Portable Workbench Is Solid And Space Saving

Last week we covered the topic of electronic work benches. But we know that there’s more to life than soldering irons and tiny components. Sometimes to pull off a hack, you need to get your hands dirty, and get some sawdust in your hair. If you’re limited on space, or need to be able to move to different locations quickly, this shop workbench may just be what you’re looking for.

First, let us preface that this project is not open source. Now before you “boo!” too loudly, the designer [Ron Paulk] only charges $10 for the plans. We think that is a small price to pay for how much though has gone into the design. But hey, if you’re a bit crafty, we bet you could easily reverse engineer the build just from the pictures alone. Personally, we think there are times when it’s a good thing to support a project like this.

The basic design allows the workbench to be very rigid, but light weight. And if you don’t have room for it to be permanently set up, it tears down and stores away nicely. It seems like the plans are well done, but if you need a bit more guidance, there is also a 15 part video series that will guide you along the way (here is the youtube playlist.) Also, there is an overview video after the break.  So what are you waiting for?  Go out and make something!

27 thoughts on “Portable Workbench Is Solid And Space Saving

    1. Fair question.

      Long answer is: I’ve built a lot of things from “plans” that I paid for over they years. So I think I have a feel for it. Everything from model airplanes, to light-duty CNC machines, to wood working projects. (Heck, pre-Internet, you would pay for a magazine just cause there was the circuit/coffee table/plane you wanted to build.) Along the way, I got a few duds (the CNC I built was a flop – but I built it as a learning tool, I knew It would never be what I wanted)

      I suspect the designer [Ron Paulk] could give the plans away. I’m sure it’s a tiny fraction of his income as a custom home builder. And that might be smart for him to do(making it open source). For the sole reason you can then say “You’re on your own! Please don’t email me if you have issues! Good luck!”

      That’s one of the things people forget about OSHW. Yes, you can give the schematics, BOM, and gerbers to the kit you sell, but “customer support” can be a real issue until you are selling the kitted up parts in a *really* large volume.

      Short answer is: Not everything in life is free. OSHW is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t apply to every business model. Also, when someone takes the time to make a 15 part video series to help people out….well that guy/gal deserves some props(you can tell they aren’t just trying to make a quick buck – not greedy – etc….). But that’s just me. I’m *sure* someone will be along shortly to tell me how wrong I am. ;)

      1. I’m going to actually agree with you here. People who are “handy” will put one of those tables together without plans – what he’s selling is a bit of hand holding, and probably making himself feel better about spending the time it takes to put together an exhibit piece (that table he’s bouncing on is pristine … a working bench won’t be) and shoot the videos in the off-season.

        If you want an interesting take on the other end of the spectrum, look up John Harris’ Chesapeake Light Craft boat kits. They’re CNC cut pieces that you can put together with modest skills in a home workshop, and they come with detailed instructions. Pricey? You bet, but they’re complete down to the epoxy. Can you just buy the plans? Sure…though they cost a bit as well. What you will get is the hand-holding. If you dig around in his site and videos he discusses talking his unskilled customers through building boats by phone and Email, which is no mean feat. The result? John’s sold over 20,000 kits, and most of them have been successfully built, and he’s managed to maintain his sense of humor along the way.

        1. He’s selling just that, the idea and the support. I built one from his plans and I had a question or two and wanted to get his feedback. He was very responsive and had great followup. He’s worked out a lot of the issues in the usability and design, I think it’s totally worth the $10 and was happy to pay it. The bench works well and gets out of the way, which is a huge plus.

          I also throughly enjoy his videos on youtube, has a lot of great tips even for those people who are not “in the biz”.

      2. It’s still a bit immoral to sell ideas even if you sell the customer support along, because the information itself isn’t something you should “own”. Selling the plans is a kind of scam, because they’re really only worth the paper and the postage stamp and the rest is immaterial and infinite.

        1. To elaborate; You come up with an idea exactly once, draw it up and then it exists, and then you try to make as many people as possible think they owe you for it – that you deserve endlessly more and more money even if you’ve already been paid many times your original efforts.

          Why is that a reasonable business model? Why is it even allowed?

