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Thread: Tasks, uses, differences between assembly and work tables

  1. #1
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    Tasks, uses, differences between assembly and work tables

    Seemed simple enough. Tried googling assembly vs work table, didn't seem to find definitions of either just people trying to make outfeed work tables, outfeed assembly tables, assembly/work tables, or all 3-1.

    So can you please share characteristics of each a work table and assembly table? Which should have vises, dog holes (is that what the 20mm and 3/4" holes are called?
    What do people traditionally use each for? What tasks? What materials do you make the tops out of?


    Here's what I think I know. Assembly tables should be flat, that's why many do torsion box style tops.

    Don't get glue on MDF.

    People don't generally want to bang on their assembly table, because that can make it less flat.

    That's about all I know.

    For general home/auto stuff my idea of a work bench was a 18-24" deep sturdy place to bang on, clamp stuff in a metal vise to grind/weld/bend, typically made out of cheap 2x4, butcher block, metal, plywood or hardboard for the tops.

    My father's and unfortunately my workbench is where stuff gets piled up for weeks/montha/years to die because the wall behind it stops stuff from falling off the backside. I hope when I get a dedicated shop back into my life, I won't let the clutter continue. Everything has a place, in its place.
    Last edited by Prashun Patel; 07-15-2020 at 9:36 AM.

  2. #2
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    I have only one table - workbench. It has vises and dog holes. Search for Roubo workbench, you will find various variants and plans.

    This has thick top (4") made of Doug fir. Maple, SYP etc are other wood types people use. Basically, whatever you can find and afford.

    I chisel, hammer, saw and do everything on this bench.

    I keep it as flat as possible - by planing. It being flat serves as a assembly table as well.

    I don't have a space and separate assembly table so don't know much about it.
    Last edited by Anuj Prateek; 07-15-2020 at 2:32 AM.

  3. #3
    If you are making relatively small projects a single workbench will suffice, with whatever workholding devices suit you, from simple stops. holdfasts and bench hooks to pattern vises. Most of my career has been custom cabinetmaking and millwork, so I have always had a "traditional" wooden bench about 24" x 7' with a tail vise, dogholes and Record quick release front vise as well as a 4'x8' assembly table. Most of the parts processing not done on stationary machines happens on the smaller bench and the assembly bench is where they get put together on a glue-resistant surface. Plenty of people have one bench for everything.

    All benches should be flat and sturdy enough to clamp and hammer on. Workbenches like mine are usually made of solid wood for enough mass to stay in place during hand planing and the like. They can be resurfaced with hand planes if neccessary. Above a certain size torsion boxes make sense to economize on materials while maintaining flatness. My old assembly bench was 4"x4'x8', covered in plastic laminate and light enough that I could move it around easily by myself.

  4. #4
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    I've made both a workbench and outfeed table. Both do multiple tasks.

    They provide a flat surface for assembly and general working.

    They also provide clamping and storage.

    First my outfeed table. This sits on the back side of my SawStop. It's on casters, so can be moved. It provides about 60" of support on outfeed in Landscape mode, so I can cut an 8' length and it remains supported on the table. I can rotate it 90 degrees to provide support for longer pieces if necessary. I have the Incra TS-LS Positioner fence system and use a couple of L brackets to anchor it to my table with a couple of thumbscrews. It has a torsion box top that overhangs the cabinet by 4" that allows clamping from three different sides. The torsion box top is also height adjustable, so I can tune it to the height of my saw if I need to move the outfeed table. I've done this once or twice where I've used the router table, in the end of my SawStop, so I unclamped the outfeed table, rolled it down a couple of feet to provide support when routing.





    And I'm always looking to utilize space

  5. #5
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    Now my workbench, this is my general working surface. When I built it, these were the main design considerations. It had to be mobile, provide storage, be the same height as my SawStop for infeed support.



    After using my MFT a little, I found the crosscut capacity of the MFT just a little lacking. So I made a dog hole board out of 3/4" MDF and use this on top of the workbench. This MDF top is about 8" longer and wider than my workbench, so I can overhang it and use through dog hole clamps for work pieces. I clamp the opposite end of theMDF to the bench to stop it moving. If I was to build this work bench again, I would build the top as a torsion box with one end having a couple of feet of dog holes.




  6. #6
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    Westfield IN
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    Bench 1.jpg
    Bench B.jpg

    These are the two benches in my shop. Each is about 44" x 92" and 36" tall. Mine is about 300 lbs, loaded, and Justin's is about 280 lbs. Both are precisely leveled and flat to well within 1/32" The drawers are heavily used - one is screwdrivers and pliers, etc, second is less used hand tools, third is paperwork, files, pencils, etc.

    The tops are Red and White Oak strips in what some would call a butcher block style. W recently added the end vises. Now that the 21st Century is here, we thought we would step up to the 17th Century.
    I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.
    - Kurt Vonnegut

  7. #7
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    Space matters. Some folks have more space than others and can have "dedicated" surfaces for different purposes. (which ultimately get used for more than they were intended to be used for... ) My big thing is have adjustable height work surfaces. I find that to be a lot more important than having dedicated arrangement. (although I do have a dedicated guitar bench) "Flat" is very important for assembly, but it's also important for fabrication. So an assembly bench using a torsion box makes sense in that respect, but it doesnt' change the need for the "hand tool bench", if there is one, to be absolutely flat, too.

