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Benchtop or Free Standing

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  • Benchtop or Free Standing

    I have a small shop in my 1 car garage. I need to start getting my next wave of tools (drill press, band saw, jointer, planner, ect). Which are OK as benchtop models and which are really crap?

    Thanks for the .02!

  • #2
    Re: Benchtop or Free Standing

    A lot of variables come into play here but, for me anyways, I'd stay away from benchtop jointers and band saws. I also prefer floor DP's over benchtop models but there are some benchtop models that offer the same features as the floor models.

    Although you might feel that benchtop versions of some tools are better than not having the tool at all, IMO that is not always the case. They lack the capability and capacities of their bigger versions and can sometimes be frustrating to even use. Many times over the years as I have been collecting my tools I've been tempted to buy benchtop versions of some tools. Thankfully, I never gave into that temptation and when I was finally able to add a tool to my collection I was never disappointed with any purchase.
    I decided to change calling the bathroom the "John" and renamed it the "Jim". I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.


    • #3
      Re: Bench top or Free Standing

      jsut lost a long post, basically stated compare the capacities of the tools the bench tools will be down sized, was the jsut of the post, make sure they will meet your needs.

      but this week end ,

      The Woodworking Shows 2007-2008

      Friday, November 16 / Noon - 7pm
      Saturday, November 17 / 10am - 6pm
      Sunday, November 18 / 10am - 4pm

      Denver Merchandise Mart
      Pavillion Building
      451 E. 58th Avenue
      Denver, CO 80216
      Parking: $0.00

      go and look at the set up and the booths and so some comparison shopping and ask tones of questions, ask about the type of projects you want to do and if it has the capacity to do it.
      I personally prefer free standing tools and really have not owned much for bench top, but the few I have owned they were on the low end of things.
      Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
      "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
      attributed to Samuel Johnson
      PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.


      • #4
        Re: Benchtop or Free Standing

        Honestly, I'd avoid most of those tools as benchtops, simply because of their limited power and capacity. You can certainly get away with a benchtop 12" planer, but the rest... go for a floor model with a mobile base so you can move it around and get it out of the way.


        • #5
          Re: Benchtop or Free Standing

          If you lack the space the I would say there is nothing wrong with benchtop...

          (aka "lunchbox") thickness planers - 12" ->13"
          drill presses - 12" isn't too bad (really depends on your needs)
          hollow chisel mortising machines from 5/8" all the way to the big guys @ 1"
          router tables (like the Benchdog series)
          spindle, disc and belt sanders of all sizes
          midi (mini) lathes (depends what you want to turn)
          scroll saws

          Cheers! - Jim
          All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. - Schopenhauer


          • #6
            Re: Benchtop or Free Standing

            I'm limited on what I have in the way of machinery but the worst thing I did was a benchtop drill press which I fastened down to my main bench. It's always in the way. If I remove it then there are the bolt holes in the bench top. If you have more than one workbench then you should be OK with some benchtop machines. With a floor standing drill press for safety it really should be anchored to the floor. They are very top heavy and are easy to upset. SMASH


            • #7
              Re: Benchtop or Free Standing

              If you've got the room and the pocketbook, definitely go with floor standing. They not only have more capacity, but are generally better quality and will afford you the best layout in the shop.

              However, when space is limited, there's no reason to go without, if a benchtop version is available. Benchtop versions of the drill press and the band saw can be perfectly suitable unless the majority of your projects require larger capacity. Rather than finding a fixed position on your bench and having to drill bolt holes, I found that you can bolt these to a few standard sized cuts of MDF or Ply. They can be kept out of the way when not needed and when their function is required, simply move them to your favorite work position. A couple of clamps ensure a solid position, and when not needed, the tools can be placed under the bench or other out of the way places.

              My past work area has been in the basement and it's simply too shallow to work there. So on days when the weather is good, a few folding benches and a portable assembly table get taken to the deck. My little 9-inch band saw, belt/disc sander, and portable cutting table do the trick. Fortunately the new home has much nicer facilities and that shop will get all floormounted stationary tools. But even then I want the table saw, thickness planer, RAS, and router table all mounted on Herc-u-Lifts should I need to move things.