          1. So in your world, anyone selling software to multiple users is a scammer because they already got some money out of their first few customers and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to get any more money for it? Actually, anyone doing anything that doesn’t produce a physical item does not deserve to get paid.
            Rent, for example should also not be allowed as you don’t actually own the place you live in. Stores are probably already forbidden in your world, because they try to steal your money by adding a markup to their cost.

            Sounds like a strange place… Or in other words: I reject your reality and substitute my own.

          2. I guess we could go into intellectual property, patents, copyrights, and trademarks but those are pretty established concepts in society.

            Are we more or less acceptable to individual, small groups selling plans than we are large corporations? The corporate business model employs many, but usually the people with the ideas do not make near as much as they could in business for themselves, assuming they had the resources.

            Also we have to question the reward for making things fully open source/free. If the individual’s needs are already met and their aim is not profit, I can see where the ‘recognition’ reward for open source comes in. Of course this brings up a seperate question of whether their work is actually as productive as their hobby.

            However, if this persons needs are not met to their satisfaction, What motivation does someone have to spend their time and energy comming up with an idea to release it for free? I would expect most people do not fall into this privilaged group. Should only middle to upper-class 1st world people be required to give up their ideas (even if by social regulation)? Oddly enough, its this upper class of society that has the means to not only procure these copyrights, and resources to develope.

          3. >”So in your world, anyone selling software to multiple users is a scammer because they already got some money out of their first few customers and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to get any more money for it? Actually, anyone doing anything that doesn’t produce a physical item does not deserve to get paid.”

            Certainly not.

            Simply that the producer and the customer(s) need to come to an agreement over the compensation rather than the producer milking ever more people for undeserved profit.

          4. I don’t think you have truly thought through all of the “costs” involved with this product.
            Time – his time to conceive this product. His time to improve this product. His time to go to the store to buy the materials for this product. His time to draw up the plans. His time to create the videos. His time to edit and post the videos. His time to support those trying to build his product. His time is his most valuable and finite resource. He deserves compensation for his time. After all he’s really saving YOUR time in the end by producing these plans and videos. What’s YOUR time worth to you? Is it less than $10 to spend hundreds of hours to figure this out? My time is DEFINITELY worth more than $10 for an hour.

            Materials- He has to buy the materials to build the prototypes. He has wear and tear on the tools to produce this. He has to buy the computer to create the plans, edit the video, and post the video. He has to buy the camera to film the video. The gas to go to the store to buy the materials. His internet costs money to post the video. The software on his computer likely cost money, not everyone is inclined to use open source software.

            I would be he has spent 100’s – 1000+ hours on this project between all of the effort. Really, for all of this $10 is a token amount. Even if he sells 1k plans he’s not getting rich. He only has about 15k views on the videos for this table. I wonder what percentage he converted to sales? 5%? 10%? When you count his time and investment he’s probably making just a few dollars per hour.

            You may not value your own time, but most of us value ours.

          1. Profit isn’t banned.

            Profiting endlessly on the same work is just an unreasonable model of business.

            On the social point of view, we want to reward people for doing useful work, but we don’t want to reward them too much because that would be a senseless waste of resources.

            You wouldn’t pay a plumber a million dollars for installing you a toilet seat – that would be completely unreasonable – but you might end up paying a songwriter a million dollars for writing one song because he’s going around asking a million people a dollar each. When the million people are unaware of one another, they succumb to the illusion that the dollar they’re paying isn’t very much when in reality it’s completely in excess in proportion to the work done or services rendered.

          2. >”commercial products should only be sold for their production costs…”

            Incidentally, that’s the whole point of the free market in the first place. It’s supposed to bring the prices down to as close to their cost of production as practically feasible through free competition and informed consumer choice, so as to approximate an equal and fair distribution of wealth.

            Anything “should” cost only as much as is needed to sustain its means of production; the workers, the factory, the supply chain etc. and any profit you gain is only due from the inflexibilities and imperfections of the system – undeserved windfall in a non-ideal marketplace.

            That would be allright when the profit goes around equally, but it doesn’t. There’s even laws, like copyright laws, that ensure the undeserved windfall and direct it to fall onto a select few people against the interest of the whole rest of society.

