Making Workbenches Mobile (and Immobile)
Making your workbench mobile is easy – just add swiveling casters. Making your workbench immobile, however, is more difficult. We have tried a number of solutions here in our shop.
1. Using casters that lock isn’t a good solution – the bench is easily moved even if the wheels are locked.
2. We’ve put some flip-down wheels on a bench. This works OK; but if you hit a bump the wheels will flip back (I have a solution to this that I’ll publish later in the week).
3. Putting a mobile base on a bench makes it a tripping hazard, and your feet keep ramming into the base of the mobile base.
There are lots of solutions out there that we know work. The problem is that they are overly complex or expensive – sometimes more expensive than the bench itself. I’m looking for a solution that won’t break the bank.
Today I think I’m one step closer to my goal.
On Easter weekend I was in Rochester, New York, to speak to the Rochester Woodworking Society on Friday night and then give a one-day class on handwork on Saturday. During my Friday-night lecture I gave a history lesson on workbenches (with nudity!) and tool chests (thankfully, no nudity).
During the question-and-answer session after the lecture, one woman asked for advice about making her workbench mobile. I really didn’t have any good advice to offer, but woodworker Jon Rouleau did.
He suggested using a “floor lock” or a “truck lock” to immobilize the bench. These are used in industry to hold heavy stuff in place, anything from large computers to machinery to work tables. The way he described a floor lock sounds like a dream: Press a foot pedal to lock the bench on rubber pads. Press a second foot pedal to unlock the bench and allow it to roll freely.
On Saturday morning, Rouleau brought one of these floor locks made by Presto Products Co. to my class to demonstrate it. They are a simple and awesome piece of hardware. And after some more research that Rouleau helped me with, I really want to purchase some of these floor locks to mess with.
The floor locks are designed to be used with separate casters (though there are some casters that have floor locks built into them check these out).
The floor locks aren’t crazy expensive. Simple ones are $29 each from CasterSupply.com. But they might not be the best option for a retrofit to your existing bench. I probably would put the floor locks and casters on the bottom of my legs – and that will require some real estate and some design work. The manufacturers recommend using one or two floor locks per workbench. But I probably would use four — just to be sure.
If it works, it could be a reasonable and bulletproof solution to a problem I’ve been trying to solve for a long time.
— Christopher Schwarz
“Floor Locks” Aren’t In Roubo….
• But if you want some other hi-test workbench information, visit workbenchdesign.net.
• I have a couple books on workbenches that are helpful for designing workbenches, including “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” and “The Workbench Design Book.”
• We still have some posters of Plate 11 from Andre Roubo’s masterwork – the ultimate workbench-lover’s poster.