              Craftsman has a very nice 10-inch bandsaw that is often on sale for a little more than $100. It has become quite popular. There are a number of bench-top drill presses, for under $200. Check the quality level and the features though and get at least a 12-speed.

              I hope this helps,



              • #8
                Re: Benchtop or Free Standing

                It all depends on what you are going to do. If you are not building anything bigger than a bread box then you don't need a 20" General Planer. In all seriousness purchase the machines on their ability to do the job required and only purchase quality. I have just downsized from 5000 square foot shop to a basement shop of 500 square feet and now down to 80 square feet---THIS IS NO JOKE. All of my equipment is bench top and works unbelievably well. I spent almost a year shopping and could not be happier.

                In the shop 10" Dewalt Table saw
                13" Dewalt Planer
                6 " Delta Jointer
                12 Delta Bandsaw
                3 " Stroke Drill Press
                4" x 24" Ridgid Sander
                Router/Shaper Mounted under Bench
                Central Dust Collector (all machines serviced)
                8' Mitre Saw
                8 Foot Work Counter
                30" x 36" Work Table
                4 Drawer Storage Cupbd
                Small Wall mounted wood rack
                24 linear feet of shelf space (over head height)
                All Walls pegbd for tools

                Almost forgot--a 16" TV so I can watch the Golf Channel If I ever figure out how to post pictures--I will.


                • #9
                  Re: Benchtop or Free Standing

                  I have a mix of "benchtop" and freestanding.

                  I have the TP1300 Ridgid planer. This is an excellent tool, and you get the option of benchtop use, or on the *included* stand. So you're not spending extra money on something you won't use, but you have the option. Personally, I'd recommend using it on the stand and a stable mobile base.

                  Jet 6" jointer with the cabinet base. More than most tools, a stable broad base is important for a jointer because of the amount of forward force you apply to the workpiece. Unlike a planer which pulls through the workpiece on it's own.

                  I use the Delta DP350 drill press. This is a benchtop model that was top ranked in the November Wood magazine. I've been very happy with it for the two years I've had it. I haven't had a single project which required more capacity, and I have to ever bog it down. The variable speed mechanism works great.

                  Depending on your feelings about your shop size, a router extension for your table saw is a great option. I know some people poo-poo the hassle of having your router and table saw occupying the same work area. I have a secondary benchtop router table which I haven't take out in months... The extension just provides so much more stability and workspace (the whole table saw top!).

                  A benchtop spindle or other sander is perfectly fine, IMO.

                  The only tool I don't use much and that I'm not thrilled with is my JET mortiser. Although I appreciate it on the few occasions I need *that* machine (versus routed mortises) it's handy. But I've been thinking lately of detaching it from that benchtop and only bringing it out when I need it....

                  Good luck shopping. As someone else said on these forums, 'buy quality and only cry once.' Don't pinch a penny only to be unhappy, then have to spend the money again to buy a good machine.


                  • #10
                    Re: Benchtop or Free Standing

                    I also have some decisions to make as I expand my shop. I have 143 square feet, which is partly taken by the furnace, water heater, and misc. storage, so every square foot counts. I also have a pole right in the middle of the room, which really limits me as to what I can cut. I don't think I can physically cut a 4x8 sheet of plywood--that has to be done in the garage or at the store's panel saw.

                    My current set of "big" tools:

                    -Ridgid 3650 Table Saw -- mobile base made this a slam-dunk choice
                    -Craftsman 12" mitre saw on stand
                    -Dewalt 13" planer
                    -Ryobi bandsaw (hundred dollar special...waste of money)
                    -Craftsman router table (another cheapie)

                    Stuff I'm missing that I'll eventually purchase:
                    -Drill Press
                    -Better bandsaw
                    -Better router table
                    -Spindle sander

                    Some random thoughts on these:

                    -For the projects that I've done thus far, I have yet to feel the need for a jointer. However, I've only used basically HD-purchased poplar or oak--no rough stuff. I've also only edge-glued a couple of items, and this wood is already pretty well jointed. I've definitely used my planer, since the wood thickness varies a bit.
                    -For a new router table, I'm torn between another benchtop model, or a router table extension for the TS. The space savings are the biggest advantage. However, being 6'5", being able to have the router table up high is much better ergonomically.

                    This reminds me that I really need to get going on a long delayed project of making a storage area in my attic. This would clear out lots of shop space!