Tommy’s Wall-Mounted Folding Workbench

I needed a folding workbench since I only have a small garage and there is not enough room for everything. I rejected the rule ‘Folding=Weak’, so I opted for a 2.5″ laminated top (Beech) and 2 cheaper folding legs (Fir). The top is 60″L x 25.5″W x 2.5″T and the height is 36″. I used wide steel hinges (top) and brass hinges (legs). Glue used was Titebond II.

I ripped the beech boards with a hand circular saw and then on the bandsaw in order to get as many pieces as possible 65″ long. I then jointed and planed all the smaller boards. I then ripped again into 2-3/4″ strips (2 1/2″ + extra material), totaling 20 pieces. I glued 4 pieces at a time, getting 5 larger laminated boards, then jointed and planed the boards again.

I used biscuits for the final gluing of the 5 boards into a 20 piece laminated top. This helped me achieve a flat surface, which is helpful since the only way to flatten the surface after this point is hand planing. I added two border pieces on the end grain, not glued, only tongue & groove and then screwed.

Then, many, many hours of hand planing, starting from #6 to #4 and then machine sanding, hand sanding and the finish process. I drilled 3/4″ holes for brass dogs.

I added 2 crossing fir pieces under the top, where the hinges will be attached, to distribute the stress of the hinges action equally on the top. The wooden part of vices has been taken from the same beech boards.

Legs are simple pieces of fir, hinged on the wall. They would have looked better closing toward the inside, but I preferred to make them wider, and they would not fit behind the folded top, so they move to the outside when the bench is closed.

About the oil finishing, here’s the Old Italian Woodworker’s rule: “Once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and once a year for a lifetime.”

So, first 5 coats of Tung Oil were wiped on and then wiped off after 30 minutes. Sanding with 600 grit between every coat. Then the other 7 coats were applied with a clean rag (very thin damping coats, without extra removal). No wax, no other finishes, only Tung oil. It’s a long process, but it’s renewable at every moment.

UPDATE: If you’re interested, here is a link to my website.

Comments

  1. TennesseeYankee September 5, 2012

    this is so cool. as long as it is stable, what a great idea.

    Good job.

  2. Brian September 5, 2012

    Great looking bench. Do you find yourself limited with having it up against the wall? My bench is a piece of plywood on sawhorses and I love being able to adjust the size of it and where it is.

  3. Hrvoje September 5, 2012

    wow that’s an excellent idea, great work!

  4. Bob Brown September 5, 2012

    Very nicely done.

  5. Patrick Schupbach September 5, 2012

    Brilliant!!! I love your finishing schedule…. Might steal your idea for a reloading bench!!

  6. That is great! and I HAVE stolen the Old Italian Woodworker’s rule :-)

  7. I had the same question about the bench against the wall. I tried to make this work because of my small space and having the bench against the wall drove me crazy. How have you found it to work with.

    Signed,
    Bench hogging the middle of my shop now

  8. Rob G September 5, 2012

    Beautiful work. That can’t be fun raising and lowering – looks very heavy.

  9. Josh September 5, 2012

    Your bench looks real sharp. Love the Old Italian Rule. May have to steal that one. :)

  10. Very nice bench, it’s good solution for small workshops (like mine grrrr).

    • Marcelo Varzea September 11, 2012

      I’m sure your space might seem huge looking at my space.

  11. Looks to good to use. Great Job.

  12. Seth Hoover September 5, 2012

    That is awesome! I also have a small workshop which has a MDF board on a frame bolted to the wall as a work bench! Might have to steal this idea and rework the inside of my shop!

  13. Tom September 5, 2012

    excellent job

  14. David Haniquet September 5, 2012

    nice job on that workbench………………..this is a great idea to have a small studio workshop in a urban area where space is limited also……

  15. daniel drabek September 5, 2012

    If the projects you make are as nicely built and finished as the workbench they are made on, you should turn out some beautiful work.

    DD

  16. Byrdie September 5, 2012

    Really nice looking finish. The first ding is really going to suck. After that, it’s just woodworking.

  17. Nick September 5, 2012

    Great write up, and even better workbench. Never heard of the old italian rule, but I might have to use it in the future. Great job!

  18. Claude Stewart September 5, 2012

    This is excellent. I may have to build one myself. And I love the old Italian rule too.

