Workbench Eye Candy from Around the World

The workbench. We’re always looking for ways to make the most out of the tools we have, planning our next equipment purchase, all the while dealing with the (sometimes limited) space we’re allotted. Well, before you go off and build your perfect electronics lab, this forum thread on the EEVblog should be your first stop for some extended drooling research.

You’ll find a great discussion about everything from workbench height, size, organization, shelf depth, and lighting, with tons of photos to go with it. You’ll also get a chance to peek at how other people have set up their labs. (Warning, the thread is over 1000 posts long, so you might want to go grab a snack.)

We should stop for a moment and give a special note to those of you who are just beginning in electronics. You do not need to have a fancy setup to get started. Most of these well equipped labs is the result of being in the industry for years and years. Trust us when we say, you can get started in electronics with nothing more than your kitchen table, a few tools, and a few parts. All of us started that way. So don’t let anything you see here dissuade you from jumping in. As proof, we’ve seen some amazingly professional work being done with the most bare-bones of tools (and conversely, we seen some head-scratching projects by people with +$10,000 of dollars of equipment on their desk.)

Here’s some links that you might find handy when setting up a lab. [Kenneth Finnegan] has a great blog post on how his lab is equipped. And [Dave Jones] of the EEVblog has a video covering the basics. One of the beautiful things about getting started in electronics is that used and vintage equipment can really stretch your dollars when setting up a lab. So if you’re looking into some vintage gear, head on over to the Emperor of Test Equipment. Of course no thread about workbenches would be complete with out a mention of Jim Williams’ desk. We’ll leave the discussion about workbench cleanliness for the comments.

A Modern Woodworking Workbench

This is a post about workbenches, but not the benches you’re probably thinking about. Workbenches meant for electronics development are simple matters – just about any flat surface, a few shelves for equipment, and an anti-static mat will be fine for every conceivable use.  Workbenches for woodworking are a separate matter entirely. There’s actually quite a bit of history behind the development of the woodworking workbench, but the basic idea is a thick laminated wood top, integrated vices, holes in the work surface for bench dogs, and ergonomics that allow for comfortable use of hand tools. The basic design of these benches hasn’t changed much in several hundred years, and [Dirk] thought the design was ready for a modern update.

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Soundwave Tunes Up Your Portable Workbench

[Tez_Gelmir] built an awesome portable workbench. Not satisfied with just mundane designs, he patterned his box after Soundwave from the classic Transformers: Generation 1 series. This portable bench keeps his tools organized and ready to roll out.

[Tez] has all the basic tool groups covered – screwdrivers small and large, pliers, crimpers, soldering iron, fume extractor, vice, and wire spool. He’s also got room for parts boxes to hold his components.

The basic box is built from a single sheet of 7mm plywood. The front work area is a smaller piece of 12mm plywood. Working with 7mm plywood did prove to be a challenge – [Tez] had to use some very small screws for his hinges.  The basic box construction was easy though – [Tez] used a pneumatic nailer and PVA (wood) glue.

[Tez] used a number of 3D printed parts in his design. He kept the Transformer theme going with a Decepticon logo built into his screwdriver holder. The fume extractor and lamp were also especially clever – [Tez] mounted them to drawer sliders, so they are there when he needs them, and out of the way when he doesn’t.

[Tez] spent quite a bit of time setting up his power system, and it shows. The inside of the box is framed with four power points. The main cord has its own “mouse door”, and everything tucks neatly away when not in use.

The Soundwave paint job is what sets this box apart – [Tez] spent quite a bit of time getting everything just right. It looks like Ravage is ready to spring out at any moment.

We really love this setup – Our only suggestion would be to add some sheet metal to protect the corners of the box while in transit.

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The Ultimate Workstation That Folds Up

ultimate maker station

Looking for an easy way to keep on making stuff even though you’re living in a tiny dorm room? [Matt Silver] was tired of not having a dedicated work-space, so he spent some serious time designing this modular, re-configurable and collapsible portable workstation ready for almost anything.

He started out by sketching ideas, playing around with 3D models in SketchUp, and eventually building a few prototypes using trial and error — and what he’s come up with is pretty darn impressive. It folds down to just under a foot by three feet squared and has casters to roll it around. Once unfolded, you stabilize it by placing your chair on one of the walls that folds down, and the desk itself is also re-configurable for different work surfaces. He’s included a power bar, an LED work-light, and it even has storage racks for tools on the side.

It’s a very thorough Instructable, and definitely worth a look through — especially to see how it magically unfolds! And if you’re wondering about how much it would cost to build, you’re probably looking at around $200 depending on what you already have on hand. What we really like is how it’s almost entirely made out of a single 4’x8′ panel of plywood — it’s like this guy works for IKEA or something!

Portable SMT Lab for Hacker On The Go


We admit it, we’re suckers for workbenches and toolboxes. [Jon] must feel the same way, because he built this portable surface mount electronics lab. It’s a beast of a project, which might be why it’s project #666 on [Jon] spends a lot of time working off site, and keeps finding himself without proper surface mount soldering tools. Ever tried to stack an 0603 resistor with a 40 watt pistol grip iron? Take our word for it, the results are not pretty.

[Jon] started with two cheap aluminum cases from Harbor Freight. He loaded them up with the typical lab supplies: soldering iron, oscilloscope, multimeter, dual lab supplies, and a good assortment of hand tools. He then added a few choice SMT tools: A hot air tool, a good LED light, and a stereo magnifier. Many of the tools are mounted on DIN rail along the rear of the cases.  All the low voltage equipment runs on  a common 12V bus.

We really like what [Jon] did with the tops of the cases. Each lid contains a plywood sheet. When the cases are opened, the plywood becomes a work surface. As an added bonus, the wood really strengthens the originally flimsy tool cases. The only thing we would add is a good portable anti-static mat.

The final build is really slick. Once the cases are open, four bolts act as feet. The microscope swings out, and the hot air gun hangs on the right side. Plug in power and you’ve gone from zero to SMT hero in under 1 minute.

A quick tour of my workbench

Whenever I release a hackaday video, I invariably get comments and emails about my workbench. Some people are telling me to clean up, others are asking me about things they see in the background.

This isn’t just a set that I film on. Obviously my videos aren’t high enough quality for people to assume that either. This is my actual workbench, made and used by my grandfather.  I do enjoy keeping it decorated though. I try to keep a piece of as many past projects as possible hanging on my bench to serve not only as inspiration to me, but also as an interesting backdrop for the videos.

I make no attempts to hide my upcoming projects when I shoot videos. If you pay close enough attention, you can sometimes see projects appear on my bench in videos before the actual project video hits youtube.

I love my workbench. You should love yours too. Hey, maybe you could do a tour of it and post it on youtube for us to admire! Just try not to say “workbench” as many times in a row as I did.

A respectable electronics bench that’s not a pain to move


Apartment dwellers who are living the nomadic lifestyle take note. You don’t need to live your tinkering lifestyle out of a toolbox. Here is a great example of a respectable electronics bench which breaks down when it’s time to move (translated). We’re sure you already belong to your local hackerspace for the big projects, but this corner office will let you take some of your creations home for continued tweaking.

The bench uses slotted aluminum rails as the support structure. The slots accept small nuts, which have a spring-loaded ball bearing to keep them from sliding freely ([Nerick] mentions this is especially nice for working with the vertical runs). These fasteners ended up being the most costly component.  The desktop itself is the largest solid piece. It was machined using a CNC mill (we already mentioned having a hackerspace membership) so that the mounting screws are countersunk to leave a perfectly flat surface. It’s clean, has a small footprint, and gives you a place to dump all of your gear. What else could you ask for?