Temporary workbench recommendations (Saw horses + 2x4 or otherwise)


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27 Sep 2021
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I'm renovating my house at the moment and I'm really tired of kneeling on the floor, using a piece of MDF propped up by bricks as a "workbench". I've designed a workbench in sketchup but it's going to take me a while to build, and there are a few urgent jobs I need to go to before I can take the time to do that.

So I think a good compromise would be to set up a temporary workbench. We had some kitchen fitters over recently and they used a pair of saw horses and a couple of 2x4s and it seems to do the job nicely - I was thinking of something similar. Plus, when I eventually do make my own workbench, the saw horses will still be useful so it wouldn't feel wasteful.

I was hoping for some recommendations. Or, if the idea is a bad one and you know of a better bet for an temporary workbench then I'd be keen to hear that too.

I have a pair of these:
https://ffx.co.uk/product/Get/Tough...orse--Adjustable-Jobsite-Trestle-Table-Singlethey do a range at different prices
with a pair of these they have sections that pull out to put in a length of CLS and then you just drop on a ply or mdf top - instant workbench - used it for all sorts of things and they are very good...

others exist and you could probably make one cheaper... but these fold / and are well designed
Akirk has stated exactly what you need, get the ones with adjustable legs and away you go even on uneven ground. They also fold away and you just carry them with a handle so carrying two is easy, Just remember when cutting not to go through your 4 by 2's .
2 saw horses without a doubt.
Best with splayed legs which extend a bit beyond the length of the top piece so that it will be inherently stable - you can stand right on the end without it tipping.
A couple of home made quick and dirty trestles, as found on building sites everywhere, topped off with an old flush door, repurposed scrap kitchen worktop or three lengths of CLS (3 x 2) and a piece of 18mm plywood, chipboard or whatever you have to form a surface

Q+D trestles take about twenty or less to make up with a chop saw (or even a cordless circular saw and a Speed Square) and an impact driver. They may not be elegant, but they are effective. These are two that the dry liners(!) on my last job knocked up:

Replaced Collar Tie 001.jpg

Really nasty, quickly thrown together, but good enough to last 6 months and made from what was to hand by non-joiners (does it show?). The basic triangulation is what gives it some stiffness, To level up you shove a wedge beneath one of the feet

I find a square frame about 900 x 900mm with two braces and a couple of feet are about the right size for machine routing, power sawing, jigsaw work, etc and just about OK for use as a chop saw stand - for breaking down sheet stock I often make a "skeleton" cutting down table which is about 2100 x 900mm as well. My last one lasted more than 2 years (I'll post a pic if I can find one - at least my Q+Ds are a bit neater)
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Many years ago Axi used to do a set of plastic blocks that you used with your own timber to make a saw horse. You simply cut your timber to length and bolted the bits together. I've found these invaluable, all you need is an old door for a worksurface to rest on top of them.

A pair of these Stanley STA192980 FatMax Telescopic Saw Horse Twin Pack with an old fire door as a top works well. You can add stretchers by fitting some 2x4’s in the notches (but my 2x4’s needed slimming down to fit which was a pain and makes it difficult to adjust so the legs all sit just right).

Anyway, my better suggestion is to look out for a Workmate 2000 - they are very versatile and super stable. If you can find two, they work really well as a pair. They come up second
hand - I have paid £20-£40 for mine - I now have 4, so feel I can share this secret 🤫



My current (but hopefully not for long) workbench is a solid wood dining table that a guy in the next village was giving away.

Yes, it is lower than a proper workbench, but I have screwed two sheets of MDF on top to give me height, heft and flatness

Bolted an old record qr vice (cut out the main stretcher to do this, so compromised the stability while planing). Screwed some more triangulations from scrap and it has served me well in the last two years.

Cost me £25 for the second hand vice. That's all.
(Toughbuilt saw horses)
Others exist and you could probably make one cheaper... but these fold / and are well designed
I have a pair of the exact same Toughbuilt sawhorses.
During my garden shed build a couple of years ago, I was constantly rained off. These sat outdoors for a few weeks with all the 2x2and 3x2 stacked on them.
shed build 1.jpg

Doubling up as a workbench as I assembled the wall and roof panels.
shed build 0.jpg

When the rain came, out came the tarps.
shed build 3.jpg

The saw horses are still in fine condition.
These are the trad classics, very sturdy and superior.
Brilliant for a temp bench and something you find a use for in the workshop very often.
Have the top a touch shorter than the splay footprint, to make them inherently stable and good for stepping up e.g with a scaffold board for painting the ceiling etc
Rectangular frames with parallel legs will rack under load, or just wobble and make sawing/planing very difficult.
Triangular frames with splayed legs tighten up under load and become more stable.
Watch this at 21minutes to see how strong they are.

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Torsion box beams on heavy-duty sawhorse style bases. Here's the article by Josh Finn in Fine Woodworking with plans included. I built the two sawhorse bases in a few hours, easy and very sturdy.

I didn't build the beams because I wanted larger torsion boxes with an MFT style top instead. But I think his system is ingenious, modular, flexible, easy to take down and store if space is constrained.

Take a look!
Thanks for all your suggestions everyone! I've ordered myself some of the toughbuilt saw horses, they look like exactly what I'm after.
Pair of Stanley plastic trestles and a top made from a sheet of 12mm OSB (about 70 x 150cm) edged all tound underneath with 2x1 (tile batten in my case) and two 3x2 lengths of CLS attached to the underside (with some end blocks) of the OSB - they sit in the slots on the trestles. Lightweight, easy to store, pretty stable and possible to clamp work/machines to the top.

In use for cutting mouldings to edge a new engineered wood floor - mitre saw clamped on
Another upvote for the tough built trestles. I couldn’t have worked so efficiently with my workshop build without them. Strong enough to be stable with 200kg of timber on them kept off the ground ready for working.
they also take up very little storage space hung on a wall.

Going against the consensus (but not saying everyone else is wrong, because they're not), the Bora Centipede is a nice solution too.

They fold up pretty small - even the 8x4 version is easily luggable in the bag it comes with/in. Very stable, massive load capacity. You can also chuck a bit of ply on top to make a handy worktable.
The first (and only) set of "Tough-Built" trestles I had were like the ones @Sheptonphil shows and were great when they were new - but gradually fell apart over about a 12 month period. They contain ridiciulous quantities of screws, nuts and washers, all non-metric (so awkward to replace like for like), which self-loosen and are shed if the trestles are folded up and moved multiple times in a day as you do on site, as well as travelling thousands of miles in the back of a van. After being nagged for spares the importer supplied a big bag of fastenings which I use to rebuild the trestles along with Loctite. It was so good that a further 6 months down the line I skipped them as they were once again shedding fastebibgs and I couldn't be pineappled to waste any more time and effort on a grorified Meccano kit. The other thing about them, those useful looking "hooks", which are meant (according to the original publicity blurb) to hold a couple of pieces of "4 x 2", turned out to be too narrow to hold the 4 x 2 we get in the UK (actualy around 90 x 44mm finished size) and will actually only hold something like 38mm thick (or non-standard) stock.

So as a tradesman's tool they were unreliable and utterly useless. The only good feature was the variable height legs, Their replacements were a pair of deWalt DE7035 heavy duty trestles which have done 5-1/2 years service, but they are now fearsomely expensive (a pair were £130 when I got mine) which for a site tool is just a bit steep.
My temporary bench is part of a 2’3” flush panel door, topped with half inch ply, with two laths screwed across the underside to clamp in a couple of the basic, generic ‘workmate’ style benches, which used to be about £10 each in B&Q