Friday, May 5, 2017

Portable work bench part five

With the bench and toolbox done, I began thinking about what tools to put in it and how best to store them.  I tried to go about this the "right" way by sitting down and making a list of the tools I want to take camping, but it just didn't work.  The list would just keep growing and I couldn't visualize what would fit.  In the end, I went to the shop, put the tools I thought I would want on the bench and started trying to figure out what would fit.  Little by little, tools got put away until these were left:

I am sure the list will grow and change over time, but these are the ones I settled on:
  • dovetail saw, crosscut backsaw, flush cut saw and fret saw
  • #4 bench plane, router plane and fence, shoulder plane
  • set of chisels
  • spokeshave
  • mallet
  • small combination square
  • hook rule
  • eggbeater drill and bits
  • marking gauge
  • screwdriver
  • measuring tape
  • double-sided diamond stone
  • scrapers and burnisher
  • mechanical pencils
I started by making holders for the saws, planes and eggbeater:

I had a canvas tool roll and this works well for a spokeshave, chisels, a marking knife and gauge, a screwdriver etc.  The mallet can be loose:

I put the smaller tools into the top tray:

A final verdict will have to await field trials but I think this project is a success.  At minimal cost, I have a travel toolbox and bench that seems highly functional and versatile.  The big issue is working height, because 12" on top of a picnic table is on the high end.  If it's too high, I will try it on the seat instead.  Another possibility is to use legs and anchor them to the table so they wouldn't tip and slide.

My hope is that others will come up with their versions of a portable workbench and toolbox too.  The only other one that I am aware of is the Milkman's workbench that Chris Schwarz built.  I don't like it at all, but it does have the advantage of solving the working height problem.  You could make a separate toolbox instead of having a single unit like I made.  If you got rid of the vises and just made a laminated top I think it could be quite nice.


  1. Cool. What grits did you settle for on the two sided diamond stone?

    1. Fine and Extra Fine. My thinking is that I will only be maintaining my edges while camping. If I really needed more, I'd use sandpaper.

  2. That's a nice toolbox and set of tools to fill it. The whole thing came out great. And I'm sure every reader will have their suggestions about what else to put in it. I don't recall if you have a way to clamp the bench to a table top - I think maybe you said you'll have clamps in the camping-mobile for that. Any thought of bringing glue?

  3. Andy,

    You made a good start but I expect mine will have legs of some kind. The tool part is close other than needing a panel saw.

    Now to do instead of thinking.

    BTW, I think yours is much prettier than mine will be, nice job.


    1. Ken,

      I had the same thought and, luckily, I have a panel saw that fits.

  4. Yes, I'll definitely be bringing glue separately. I am going to have a set of bar clamps for that purpose. That's why the base of the bench has the protruding pieces.