    Relative to MDF. There's no problem using it in a shop for a work surface in my experience. Coating it to promote glue release is certainly a good idea, however.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  8. #8
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    The height of my work bench is adjustable by the depth of the pile on top of it.

    My new (additional) one is not adjustable because, so far, I have kept piles off of it.

    Both are Husky mobile work benches full of metal drawers. Extended, thick wood top for WW vise on one, mechanic's vise on the other (the adjustable one).

    -- Andy - Arlington TX - Home of the Texas RANGERS

  9. #9
    I put together an assembly table today for the Chinese Chippendale panels for the screened porch at my shop. I used 4 of the ordinary plastic, fold-up sawhorses as the base and a top of 3 8’ 2x4’s and a sheet of 1/2 plywood. I ran the 2x4’s through the jointer and thickness planer on edge to make sure the surface is flat. I screwed the plywood to the 2x4’s to flatten the plywood to the base.. I have the advantage of a nicely level wood floor as a reference surface. The resulting surface is sufficiently flat for the current task.

    120CB713-8DF0-492F-8495-6AE77EDBAAAD.jpeg
    I drew the panel full size on the top. I will use drywall screws to attach alignment blocks as needed to the top.
    2E661FB3-802B-4AF4-8A08-0B6950EE7D95.jpeg
    At the other end, I will set up a station for joinery. I plan to use a Kreg pocket hole jig and face frame biscuits and Titebond III glue to join the pattern together. I will test the strength of this joinery on the test panel before committing to the production run.

    Assembly tables can be simple, single-use designs specifically for a particular project.

    TW
    Last edited by Thomas Wilson; 07-15-2020 at 7:55 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA Edwards View Post
    I've made both a workbench and outfeed table. Both do multiple tasks.

    They provide a flat surface for assembly and general working.

    They also provide clamping and storage.

    First my outfeed table. This sits on the back side of my SawStop. It's on casters, so can be moved. It provides about 60" of support on outfeed in Landscape mode, so I can cut an 8' length and it remains supported on the table. I can rotate it 90 degrees to provide support for longer pieces if necessary. I have the Incra TS-LS Positioner fence system and use a couple of L brackets to anchor it to my table with a couple of thumbscrews. It has a torsion box top that overhangs the cabinet by 4" that allows clamping from three different sides. The torsion box top is also height adjustable, so I can tune it to the height of my saw if I need to move the outfeed table. I've done this once or twice where I've used the router table, in the end of my SawStop, so I unclamped the outfeed table, rolled it down a couple of feet to provide support when routing.





    And I'm always looking to utilize space
    How is your top height adjustable? Also, i've never seen drawer slides used on their side, but that back rack slide out is sweet.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA Edwards View Post
    Now my workbench, this is my general working surface. When I built it, these were the main design considerations. It had to be mobile, provide storage, be the same height as my SawStop for infeed support.


    After using my MFT a little, I found the crosscut capacity of the MFT just a little lacking. So I made a dog hole board out of 3/4" MDF and use this on top of the workbench. This MDF top is about 8" longer and wider than my workbench, so I can overhang it and use through dog hole clamps for work pieces. I clamp the opposite end of theMDF to the bench to stop it moving. If I was to build this work bench again, I would build the top as a torsion box with one end having a couple of feet of dog holes.



    I like the vise in a vise, also the swing up sander. You're like a swiss army wood worker. Cool.

  11. #11
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    Man, i still feel dumb.

    If somebody was lucky enough to have room for a dedicated assembly table......What is an assembly table for?

    I assume its to just assemble parts you've already cut/drilled/planed/jointed/carved/ ect on a work bench. Is that right?

    Assembly can be with nails, screws, glue, biscuits, mortise and tennon, right?

    Are dog holes and T tracks only for assembly tables, or are they also very useful on a workbench, where you need to hold things down while you hammer/drill/plane/carve them?

  12. #12
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    Adjustable height, watch these videos. I modeled mine on his design

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Steffen View Post
    What is an assembly table for?

  14. #14
    No great mystery about it. You need a flat sturdy surface with means to hold the work for joinery and big enough to put together your projects. If you have the room and are building large things a separate assembly table is nice, adjustable height is even better, temporary is ok too. My assembly tables have been without vises or dogs, but with access for clamping around the edges
    Last edited by Kevin Jenness; 07-15-2020 at 10:23 PM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA Edwards View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Jenness View Post
    No great mystery about it. You need a flat sturdy surface with means to hold the work for joinery and big enough to put together your projects. If you have the room and are building large things a separate assembly table is nice, adjustable height is even better, temporary is ok too. My assembly tables have been without vises or dogs, but with access for clamping around the edges
    Thanks Chris & Kevin. no vise, or dog use in chris's assembly either.

    Chris, what do you use for a table cover to keep glue off of the table? do you prefer plastic over say, red rosin paper?

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