Stop Your Workbench in its Tracks - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Stop Your Workbench in its Tracks

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Schwarz on Workbenches, Woodworking Blogs


While this isn’t the dumbest shop trick ever (that honor belongs to: “A coffee mug is a good place to store pencils”) it’s close.

About six months ago, I became crazy annoyed about my workbench moving while under heavy planing. The bench weighs about 350 pounds, so it wasn’t a matter of mass.

For some reason I picked up the wooden wedge jammed under one of the legs that keeps the bench from rocking on the floor. I adhered a bit of #120-grit PSA sandpaper around the wedge and jammed it back under the short leg.

Today I remembered the sandpaper wedge when I tried to move my bench for an operation. The sucker wouldn’t budge until I removed the wedge. Then it dawned on me: My bench hadn’t scooted anywhere in months.

If your bench won’t stay put, give it a try. It’s simpler than the other solution I considered: bolting the sucker to the floor.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 21 comments
  • James3one

    Most of my work is done on my portable bench. If it starts to move I can just set my right foot against the right leg which locks it in place. That also gives me something to push against to get that plane all the way through the cut. I’ve been able to do most anything i need on that relatively small bench. Like that wedge, i think the simplest solutions are the best.

  • WilliamDavis

    Wow, Chris! What a tough crowd! If anyone doubts the “No good deed goes unpunished” rule, show them these comments as evidence.
    I think you offered a good solution to this problem. Your bench can weigh 1,000 pounds, but if each of the 4 legs is not bearing down on the floor equally, it will walk when pushed from a certain direction.
    The question is: are the legs of your bench on the same plane as your floor? If not, it will rock, and if it rocks, it will walk. Maybe not in the spring when you built it, but how about the following winter?
    I like the rubber stall mat suggestion, but be advised, the rubber smell is rather obnoxious for the first several months. And they do raise your bench by 3/4″.
    Hey, wait! Your solution doesn’t smell at all!
    And what’s the deal about pencils in a coffee mug? Is that dumb or just master-of-the-obvious? Whatever container you choose, crumpled-up paper towels in the bottom keeps the points from getting beat up.

  • hammej1

    My bench has steel legs, and they were always sliding across my concrete floor when using my belt sander. Finally, I realized that the obvious solution was to mortice the bench legs into the concrete using some old cold chisels and a 3# crosspein hammer. The chisels sure didn’t last long-they had oval handles which splintered, and the cutting edges chipped badly. I think they were tempered poorly. Weather-something. Don’t reccomend them at all.

    • Milford

      If they had wooden handles, are you sure they were really cold chisels, and not just cheap chisels intended for use on wood? My experience with cold chisels, at least, has been that they are just one piece of steel, tempered to a tougher, less brittle, cutting edge than woodworking chisels.

  • ronkan

    Festool makes the perfect wedge solution. Only comes in metric sizes but your bench can be modified to make them fit. Some will balk at the the price until you try them; another case of you get what you pay for. You will find your bench not only doesn’t move; it learns to lean into your horizontal vector while planning. Comes complete with systainer to hold the space that the wedge originally occupied.

    • DanWyant

      I wish there were upvotes…for I would give you mine.

  • Dave

    My bench sits on a 4’x6′ heavy duty rubber gym floor mat. The bench doesn’t move and the ~2′ track of mat in front of the bench means I don’t have to stand on concrete.

    • danoelke

      rather than gym floor mats – try your local Fleet Farm, Tractor Supply or it’s equivalent. Mats for dairy or horse stalls are much more economical.

  • BLZeebub

    I guess the wedge thing escapes me. My bench top weighs more than Chris’ whole bench and all sits on epoxy coated floor paint i.e.(it used to be a garage) and it doesn’t budge even under heavy planing. NOTHING beats mass. Use the inertia, Luke…

  • jpoirier

    I think Roy Underhill has made a video on this problem. 🙂

  • dg2000r

    I think you’ve overcomplicated this one. Wooden floor + wooden bench? Just glue them together. Then if you ever need to move it, all you have to do is saw the legs off and plane down the stumps on the floor. Easy.

  • bschwerer

    Where can I buy one of these “wedges”?. What wood is the best wood for it? Can somebody please make a DVD on how to tune my wedge? Is a bevel up or bevel down wedge better?

    • kfashbur

      Now that was funny, even if (or maybe because) it hits so close to home.

    • pmac

      Very good. And, if I may be allowed to pile on…. What brand of sandpaper do you use? Do you find that aluminum oxide works the best or would you recommend silicon carbide, garnet or ceramic? Finally does this mean we don’t have to build a big heavy bench for hand work?

    • JWatriss

      Bevel down. Bevel up is trendy, and Lee valley will probably make a bevel up version. But bevel down is the traditional way do do it. And you ignore tradition at your peril. Just look at what happened to Raney Nelson.

      No… Stick with bevel down. Otherwise your bench might just go flying across the room and kill you deader than hide glue.

    • gumpbelly

      Well you can buy the expensive ones at LV, LN, and places like that, but everyone knows the ones at Harbor Freight work just as good, and with a triple whammy coupon they just cost 13 cents during the sidewalk sales. Now for the “how to tune em” Send me $699.93 with a self addressed return envelope and I’ll send you the special, wink wink, super DVD set of all 59 years of my tricks and sooper special tips. I think the magic of understanding toooning the wedges is in there somewhere. If it isn’t I promise to refund your full $5.00 purchase price. Pinky swear. Hurry supplies are limited.

  • JonJ

    This trick is employed by at least one laundry machine manufacturer to prevent an unbalanced front load washer from “walking.” They use 60 or 80 (?) grit self- stick abrasive pads, about 2″x 3,” placed grit side up under the washer’s feet. Should work well for benches on hard, smooth (concrete or laminate) shop floors.

  • pmcgee

    Cf ‘Death by Roubo’ … floor cleats. 🙂

  • jeberle

    Sure wish I had one of those fancy wood floors in my shop

  • tsstahl

    I complained online about the same problem and a helpful fellow suggested I put some rubber under the legs. I cut some squares from an inexpensive Woodcraft mat and it worked like a charm.

    Your solution doesn’t add 3/8″ of height to the bench, though.

    • Joshua Klein

      I use a small square of that Grip-it drawer liner stuff under each foot. My bench base is pine and the top is only about 2.5″ maple. Even though I don’t have a lot of mass, the thing doesn’t budge at all. I attribute this to the drawer liner.

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