Inventor Labs - Blog

Project Benches

SUNDAY, JUNE 6, 2010 AT 6:08PM

I've been developing a way to use reusable table tops for projects, so the bench space doesn't have to be cleared off when switching from one project to another. At Inventor Labs we do a fair amount of parallel development, and this approach has helped us a lot.

We use solid-core door blanks as bench tops. They're smooth, flat, heavy, and a good size (80"x36"). And you can buy them at Home Depot for about $56, which is pretty good for a solid benchtop that size.

We attach two 24" cleats (4x4's) to the bottom of each bench top, which lets you set them on the floor, or stack them on top of each other, or store them in cantilevered racks, while still being able to pick them up with a forklift (which is how we do practically everything in the Lab).

cleats allow forklift to drop top right onto frame
The frame is constructed easily from standard 4x4 and 2x8 lumber -- it takes about 20 minutes to make one. Outside dimensions are 32" x 32" x 60".

rails are lowered 3-1/2" for cleats and fork blades
The forklift can pick up the top from anywhere, since it rests 3-1/2" off the floor because of the two cleats on the bottom. The tops can also easily be carried/stacked by two people, and the cleats provide room for your fingers, too (especially when it's on the floor--it's difficult to pick up a door that's flat on a smooth floor).

angled cleats automatically center the top as it's lowered, even if it's a couple inches off center

tables are strong, smooth, and the tops are easily switched
We have a lot of bench tops in various places, with "in progress" projects. Sometimes you need to leave one project in suspended animation while you work on another. With this system you can simply file the whole bench top, with all the project parts and even tools, if you want (though we always put tools away). We have several cantilever racks for project storage, some 12' up in the air, on the mezzanine level. It's a very handy system.

a few projects 12ft up above floor level, on cantilever racks