  19. Joel September 5, 2012

    Great idea.

  20. Leland September 5, 2012

    I like the work beach. My problem is that my current work bench is a piece of plywood on top of a pool table. I am always learning, so thanks for the Tung Oil application method.

  21. Chuck Mielkie September 5, 2012

    Tommy, I like the way you designed the legs to hinge out of the way and you also just confirmed for me which finish I will use on my bench. Great job!

  22. RJsumthn September 5, 2012

    This is pretty awesome. I would have never thought of this.

  23. Corey September 5, 2012

    I really like this bench, especially how easy it must be to clean off! Just make sure to get the chisels off first . . .

  24. Nick J September 5, 2012

    I’ve been looking at building a bench for several months and I have been leaning towards Marc’s Ruobo, but this is a cool idea. My only concern would be rigidity. Is the bench stiff enough to handle heavy side to side action without movement or fear of the legs moving. Great build and idea.

  25. Sean September 5, 2012

    The old adage is true, necessity is the mother of invention. This type of project just shows your love and determination to create sawdust( or shavings ). I am curious if this is your first bench or not. If its not and you have had a more traditional bench in the past, how does this wall mounted version compare?

  26. Jay September 6, 2012

    Tommy,

    Nice looking execution. I have one question though…how are the “crossing” pieces of fir at the hinges attached to the top? Did you allow for movement of the top with humidity changes?

    Jay

  27. Bob September 6, 2012

    It a good idea and it’s well done. I also need a workbench and I’m not sure if I should make or buy one. What would be the important criteria to look for for the pre-built models..

  28. Jerry S September 6, 2012

    Tommy,
    What a great use of space and ingenuity. It looks great. And the way you swung the legs out totally makes sense with what limitations you have.
    Some people have asked about using it up against a wall. For me, I used to work on an old work bench that came with my house when we bought it. The legs were a little wobbly and by having it up against the wall I could lean on it and give it some rigidity by using the wall. The way I work, I had no real issues working on a bench against a wall. With those substantial hinges you used, I bet the workbench is pretty stable as well.
    A few years ago, I built a new workbench. My old workbench got recycled by going to my dad’s workshop. We built new legs for it and it has be heavily used ever since. (He decided to put it up against the wall as well.)
    Can’t wait to see the projects you produce on you new workbench.

  29. Tom September 6, 2012

    Good work, Tommy, with mind and hands.

  30. Andrew September 6, 2012

    Great bench, Tommy. I might have to try this.

  31. Mike_M September 6, 2012

    Well done. What a great idea for a room with limited space.

    Excellent job!

  32. Tommy September 6, 2012

    Hey guys! I’m having some issues in submitting my post… I’ll answer to you all as soon as I find the way ! Tommy

  33. Peggy Schaefer September 6, 2012

    I may have to steal this idea. I like that the table folds away. In my family a flat surface needs to be covered so to get to work, I have to move everything off first. This design would prevent this. Of, course it means that I will still have to move everything in front of it.

    Nice job!

  34. George September 6, 2012

    Tommy…you did an excellent job. Thats a terrific looking bench and appears quite functional for your small shop. My bench is usually covered with all the things I didn’t put back after using them so I would need a trough below the bench to catch all
    those things! :o)

  35. Jason Jones September 6, 2012

    What a great idea, and it looks amazing. Nice job on the finishing and overall craftsmanship. Like a few others, I like this idea for my small shop.

  36. Jeff Merrill September 6, 2012

    That’s a very nice looking bench, I need to build me one but just don’t seem to have the time. I think when I do build one I will use the Italian finish process as well.

  37. runningwood September 6, 2012

    I love your design and implemantation . I will have to copy some of your ideas.

  38. Tommy September 6, 2012

    Here I am! First of all, thank y’all !  I noticed 4 points (and please be kind, this time there will be no language adjustment by the staff  .. lol ):

    1 – Stability-Rigidity-Weight : the top weighs about 90 lb, and it’s firmly hinged to the wall. This combination makes it very useful i.e. for hand planing, since I can apply strong strokes side to side and it doesn’t move or creak at all.  This is due mostly to the sturdy hinges, I think that legs suffer only the vertical component of weight+strokes.
    Yes, raising the bench isn’t the funniest moment in the workshop, but it’s a matter of seconds.

