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How to salvage a HF reject (workbench)

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  • How to salvage a HF reject (workbench)

    while I was at a Harbor Freight parking lot sale several months ago,
    I spied a wooden workbench still in the box - the box seemed to have been through
    some rough times. it appeared to have been dropped and tossed about.
    it had the original plastic bands on it so it had not been opened to check for damage.
    $50 seemed a bit high for a "Pig in a Poke" - so I offered $25 and they helped me load it !!
    the first photo is how it is on the showroom floor. (sorry, I forgot to take photos of the bench prior to repairs).
    basically, it had some broken joints, split this and that, minor stuff that some screws and epoxy couldn't fix.
    I started this project with my daughter in mind (she is 45) for her very own personal woodworking/crafts/hobby station.
    she is an avid wood artist and has had a rough life and has never had a chance to have her own "stuff".
    all the tools are mine - that will go with the bench as a Christmas present - Heritage Pass Down thing.
    basically, I took this broken bench project, made a box frame for the pegboard and two fluorescent lights under the top.
    routed some grooves for the 3/4" recessed T-Track. I have all the hardware for the hold-downs.
    made the small inclined carving desk out of scrap wood for when you need to get your work off the flat table. (3/4" pegs on the bottom).
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    I want to put a double bolt Moxon Vise on the left front with wood screws and all wood hardware.
    I will enclose the back and left end and make two cabinet doors to close it all up.
    clamps and other long objects will store under the drawers on the right.
    I still need to finish the top finial/balastur rail for the sides, stain and varnish to match the rest of the project.

    I am open to any and all suggestions on how to tweak it and make it more user friendly.
    the pegboard area is only 46 x 20" .... of course I could make it 5 feet wide and 8 feet tall and it still would not be big enough.
    I have cut 6" off the legs as it was just too tall to be comfortable so putting wheels or castors on it is not in the picture.
    I am trying to keep the size down to accommodate her basic hobby necessities. (she can fine-tune it to her needs).
    she has other steel shop-type tool cabinets in her garage. this is a piece of furniture for inside her house that will see plenty of use.
    (yes, we do limited "clean" woodworking projects in our living rooms).
    I am tossing around a vacuum system box she can use with the Foredom Tool as it kicks up quick a dust storm.
    that evolution might just have to be taken out to the garage - not a very "domestic friendly" piece of equipment.

    what other "nice to have" additions would you include ???


    Last edited by J.H.Smith; 12-15-2017, 08:52 AM.

  • #2

    Ah gee Johnny,

    Other ideas?... give me some time to grasp what I'm looking at here You've got so many ideas incorporated here that I'm a bit overwhelmed at the moment!

    Love the way you stacked the drawers on the side, and of course the addition of the T-track and lift off steel vise and carving desk are exceptionally nice. Your daughter will simply love this I'm sure.

    The only thing I wouldn't like, for my own purposes, is that the back tool cabinet/shelving rests directly on the table top. I'd prefer to hang that on a wall if possible, so as to have the complete use of the top.

    For her wood carving, I'm wondering if one of those circular lighted magnifiers would be helpful. You know, the kind that mounts to the table or wall land has an articulating arm. I'm thinking that would be helpful for close up, detail work.

    Don't know what condition you started with, but you've done a very admirable job with this.

    Thanks for posting,

    Think it Through Before You Do!


    • #3
      Thanks CW !!
      Oh, I forgot, I do have the magnifier light out in the garage..... it is mounted in one of those round holes when needed.
      also, there will be an electrical strip/tap on the right outside leg out of sight (and out of the way)
      mounting the pegboard to the wall is not an option - it has to stay firmly affixed to the table.
      it has to remain portable as one unit - like a china hutch, so to speak.
      I did not have enough T-Track for the right side at the time, so I need to install one more.
      the pegboard is screwed to the back of the table as well as two 6" screws going up through the table into the pegboard frame
      from the bottom to make it as sturdy as possible.

      I am taking notes as I progress through this project so I can make myself one also (from scratch - not a modified HF model) ........
      I prefer the square holes for the hold downs. and also - a higher grade of pretty ornamental wood.
      I have recently found PINTEREST and have been spending hours and hours cruising all the DIY ideas and projects.
      today I saw another way to mount the vise and other seldom used tools. I have a LOT of T-Track now so there is no telling
      where it may end up to hold stuff down.

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      I will be installing two (or three) new horizontal tracks on the right vs one vertical like the others for the
      smaller mounted tools that are not used often such as a small 4" HF grinder/buffer, smaller jeweler's vise, etc.

      as for actual sharpening, my daughter has her own tools for that.
      she has a Tormec (Grizzly clone) and a 10" horizontal rotary wet stone.
      she can decide where she will be doing that - as it is a bit messy.

      I will just make up some wood mounting bases to fit the horizontal tracks and she can mount whatever she desires on them . . . .
      this is only a gift of an entry level workstation that she can fine tune to suit her fancy.
      I think she holds a "Life Member" card for Harbor Freight LOL so she is set for the rest of it.

      Last edited by J.H.Smith; 12-10-2017, 01:23 PM.


