Wise Buys: Portable Workbenches
Why buy? In the shop, a portable workbench can serve as a temporary worksurface, tool stand, or as a large clamp holding your workpiece. Its light weight and compact size let you bring a worksurface to fix-it jobs around the house. After use, it folds up for easy storage. We tested eight workbenches looking at clamping capacity, durability, stability, and value. These four each offer a twist on the traditional split-table vise design.
Skil Xbench 3115
Max. table size (jaws open): 19-1/2×26"
Max. jaw opening: 6-3/4"
Table height: 31-7/8"
Weight: 27 lbs
Although I like the clamping speed of the quick-release rear jaw, this bench took some getting used to. Instead of spinning the handles repeatedly to open and close the table, the rear jaw slides up to the workpiece. Then you tighten the jaws with just a twist of the handles.
The long edges of the MDF jaws are clad in durable aluminum with an integral T-track. The plastic dogs have a screw mechanism that locks them into the T-track anywhere along its length--much more versatile than dog holes. Smaller T-track on the jaw's inside faces accept four plastic pads with notches for gripping round stock vertically or horizontally. Two metal arms rotate from under the front jaw to support a workpiece in the opening while you position and secure it.
The stand is lightweight, but sturdy, and easy to carry. It sets up and folds easily with just a tug or push on the benchtop.
--Tested by Jeff Mertz, Design Editor
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