        2. You are kidding, right? He is not selling the “idea” of a portable workbench. He is selling plans for a workable, thought-out workbench. Sure, I could probably put together a portable workbench myself, and I imagine you (and most of HaD’s readers too) could as well; but I don’t work in wood as a profession, or even a serious hobby. The workbench I would design would probably only be finished after at least a couple of small “hiccups”, or out-and-out mistakes.
          What you are buying is some of Ron’s skull-sweat, and the result of several iterations of design changes. You can spend your own time and effort working out your own workbench, or you can spend a little money and buy his plans. I would guess that there is at least $200 in materials (not counting the cost of the saw & router), so the plans are going to cost less than 5% of what you will spend on materials.
          I can fry my own hamburger, but I will spend a buck so that I don’t have to. The plans are a service, as much as anything else.

          1. The plans are the idea. Don’t get hung up on the exact wording.

            It costs nothing for him to just upload the PDF files somewhere and simply let anyone have it. It’s no more sweat off his brow no matter how many people download them, so why should he be paid for that?

            He can sell the product support and related services all he wants, but trying to sell plain information as if it were real objects is a sort of scam.

        3. Going a little further, and setting all current social/economic norms aside, our economic system might not be the most efficient. Assuming a system with free access to all current intellectual property, no efficiency loss in conversion, every. While there are current and past socieities that operate on such principles, maybe some 99% productive society of the future might look

          It is interesting how we process and scale our expectations. While our current society does not support an idea of free knoledge, it would be great if all knoledge were free yet current economic needs require compensatyion. So we have things like copywrights on ideas to biological organisms. However, individual economic needs make great stimulation for efficiency, when its not being counter balanced with short sighted/poor decisions.

  1. Neat. I like the open-box design as one can put things inside it for convenience and obviously drops the weight. Also the “hidden” extra features such as the sliding poles to hold the table-saw & locators for the A-frame legs.

    Even though it’s not “open source”, it’s basic enough and the video shows enough that anyone reasonably skilled (or imaginative) should be able to put together their own version.

  2. I love this and would gladly pay $10 for the plans if I didn’t already have a nice table in place. The time & materials saved in working out some of the dimensions would be worth every penny of it. Heck, I’m seriously contemplating replacing my torsion box table top with this design due to the fact it would give me so much more flexibility.

  3. HaD please, you know better!

    When you say “this project is not open source” you are completely wrong and are diluting the term. This is in fact the definition of open source. You pay $10, you get all information you need to make your own. Where I’m sure it starts to differ is the (I assume) lack of license to modify and redistribute.

    1. Thanks to Stallman, Open Source now means FOSS. This isn’t even software, anyway.

      Licensing across sub-domains of hacker/builder/maker subcultures is freaking hard if you haven’t noticed. If I’m talking to a software guy and he doesn’t have everything up on a Github, he’s kind of a dick or at the very least deluded to think that he has something so special people will pay money for it. Talk to a woodworker? That culture says you should get paid for your work, so charging for plans is expected. Same with metalwork, although that’s really time in Solidworks or CNC time…

      You’re right to complain that we said, ‘this project is not open source’, but you’re putting the blame on us. IMHO, that blame should be squarely on the shoulders of the Open Source messiahs out there who have diluted their own words.

      That’s 100 words on what I have to say about the subject, because I’m not writing ten thousand.

      EDIT: Whoever is reporting this, reporting comments doesn’t work on me. Also, I have an edit button. lol.

      1. Fair enough, and well said.

        I just hate the implication that, like you said, “Open Source == FOSS”.

        After watching this guy’s video though, the plans are well-drawn PDF sketches and views. Definitely a lot of CAD time spent making them. Kudos!

      2. Does hackaday have a “reason for report” box? I’ve never clicked the button before (though I’m tempted to report your post to find out :V ). If so, I’d love to hear the reasons people gave. Crimethink?

          1. I would guess the “reason to report” is your reply button is where a lot of people expects the reply button to be. Maybe a confirm dialog would reduce the number a bit :). It wasn’t me this time, but I have pressed the report button by mistake at least half the times I meant to reply. Don’t know why it’s so easy to press the wrong button as they are clearly labeled, but I know I’m not alone (you’ll see people excusing reporting by mistake in comments here fairly often).

  4. I would guess a CNC router or laser cutter could be used to cut most parts. If the plans would be CC BY NC at least someone could make CNC version for people that don’t want to cut the plywood. But with the restrictive license in place everybody needs to buy the plans and can not share their modifications… anyway I looked at the youtube videos and thumbs up for his table.

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