      • #4
        No HF bench ever looked so good! I see lots of carving tools and other bladed instruments. So I assume sharpening and touch-up honing are needed while a project is in progress. I recently tried the larger DMT diamond plates and found having them sitting on a nearby cabinet top while using chisels, hand planes, etc. is quite handy for frequent touch-ups. I don't like them on the main workbench though as they get in the way or get knocked onto the floor. And full-on sharpening gets a bit messy... not sure I'd want to do that inside the house without a dedicated catch-pan of some sort. So... what about something that slides out from the front, next to the drawers perhaps or out the left side, that is somewhat like a kitchen cutting board or very shallow tray to hold stones, touch-up strops, etc. Imagine a shallow tray with french-fit cutouts holding a diamond plate/sharpening stone or two and a shaped leather strop (the thing with cone-shaped sections and various curves to handle carving gouges), and a small cloth piece for wiping the tools. Slide it out for a quick touch-up while working, push it back and get back to work quickly. No chance of knocking dirty stones onto the carpet yet they're handy when needed. And the whole tray can be carted to a sink or other work area for major sharpening and cleaning of the stones. With the diamond plates/sharpening stones in fitted spots they stay put so one-handing sharpening is easy. Is your daughter left or right handed - putting the sharpening stuff on whichever side of the bench matches her handedness seems logical to me. My DMT plates are most useful off to my right since I'm right-handed; I can do a strop pass almost without thinking about it.

        And is there dedicated - and easy to reach storage space - for the safety gear, especially when the Foredom Tool is in use? Some place that will stay dust-free for safety eyewear and dust masks? Everybody knows it takes discipline to always stop working and put on the safety gear before using certain tools... the easier and faster that stoppage the more likely folks won't skimp out thinking "it's just a single cut..." Maybe store it with the Foredom Tool as a reminder?

        While you are perusing Pinterest and the web for ideas, do a search on jeweler's work tables/benches. They have some "fine-tuned over the ages based on experience" work desks/benches that may give you some ideas. Many of those are U-shaped tabletops so you have work space on either side or just more room to set small pieces while working.



        • #5
          My contribution to the suggestions box would be to put some wheels on this workbench so you can move it around if you have to. It will also make it easier to deliver.


          • #6
            This is some upgrade! What a nice bench now! Near perfect, I say.

            As for suggestions, all these other gentlemen are off the mark: I only see one thing missing - a big fat beer keg with a tap, under the table in that space I see, which you probably designed for one such...
            something like this:

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            It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
            - Aristotle


            • #7
              Wow. That looks amazing. I love how you re-positioned the drawers.


              • #8

                Been thinking about this fine bench you've put together for your daughter. Like most woodworking benches, and perhaps especially for carving, is that she's no doubt going to produce a few shavings during any particular work period. Seeing that this is especially localized (for what little I know about woodcarving), I was wondering if a small vac pickup might be nice.

                What I'm thinking would incorporate a pick-up connection accessible on the back of the bench with a short hose running down to one side where a small shop vac could be plugged into a port. On that side, I'd put an switched electrical receptacle which the vac could be plugged into. That receptacle switch would be located up on the back of the bench next to the vac pickup connection.

                So, when your daughter needed to remove shavings or dust from her project, she could just plug in one of those extra-flexible short hoses into the back of the bench, flick the switch and clean off her project. I use a little Stinger vac that I bought at Home Depot years ago and a flex-hose kit from Lee-Valley....,42401

                It may be beyond what you've already done here (marvelous gift), but I thought I should mention it.


                Think it Through Before You Do!


                • #9
                  I guess I should clarify my daughters situation: she has been carving and woodworking for the past 30 years.
                  she probably has more professional grade hand tools than most hobbyist woodworkers.
                  she is a "Stylist to the Stars" cosmetologist, hair stylist, color professional and hair stylist instructor in Jacksonville, FL.
                  she has been using a "modified" clothes dresser and an old office desk for many years and she is content with what she has.
                  I was just thinking that a nice "upgrade" for a new work station would be nice as she has never had an actual "carvers bench" to call her own.
                  woodcarving, in itself, does not produce a lot of dust or dirty air .... just shavings that are swept up with a broom then floor vac.
                  the Foredom Tool will not be used inside the house - she will be responsible for her own arrangement of dirty work tools.
                  (it will just be stored on the workbench just because it looks cool there).
                  as I mentioned, she is 45 years old and woodworking, carving and dimensional art in general is her true passion.
                  I had a professional sign and custom woodworking shop since 1980. (2500 sq.ft. heated and cooled).
                  here are a couple of signs that we worked on together and she probably did 50% of the work on each one.

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                  when very sharp and accurate hand tools are used, sandpaper and abrasives are not really necessary.
                  but- when power sanding, block sanding, and other dirty tools are used, she takes all that outside.
                  we will not be building a wood shop in her house - just a few nice additions to what she already has.
                  her dirty work desk is in the garage by the door. so there is plenty of fresh air and easy to clean up
                  with the shop-vac and leaf blower out there. (she also has an old powerful hair dryer that works quite well too).
                  the scroll saw, band saw, drill press, power sanders, etc are used out in the garage.
                  oh - she has the hand-held Red Devil Dust Buster vacuum on the desk also for small quick vacs.

