If you’re getting seriously into MAKING of things, you really need to have a good-sized shop table in the middle of your workshop.  Ours has just sort of evolved over the years.  Legs were built one year, first top (old 2×6’s) went of next.  Slapped a coat of white paint on it (so as to see small parts) and that worked swell…for a while.

Next thing to come along was a mess of also scrap lumber to make a bottom shelf.  See, there’s not a single “good” cabinet to throw all those damn blow-molded tool boxes on.  God forbid manufacturers ever agree on a decent set of common sizes, either.

A few years later (four years back?) I picked up a 4/8 sheet of melamine *(one-side) to put something a little smoother on it for a work surface.  It was $30 bucks.  Panama’s (now wife) Donella put some edge trim on – a very nice touch.

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As you can tell, it’s been an evolutionary table.  And if you’re any kind of a serious “maker” there are lots of reasons to let your main work table sort of evolve as your needs and interests drift around.

For one, if you drop something, and your bench is up against the wall,  it’s a beast to get it from what is 36 to 48-inches away.  Depending how wide your bench is.  But, if you build the main bench in the middle of the room, no sweat:  you can get at it from all sides.

This also applies to sheet goods.  I can’t be the first guy to have a gasket or small part get lodged between the wall and the bench, can I?  I didn’t think so!

Second reason is ease of clean-up.  Pretty much the same motions as finding a runaway part, only with a shop vac.

Third:  You can get at all sides of a project.

You’ve seen my “scrap wood bedroom tables” for the guest room?

A few leftover 2-by-4’s, a couple of feet of 1-by-4 and two 15″ square tiles cut down on the wet saw.  Two hours, tops.  (Think of this style as Mission Style Lite – I didn’t bother staining it…)

Point about the bench is that because I could get at three sides of the project, there was no moving anything to toss in guns and finishing nails off an air nailer.

While (blissfully) gets us to the point of today’s discussion about work benches.

Now I want you to meet the three most important pieces of 2-by-4 in the shop:  They make up a beam (of sorts) that runs about over the top of the bench…40 inches up from the surface.

Runs the whole length of the bench, too.

On the north end, there is a 25-foot one of those coily air hoses.  There’s u-shaped pipe support to hold it (so it can be removed if needed elsewhere) and then it goes over the top of the 2-by-4 and rests on some clamps ready to be grabbed and put to work.  Next to this is a paper towel holder because wherever there is glue, there’s a mess.  When there’s paint…hell anything I touch turns into a mess, usually.

Thank Elaine for the overhead air hose idea.  When she wasn’t masseusing she worked construction and was always keeping people from killing themselves with hoses and extensions.  “One day I’m going to come over here and you’ll be injured or dead from all these cables on the floor!”

That’s why “the beam” has power outlets overhead along with air.  No cables on the flood to trip on, no extensions to wind up before hitting the work area with a broom.  A pass or two over the bench and once around the floor to the garbage can…

Continuing up the “beam” on one side there is a dandy (scrap wood, of course!) set of screwdriver and hammers and fitting tools.

Yes, that’s right, there’s even a small square in the rack.  Some day I’ll use it.  (Just kidding – use it all the time and would be lost without it.)

What you are seeing is how the bench has evolved over uncountable weekends.  Odd blocks of time.  Like this part with the screwdrivers and hammers.  It’s a very satisfying half hour project because it makes lots of sawdust.

Common to all people who “make” things is an almost compulsive need to make piles of unused materials.  My friend Jim Lewis (see www.emachineshop.com if you need to design and build metal work that’s past home shop skills) calls it “…making chips…

Absolutely!  Big chips from the woodworking tools (power planers are dandy chip-makers!) to metal lathes and milling machines (for making metal chips BUT WEAR EYE PROECTION!)…YEP!  CHIPS, CHIPS AND MORE CHIPS!

Down at the other end of the beam is yet another outlet (six in all) and on this part of the beam is where are your “spare hands” go.  Non-handy bastards will wrongly call them clamps, squeeze-clamps and other foolish terms – also used in catalogs.

Opposite the screwdrivers and hammers in the middle of the beam is a two tube LED worklight.

As the sharp-eyed with notice, it has one of those Alexa-capable wireless switches plugged in (there are lots more outlets) and this one allows me to be in either the office or at the house and say “Alexa, turn off shop light” without wandering around in the dark.  Next time they are on sale, a Bluetooth and Echo will start to drive the shop’s hifi.  Another project.

Now let’s see where all this is going:

At one end of the shop table is where the 12″ double-compound chop saw lives.  Behind left is where three roll-around tool cabinets live.  Each draw in these has a name.  Like “Sharps”  “Welding”  “Squeezy” (pliers and ViseGrips when they’re not beside the computer!) “Twisties” (wrenches) and so forth.

Up at the head of the table you can just catch the black trim around a yellow cabinet named “Air Tools.”

All-in-all it’s a damn useable bench.  Future refinements?  Oh, sure:  Thought about end caps and two opening doors to keep the sawdust off the blow-molded case shelf.  But from the standpoint of “getting ‘er done” that’s what down the “Who Cares?” list.

I’ve decided (into year 70) that there are just some projects that work best being allowed to evolve along the line of morphic resonance fields as Rupert Sheldrake might call it.

Although more erudite (and accurate) would be to proclaim it is a Lamarckian result.  Since everyone in our shop knows that reference, you should, too:

Lamarckian inheritance) is the hypothesis that an organism can pass on characteristics that it has acquired during its lifetime to its offspring. It is also known as the heritability of acquired characteristics or soft inheritance. It is named after the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829), who incorporated the action of soft inheritance into his evolutionary theories as a supplement to his orthogenetic concept of an inherent progressive tendency driving organisms continuously towards greater complexity, in parallel but separate lineages with no extinction. Lamarck did not originate the idea of soft inheritance, which proposes that individual efforts during the lifetime of the organisms were the main mechanism driving species to adaptation, as they supposedly would acquire adaptive changes and pass them on to offspring.”

Yea, verily, fellow handy bastards, we know not all of the parents of this shop bench.  But we know some of its soft inheritance came from my time as an R&E mechanic when young (never knew of a “tool room” till then)  and even Elaine’s experience with “ground clutter.”

Have fun evolving Ure’s…

Make it – better!

George@ure.net