In Chris Schwarz Blog, Schwarz on Workbenches

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I’ve seen better workbenches in prisons. Really.

And that’s not a criticism of the more than 100 woodworkers (and their spouses) who entered our “Most Pathetic Workbench Contest.” In truth, it’s high praise. Many of the entrants also included photos of the projects they completed on their “benches.”

As I’ve said 100 times, you don’t need a good workbench to do great work. However, it does help make things easier. And that’s why we put together our “Shops and Workbenches” CD of 62 of our favorite articles on building benches, setting up your shop and filling it with the jigs you need. (You can see a slideshow of the contents of our $15 CD here.)

All of the seven winners in this blog entry will win the new CD. And one , our grand-prize winner , will receive the CD, plus an autographed copy of my 2007 book “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use.” Plus an autographed copy of Robert W. Lang’s “Build the 21st Century Workbench” DVD.

So without further blathering, here are the runners-up and some comments on them. (The big winner is the last one.)

Jesse’s Triple-Pallet Dungeon Bench
We had several entrants that were cobbled together from a pallet. But Jesse used three pallets. Also, several staff members liked the crypt-like atmosphere. We had to do some serious Photoshop work to get a good look at the photo.

Your Favorite Neighbor’s Workbench
This is just one of Kevin’s benches (he has a nicer one on the wall), but this one has the best base. I want to build my next deck with this guy.

It’s a Bench. It’s a Boat. It’s Garbage.
Kyle’s bench is a bit lightweight. And that was a good thing. When Hurricane Ike hit, Kyle’s shop filled with 6′ of water and his bench floated through the disaster. Sadly, his bench succumbed to mold and had to be pitched.

I Guess Cardboard Was Wood at One Time
This bench (sent in by the spouse) is used for working both wood and clay. Phyllis explained that it’s quite tidy because it’s in their two-bedroom apartment. The boxes are both a work surface and tool storage.

The World is Your Bench
Eric works overseas, and I’m amazed at what he does with what he has. My favorite is the “balcony bench.” This one probably won’t shimmy.

The Highest Number of Pathetic Benches
Travis misunderstood the contest, I think. We were looking for one pathetic bench. He has six of them. The washer-dryer bench. The log-shaped bench hook. The log-shaped planing stop. The garbage-can twin assembly tables. And the thing that looks like a small mammal.

The Self-cleaning Bench
This is the grand-prize winner. What clinched it for me was the vise. Clearly, Roger is in it for the long haul with this bench and needs our help. Some of the staff questioned if this was a real bench. Perhaps it was staged. Roger said he cleaned the bench right before the photo by simply lifting the top and sliding its contents to the garbage. Congratulations Roger. Once you get your prizes, you’re on the hook to build a bench.

Next week we’ll post a slideshow of the rest of the entrants. Did your spouse enter your bench in our contest? You’ll have to wait and see.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 13 comments
  • lou tucker

    where there is a will,there is a way.

  • Dale

    I know Roger (he’s my dad). He’s used that bench for many a project. It’s actually a good height to work at. You should see the work jacket (or what remains of it) that goes with the bench!

  • Eric

    Bruce, I’m in Malaysia – on the north of the island of Borneo in Kota Kinabalu.

  • Mike Siemsen

    I don’t know who Roger is but judging from his workbench he has the same local trash service. SRC

  • R Weza

    Good selection of "bad benches". We are nothing if not creative.

  • Scott

    Ok, Now I don’t feel so down on my bench. Someone, please helps these guys.

  • Bruce Jackson

    I need to ask Eric where in the heck was he? He said that in the background was the South China Sea. I wonder, was it the Philippines?

  • Joe Cunningham

    Travis’ small mammal still has me laughing. Sorry Travis.

  • J.C. Collier

    I promise, dear Lord, to never complain again about my bench ever again. Amen.

    With that out of the way and all that "there but by the grace of" stuff, I like the chunk of telephone pole with the planing stop. Rock on guys. I wonder though, do you think new benches for these unfortunates could be had via the "stimulus" package? Hmmmm….


  • Deke

    All I can say is I feel better now. Then again, Eric’s view from the balcony is something I would trade any bench for hands down!

  • Tim Aldrich

    My old "Squeaker" bench didn’t make the cut, but I think the benches shown need more help than I do. I’m still going to make a new bench this summer 🙂 Looking forward to the slide show to see what else was entered in this contest.

  • Eric

    What a cool contest. I’d have to say Travis’ was my favorite because it made me laugh out loud.

    And yes, Chris, the balcony thing is for real. I have no bench, so have to figure out all sorts of ways to work. My main "bench" consists of a couple 2x6s on top of a 3/4 size fridge. The balcony was the best way I could figure to clamp vertically for dovetailing. And that’s the South China Sea in the background – not a bad place to work, huh?

  • Chris C

    I was going to send in a picture of my shop floor which
    is where I usually end up assembling things. But clearly
    I was out-classed: these are some pathetic benches with
    a capital P. What is going on with those duct taped
    cardboard boxes? And that guy on the balcony? Is that
    for real?



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