                  I just couldn't pass up the HF deal of a nice work bench that only needed a few modifications to make
                  it a personal and unique gift from her father.
                  Thanks to all for your positive feedback and suggestions !!!

                  I will be starting my own carvers bench project in a couple of months and will incorporate some of your suggestions.
                  I am working on a new table saw station with sleds at the present. [ so I don't half kill myself AGAIN ]

                  Last edited by J.H.Smith; 12-12-2017, 07:01 PM.


                  • #10
                    Wow, GREAT work!

                    when very sharp and accurate hand tools are used, sandpaper and abrasives are not really necessary.
                    Many people do not understand this because they have never been there. Even in turning, the right tool with the right technique produce such smoothness that sandpaper is not necessary. I had a neighborhood friend in Japan who was an art professor at a university in Osaka, but he liked to express his artistry in wood. He had some of the finest electronic tools I have ever dreamed of, but he was best with hand tools, even making his own planes and chisels of different kind. One day, I picked up his shavings from his hand plane and they were so thin, I could read a newspaper through the shavings. He looked at me, laughed and said "this plane is not as sharp as it ought to be." (He was serious about that.) These were the Japanese planes type that you adjust by tapping on the end or sides with a hammer.

                    He had a "furniture assembly table" in which the top was made of steel, about 1 meter by 1 1/2 meter. He said "This steel topped table is machined to 1/100th of a mm from side to side and end to end". This guy, BTW, demonstrated Japanese wood working techniques in CA at Palamar college regularly for a while. He met Sam Maloof there and Sam gave him an autographed copy of his book.

                    This/your level of work is beyond me, but I enjoy being around those that do it!
                    Hank Lee

                    Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!


                    • #11
                      I'm just gonna say NICE WORK on the bench and GREAT parenting!
                      "Like an old desperado, I paint the town beige ..." REK
                      Bade Millsap
                      Bulverde, Texas
                      => Bade's Personal Web Log
                      => Bade's Lutherie Web Log


                      • #12
                        Thanks Hank

                        I have seen the videos on YouTube where these Japanese guys use a 12" wide plane on a 30 foot log
                        and peel off one continuous strip of wood like toilet paper !!! and as you said, you can read a newspaper through it.
                        when I first got involved in woodcarving, I did not know the tang from the cutting end.
                        I went to a 3 day wood craftsman's seminar in 1987 and WOW I was on fire from then on out to learn as much as I could
                        about tools, how to use them, sharpen them and proper care and stowage. after attending several more seminars,
                        I became very confident in my skills and continued to learn from the pros. around 1999, I started teaching seminars myself.
                        and traveling around the country teaching groups of 50 to a 100 of fellow craftsmen in the art of carving and dimensional sign making.
                        one of the seminars was at my sign shop and we had 75 people there - it was a blast to have all that talent under one roof.
                        as far as the lathe goes, I enjoy the finished product that you can burnish with a handful of sawdust and it's done !!

                        This is one of the "Get Togethers" that I hosted at my old shop . . . 85 craftsmen sharing their individual talents freely
                        with each other. A 3 day weekend of teaching and learning - good times and good food for everyone.


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                        .If I ever host or sponsor another workshop, believe-you-me that one of the classes will be POWER TOOL SAFETY !!!

                        Last edited by J.H.Smith; 12-12-2017, 11:18 PM.


                        • #13
                          Nice bench and nice work!


                          • #14
                            Really nice work on that bench! I've checked out a few different examples of that bench from HF. I recall liking the top, but the bases were wobbly. I think they were selling for $150 = more than I was willing to spend. You got a great deal, and it looks like the improvements that you made would remove the wobble.


                            • #15
                              Thanks Bill - - - - yeah, with the bench being dropped from a truck a few times definitely loosened up the joints.
                              after cutting it down 6" (why they make it so tall for short people is beyond me), helped to stabilize the legs.
                              then, putting more bolts in where they "should go" tightened it all up.
                              even though I bought it basically "sight unseen" I knew my repair abilities so $25 was not a big deal there on the spot.
                              if you consider buying a HF workbench, take into consideration that everything on it is METRIC.
                              for example: the dog holes are not 3/4" - just a tad smaller = metric. (a little sanding and they are good).

                              and just because an item appears to be less than your expectations on the showroom floor, does not necessarily mean it is a bad product.
                              it is mainly because of the poor workmanship and attention to detail of the people that work at HF and the skill level of the person that assembled it.
                              (sort of like the wobbly BBQ grills at Wal-Mart = assembled by a $8 an hour part-time worker bee)
                              if you yourself are a halfway decent craftsman, you can make anything work - and modify to suit your needs !!!!
                              the next change on the list is to get rid of the flimsy particle board bottom and put in 1/2" birch plywood - that will tighten it up even more.
                              and plan "B" is to make a full width 47" drawer in the bottom with 150 pound full extension slides to keep long clamps in.
                              it is still "a work in progress".
                              hope you find something that will work for you soon.
                              Last edited by J.H.Smith; 01-09-2018, 08:56 PM.