright_'s picture

(post #91435, reply #1 of 6)


Both my workbenches are on wheels. I store them at the back of the garage when the cars are in, and can wheel them around for good work access when the cars are out. They have served me well for almost 10 years.

Wheeled benches have little or no functional disadvantage for most machine woodworking activities, but you need a way to lock them firmly in place if you work with hand tools. Planing, chisels, and other horizontal forces make the benches want to move irritatingly. Here are some tips for building a hand tool mobile workbench:

-- Make it fairly heavy. That way whatever locking mechanism you use will be more likely to work and resist working forces. I'm not sure, but would guess that mine weigh 200 - 300 pounds wet (counting things stored on them).

-- Use large casters for easier rolling. I first built mine with 2" casters, and later rebuilt the bottoms to accommodate 4" casters. Big difference.

-- Locking option #1: you can use locking casters. Ones that only lock wheel rotation (as available at Home Depot) do NOT work. You want industrial grade casters that firmly lock both rotation and swivel. You can get them at industrial suppliers like Grainger. Be prepared to pay at least $25 each, and use them for all 4 wheels. I know of what I speak - my benches are on Home Depot casters, and simply do not stay put. I have even absent-mindedly rolled the benches around the shop with them locked.

-- Locking option #2: set up a stop for the bench in its designated location(s). I currently drop a scrap of lumber between one of the wheels and an adjacent wall, but a better solution is to use something like a hospital bed wheelstop. A "U" shaped piece of plywood anchored to the floor will do. One under your vise may work, but you may also need another at the other end of the bench. You simply dock the wheels in the "U". There may be a little shifting as you start a different activity, but the bench will firm up in its new position and be as immovable as a fixed bench. Use the thinnest plywood that will restrain your bench, bevel the edges, and paint them a bright color. Then you will be less likely to trip on them when the bench is elsewhere.

-- Consider how uneven you floors are as you design the bench. My garage floor is fairly uneven, so I designed the substructure to be really strong under vertical load, but allow a slight amount of twist as the casters go up and down the floor contours. The bench structure is somewhat like 2 trusses. As a bonus, I made the tension members out of cables and turnbuckles, which allows me to level the top if needed. After doing it a couple times, the top has stayed darn level despite our humid climate.

That's all that comes to mind. Good luck if you decide to go mobile. E-mail if you want me to forward some JPeGs of the bench. I haven't taken pictures specifically of them, but think they appear in some shop pics I have.



Douglas_Tompson's picture

(post #91435, reply #2 of 6)

I agree with Dave's comments about weight and locking swivel castors. One thing that might be added is that if you choose to go with locking/swivel casters on all corners, you will be able to slide your workbench SIDEWAYS! This didn't become a major consideration until I started manuvering around the station wagon that was parked in the middle of my "shop".

RHaw's picture

(post #91435, reply #3 of 6)

I have my workbench on casters that lock both the rolling and swiveling functions. I got them from Woodcraft for only $11 each. They are good quality and work well. They have 4" wheels, I think. Check them out. Also, if you have some chocks, like the ones used to keep airplanes from rolling away, (basically just wedges on both sides of the wheels) you can plane as aggressively as you want. Good luck.

Dave_Murray's picture

(post #91435, reply #4 of 6)

For another method of mounting wheels on shop macines and/or workbenches check out Robert Henderson's article in FWW #54, page 68.

Peter_Y._Lyon's picture

(post #91435, reply #5 of 6)

Another method that works well for me is to only put castors (I used the locking variety) under two of the legs. This way I can fairly comfortably lift one end of the bench when I want to move it. And, with its weight being very substantial, I don't get any "creep" when laterial pressure is applied to it for some reason.

Eva's picture

(post #91435, reply #6 of 6)

Dear Ken,

Hope you don't mind me intruding on your page and asking for help from you and your guests. I just
couldn't find the way to create a page of my own :-)

I have a degree in restoration and I am now about to join a furniture design course, where I would
like to design a workbench for restorers. I would appreciate any tips you have to give me, like
functions a bench could have to make life easier. Anything extreme is highly acceptable!