Iron Pipe Makes A Great Workbench

It’s a frequently encountered problem in any workshop; how do you make a bench? And once you’ve made a bench, how do you put it on wheels to move it about? [Eric Strebel] needed a cart for his laser cutter, so he designed his own in an unexpected material: malleable iron pipe.

The attraction of iron pipe is its ready availability and ease of assembly. [Eric] created a sturdy table complete with a worktop made from a solid door in a very short time. T pieces and joiners were used, along with a hefty set of flanges for the tabletop itself. The casters are the expanding stem variety, with a compressed rubber insert expanding to hold them securely in place.

The result as can be seen in the video below is a really neat trolley for the cutter, followed quickly by another workbench. It would be interesting to know more about this material, parameters such as its wall thickness and lateral strength, because in a table without any cross-bracing it becomes important to avoid an untimely collapse.

The most common material for benches seems still to be wood, indicating that for such a technophile community we can be surprisingly conservative in our choices. Sometimes though, benches are made from the most surprising things.

41 thoughts on “Iron Pipe Makes A Great Workbench

  1. Pipe thread is tapered. So it needs to be assembled with wrenches to get sufficient engagement of the threads (mind the burrs too!)
    This is tight fitment is necessary for it to have any structural load strength.
    Plus if it’s not sufficiently tightened, the joints will wiggle loose. Makes for a real pain in the bum to try working on a bench that’s gone rickety at the joints.
    And It usually wiggles when you’re trying to drill a hole. Snap goes the drill bit or hacksaw blade!
    lastly, don’t skimp on the diameter. Nothing sucks like a bench or shelf collapsing from overloading. Messy to pick up at best, Worse is if you are in PATH of it falling.

      1. You could – if you have lots of time, drill bits, and cutting oil, along with strong arms and lots of drill batteries, or a drill press. The pipe is easy to drill – but the fittings are cast iron, and they are most definitely NOT easy to drill. Ask me how I know…

        If I made something like that I’d clean and degrease the threads thoroughly, epoxy the joints with slow-cure epoxy, and live with the inability to ever non-destructively take the thing apart.

    1. One the final assembly is done and one is happy with the sizes, just either spot weld the pipe and connector or just weld all the way round. Nothing will wiggle loose then just paint it with a nice colour.

      1. ^This.

        Contrary to the name for some reason, black iron pipe IS actually mild steel (easy to weld), not cast iron (which is a pita to weld! Look at muggyweld 77 rod though if you need to), so honestly I think that’s the most sound solution too.

        Only problem is if you ever need to disassemble it to get it through a doorway, if youre moving…

        1. You would think an engineer would steel pipe malleable pipe. :) . Also many of the fittings look to be cast iron. Fine for this project, but no so much malleable is actually required.

    2. I was already rolling my eyes at “use pipe as structural material” cause I thought that everyone knew that, everyone has been doing it for generations … but then I about hurt my throat with the UGH cause some expert writes a paper in the comment’s reminding us all to get those threads tight but has no imaginable way to keep them tight ,like I dunno locktite.

      Good morning hackaday, its going to be a long one I can tell already

      1. When using black pipe for compressed air, CA glue (super glue) works great to seal the joint instead of teflon tape.

        I used CA glue on the pip connected to my air compressor until I ran out and kept going with teflon tape. All the leaky joints are from the places sealed with teflon tape.

          1. In earlier days, the RED thread locking compound, (another brand, not Loctite), was the low-strength one. I still have an ancient bottle of it – don’t recall the brand right now, and it’s probably lost its effectiveness anyway.

    1. It could well be. Some of us live in places where our shops get cold in the winter and even more so with that damn big vent going out the wall. I lost a laser tube to the water in it freezing. I never though that room got that cold, but figure cold nights are below -20 and you have a nice path right to the outside world to let the cold in. I don’t think that little flap does much. Antifreeze makes the water a bit more conductive, depending of course on how the water has been handled (it may already be pretty conductive) and it cuts down on it’s thermal abilities a bit. Depending on where you live it may be the lesser of two evils.

      1. I think the capacitive coupling will decrease the laser power and cause some arcing. I use distilled and cover the laser and tank with a blanket and a warming pad during the winter. I only worry about turning on the pad when it gets cold. Probably should have it thermostatically controlled…someday list.

          1. Sounds like a plan until the power goes out, or when fish tank heater or the pump meets the grim reaper. Ay reason why engine coolant, or RV antifreeze can’t be used? Although one should install an expansion vessel within the plumbing, if on doesn’t exist.

  2. iron pipe is an EXPENSIVE way to make a cart or table. Square steel tubing + welding is much more affordable. Also Lean Pipe such as Flexpipe is fantastic for light to medium duty applications.

    1. I totally agree with you here. It is a functional way to make a table and if you want to avoid cutting and welding, it is functional, but it is expensive. BTW, what is the big deal of having to tighten the pieces together with a pipe wrench? Plumbers do that every day. And as had been mentioned, the pieces can be fixed with anything from adhesives in the threads to welding, to drilling and putting something through the hole to keep the pieces from turning. The one down side is those nice pre cut, pre threaded nipples are expensive, as are the fittings.