    2 – Position:  I agree, having the bench against the wall isn’t the best solution, but it’s the best compromise I could get. The most annoying thing is I can’t walk around the workpiece  having a 360° vision of it  (and from different lighting perspectives). When I need more freedom and space in working, I use sawhorses. The main usage of this bench is hand planing, so I don’t need so much freedom.

    3 – Wood movement: I have to admit I didn’t care so much about that. Reasons are: alternating grain direction of every piece, almost steadiness of garage’s moisture and temperature, and finally … laziness !!!! The “crossing pieces” of fir are glued to the top, I knew it’s an hazardous thing but now I can say (after 1 year – 5 seasons) it hasn’t suffered and it hasn’t moved or twisted at all.

    4 – THE RULE !  Lol ….  I’m so happy you liked it ! A friend of mine (Andrea) taught me this way when I was embracing the “oil philosophy”, in our local woodworking forum. He is a great “experienced italian woodworker” …. I said EXPERIENCED, not OLD, ok ??    :)

    I’m excited about your feedback, thank you again.

    For those who want to see a few projects I’ve done, there’s a link (under construction and in Italian :) and I’m trying to find a way to post it in here !

    Tommy

  39. Bob K September 6, 2012

    I wish I would have thought of this years ago. Now I’m on the eve of getting my own shop if I can ever find a foundation contractor. I had been working on work mates for so long that I think you can almost do anything on one. Great job again wish I would have thought of it.

  40. Greg September 6, 2012

    Now that is an awesome idea for a person with limited space (like me). The bench looks fantastic.

  41. Kody September 6, 2012

    This would be especially helpful for someone like me who clutters their bench top, treating it more or less like any other shelf. You have no choice but to keep it clean! Great work!

  42. Eric D. September 6, 2012

    Nice work Tommy…love the ingenuity and great use of the space!

    What kind of hardware did you use for the vices? It’s hard to tell from the photos but I would be interested in knowing the details (source, installation, price, etc…)

    Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing!

    • Tommy September 6, 2012

      @Eric: it’s an european “York” double guideway vice. Width 8″, length (opening) 15″, weight 11 lb. It’s screwed to the top with 4 huge anchor bolts. About 45$.

      @Richard: Many people argued with the bench finish, they say it’s ridiculous and unnecessary for a workbench to be so fine-treated. I think anyway it’s a finishing challenge that can improve my skills, and a reference ending point for many other projects I have in my mind :)

  43. Tom September 6, 2012

    Hi Tommy,

    Love you workbench. I would love to build one myself as I have the same problem with limited space. Don’t suppose you’re able to send me some plans?

    Tom

  44. deltaphisig September 6, 2012

    l do a combination of home handyman work and woodworking in my small garage, and I think this is a perfect way to add a workspace for messy/oily work that will not ruin my woodworking space. Thank you!

  45. Richard in St. Pete September 6, 2012

    I can’t argue with your finishing rule — that finish looks better than most dining tables I’ve seen! Beautiful work.

  46. Robert Baumann September 7, 2012

    Very nice work! Would you please explain/provide a closeup of the hinge detail? It seems that’s the crux of your design in that it must be strong and rigid; otherwise it wouldn’t work. A few yard ago I built a rolling assembly table using a Norm Abrams plan. It’s a great design, but takes up a lot of real estate in my small shop, so I’ve thought about hinging it as you have done. Thanks.
    Bob

  47. Mark H September 7, 2012

    Tommy- thanks for sharing! Your workbench looks great- I read your post with a vested interest as I, too, am in the process of building one of these. Mine is to be made of maple (I’ve got the strips roughsawn but now have to clean them up) and I think I will have the legs fold inward. Hope mine looks half as good as yours does– oh, and I love ~The Rule~
    I’ll have to add that to the project. Thanks for posting and answering several questions I had about the concept in reality.

  48. Tommy September 7, 2012

    Well, I’m working on my website to update the bench page, in order to reply to all of your answers with text and pics. Sorry, give me some time to spend on it … I’m not so skilled in web designing!

  49. Chris September 7, 2012

    Looks great. Now that you’ve had a chance to use it, hypothetically, is there anything you’d change if you were to design another one?

  50. Lone_Wolf September 7, 2012

    I love the way it turned out. I think youare correct, folding does NOT have to mean weak. Thanks for letting us take a look. Safe building!!!

  51. Great looking bench. Love the finish!!!

  52. riley September 7, 2012

    I have been think about doing something similar since down sizing into my home garage, Looks pretty solid- good idea, i may have to build this until i can get my Roubo built.

  53. RoBanJo September 7, 2012

    That idea is pretty neat. Couldn’t he have added a spacer between the hinges and wall so he could fold the legs under the top?

  54. Dean September 7, 2012

    I’m really liking your folding workbench Tommy. I’m always looking for workbenches that I can put on, or against a wall across from the end my bed, so the more compact it is the better (but not too compact). One of the main issues is finding a bench that takes up as little room as possible, as well as be sturdy enough to start hand tool only woodworking (I’m in an apartment).

    Your workbench looks like it would be sturdy enough to get started with hand tools as well as be compact enough to fit the space. I’ve copied your article and saved the pictures for reference if I decide that this is the one I want to build and use. As far as a finish, I don’t think I’ve seen as nice a finish as this. It adds a pride of ownership factor in my opinion.

  55. Justin Erb September 7, 2012

    Very nice bench Tommy. I just finished an assembly table for my shop and setting up a new work bench is my next priority.

  56. Neil Capper September 7, 2012

    Love the bench, but I think my favorite photo was the boards in your car. I have to squeeze boards in my Prius all the time and it makes my heart warm that i’m not alone! I see I’m not alone in being a fan of the old italian woodworking rule either. Will definitely try that in the future. Thanks for sharing!

  57. Tommy September 8, 2012

    Thanks again, it’s a pleasure sharing with you!

    Actually, I can’t find the bench plan, and it was more like a sketch, I did the work step by step, changing things on-the-fly. Anyway I can draw some sketches with measurements.

    Hinges: they’re huge iron hinges, primarily used on heavy doors. The long strip end is a simple ring hanging on a solid pivot (3/4″ diameter). The pivot plate was originally too small, so I welded it on a bigger plate with more spaced holes for wall mounting. 

    Legs: I needed every inch of room (when I put my car in the garage, the external rearview mirror flies over the folded bench, skimming over the wall). Anyway, the point for internal folding legs is their width and their position. I wanted legs to be wide, and I’ve been also forced by the vices positioning, so that was my choice. 

    Another focal point: why single legs? Because of my garage’s floor! It’s a messy wavy floor.. I wouldn’t be  able to fold legs back and forward with 2 contact points. 

    Hope you can understand my English! Lol

  58. aaron September 8, 2012

    I like how smooth the surface of the bench is. I would like something like this for my garage.

  59. Ken Woods September 10, 2012

    Before I ramble. I really like the concept and execution of your bench. As with everyone else, I have to say that you have quanitified the finishing process. I think this will suite the anal retentive side of my brain. This will free the creative side for additonal projects. I have already set up a dry erase board for tick marks on my next project. K

  60. Bill September 10, 2012

    I was actually thinking about setting one of these up in my 1-car garage/shop; what a great space saver!

  61. Tommy September 10, 2012

    Ok, I’ve learnt one more piece of slang (I won’t tell you what I thought at first, talking about Ken’s post) !
    I’ve updated some pages in my website, there are some more photo of the bench, hope this can answer your questions more than my words actually do.
    Follow the link on the first post in here, it should work now.
    T.

  62. Steve September 10, 2012

    I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, seeing the success might finally motivate me fully. Great job!

  63. Mark September 12, 2012

    I have been wanting to build a bench for my shop for some time. This might make a lot of sense for me as well as I use my shop also as an auto shop. So having the ability to open up space quick when I have a vehicle to work on is important.

    Thanks for sharing.

  64. I don’t think that I could use this type of bench… Too likely that my wife would tell me clean it off by just kicking the leg out from under it :-o he he he

    • Eric September 22, 2013

      If that’s true, then I think the solution here is to build the bench, and kick the wife out.

  65. Greg January 7, 2013

    Is there a sketchup plan of this? I’m looking to do this as well. Nicely done!!!

  66. Michael September 3, 2013

    What are the hinges used for your swing legs? I spent a long time trying to dig up a swing hinge like you seem to have found. In the end, I did a similar project but swung the legs differently – I like what I see here.

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