      PVC is not bad. I have lawn furniture made out of PVC and it can hold a couple hundred pounds.

      1. +1 for PVC. There are vendors that now sell both the pipe and fittings in multiple colors. The kinds of fittings have expanded out of the realm of just plumbing. Cutting and assembling the PVC is much easier than cutting and then threading metal pipe.

    2. Came here to say this. In my early days I saw a cool project that used a bunch of iron pipe and went down to the home improvement store and NOPEd right out of there. Now a piece of 3/4″x6′ is over $20 and 1″x6′ is almost $30! Each tee is going to be about $4. Rough estimate on this bench, just in iron, is pushing $200. Add the fact that these tapered connections are not intended to be structural, so you’d want to either cross pin or weld them, and it just doesn’t seem like a great idea. When 8′ 4x4s are $8 or 2x6s are $6, hard to argue against a wood bench…

    3. “iron pipe is an EXPENSIVE way to make a cart or table.”

      I second that. The bonus is occasionally you can find at a salvage yard in good condition or rarely for free when pickin the free sites listings.

      I like black pipe for replacing wooden handles I brake on rakes, shovels, etc and even a wheel barrel. The nice thing about the black pipe is most stores that sell will cut and thread the material so the free labor to prep the material if you don’t have tools is a luxury.

      Granted, most metal yards will cut to size a certain amount also before charging from my experience… just be sure to buy the more cost effective piece and cut down to the size(s) you need versus ordering just the size(s) you need. Amazingly, I’ve done the later only to realize the cost savings investing in the longer length sections and just keeping the extra material. Worth looking into if you have the free space, since you might even find a welder that can be used or sold later, if you don’t have already, along with the metal stock for less than the black pipe depending on the project.

  3. If you don’t have a welder, square tubing isn’t going to work for you. So a pipe bench might be a viable solution. It all depends on what you have for base tools already. I’d probably also put in more cross bracing, but a rolling bench isn’t meant for precision work, it’s for projects and assembly, etc in my mind.

    If you know a plumber, it might even be cheap to get cast offs. Though a pipe threader is a big clamp and die to do it right. I used to do Trolley Car air brake plumbing work with custom made pieces. It’s tough to get it air tight the first time!

  4. Pssst… You don’t need need a welder for squared tubing either. Just a drill, some brackets, nuts and bolts. Or, if you’re fancy, a threading tool and there.

  5. Honestly, I’ve had good luck with heavy duty 13 gauge post modular industrial shelving, cut the posts short, and put on a multilayered plywood top.

    The bench is easily taken apart for moving, height adjustable because of it’s rivet in hole post adjustable design, and good ones hold well over 1500lbs a shelf.

    You can get them in almost any size footprint you want, and chop the height of the posts down for a bench rather than full shelving. You can move the extra shelves under the worktop, and even get storage, all on a modular off the shelf (ha!) industrial shelf.

    I’d love a welded steel frame bench, that’s honestly cheaper- but you gotta have welding equipment to do it, and it’s not modular or adjustable or possible to take down to get through doors if you need to move.

    I’ve moved my whole shop several times easily this way, with a serious workbench that’s lasted well through all of it.

    It seems braindead simple to me, so obvious- but I’ve never seen anyone else do it for some reason.

    1. “It would be interesting to know more about this material, parameters such as its wall thickness and lateral strength, because in a table without any cross-bracing it becomes important to avoid an untimely collapse.”

      Just look it up! While fluid piping is not designed and specified for structural usage it is quite well defined in every way that is needed for a shop cart. If you need tables on section properties and how to calculate load capacities for columns, beams etc. just search online or even better, buy a copy of Machinery’s Handbook. Material properties and actual dimensions (including tolerances) of pipe and fittings are defined in whatever standard the listed spec references. In this case ASTM A53 most likely.

      That said, do yourself a favor and buy a welding machine and an angle grinder instead of $$$ pipe fittings. A cheap stick machine and a grinder + cutoff wheels to hack up angle/tube/pipe/plate will cost less than the pipe fittings listed for this one project. And now you get to use angle iron or square tube which costs less than pipe and has nice flat surfaces instead of round with humps and bumps for fittings.

  6. People have been using Kee Klamps to make frames from iron pipe for many years. You only need an allen wrench and a pipe cutter. No threading pipe or trying to figure out how to assemble it without unscrewing the connection at the other end. It’s more expensive but a lot faster to assemble or make changes.

  7. I have certainly have built plenty of projects out of pipe, and pipe fittings. For long time now, if the strength of steel ts required, Turn on the welder. The man has a table saw, could have easily use 2″ by, construction lumber, to build an equally sturdy cart. LOL on blaming some “lock down” for not having a circulat sae;why not get one while in the store buying the pipe and fittings?

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